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Saber Tiger: The Best Of Saber Tiger

Any band reaching the ripe old age of 35 has every right to release a "best of" collection. However for that album to be the band's first officially released in the US, is slightly more unusual. That's the situation legendary Northern Japanese outfit Saber Tiger find themselves in, the band's deal with Cleopatra Records beginning with a retrospective of their long, respected and fruitful catalogue from their homeland.

As you'd expect, for any band lasting over three decades, while there is undoubtedly a Saber Tiger sound, there's no denying that it varies wildly across the twelve tracks presented. "Messiah Complex" an aggressive, almost thrash take on melodic rock, while "No Fault/No Wrong" lands closer to one of this band's main influences, Dokken, or more to the point, George Lynch. Formed round the undoubtedly impressive guitarist (and the band's only constant), Akihito Kinoshita back in 1980, Saber Tiger released three independent albums, before Portrait One, featuring the likes of Ron Keel (Keel, Steeler) became the band's (although many see it is a Kinoshita solo project) first Japanese major label effort. Not exactly prolific (ten albums in three and a half decades), a further six albums have surfaced, a whole cast of characters coming and going from the Saber Tiger ranks (ten vocalists alone having fronted the band); another factor you'd suggest has played a part in the ever evolving Saber sound.

Twelve songs may seem paltry given the length of this band's career and yet with a propensity to concoct longer songs (six, seven minutes) and sprinkle them with a copious amount of guitar solos, and stylistic twists and turns, there's still a lot to be impressed by. Hence through the likes of "Dividing Line" and the punchy, almost sleaze rock steam train of "Painted Red", which then, rather oddly (but quite spectacularly) morphs into a power metal blast, it's hard to argue that there isn't a good bang for buck ratio. "Reminiscence" shows a depth and drama that plays out in utterly convincing style, while "At The Front" again melds genres, a guitar instrumental feel delivered with an 80s US metal sheen. The results far more believable than they have much right to be, especially once the vocals bring balance to the maelstrom. Talking of vocals, there is little doubt that those who struggle with accented singers are going to find Saber Tiger a tough nut to crack, while those who see this as less of a stumbling block (as I do), will actually find them as a strength Saber Tiger (no matter the vocalist featured) use to great advantage.

Even with the huge array of bands out there these days, it's unusual to stumble across an act with over three decades of experience and be ever so slightly bowled over by them. However that's exactly the score here. Saber Tiger have finally arrived definitely a case of better late than never!

Track Listing
1. Messiah Complex
2. Push
3. Hate Crime
4. The Hammer
5. At The Front
6. Bionic
7. Painted Red
8. Reminiscence
9. Angel Of Wrath
10. The Vague Blessings
11. No Fault / No Wrong
12. Dividing Line

Added: November 28th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Saber Tiger at Cleopatra Records
Hits: 1961
Language: english

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