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Inspire - Alive 4.5/5

Reviewed: 9-18-09


1. Injured feathers
2. Double-dealt
3. Forever noisy
4. Unfair
5. Grief
6. Desparate
7. The demon of darkness
8. Don't touch my memories
9. Outsider
10. Under the fire

I definitely didn't see this one coming! Japanese power metal band Inspire sneak up on me with their full-length debut 'Alive' and leave me with a feeling of amazement. Though I've greatly gotten into Japanese power metal the last few years, I had no idea that it would be a fresh new band that would blow me away, as opposed to an established band like Concerto Moon or Galneryus. Actually, I'm reminded of the similar situation that occured in 2007 with Killing Frost's spectacular debut 'Falling from the sky'. Just like that CD, this is pure power metal excitement!

Containing 6 members, Inspire is full of experienced musicians who have been (or still are) part of bands like Wizards' Hymn and Mastermind, to name a few. Female vocalist Sugino (with no last name given) is the band's gem however, and apparently she was previously with a band called Nova-Era, but they never went beyond the demo stage and eventually split-up in 2007. All I can say is that I'm glad Sugino found a home, as I'm absolutely loving her vocals. While she does sing in the higher range like most Japanese vocalists, she's not too high-pitched and much of her performance is closer to the mid-range, with a few slightly raspy twists thrown in to prove she's not of the extra-girly type.

Surprisingly, Sugino's vocals are sung in both Japanese and English. Basically, she alternates between languages, many times within the same song and even the same verse or chorus. Regardless of the language, she sings with a lot of emotion and totally leaves a lasting impression. She truly carries the songs, but while her vocals are my favorite part of this CD, the music is fantastic as well. There is tons of speed, with quick and catchy guitar work, screaming guitar solos, some keyboard solos too, and the songwriting is simply superb. Featuring 2 guitarists (Yoshiyuki Watarai and Tsutomu Aruga), the band is able to provide some stunning musical segments that will sound familiar (as far as style) to those into Japanese power metal.

Every song on this CD is a total winner, but I must mention a few things. Firstly, the opener "Injured feathers" will immediately pull you in with its quick pace, killer guitar solo, melodic keyboard solo and Sugino's awesome vocals. Actually, the speed and excitement doesn't let up until the galloping track 4 "Unfair", but even that song has some speed. I also want to make special mention of the slow yet powerful track 8 "Don't touch my memories" (the only ballad), which is absolutely beautiful and Sugino's captivating vocals are nothing short of magnificant. Seriously, I'm left with a feeling of amazement every time this CD ends.

In my opinion, giving metal fans a list of band comparisons is always very important, so for those who agree with me, the best comparisons I can make (considering both the music and vocals) are Alhambra, Fairy Mirror, Saeko, Area51, Fullmoon and maybe Minstrelix, but remember, Inspire sits high above every single one of these bands. In fact, even if you're not into any of these other bands, if you dig Japanese power metal (or power metal in general, for that matter) and are open to female vocals, this just might impress you as much as it has me.




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