Tokyo Blade
Tokyo Blade

Tokyo Blade appeared on the NWOBHM scene with a strong first album, but never really capitalized on it. As with many other NWOBHM bands, their discography is a confusing mess, mirroring the band's problems with management, record labels and a revolving door of musicians. They have even had albums recorded under other band names, re-released under the Tokyo Blade banner. Neither Mr. Ice nor Pumphouse were intended to be Tokyo Blade releases.

Tokyo Blade
(Roadrunner) 1983
Tokyo Blade
(High Vaultage) 1983/1997

1. "Power Game" (4:12)
2. "Break The Chains" (5:07)
3. "If Heaven Is Hell" (6:04)
4. "On Through the Night" (7:29)
5. "Killer City" (5:47)
6. "Liar" (5:34)
7. "Tonight" (4:02)
8. "Sunrise In Tokyo" (5:47)
9. "Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia" (1:11)
10. "If Heaven is Hell" (6:59)
11. "Highway Passion" (4:23)
12. "Midnight Rendevous" (3:21)
13. "Mean Streak" (4:42)
14. "Death on Main Street" (3:34)

One of the early NWOBHM hopefuls. Musically, Tokyo Blade offer up some melodic, punky, galloping NWOBHM that is very reminiscent of the first Def Leppard or even at times, like early American metal band Riot. The music is melodic, yet still raw heavy metal, and contains a boatload of hooks. Actually, I was always sort of surprised this album didn't become much more popular. Tokyo Blade had the heaviness, speed and energy of early Iron Maiden, but also the melodic leanings of early Def Leppard. Modern power metal actually owes a lot to this band. One listen and you can hear a whole host of followers from the modern power metal movements. Surprisingly the sonics on this disc are pretty good. Many bands from this early metal movement had no resources so their recordings were rather raw. Since I have never heard the original vinyl version of this album, I wonder if the CD versions were remastered or just sounded this punchy from the beginning.

The 1985 Roadrunner CD re-issue is pretty rare. The packaging is rather unique in that it is a slim-line jewel case with a back that pops open and lifts the disc out. Can't say I have ever seen one before, although I was aware that Anvil's "Hard n Heavy" and "Metal on Metal" were released this way by Roadrunner Records as well.

Remastered and re-released by High Vaultage Records in 1997. While this self title album was their first full-length album, later pressings carried the name "Midnight Rendezvous" and added some differnt tracks. This CD contains all the tracks from both pressings. It also includes a 12-page booklet that includes a biography, lyrics and photos. This version also restores the original, silly track, "Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia". The bonus tracks here are a bit more polished than the original songs from the self-titled, but are still prime NWOBHM. "If Heaven is Hell" has to be one of the catchiest tracks ever written.

Night of the Blade Tokyo Blade - Night of the Blade (High Vaultage) 1984/1997

1. "Someone To Love" (3:41)
2. "Night of the Blade" (4:02)
3. "Rock Me To the Limit" (4:54)
4. "Warrior of the Rising Sun" (5:25)
5. "Unleash the Beast" (4:32)
6. "Love Struck" (3:47)
7. "Dead of the Night" (3:55)
8. "Lightning Strikes (Straight Through the Heart)" (4:31)
9. "Fever" (3:30)
10. "Attack Attack" (3:38)
11. "Madame Guillotiner" (4:45)
12. "Break Outr" (3:46)
13. "Monkeys Blood" [demo] (3:45)
14. "School House Is Burnin'" [demo] (4:01)
15. "Shadows Of Insanity" [demo] (5:02)
16. "Jezzabell" [demo] (3:22)

I know many fans of the early period of Def Leppard when they were doing songs like "Wasted", "Getcha Rocks Off" and "Rock Brigade". Those songs blended together the New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound with pop rock hooks. Tokyo Blade's "Night of the Blade" has a similar sound and attitude. Songs like "Rock Me to the Limit" and the title track would have just as easily been at home on "On Through the Night" or "High 'n Dry". However, that is not to say that Tokyo Blade sound like a carbon copy of Def Leppard. They do have their own unique style and sound. Personally, I think Vic Wright is a superior vocalist to Joe Elliot. However, of the NWOBHM bands, Tokyo Blade fall much closer to the early Def Leppard sound or even Diamond Head, then heavier bands like Raven, Venom or Iron Maiden. The music contained herein is energetic and is delivered with a hunger that only young, starving bands can deliver. The production isn't overly clean, which is actually a good thing in my opinion. The raw sound gives the album a heavier sound and keeps it from sounding too whimpy. Frankly, I can't imagine why any fan of the whole NWOBHM movement would find this to be an outstanding album. I'm sort of surprised this band didn't see more fame.

Remastered and re-released on CD by High Vaultage Records in 1997. The bonus tracks are taken from three sources. Tracks 9-10 are from the "Lightning Strikes" EP, tracks 11-12 are from the "Madame Guillotine" EP, and tracks 13-16 are from "The Cave Sessions" demo. Also features a 16-page insert with biography, lyrics, photos, etc.

Blackhearts Tokyo Blade - Blackhearts and Jaded Spade/Ain't Misbehavin' (Lemon)1985/1987/2011

1.   Dirty Face Angel (3:26)
2.   Make It Through the Night (3:58)
3.   Always (3:31)
4.   Lovin' You Is An Easy Thing to Do (3:08)
5.   Undercover Honeymoon (4:09)
6.   You Are the Heart (4:57)
7.   Blackhearts and Jaded Spades (3:57)
8.   Tough Guys Tumble (3:26)
9.   Dancing in Blue Moonlight (4:21)
10. Playroom of Poison Dreams (5:20)
11. Monkey's Blood (3:05)
1.  Heartbreaker (4:37)
2.  Too Much Too Soon (3:26)
3.  Watch Your Step (3:40)
4.  Movie Star (4:03)
5.  Hot For Love (4:20)
6.  Tokyo City (4:19)
7.  Love And Hate (4:28)
8.  Don't Walk Away (4:59)
9.  Ain't Misbehavin' (1:38)

"Blackhearts And Jaded Spades" was Tokyo Blade's third album and for the most part was the same core line-up that recorded "Night of the Blade". The dual guitar tandem of Andy Bouton and John Wiggins was still in place, as well as drummer Steve Pierce. American vocalist Vic Wright, who had replaced original vocalist Alan Marsh for the recording of "Night of the Blade" is back on "Blackhearts" as well. The album is a straight-forward American heavy metal/hard rock album with few surprises. The biggest surprise is, of course, that Tokyo Blade are a New Wave of BRITISH Heavy Metal band. Despite the bands British roots, they sound like a combination like they are straight out of Los Angeles; Ratt meets Van Halen with a side of Y&T. Is that a band thing? In my opinion, no. However, I can understand how fans in 1985 might have been a bit put off. In fact, the band's core audience rejected the album outright. Of course, it may also have been due to the ridiculous purple monkey on the cover art which didn't really fit in with the band's Japanese images of the past.

The album starts off with the powerhouse rocker "Dirty Face Angel", a straight-forward heavy metal romp with a catchy, sing-along chorus. It is followed up by some equally enjoyable songs; "Make It Through The Night" and the down and dirty "Always". 'Undercover Honeymoon' and the reworking of "Monkey's Blood" are also power packed. "Monkey Blood" was a demo that the band had recorded for "Night of the Blade" but wasn't actually used for that record. It's an upbeat, traditional heavy metal number led by a steady double bass thump. However, the title track is easily the standout of all of them. It has a chorus that packs a punch, thanks to the interplay between the vocals of Vic Wright and some powerful gang vocals.

"Lovin' You Is An Easy Thing to Do" is one of the songs that sticks out like a sore thumb. Sounding like an out-take from David Lee Roth's first solo album, the song is a rock and roll shuffle and built around a cool harmonica solo. "You Are the Heart" is the obligatory ballad and is about as cheesy as a love ballad gets. It is definitely the weak spot on this recording.

It's a shame that the album tanked for the band as it's not a bad album at all and in fact is pretty darned good. After releasing an EP, the band split with Vicki James Wright packing his bags and returning to the U.S.. (Later to join Johnny Crash.) Guitarist John Wiggins joined Paul Di'Anno's Battlezone and the rhythm section of Andy Wrighton and Steve Pierce hooked up with Alan Marsh in Shogun.

Guitarist Andy Boulton was left to rebuild the Blade and soon after formed Andy Boulton's Tokyo Blade with a revolving door of musicians. The band's fourth full-length album was released in 1987 and has them further pushing for a commercial American heavy metal sound. In the extensive liner notes included with the Lemon re-issue, there is a reprint of a Metal Forces magazine review. In it they say, '"here's bits of Dokken, Ratt and Foreigner…and not one decent song". While I can agree to an extent, I actually heard more of that nasty Ratt sound on "Blackhearts" than I do here. "Ain't Misbehavin'" does have some Dokken-like qualities. "Heartbreaker" in particular could have been a Dokken song, even the vocals and background vocals sounding a bit like Don and Co. The song "Movie Star" seems to have taken it's cue directly from Van Halen's "Jump". Even the title track takes cue from Van Halen and is a short, joke song, not unlike "Ice Cream Man" or "Happy Trails". While David Lee Roth may have the charisma to pull of something like this, it doesn't work as well for Tokyo Blade. The album isn't a total dog though. "Hot for Love" and especially "Heartbreaker" are decent rockers with some nice guitar work. Overall, however, "Ain't Misbehavin'" doesn't have nearly the hooks or the charisma of any of the band's first three records.

No Remorse Tokyo Blade - No Remorse/Burning Down Paradise (Lemon) 1989/199 /2011

No Remorse
1  1,000 Years [intro] (1:12)
2.  The Eye Of The Storm (3:48)
3.  Chains Of Love (4:54)
4.  Dark Night Over Paradise (4:59)
5.  Moonlight In Martini (5:01)
6.   5-Inch Catwalk (4:56)
7.   Crystal Gold (3:37)
8.   Call Me Angel (4:34)
9.   Tears Are Not Enough (3:50)
10. Shadows Of Insanity (5:14)
11. Call Me Angel (4:58)
12. Fever (5:01)
13. Stop It Or Drop (4:01)
Burning Down Paradise
1.   Burning Down Paradise (5:29)
2.   Friend in Need (5:28)
3.   Flashpoint Serenade (6:01)
4.   Kickback (5:14)
5.   Wing and a Prayer (4:39)
6.   Hot Breath (6:00)
7.   Head Full of Bad Wiring (4:39)
8.   Papering the Cracks (4:56)
9.   Get Out of My Face (5:06)
10. Only the Strong (5:21)
11. Woman and Love (5:49)
12. Dead End Kid (4:40)

"No Remorse" was a Tokyo Blade album in name only. Founding member and guitarist Andy Boulton was under contract with Scratch Records, a small German record company, to release an album under the Tokyo Blade name. According to the liner notes included in the 2011 re-issue, the label basically threw Boutlon into a studio with a bunch of German musicians and pretty much just recorded the outcome. The other members of the new Tokyo Blade were from a band called The Dead Ballerinas. Bouton even explains in the liner notes that he didn't meet his band members until two days before recording began. That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Surprisingly, however, what results isn't so bad. No, it's not a classic like the band's early 80's debut, but it's not a travesty either.

There are some decent straight-forward heavy metal song here such as "The Eye Of The Storm" and "5 Inch Catwalk". "Chains of Love" with it's Hammond Organ sound reminds me of latter-day Rainbow, as does "Crystal Gold". Actually, "Chains of Love" has some striking similarities to Rainbow's "Stone Cold". "Moonlight In Martini" is a pleasant, melodic, Euro-power pop song. The track starts off with a fairly heavy guitar riff which is sort of deceiving as the song becomes a slick, pop rock song. Likewise, "Fever" is Cheap Trick inspired power-pop as well. The ballad "Call Me Angel" is a ballad that heavily borrows from Aerosmith's "Angel".

Cocalist Michael Pozz has a clean, high voice that is quite unique. He would probably do well singing in a over-the-top glam band, as his helium infused pipes seem out of place on some of the songs on this album. (ie. Nitro) This seems especially true of "By God" and "Angel". Still, I tend to like charismatic singers, and Pozz possesses a unique charisma.

In 1990, Andy Boulton re-united with original Tokyo Blade vocalist Alan Marsh and formed a band called, uh, Mr. Ice. (Mr. Ice? Really?) The group recorded an album, and dissolved not long after. (Oddly enough, that album was re-released some years later under the Tokyo Blade name and titled "Mr. Ice".) What this connection did was fan the flame for an eventual Tokyo Blade reunion that included Boulton, Marsh and guitarist John Wiggins. The result was "Burning Down Paradise" which was originally released on Fresh Fruit/SPV in 1995. The album is a return to form, sounding like classic NWOBHM. The songs are heavy with chugging riffs and pounding drums but melodic with a ton of hooks.

"Burning Down Paradise" is a barn-storming, traditional heavy metal opener. It's followed up by "Friend in Need", which sounds like it could have been recorded by classic Diamond Head, with it's heavy Metallica-esque riffing and high-soaring vocals. "Kickback" has a heavy Aerosmith swagger, while "Hot Breath" send a heavy metal nod towards Led Zeppelin.

Unfortunately for the band, despite recording a kick-ass record, the album didn't move. Of course, it was 1995, when heavy metal was considered a dirty word by the media and trendy fans. In the liner notes of this 2011 reissue, Boulton is quoted as telling Marsh "I've had as much as I can take. The name Tokyo Blade is cursed." It's unfortunate as this is one of the best NWOBHM albums that most fans will never hear. This metal fan had never heard it until this 2011 re-issue. The 2011 Lemon Recordings reissue has a 12-page insert with plenty of photos and some history specific liner notes.

Mr. Ice Tokyo Blade - Mr. Ice (Zoom Club) 1998

1.   Hot Breath (6:00)
2.   Poor Little Rich Kid (3:35)
3.   Women And Love (5:56)
4.   More Than A Pretty Face (4:57)
5.   Boyz Will Be Boyz (4:55)
6.   Young, Bad & No Good (4:27)
7.   No Resistance To Love (6:14)
8.   1000 Nights (5:12)
9.   Passion & Emotion (7:19)
10. One White Lie [Live Rehearsal] (5:05)
11. Young, Bad & No Good [Live Rehearsal] (5:52)

"Mr. Ice", much like "Pumphouse" is a Tokyo Blade album by name only. The album was originally released in 1990 as a demo EP under the band name Mr Ice, with the CD titled 'Have An Ice Day'. It only featured the first six tracks featured here. (The additional tracks included feature Danny Gwilym on guitar.) The band's management at the time secured a tour for the band to promote the album, opening for Uriah Heep, but under the condition that the band tour under the name Tokyo Blade. With original Tokyo Blade members Alan Marsh and Andy Boulton in the band, the band's management felt the band was essentially Tokyo Blade under a different name. The band at this point also featured Colin Riggs on bass, Marc Angel on drums, Danny Gwilym on guitar and Attilla on keyboards. Unfortunately, during the tour, Andy Boulton quit the group and they recruited Tokyo guitarist Steve Kerr as a replacement. The band split after the tour with several of the members forming Pumphouse. Musically, "Mr. Ice" is hooky, pop metal with loads of hooks, pomp and sleazy attitude. A song like "Boyz Will Be Boyz" wouldn't have been out of place on a glam metal album from LA in the late 80's. As a matter of fact, the song has a bit of a Vinnie Vincent Invasion vibe. I can certainly see why the band wouldn't have wanted this released under the Tokyo Blade name, but at the same time, it's not so far removed from the heavy metal the band created in the 80's. Def Leppard moved into similar territory, and worse, with great success.

Pumphouse Tokyo Blade - Pumphouse (Zoom Club) 1998

 1.     Like You Not - Not (4:29)
2.      The Ultimate High (5:42)
3.      Gerald's Game (4:10)
4.      Pay the Man (3:37)
5.      Wrong Chair (4:48)
6.      It's Only Money (3:59)
7.      Character Assassination (4:42)
8.      S.O.S. (4:08)
9.      All Work No Play (3:41)
10.     SNAFU (3:34)
11.     Having A Bad Day (3:37)

"Pumphouse" was not originally recorded under the Tokyo Blade moniker and was in fact a project by ex-Tokyo Blade vocalist Alan Marsh. After his former band Mr. Ice folded, Marsh started a new project under the name Pumphouse who recorded this album between 1993 and '94, though it was never released. However, after Pumphouse members Alan Marsh (vocals), Colin Riggs (bass) and Marc Angel (drums) joined up with Tokyo Blade's Andy Boulton and John Wiggins to record "Burning Down Paradise" in 1995, "Pumphouse" was picked up and released by Zoom Club Records in England in 1998 and the Tokyo Blade name was added. Of course, without guitarist Andy Boulton on board, it can hardly be considered a Tokyo Blade release. The sound is fairly removed from the Tokyo Blade sound as well. Though there are crunchy guitars, the sound is mostly funk-based hard rock, not unlike Living Colour. As such, "Pumphouse" seems willfully out of place in the Tokyo Blade catalog. While it might have been a shrewd marketing move on the part of a record company to sell some CDs, it surely didn't fare well with NWOBHM fans who saw "Pumphouse" as a new Tokyo Blade release only to be disappointed by a sound that was very different from what anyone would have expected. However, if you can disconnect the name and past releases from this release, "Pumphouse" isn't a bad listen. Standout cuts are "Wrong Chair", an upbeat, groove-based, slightly progressive number and "S.O.S.", a straight forward rocker that is probably the closest to the Tokyo Blade sound.

Thousand Men Strong Tokyo Blade - Thousand Men Strong (Fastball) 2011

1. Black Abyss (5:06)
2. Thousand Men Strong (4:50)
3. Lunch-Case (4:23)
4. Forged In Hell’s Fire (6:09)
5. No Conclusion (4:01)
6. The Ambush (3:27)
7. Killing Rays (6:37)
8. Heading Down The Road (3:14)
9. Condemned To Fire (4:25)
10. Night Of The Blade (4:08)

Tokyo Blade 2011 reunites original band members, drummer Steve Pierce and guitarists Andy Boulton and John Wiggins, along with longtime bassist Andy Wrighton and new vocalist Nicolaj Ruhnow. "Thousand Men Strong" is the reunited band's first new studio material. The album features nine new songs and a re-recorded classic, "Night of the Blade". The band's sound rolls together their classic 1980's NWOBHM sound with a slightly more modern European power metal edge. In fact, I've always been of the opinion that Tokyo Blade helped invent that early European power metal sound. New vocalist Nicolaj Ruhnow sings with a clean, melodic style that blends well with the classic NWOBHM vibe that "Thousand Men Strong" evokes. Musically, "Thousand Men Strong" could have been, and perhaps should have been, the follow-up to 1984's "Night of the Blade". "Killing Rays" is an example of a song with a slightly more modern bend with it's chunky main riff, though the chorus and overall vibe of the song still blends well with the rest of the album.

The songs contain solid hooks, heavy riffs, and catchy vocal and guitar harmonies. The song that stood out immediately is the upbeat "Lunch-Case", a song that is reminiscent of "Night of the Blade". The oddly titled song is basically about a German version of  Jack The Ripper. Opening track "Black Abyss" is a heavy, galloping romp with a melodic, sing-along chorus that also would have worked well on the band's early catalog. Likewise "Forged in Hell's Fire" is a melodic metal track that has that same "classic" feel. "No Conclusion" has some nice dual-guitar work that reminds me of classic Thin Lizzy.

The production isn't overly polished, but packs a punch. Legendary producer Chris Tsangarides (Thin Lizzy, Anvil, Ozzy Osbourne) does a fantastic job of balancing all the instruments. The the guitars are front and center in the mix, like good heavy metal should be, the drums, vocals and even the bass guitar are all given room to be heard. In fact, Andy Wrighton's bass can clearly be heard in each and every song.

Far and few between are the bands that can part ways and not see each other for years and regroup to record an album as good as "Thousand Men Strong".  In short, Tokyo Blade has delivered the goods. 

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