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Reviews » [Review] X-Ray (Jpn) - Strike Back (1985)
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  • Potential Realized - 94%

    X-Ray began activities in Osaka, playing a blend of heavy metal and hard rock on their first two albums, similar in style to Loudness' early stuff. Looking to stand out in the middle of an at the time heavily saturated Osaka metal scene, X-Ray made the decision in 1984 to add Takahiro Fujiyama on keyboards, proving to be the best personnel decision the band ever made, as the move deepened their sound drastically, setting them apart from the city's other major metal bands entirely. The band put out their third and best album to date Shout later that year, which effectively acted as a "warm-up" album for the new lineup, and quickly followed up with Strike Back; an album that I would go as far as calling one of the ten best metal albums to come out of Japan in the 1980s.

    Given the flashes of huge potential shown by X-Ray on their previous albums, best demonstrated on older X-Ray songs such as So Long Rumble, Stardust Way, Dark Night and Question, it had boiled down to a mere matter of time before they put it all together into one complete package, which was finally accomplished in Strike Back. This album features some of the most lively, catchy and anthemic heavy metal the country had seen to that point with beautiful melodies and grand, mighty riffs behind Akira Fujimoto's soaring powerful vocals, along with sturdy, thumping bass by Ozma, a balanced attack and depth in drumming by Roger and pulled together the rest of the way with some excellent, versatile keyboards co-leading the way with as many melodies and in many instances as prominent as Shin Yuasa's guitar, playing off of each other to contribute to a perfect chemistry between X-Ray's members and that new-found depth to their music. As great as every other aspect of this band are, Shin Yuasa is my favorite piece of the band and was truly X-Ray's magic touch, with such an abundance of skill that he could legitimately hang with other all-time great Osaka shredders Masahiko Kuroki, You Adachi and Akira Takasaki. Shin's riffs are hefty, vigorous and vibrant and his solos even more so. His guitar when combined with Takahiro's keyboards play into that trademark upbeat heavy metal and hard rock sound of the 80s without sounding cheesy at all.

    The music on Strike Back is divided into about two thirds heavy metal, and a third hard rock, but even then, the hard rock songs are still extremely heavy, for example Lier in Your Eyes or Take a Chance. There's even a short but fun little acoustic instrumental called Ammy. When picking my favorite songs from the album my definite choices are Burnin' Like the Fire, Man in Black, and You Got the World. All three songs make you feel mighty enough to go out and take down a dictatorship in some third world country, armed with nothing more than a butter knife and a BB gun, they're truly that upbeat and energetic, with Man in Black being approximately my fifth favorite Japanese metal song ever, featuring brilliant spacey, "futuristic by late 1970s perspective" keyboards and dramatic drums by Roger in unison with slow powerful introduction chords by Shin, exploding into a rather complex galloping riff and an equally impressive vocal performance by Akira Fujimoto. Man in Black's guitar solo is also a work of art, with scaling shredding and an onslaught of notes that would bring a tear to Akira Takasaki's eye, with said solo being backed with the same galloping riff the song is build around, with a little added aggression.

    Comparisons had to be drawn between X-Ray and Loudness, as that's who X-Ray sounded like when they began their careers, but following Shout and Strike Back, they had cemented themselves firmly as the one and only X-Ray, and no longer X-Ray who sound like Loudness. With the quality of Strike Back, X-Ray completely outdid anything any other band in the entire Kansai region had done preceding it, with the exception of Loudness, which needless to say is a huge accomplishment. Earthshaker and 44 Magnum were very talented and influential Kansai bands, but neither ever had what it took to match Strike Back, even at their best. I'd recommend this one to really anyone into 80s Japanese heavy metal, X-Ray's entire discography is an excellent ride, but to experience this band at their height, you absolutely must give Strike Back a try.

    Written by TadakatsuH0nda, re-posted from the Metal Archives.
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