Review – Katana: Heads Will Roll

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Review – Katana: Heads Will Roll
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Katana: Heads Will Roll
Heavy Metal
Listenable Records
May 1st, 2011
Release length: 39:40
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Heads Will Roll is the title for the latest album by the old-school Heavy Metal act Enforcer, and it literally came out of nowhe… Wait a minute, this is a different band? Sorry, allow me to start over. Heads Will Roll is the title for the debut full-length recording from the old-school Heavy Metal act Katana. Yes, it’s practically impossible to not compare these two Swedish native bands, but then again every band really has it’s evil twin counterpart, such as In Flames with Soilwork for example, and that seems to be the case here, but more along the lines of a sibbling rivalry due to Katana having formed two years later. Despite the similarities though, the lyrical content greatly reflects the band’s name, a much more unique concept for this band clearly exists to set them apart, even if the music and vocals don’t do it well enough.

Right from the start, it’s obvious that Katana incorporate a pretty clean recording quality that one might expect from a Glam Rock or Hair Metal band from the eighties, while the music takes a pretty strong early Heavy Metal approach that is greatly enhanced by said audio with a hint of echo on the vocals. The music itself, however, just feels heavy and absurdly catchy. Right from the start, Katana tears into listeners with the heavy melodies that feel like a beautiful homage to the Asian culture they seem obsessed with, even thoug the music itself never reflects that geographical influence. “Livin’ Without Fear” kicks off right away with the music to the chorus hooking the listener before hammering into a solid Heavy Metal offering with plenty of Hard Rock attitude behind it. The more upbeat sound and energetic performance coupled with the higher pitched clean vocals all work together to make this track powerful and capture the vintage attitude and even general fun that the groups of the era this act captures so well typically brought with them into the studio, as well as onto the stage. Right away, the listener will have an urge to sing along, especially with the enthusiastic chorus that grabs the listeners attention, coming off as an instant crowd pleaser at any live performance. You can even picture this act on stage and hear the crowd reaction in your head, chanting along with the highly infectious melodies of this superb song.

After a very ambitious start, Heads Will Roll does slow down a bit, but only in the fact that the music doesn’t come off demanding the listener chant along as if it were all a live performance wherever he or she may be. Musically, the album remains strong, and very true to the early Hard Rock and Heavy Metal roots, boasting maybe two songs that come off a bit like filler, but we’ll get to that shortly. It’s at this point things do change up a bit. “Blade of Katana” is a rather heavy track that presents a more galloping musical pattern that won’t make the listener erupt into a fit and start singing along, but it’s still a solid track that captures the listener’s attention and refuses to let it go. Of course, “Heart in Tokyo” has a commanding energy behind it similar to “Livin’ Without Fear.” It’s not quite as stable, though enough to whip the listener into a bit of a frenzy, especially with the rather passionate chorus, both musically and vocally, setting a great atmosphere and mental visual to go along with the stylish material, the passion of classic 80’s Glam or Hair Metal bands in the performance, and general melodic force of vintage Heavy Metal acts of the same era.

“Phoenix on Fire” definitely brings a little more attitude with it, and thanks to the chugging musical approach, it’s as if the band dares you to defy them. Sadly, this one doesn’t paint much of a mental image, or even have that much of an Asian vibe to the atmosphere or lyrics, but it’s still a great track that feels right at home. It’s not until “Neverending World” that things feel a little awkward with the band, and it’s more for those who grew up with a certain children’s program on television. The song itself has a general Heavy Metal vibe to it, though nothing all that special like many other tracks on here, and the vocals start off a little rocky due to the lower volume performance given. But, that’s not what sounds odd. While this is not a bad cut, the chorus feels a bit strange due to the manner in which the lyrics of the first two lines are sung that can easily bring up mind of “The Song That Never Ends” from the television series Lambchop. It’s not that it ends up hurting the experiencing, but more a trigger that awakens something in the back of the mind, and is worth mentioning. Eventually, the rocky start fades, and it becomes more fluid and entertaining, though at times a little drawn out. But, as it continues, that memory issue will also be surpressed, and you’ll still feel satisfied by the end result.

Aside that rough start to “Phoenix On Fire”, the only other time the album kind of throws you a curve ball is during “Across the Stars”. The songs start off a little on the slower side, not necessarily doing anything too much to hook the listener, but it still has a good beat to it that is enjoyable, then suddenly jerks into a faster pace. This wouldn’t be too bad, but it happens so abruptly that it sounds like the song is skipping. The drums don’t even line up right, and it’s a whole other beat entirely. On top of that, right before the chorus as the vocalist sings “Oh” in harmonization with the guitars, it actually gives off more an Egyptian setting than anything this band has recorded up to this point. It’s an ok song, but it just has too many faults you can’t look past, coming off a bit more like filler. There’s also the closing track “Quest for Hades” which, again, not a bad track, but doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album. It’s a more serious Heavy Metal track that takes on a conceptual approach of telling a short story. While this isn’t too bad, it doesn’t seem to fit the general Asian concept that has been established track after track, and almost sounds like you’re listening to a completely different band, like Katana suddenly decided they wanted to be a more epic sounding Heavy Metal band with influences from Rhapsody Of Fire and mid-career Kamelot.

Aside some rough patches that smooth over shortly after, and a few songs at the end that feel like filler or just out of place, Heads Will Roll is an appropriate title since that’s what the band seems to try to make their music do. Katana really bring an energetic representation of old-school Heavy Metal and Hard Rock to the forefront, and it becomes an entry into the whole Metal revival going on that stands up tall amongst the rest. The album has more then enough solid, infectious songs from start to finish that are genuinely impressive and leave a lasting impression with the listener thanks to it’s infectious and often top notch performances full of melody, passion for the content based on the geography and style inspiring their music, and pure Metal and Hard Rock energy. If you enjoy that signature sound from the eighties, or even if you heard of and enjoyed Enforcer, or any other bands like them, then Heads Will Roll is simply a must buy album with no questions asked. Sure the whole thing may not be jaw-droppingly impressive, but for the many tracks that are, it justifies the price you’ll pay.


01. Livin’ Without Fear – 3:51
02. Blade of Katana – 3:20
03. Phoenix On Fire – 4:43
04. Neverending World – 5:52
05. Heart in Tokyo – 3:36
06. Asia in Sight – 3:59
07. Across the Stars – 4:33
08. Rebel Ride – 2:54
09. Quest for Hades – 6:50
Initial Pressing Score: 9/10

Katana
Katana

Digital review copy of this release provided by Listenable Records
via Clawhammer PR.