Imari Tones
Sliptrick Records (release date: July 6, 2021)

By Robert M. Marovich

“Japanese Traditional Christian Metal” are four words you rarely see joined together, unless you know about the Imari Tones. Nabeshima is the trio’s latest release, a two-CD set of songs in Japanese and English that combine Japanese Samurai and Christian imagery and beliefs.

This trio (two men and one woman) doesn’t fool around. They rock relentlessly. Lead singer Tone wails, shouts, and evangelizes in a high-pitched tenor voice. Snarling guitars, thumping bass, and pounding drums ricochet off the walls, and for Nabeshima, that means for nearly two hours. The group’s off-kilter, whiplash-producing shifts in meter and motive are a mashup of 1970s prog rock and 1980s hair band metal.

The album is named for a Japanese samurai kin group of the late 15th century (did I mention they know their history?). Translations for the Japanese lyrics are on the band’s website, and what they, and the English lyrics, reveal are how cries of immeasurable pain and hurt are healed through the good news of Jesus. Put simply, Imari Tones is on a mission to “rescue you” through the power of the gospel and of Jesus. That is, in fact, the exact message of “Sonic Soldiers,” one of the album’s two dozen selections.

The music outshines the lyrics, which are often freeform and conversational. Though individual tracks are intriguing, as a whole, the album is not as cohesive in theme as the trio’s 2017 concept album, Jesus Wind.

In addition to “Sonic Soldiers,” other tracks deserving mention are the lovely acoustic instrumental interstitials “Yamagoya3” and “Tsukuru.” The melody of “Crucified Boy” sounds influenced by Japanese traditional music. “1,2,3,4&5” is based on Psalms 123, 124, and 125 (“Unto You I Lift Up Mine Eyes”).

Toward the end of the collection, the group sings that they are “not of this world.” Living in a country where about one percent of the population is Christian, that’s no exaggeration.

Three of Five Stars

Picks: “Yamagoya3,” “Sonic Soldiers”

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.