Animetal USA

All posts tagged Animetal USA

By Carl Begai

During a recent discussion with former Loudness / Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Michael Vescera about the new and long overdue Obsession album, Order Of Chaos, he took the time to update me on the project that’s become his top priority, Animetal USA.

“With Animetal USA, I don’t even have time to think,” says Vescera, owing the band’s rigorous studio and promotional schedules as one of the reasons for the hold-up on the Obsession front. “It’s non-stop work. And the Animetal thing is time consuming because it’s not just singing and writing. I have to go back and forth with the publishers to get clearance on the lyrics, I sing it but they need certain words of phrases in Japanese, it’s pretty intense and a lot of work. But I like it like that. I’d rather be busy doing a million things rather than just sitting around at home.”

Almost a year ago, Vescera gave me an in-depth rundown of how the Animetal USA machine works (check out the interview here). For the uninitiated, he and his bandmates – Impellitteri guitarist Chris Impellitteri, ex-Whitesnake / ex-Ozzy Osbourne bassist Rudy Sarzo, and ex-Slayer drummer Jon Dette, who Judas Priest’s Scott Travis – have taken up the mantle worn by Japan’s original Animetal project, which features classic anime theme songs dating back to the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s and turning them into metal anthems.

Anime is a big part of Japanese culture, making the success of the original Animetal during their 10 year run from 1996 to 2006 – releasing 11 singles and an assortment of albums, collections and live records – a no-brainer. Animetal USA’s success was guaranteed in Japan, especially considering the individual members’ histories, but Vescera admits everyone was still surprised just how well they went over. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Back in July, Blood Stain Child vocalist Sophia – hailing from Thessaloniki and dividing her time between Greece and Japan – announced her departure from the band after only one album. Her reasons for leaving are her own, suffice to say that it was a two-year rollercoaster ride of ups and downs that inevitably brought her to a crossroads.

With four albums under their belt when she joined the band, and going on to record the Epsilon album as lead vocalist alongside bassist/male singer Ryo, Blood Stain Child afforded Sophia a certain amount of notoriety from the get-go. Some folks will argue, however, that her involvement on the first Princess Ghibli album, Imaginary Flying Machines – an anime-related metal-oriented soundtrack released in April 2011 – boosted her credibility as an artist and paved the way for future musical ventures. With the Oscar-winning Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke) being the most respected anime company on the planet, their support of the project was the stamp of approval fans needed to buy into it. Thus, between Blood Stain Child and two Princess Ghibli albums, Sophia has made a name for herself.

The split with Blood Stain Child will be addressed at a later date. For now the focus is on Princess Ghibli and her role in several Touhou Project-related songs.

With regards to the Ghibli albums, Sophia’s involvement was attributed as to Blood Stain Child’s affiliation with Coroner Records and Disarmonia Mundi mastermind Ettore Rigotti as it was to her ability to speak Japanese.

“Well, actually it was thanks to Ettore,” says Sophia. “I don’t think language skills had much to do with it. Or did they? I never thought about it (laughs) Anyway, although he had a good network of acclaimed artists to choose from, he asked me to do it. Little did I know about the level of success those albums would enjoy. The first album is still #1 in the metal genre at Amazon and the second album (Princess Ghibli II: Imaginary Flying Machines) was #1 on the charts of a major TV channel in Japan.”

“If it’s Ghibli, it’s bound to have a certain level of guaranteed success,” she adds, “but I don’t think anybody expected the popularity that spread like wildfire even before the official release. The first album was sold out on pre-sales, so when the actual release took place many people couldn’t find it anywhere in Japan, so the company had to rush for a second print (laughs). Everybody, even Mr. Goro Miyazaki himself (director and son of studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki) loved the result, so the second album was a natural outcome.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Ten years ago, if you’d told Obsession vocalist Michael Vescera he’d be in a band with Impellitteri guitarist Chris Impellitteri, ex-Whitesnake / ex-Ozzy Osbourne bassist Rudy Sarzo, and Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis, he likely wouldn’t have ruled out the possibility. With a career spanning 25 years that includes albums and tours with Loudness, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Helloween guitarist Roland Grapow, working with a line-up of all-star musicians would probably be viewed by Vescera as par for the course provided the planets aligned in his favour. Had you told him that he’d do so looking like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon, he would have laughed in your face. And yet, these days Vescera finds himself fronting just such a band and having a truckload of fun doing so.

“When I was younger I wanted to be a member of KISS,” he laughs, “and now I’m at least getting to play dress-up for the stage.”

Animetal USA owes its existence to a concept established in Japan well over a decade ago. The original Animetal – fronted by Anthem vocalist Eizo Sakamoto and ex-Volcano guitarist She-ja – was launched in 1996, taking famous Japanese anime theme songs dating back to the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s and turning them into metal anthems. Their debut album, Animetal Marathon, went on to sell 300,000 units in Japan. Animetal released seven albums along with several compilations before going on indefinite hiatus in 2006, and according to Japan-based Area51 guitarist Yoichiro Ishino the band received more attention from the anime scene than metal fans. As a result, Animetal charted several times, even hitting the Top 10.

“We appreciate the legacy of the original Animetal and what they accomplished,” says Vescera, well aware of the origin story. “We’re really just looking forward to the future with Animetal USA and hoping to bring it to the rest of the world, not just Japan. In most of the press we did in Japan, they truly appreciate us bringing Japanese culture and music to rest of the world. We’re all hoping for a long run with this.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

I recently caught up with Obsession vocalist Michael Vescera to discuss his latest career move as the frontman of the Japanese anime-inspired band, Animetal USA. We quite naturally touched on his stint with Loudness from ’89 – ’91, when guitarist Akira Takasaki fired original singer Minoru Niihara in the interest of gaining attention on the North American market. The change didn’t go over well with the majority of Loudness fans, and it was dubbed a failed experiment by some, but Vescera is still regarded as an important part of the band’s history. That said, when Loudness toured the US in May / June 2011 – with Niihara up front – the internet was abuzz with claims that Vescera would join the band on stage when they hit Nashville. The May 23rd gig came and went, but there was no follow-up on YouTube or anywhere else to suggest the highly anticipated reunion ever took place or had even been planned. Until now…

“That was absolutely true,” Vescera confirms. “We’ve been talking quite a bit, actually, me and the Loudness guys. I see their manager George (Azuma) quite often; when he’s in Nashville we hang out. When Munetaka (Higuchi/drums) died in 2008 (following an eight month battle with liver cancer) I issued a statement and Akira contacted me. We’ve been talking back and forth for a few years, and Akira’s mentioned a couple times that he’d like to do something again. So, when they were touring the States this summer they called me from San Francisco and mentioned they were coming to Nashville; would I come out and perform a couple songs with them? I told them I’d love to. I even talked to Minoru, who was totally into the idea. But, the night before the show we had tornados come through and they did so much fucking damage. I think the guys were in Chicago, and they couldn’t risk the possibility of driving through that, so they had to cancel the show.”

“The gig was at the Mercy Lounge, and everyone was going to come out to see them. The guys from Cinderella, Slaughter… basically anyone who was in a metal band in Nashville was going to come out. It was so sad that they had to smoke it. So yeah, it was definitely a true story.” Continue Reading