[Album Review] Concerto Moon - (1998) From Father to Son - 10/10
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Artist: Concerto Moon
Release: From Father to Son (1998)
Rating: 10/10

Concerto Moon is one of the best Japanese bands I've ever heard, and definitely ranking among some of the BEST power metal in existence. They've defied all trends, simply by doing what they do best, and that's making intelligent, unique music in their own way. While you could say that founding guitarist Norifumi Shima obviously was very much influenced by Yngwie J. Malmsteen, the truth of the matter is that he has a much greater scope of imagination and feeling than Malmsteen ever could muster in all his time as a worldwide success in the guitar virtuoso industry. Most guitarists are usually full of themselves, and want all the attention to go to themselves. Shima's riffs and compositions are definitely standouts, but he also lets other musicians stand out. The keyboards are also more prominently used than most of Malmsteen's music, which includes even the classics. Above all, what makes Concerto Moon unique to me is that at least on the first three albums, there's such a tasteful, neoclassical power metal edge to them that is even further complemented by the soulful vibratos of original vocalist Takao Ozaki, who's definitely a very unappreciated talent. His previous band, Zenith, was such a wonderful heavy/power metal affair that unleashed great songs such as "The Last Betting" (this album has it!), "Waiting Rising Sun", "Suicide", "Time to Be Free", "The Shadows of Rainbow", and "Shout in the Dark". Personally, he impressed me greatly on Fragments of the Moon, and he continues to do so on From Father to Son, albeit a little more melodramatic this time. The main difference between the two albums is that whereas the former is closer to classic, atmospheric heavy/power metal, the latter is more sentimental and based on a bit of a conceptual sound, so to speak. The album covers for both albums are also just incredible, incredible stuff. I'm talking about the original Japanese illustrations, and not the unforgivable European reissues' replacements.

"Dream Chaser" starts off the album, and it doesn't disappoint in the slightest that it's a worthy fast song with some great riffs that will stick to you immediately. With "Surrender", the band takes a step back to rock their asses out to some Rainbow-inspired jams, and you can't go wrong with Toshiyuki Koike's keyboard leads prominent on the song, especially right towards the end. "Moonlight After the Rain" is an unusual number, focusing more on its mystique leading up to a chorus that always sends you shivers, and I love how complementary to the overall feel of the music that Koike's keyboards and Ichiro Nagai's drumming are. I've had to replay this one song in particular several times in a row to get it out of my system. Of course, there are other incredible highlights, with the next one up being the heavy, intense "Inside Story". Ozaki during his grittier moments sounds a little bit like King Diamond (mostly mids) on the chorus, and it's such a fitting comparison. The song is an in-your-face kind of deal, and the solo on that one is among the best you'll hear on the album, reminding me a little bit of Terra Rosa. Now, "One and Only" is the obligatory ballad, but once you let it set in, it just works with the flow of this album. I love the touch of the piano and its main prominence here, taking a break from the furious metal assaults for a while. While the lyrics are cheesy and seem to be a continuation of "Holy Child" (from the first album), it's really the melodic overdrive that makes it such an endearing number. The title track then follows up with a more symphonic edge that would sound impeccable on an early Stratovarius album. The key riff reminds me a bit of Anthem's "Soldiers", although the chorus is a bit different, at least. The interlude passage is full of passionate vocal delivery. It is definitely another highlight of the album for me.

"Somewhere in Time" reminds me of Fates Warning in a strange way. I love that it has a progressive metal edge, despite being a shorter song that still follows the same pattern of two verses and two bridges before wrapping it all up with an epic solo and an array of choruses that are hook-laden as heck. It's really Ozaki's emphasis on melody here that drives it home for me, or else it would've been a standard song. Funny, given that Concerto Moon was used by Shima to promote his incredible guitar techniques (which I don't deny, after all). As I mentioned before about Ozaki's former band, Zenith, it was what led to the formation of Concerto Moon, and the song "The Last Betting" was originally recorded back in 1994 for the band's self-titled demo, featuring Tsutomu Toya as the guitarist and Osamu Harada as the keyboardist (Harada would follow Ozaki to form Concerto Moon with Shima in 1996). Surprisingly, the band agreed to give this song another chance, having been signed to major label Vap, and its live version (which you can find on all non-1997 pressings of Fragments of the Moon) was even selected as the designated music video to promote the release. You'd think that "Alone in Paradise" or "Take You to the Moon" would've sufficed, but there you go. Anyway, "The Last Betting" is the only song by either Zenith or Concerto Moon to have all-Japanese lyrics! Contrary to the band preferring to reserve English verses for bridges and/or choruses (just as Anthem and tons of other old school Japameta bands do), this was the one song to be completely sung in the band's native tongue. It's a mid-paced rocker that is fully fledged with catchy hooks and harmonies that you can't get away from. The moment Ozaki opens his mouth on this song, the whole feeling is there. The chorus is also great and highly memorable. Too bad I don't know any Japanese!

Speeding things up from here on out is "Into the Fire", one of the more developed songs that you'll come across on the album. It does more than serve as a fast-paced metal monster, especially by the time the song breaks down and chugs along to some tasty keyboard soloing. Kohsaku Mitani's bass playing also sticks out more on here, which is a good thing. Bassists in general don't get the spotlight that they deserve, and Mitani is certainly no slouch. If you check out live footage with him playing, he's always throwing some complicated bass lines. The only fault is that Shima's guitar tracks are always turned up so high, just barely above the singer's level, and then the prominence of keyboards can bury it a little further back. Of course, you can certainly hear him galloping along to the grooves. Epic closer "Change My Heart" sets the bar at an all-time high, albeit contrary to having been officially released on a studio album in 1998, it was one of the very first Concerto Moon songs, dating back to two years ago as part of Make It Shine Vol. 2 ("Holy Child" was the other one on this release). For one reason or another, it didn't get to be featured on Fragments of the Moon, but the classic has always been a staple of their live sets. Just hearing it kick off with such a fast, furious riffing pattern can put you on full adrenaline, and the keyboards are brimming with melody as a result. The bridge is always a great transitional drive for this song, and towards the end (after that killer solo, of course), the song comes crashing down with a semi-thrashy feel to it.

Above all, a truly amazing album that I can never get sick and tired of playing. The production is just about right, balancing the pros of both the 1980s and what was current at the time of its release. I like From Father to Son about as much as its predecessor, Fragments of the Moon, but if I had to choose just one, I'd still go with the debut album on the strength of being my first time listening to this band, and it was definitely a wonderful experience.
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Review has been revised and partly rewritten to flesh out actual musical context.
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