Anthem were one of the first major Japanese heavy metal bands. Emerging in the wake of scene leaders Loudness in the early '80s, the group quickly parlayed great success in their homeland into a slew of international releases. But these found little traction with Western fans, and Anthem were eventually forced into a hasty retreat into a semi-obscure afterlife within Japan's borders. It was thanks to the pioneering efforts of Loudness and Bow Wow in the late '70s that Japan truly discovered heavy metal, resulting in a flurry of activity at the start of the next decade, with dozens of new bands vying for attention. Formed in 1981 by bassist Naoto Shibata, Tokyo's Anthem slowly built a local following despite dealing with the kind of nonstop musician turnover typical of most young bands. Come 1985's eponymous debut album, Anthem were performing classic heavy metal as viewed through their distinctly Asian vantage point, and also featured vocalist Eizo Sakamoto, guitarist Hiroya Fukuda, and drummer Takamasa Ohuchi. This lineup would come to epitomize the band's so-called "glory years," which also produced 1985's Ready to Ride EP and a series of competent if unspectacular albums in Tightrope (1986), Bound to Break (1987), and the live The Show Carries On (1987).
Anthem's deepening career standstill finally got to singer Eizo Sakamoto, who fell out with his bandmates and was replaced by Yukio Morikawa for a string of LPs, namely 1988's Gypsy Ways, 1989's Hunting Time, and 1990's Best collection and No Smoke Without Fire (this last featuring new guitarist Hideaki Nakama). A short time later, fed up at last with ever-diminishing returns, the rest of the band packed it in with a flurry of 1992 releases, including a second greatest-hits set, another live album, and a final studio album in the strangely named Domestic Booty. Bassist Shibata showed up on a few Loudness albums in the late '90s, but when Japan's elder statesmen of metal decided to reconvene their classic lineup, he once again turned his attentions to Anthem, relaunching his old band eight years after their demise.
Surprisingly, Shimizu, Shibata, and drummer Takamasa Ohuchi were joined by legendary Rainbow, MSG, and Alcatrazz vocalist Graham Bonnet for 2000's Heavy Metal Anthem rebirth. Typical of his short tenure with most of his previous bands, Bonnet was soon ejected to make way for the unlikely return of original vocalist Eizo Sakamoto, and with new drummer Hiro Homma also joining, this resulted in two further studio releases in 2001's Seven Hills and 2002's Overload. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia