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Katana: Heads Will Roll

Every month that passes seems to bring more evidence that the NWOBHM revival continues to gather pace, with a plethora of bands using the up and at 'em riffage and soaring twin guitars to create albums that firmly nod towards the movement made most famous by the likes of Iron Maiden and Saxon.

Newest New Wavers on the block this month are Sweden's Katana, who not only sound like they were raised on a diet of Maiden, Priest and Accept, but who also rather worryingly would appear to have raided the wardrobe of these bands, as well as the slightly less leather obsessed acts of the era with red trousers and stripey jackets (along with a nice perm) giving the band's promo shots a genuinely retro feel. As with nearly all metal and progressive acts coming out of Scandinavia these days, Katana are a tight unit that manage to show a great deal of musical skill and talent across what is a rip roaring, if predictable set of songs. Dip into this debut album at any point and twin lead howls of mid period Maiden, or the crunching blasts of Judas Priest abound from the speakers with an audible enthusiasm. That more than anything else makes it hard not to smile as these well tread themes are given a rigorous polish by Katana and while it may be impossible not to suggest that there is absolutely zero in the way of imagination or originality on show on Heads Will Roll, the songs are actually irresistibly enjoyable.

Yes singer Johan Bernspang does fire out too many Dickinson like "Ooohhh Ohhhh Ohhhhhh's" and the sprawling bass in the intro of "Quest For Hades" screams Steve Harris, but that doesn't stop the likes of humungously riffed "Rebel Ride", or the galloping romp of "Livin' Without Fear" being great slabs of rollickingly heavy metal.

Nothing new, but an impressive start none the less.

Track Listing
1. Livin' Without Fear
2. Blade Of Katana
3. Phoenix Of Fire
4. Neverending World
5. Heart Of Tokyo
6. Asia In Sight
7. Across The Stars
8. Rebel Ride
9. Quest For Hades

Added: June 18th 2011
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Katana MySpace
Hits: 2929
Language: english

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Katana: Heads Will Roll
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-06-18 07:45:22
My Score:

Something truly must be said for Sweden and their fantastic retro-hard rock scene right now! The amount of excellent melodic hard rock releases coming from the country is almost unbelievable, and one of the newest recruits in this retro-metal movement is Gothenburg's Katana. The band's appearance and musical direction decidedly sounds as if it were from the eighties - certainly not a bad thing if you're a fan of the golden age of heavy metal! This retrospective attitude leads to very minimal innovation, but I'm sure that wasn't the intent of the album in the slightest. All that really matters is that Heads Will Roll is a kick-ass album that successfully brings back the golden age of melodic heavy metal. And what could possibly be wrong with that?

Katana successfully recreates the sound of 80's heavy metal here - the mixture of glam metal, NWoBHM, and melodic hard rock sounds like it's straight out of 1985. Katana has managed to write some really memorable anthems here, with songs like "Livin' Without Fear" and "Heart In Tokyo" standing out as highlights. Every composition is strong, though, and perfectly executed by the fantastic musicians in the band. The guitar work from Patrik Essén and Tobias Karlsson especially stands out - these axemen certainly know how to play! My only significant gripe with the album is the production. Though certainly listenable, it sounds a bit muddy and the vocals are mixed poorly. It may be partially due to my MP3 promo copy, but I have no way of knowing whether or not the retail version sounds like this.

Heads Will Roll may not be the most groundbreaking album you'll ever come across, but it's a damn fine heavy metal effort that I've had a great time experiencing over the last few days. If you like retro-sounding melodic metal with tons of hooks and memorable riffs, as well as terrific musicianship and interesting compositions, Katana's debut full-length comes highly recommended. I'll play my 3.5 star card here. I'm looking forward to hearing more from these guys in the coming years!

Katana: Heads Will Roll
Posted by Brian Block, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-06-13 19:21:39
My Score:

It's not everyday you come across a band from Sweden that sings of sailing to Tokyo and takes up the name of a classic Japanese sword, but one of these bands is Katana. Their recently released album, Heads Will Roll seems to be a homing tribute to everything Asian, with their lyrics, song titles, and even cover artwork. That being said, it still seems a bit clichéd in its nature, sometimes almost leading into power metal type grooves when the rest of the album is pure heavy metal. This Swedish band sure is good, with great guitar work from both Patrik Essén and Tobias Karlsson, but sometimes that is over run by the unoriginality that this album sometimes portrays.

"Quest for Hades" is perhaps the most traditional song on the album, and lends a nice touch to the end of the album. It starts out in a very "Seventh Son"-era Iron Maiden type fashion with a strumming bass line and Johan Bernspång singing, and then transfers into some traditional heavy metal riffs accompanied by some good drumming by Anders Persson. One thing that I don't like about this album is the lyrics. Usually something like this doesn't really bother me, but some of the lyrics and themes of these songs are really lame. Take for example during "Quest for Hades" when Johan chants "…down, down, down…" over and over again. Also at one point of the album I swear you can hear Johan finish up a line and then shout "Guitar!", and then a guitar solo starts. If that isn't lame I'm not sure what is.

Other than those few lyrics, the rest of the album, specifically the musicianship, is quite good. The bass and the guitars blend very nicely together, and offer up a great backing to the vocals. The production on the album isn't awesome, but it fits the album fine and doesn't detract at all from the album.

Katana's first full length album breaks no barriers, and isn't that ground breaking, but it still is a pretty decent album. Fans of heavy metal in general should enjoy this album, and it sure is a good release by this relatively new band. For their release they get 3 stars.

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