Whereas Japan had an excellent tradition of very original-sounding Hardrock bands like Bow Wow, Earthshaker and Loudness in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it seems as if the country merely followed Western trends over the last two decades.
A band which never followed any trends or copied musical styles is Blaze from Osaka (not to be confused with the solo venture of former Iron Maiden vocalist Blaze Bayley). The band consists of Wataru Shiota (vocals), Hisashi “Q” Suzuki (guitar), Kenichi Kuwahara (bass) and Takashi “Bikky” Funabiki (drums). To much critical acclaim, Blaze issued their self-titled debut album for High Roller Records in 2012 (the first pressing has sold out completely; a second pressing is soon to be released). The 11 tracks (from the opener “On the Run” right through to the bonus track “Night Walker”) take the listener back to the glory days of the once mighty Scorpions (circa »Lovedrive« and »Blackout«).
However, with the new EP »The Rock Dinosaur« Blaze have carved their own nice. Songs such as “One Way Flight”, “Lady of Starlight” or “Underground Heroes” are superb traditional heavy metal anthems with a melodic edge and outstanding guitar work by Hisashi Suzuki.
Hisashi himself has no problem whatsoever with his band being labelled old-fashioned. He explains the meaning behind the title of Blaze's new record »The Rock Dinosaur EP«: “Well, as everybody should know, dinosaurs were huge animals, very big and very heavy. Today, dinosaurs are out of date, as they are an extinct species. Blaze are still alive. But I don't mind at all if people describe us as out of date. I love out of date rock …”
According to Hisashi, stylistically there is not a big difference between the debut album (which was actually originally issued in Japan in 2007, licensed by High Roller in 2012) and the EP: “I think we haven't changed anything. Maybe the sound is a bit harder than on the first album but that's all. I'm not sure when our second album will be ready, so we have opted to put out this EP first. I composed some new material, that's true. And someday we really want to release a second full-length album. But I do not know when that will be the case.”
"Lady of Starlight" is one of the six tracks on the new EP. When I first heard the title, “Lady Starlight” by the Scorpions (a brilliant ballad off the »Animal Magnetism« album) instantly sprang to my mind. Hisashi replies: “I forgot all about 'Lady Starlight 'by the Scorpions. When I was forced to write lyrics, I wanted to use something along the lines of 'Lady of la-la-la-la …' and 'Starlight' came into my head. It reminded me of Accept, to be honest.”
“Underground Heroes” is another song on the »Rock Dinosaur EP«. Does the title have any significance? “No, not really,” says Hisashi. “It's a very old song. I wrote it in 1989 and performed it with my old band. When I mentioned this song in the booklet, our drummer Takashi Funabiki made the suggestion that Blaze should try to play this song. That's the only reason. Anyway, the lyrics to 'Underground Heroes' are in no way related to Blaze, they don't have a special significance.”