This week we’ve changed up our Artist of the Week dramatically from last week, we’ve headed to the other end of the musical spectrum with London based alternative punk rockers Legend in Japan. So people get ready, you’re being forewarned that the rock train is rolling along, kicking butt and taking no survivors! It’s going to get L-O-U-D!
So to prepare you think Robert Trujillo (Metallica), Disturbed (yes that’s a name of a band, if you’re not familiar check out ‘Down with the Sickness’ [parental guidance warning]), Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet for my Valentine – generally kind of loud but with all the varied rhythms and melodic tendencies of the likes of Iron Maiden or Queens of the Stone Age.
And what of Legend in Japan? They’re fronted by lead singer Shabby Eliot-Katchadourian (of Black Beauty fame aka Keeley Flanders) and were formed earlier this year after the split of her last band Voodoo Hussy in September 2011. Comprising of ex-voodoo line up Pyro and Martin, LiJ had a male bass player when they started out but have recently welcomed Eloise as their bass player, yet again Martin is the only guy, what a hard life… Pyro also has another band called Suffering Silence, who are more studio/internet based.
So this November, LiJ have released their much anticipated 5 track debut EP Welcome to the Pity Party, and this is where the fun bit begins…
Persona Non Grata is the opening track on the EP. The track starts with a veritably simple somewhat intense melodic double guitar riff before adding in the drums and further guitars block by block to form a wealth and density of sound. This soon gives way to husky, solitary lead vocals of a range and texture like that of a younger version mix of Stevie Nicks, Bananarama and Joan Jett; with all the attitude of punk by way of Sid Vicious and ‘God Save the Queen’– bringing that unique and unmistakable British rock sound. The vocals at this point help ease up on the intensity until the texture and tone evens out leaving the backing to highlighting elements of the lyrics and the varied 9beach boys effect) rock guitar sequence that beings to mind the classic rock solos of the early eighties and nineties. Further varied, the track then builds in some good level backing vocal harmonies and an ending that you can be forgiven (or encouraged) for playing air drum to.
Agitation! Propaganda! starts straight off the bat, and while differing slightly from the previous rack it does not lack in the intensity of rock. There is a more heavy Paramore type rhythm with this track. The lead vocal really takes off in both focus and style; cinematically bolstered by the echoing vocal backing, during the chorus, which brings a lasting and memorable resonance that comes through the rock instrumental effectively and highlights the subtle and enjoyable guitar chord changes. The arrangement with this track, amongst many other layering elements is what makes it, for me, the most enjoyable of the ones listened to so far. The style of sudden a cappella rhythmic rap after the sudden drop in sound, is chilling and effective. Especially when you really pay attention to the very slight sung section in the background. While this breaks up the all our feel of the tracks so far, it doesn’t want for anything more, in fact the difference really helps to get the lyrics across with a distinct feel of Rage Against the Machine.
Fall Guy begins with a somewhat lighter layered feel of rhythmic guitar and drum backing that really doesn’t change throughout; however this allows this track to have some real intense moments for the vocals to really shine through. Here this kind of texture and tone gives echoes of Paramore/Joan Jett and maybe the Foo Fighters in that thematic, unchanging melody underneath which allows the vocals to pretty much ‘have it’, and form the song around itself. The track continues on this vein dropping in sudden and quite addictive a cappella before twisting back into the main rhythmic phrasing of the verses. The band have worked the vocals and arrangements really well throughout all the tracks so far and you can really hear it here as the vocals begin to build the rest of the track into a crescendo of sound – very much like Slipknot – until you hit the bridge and LiJ hit full stride with a raspy vocal ad-lib (think maybe Linkin Park; but not so one off and much more subtle). I would say however that with this kind of effect the band would need to be careful that it doesn’t end up being simply hard metal noise – unless that’s the sound they’re looking for; which given the burgeoning tracks already, would be a shame.
Give em an Inch begins with a likeable double chord rhythmic guitar riff/shred that makes me feel like they’re going to go into a chorus of Greenday’s ‘Holiday’– but with less of the pop line Greenday tend to have and more ‘shred to death’ guitar melody along the lines of Skillet. This track probably sounds the most different and closer to that of Agitation! Propaganda! whereby they edge away from being hard metal noise by being able to balance (which all good rock bands do) a good sense of rhythm, variance, lyric, melody, upbeat and good instrumental, and decent vocal. The vocal in this instance sounds like a heavier hard core nought to sixty version of power chord edge that reminds me of Alannah Myles via Black Velvet or Pat Benatar– with, well, anything. I was impressed at the harmony here; and the ad libbing towards the end- especially at the end, it makes this track. This track gives more of a musical kick, rather than the usual metal rock one. Which actually allows you to pay attention to the lyrics as your ears begin to pick up the rather more catchy melody as bands such as Orgy pulled off way back when. The bridge or break towards the end tapers off into a very anthem-ic call and response a cappella section which had me rocking out briefly, before common sense and a headache kicked in.
Good Intentions starts off a lot more intensely, with more focus paid to the vocals and a little more density and sobriety in the backing instrumental. LiJ still keep to the heavy rock tone and earth rocking density of sound, whilst keeping us grounded with a type of rhythm and base that is able to keep you tapping pens way longer than the end of the track. The backing of the guitar stays true throughout and gets a little ‘jiggy with it’ during the solo; ringing out and playing proud and far more harmonically, which when contrasted against the energy of the rest of the track both vocally, with the dark brooding essence of the lyrics, and instrumentally, layering it with a nice edge of the classic rock variety. The track itself (whether or not it’s because it’s the last one we listened to) is similar to ‘Give Em an Inch’ in that it’s pretty addictive. With a loping sharp quality towards the end and maybe not one to listen to first thing in the morning if you’re used to the likes of Alex Clare or Adele. Throughout the entire track and indeed all the tracks listened to ‘Legend in Japan’ show that they are quite capable, know what they are doing and do it well; with cut aways and effects, instrumental and vocals that are all added with a deft touch and a good sense of timing.
All in all Welcome to the Pity Party is a strong, solid and addictive intro to what should be a long reign on the British rock scene for LiJ, hopefully they’ll become the stuff of Legend worldwide.
Download Welcome to the Pity Party