Maverick - s/t 3/5

Reviewed: 7-14-06


1. The awakening
2. Black leather man
3. Hammer blood
4. Let there be light
5. Son of wonder
6. Endless smile
7. Make my stand
8. Gone are the days
9. Unfolds the way
10. In a state of nature
11. Maverick

The Japanese people are fanatic about their metal. Indeed, Japan was a safe haven for European and American metal during the dark ages of the mid-90s, and today continues to afford a hero's welcome to Western metal acts who tour their fair land. (Among countless examples, witness the Dungeon live DVD accompanying their 'One step beyond' opus.) For all of their true metal spirit and enthusiasm, however, the denizens of the Land of the Rising Sun have experienced little success in exporting worthwhile metal bands of their own. Sure, Loudness and Anthem did some outstanding work in the 80s, with the former scoring significant international acclaim via classics like "Crazy nights" and "Heavy chains". In recent years, however, the only Japanese bands to pique my interest are Aiming High in the power metal field, and Grief of War in the thrash style. Now traditional metallers Maverick have appeared with their debut CD, seeking to fill the void of Nippon metal, and even securing an international record deal to bring their metal to the masses worldwide.

The striking cover art seizes one's attention immediately, sporting a very cool 80s-type logo framing a lone silhouetted, armored warrior bathed in deep red hues in the dying light of the sun. Sadly, the music inside the package doesn't quite fulfill this promise. Maverick perform a no-frills straightforward brand of heavy power metal with snappy riffs, ample crunch, and no proggy parts, keyboard instrumentation, or epic pretensions. There's some quite strong material on display here too, with the first three proper songs ("Black leather man", "Hammer blood", and "Let there be light") scoring high in the catchiness department and offering plenty of headbangable moments. Unfortunately, the quality level is not sustained, and several ensuing songs are simply not good. One prime offender is "Son of wonder", a failed attempt at a lighter, radio-friendly type song with an AC/DCish riff, brought down by a wimpy chorus and a rather painful vocal delivery from singer/guitarist/songwriter Katsuhiko Hotta. Another is "Gone are the days", which again is just too AOR/wimpy, and a stark contrast to the more crushing material that dominates the CD. Then there's "In a state of nature", which sports one of the most annoying choruses ever, and compounds its mistake by repeating the chorus a capella several times at the conclusion of the track. Aaaccccckkkkkkk. It's difficult for any CD to overcome 3 duff tracks, and I'm not sure at the end of the day whether this one does.

At the end of the 43 minute running time, we're left with a promising but inconsistent CD. Aside from the songwriting peaks and valleys, Maverick's music suffers from the fact that it is too typical. Maverick have nothing approaching an "own sound", and do not distinguish themselves from their competitors through particularly killer songs, awesome riffs, or devastating vocals. Their most unique feature is Hotta's Japanese-accented vocals, but that is part of the problem. His voice is okay (maybe like a slightly stronger Minoru Niihara of Loudness), but he is obviously singing phonetically and his quite prominent accent is difficult to stomach. Don't get me wrong: I applaud Hotta for undertaking the daunting task of singing in a foreign language that is so drastically different from his mother tongue. Under the circumstances, though, I think Maverick would be better served if he sang in Japanese, perhaps with a few choruses in English (a la Anthem).

Still, this 'Maverick' CD is not a poor effort. As mentioned, there are a number of very good songs. Moreover, the professionalism level is high. Even though this CD is a debut, Maverick are not neophytes in the metal industry, as evinced by the fact that they completed at least 3 demos over a period of several years prior to releasing this debut. They are a decent band with room to improve. Here's hoping they start singing in Japanese, give us an album full of tunes like "Black leather man", and never even think about using a chorus as annoying as "In a state of nature" ever again.




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