Saturday, December 12, 2015

Katana - The Greatest victory (2015)

Even if it was only three years since last they released an album, I had almost forgotten about the Swedish heavy metal band Katana. They emerged to the scene in 2011 with the release of their debut album "Heads Will Roll", and continued the next year with the release of the fantastic "Storms of War", a album that made it into my top 20 that year. But since then, it has been dead silent about this band, so I did take a big sigh of relief when I found out that their third album was done and out.

"The Greatest Victory" is more or less what you would expect from the Swedes, it is metal that is highly influenced from the NWoBHM movement, but the lyrical themes are all about Japan and its culture. The Japanese theme is the main reason to why I love this band, because there is no other band out there that sings about it. Sure, Trivium has touched it in the album "Shogun" and there are Japanese metal bands out there, but Katana is the only one that has really succeeded in making compelling music about this culture.

"Shaman Queen" opens the album in classic Katana fashion. It is fast, the vocals delivered by Johan Bernspång are big and epic, and the solo is sweet as hell. A splendid start. "Yakuza" follows there after, a song that was released over a year ago, and I remember that my first initial reaction was disappointment. This song was a let down to me because there was not much power to it, and my mind on that has not changed since then, but I appreciate the song more now because it is a classic old school tune that works as a first single. Not my favourite song on the record, but it is not the worst either.

The band doesn't really pick up the quality again until the 5th song "Kingdom Never Come". It almost appears as if the first songs were only there as a warm up, so the listener would be ready for the onslaught on the second half, because it is here most of the best material exists. "Within An Inch of Your Life" keeps you on the edge, "Mark of The Beast" tells a grand story, and while "In The Shadows" sounds a lot like Scorpions' "No One Like You" in some parts, it is still a great, moody song that ends the album really well.

While the overall quality is a little all over the place, the band cannot be blamed for their performance, because it is close to flawless. Bernspång has a great and unique voice that fits so well in this genre, while Patrik Essén's guitar work has a nice mix of both old and new sounds. But the most important part is still the Japanese theme, and it is as present as always. Frankly, that is all I could ever ask for from this band.

"The Greatest Victory" is by all means not a bad album, but somehow, I am still a little disappointed over it. With how good "Storms of War" was, I was hoping that the band would continue their evolution. Instead, they take a step backwards to a safer route. I still enjoy this album, and my affection for Katana is unchanged, but I am not really sure if it was worth the three year wait. Oh well, I am sure they will bounce back and make a kick ass album next time, striking like a ninja when we least expect it.

Songs worthy of recognition: Shaman Queen, Kingdom Never Come, In The Shadows

Rating: 6,5/10 Shoguns

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