Imari Tones – “Nabeshima”


Christian metal band Imari Tones from Japan have had a long story getting here and have released a double album filled with furious guitars and a blend of heavy metal with traditional Japanese sounds to create their vision of what Christian metal in Japan would sound like.

For those curious about the band’s name, Nabeshima is derived from 17th century Japanese porcelain art of Imari porcelain, where Nabeshima was of the highest quality at the time. Seeing this art is what inspired guitarist/vocalist Tak Nakamine to make music of the same qualities and character of the porcelain art, “otherworldly, multi-dimensional, and simple yet compelling beauty with Japanese tradition.” Since 2004, the band has flown to Germany to record but not been happy with the results, returned to Yokohama to play shows, toured the US, started a Christian rock label in Japan (Calling Records), and now released Nabeshima. For the album, the band has a new lineup with the additions of bassist Marie and drummer Shinryu and chose a variety of styles from power metal to progressive and incorporated a Christian message amongst the Japanese elements, with half the songs in English and half in Japanese. The concept behind the album is a journey where samurai meet Christian faith.

The album opens up with “Passion” which also conveniently has a video to go with it. The listener is greeted with this awesome raw, rough guitar chords followed by a great awesome, fast riff. From there the song takes a bit of an odd change and Tak’s clean, higher register vocals, seem at odds with the rawness of the guitars. In the overall mix, things are heavily slanted to the guitar and vocals to the point, where one can sometimes forget there is a bass and drum as well. That being said, Marie and Shinryu provide a thumping backdrop for the guitar heroics of Tak. Oh, the guitar solos are straight fire on the album. I was at first reminded a bit of the early Blindside album song “invert” as that has a similar in-your-face guitar presence. Some of Nabeshima does almost seem like it is an unfinished demo though with the guitar-dominated mix….but that guitar tone is great… In terms of overall sound, I’m reminded of the bootleg Black Flag 1982 demos, which happens to be one of my favorite releases simply because of the live, raw feel and energy and though Nabeshima is musically different, that same rawness and power is still there.

This album is a tough listen and I think much of that may have more to do with the cultural differences in song structure, composition, and melody that I am just not used to hearing as near everything in my listening experience has a Western origin. “123, 4&5” is another great track to introduce the band. The rough guitars open up the song with a riff that sounds very much like something Warren DeMartini (Ratt) would have had come up with and then the vocals remind me quite a bit of Geddy Lee in terms of overall tone and delivery style. So you can imagine my confusion at this point when I’m picturing Geddy Lee singing for Ratt. As is the case with the guitar solos on the album, they sound as if a guitar player just showed up plugged in, turned up the volume and let fly with the goal of being louder than the rest of the instruments, but as mentioned before, they are great.

The rawness of the recording is really heard in the opening riffs of “Redemption” and the listener almost feels as if they are in the same room as the guitars. Marie’s bass is heard a bit more clearly in this song and Shinryu gets to run through a complex drumming pattern that really adds to the song. The guitar solo here completely dominates the overall sounds in the song, but I still love it….

“Screaming Sin” brings in elements of the NWOBHM and has a groove feel not unlike something from Judas Priest, but the rest of the song although more straightforward than others does detract a bit from the overall power of that riff. Jumping around a bit more, the opening of “Chanbara” reminds me a lot of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” with its short guitar bursts in the beginning, but unfortunately the riff tends to get a bit lost in the mix during the faster parts when the speed picks up and vocals come in.

Overall, Imari Tones has brought too much music out at once, which is an odd thing to say. Given the differences in style compared to what at least I am used to listening to, Nabeshima would have been better released as two independent releases. The 24 songs and 106 minutes of music is overwhelming for sure and that is compounded by the rawness of the mix. I do think Imari Tones is on to something here though as the song construction and vocal elements are very different, and yet still powerfully convey their Christian message in an enjoyable manner. I would encourage everyone to check out this release, but maybe in small doses to start.

Rating: 7.5/10

Written by John Jackson

Disk 1:

  1. Passion
  2. Lord’s Prayer
  3. Sakura Day
  4. Atomic Jam
  5. 123,4&5
  6. Sakura Night
  7. Extravaganza
  8. Chanbara
  9. Yamagoya3
  10. Jidai
  11. Bloodthirsty
  12. God Anthem

Disk 2:

  1. Crucified Boy
  2. Sonic Soldiers
  3. The Garden
  4. Who Are You
  5. Sengoku Christians
  6. Screaming Sin
  7. Matsuo
  8. Once In A Lifetime
  9. Redemption
  10. Tsukuru
  11. Not Of This World
  12. Utage

Release Date: July 6th. 2021

Record Label: Sliptrick Records

Band Members
Tak Nakamine – vocals, guitar
Marie – bass
Shinryu – drums

Social MediaWebsite / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram /  Spotify / Apple Music

Video for ‘Passion’

Video for ‘Lord’s Prayer’

Video for ‘God Anthem’

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