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Asian Typhoon/ X.Y.Z.A: Wings

First, a little history...singer Minoru Niihara, well known as the lead vocalist for Japanese metal legends Loudness, left that band in the late 80's, and joined up with XYZA and guitar shredder Fumihiko Kitsutaka, the band rounded out by bassist Tatsuhiko Wasada and drummer/producer Funky Sueyoshi. XYZA, re-named Asian Typhoon for the North American market, have put out a batch of albums since the late 1990's, Wings being their first US release. Niihara has also rejoined Loudness in the last few years and put out a few solo albums, so you can see he has kept himself very busy.

So, what can metal fans expect from Wings? Well, for starters, Kitsutaka is one hell of a guitar player, shredding his way through heavy rockers like "I love Rock and Roll Life" and "Screamers" with plenty of flash, fire, and finesse. Sure, the first thing you'll probably want to know is how he compares to Loudness guitar god Akira Takasaki, and while Kitsutaka does at times remind of Akira, he also has plenty of Schenker, Van Halen, Lynch, Malmsteen, and Bettencourt in his blood. You can even hear a little Uli Roth era-Scorpions on "I am Addicted to You", as Kitsutaka tosses in some ripping classical runs on this emotional rocker. Highlight has to be the scorching instrumental "Incubation" where the guitarist absolutely puts on a clinic of how to get the most out of your axe.

What's puzzling here on Wings however, considering that this is the band's US debut, is that there is a fair amount of Niihara's vocals in Japanese, which ultimately won't endear this CD to the American metal audience. In many cases, as on "Optimism self Therapy" and "Heavy Road", the singer flips between English and Japanese vocals throughout the song. Niihara isn't the worlds greatest singer as it is, and to hear him shifting back and forth between languages is rather odd. Sad as it is to say this, but even though Minoru Niihara is basically the selling point of Wings, he's also the weakest link here, his vocals just not holding up well (forget the Japanese lyrics) since the early Loudness days, and his bandmates really overshadowing him from a musicianship standpoint. That being said, Wings is easy to recommend to those who want to hear some scorching guitar work, as the playing of Fumihiko Kitsutaka is hot, hot, hot throughout this CD.

Track Listing
1. Heavy Road
2. A Man Has Captured the Sun
3. I love Rock and Roll Life
4. Screamers
5. I am Addicted to You
6. Optimism self Therapy
7. Absolutely Wonderful Night
8. Incubation
9. For Whom the Bell Tolls
10. Wings~ Fire Bird

Added: November 24th 2008
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Nightmare Records
Hits: 2624
Language: english

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Asian Typhoon/ X.Y.Z.A: Wings
Posted by Butch Jones, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-11-24 12:46:05
My Score:

Asian Typhoon (aka in Japan as X.Y.Z→A) featuring Loudness front man Minoru Niihara, has repackaged their 2006 release Wings, for the US market. Asian Typhoon also features Bad Ass guitarist, Fumihiko Kitsutaka, bassist Tatsuhiko Wasada and acclaimed drummer/producer Funky Sueyoshi, for a pretty solid line up.

Rooted in the '80's Metal that Niihara was proudly a part of, Asian Typhoon deliver their Metal very much in that vein. Minoru Niihara's vocals are still very much instantly recognizable, whether you are a fan of them or not and matched up with the Japanese guitar whiz, Kitsutaka, they are well served. Wings is a 10 track CD that ranges from acoustic ballads to heavy rockers that are not as good as the legends that are Loudness, but fans of them and other Japanese acts like Anthem or the amazing EZO might like.

The true strength of this CD is guitarist Fumihiko Kitsutaka. His '80's styled guitar pyrotechnics are stunning. Imagine a mix of Eddie Van Halen, Akira Takasaki and Michael Romeo of Symphony X all rolled up into one. I for one found the vocals a bit annoying (and I'm a HUGE fan of Loudness), finding Niihara sort of straining and whining a tad, but the guitar work of Kitsutaka saved the day. A great guitar tone and tasty picking make this a worthwhile listen. Rocker's like "Screamers" and "I Love Rock And Roll Life" show some great musicianship. Check out "Absolutely Wonderful Night" my favorite rocker on the CD. It reminds me of a tune from the Impellitteri Stand In Line CD that features the legendary Graham Bonnet. Nice and hooky with great guitar work, as usual.

Like the early Loudness records such as Disillusion, Wings is mostly in Japanese, but you won't even really notice it. The song titles are sung in English, as are the chorus', so the bulk of the words are understandable. As I said earlier, if you are a fan of the '80's Heavy Rock, then check out Asian Typhoon. This is a pretty solid release with some nasty guitar playing that will make you pay attention.

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