From the Black World is a massive landmark in Japanese metal history. Nokemono were a band that appeared out of nowhere in 1977, participated in and dominated a major Yamaha band-battle tournament in 1978, and by 1979 released arguably the first Japanese album that was predominantly heavy metal, nearly a full decade after the Flower Travellin’ Band helped influence the genre. There’s huge significance here, because there wasn’t another heavy metal band even remotely close to Nokemono’s caliber in Japan at the time, (though Bow Wow already had 4 albums out, they weren’t nearly as consistently metal as this) Flower Travellin’ Band were long gone, Action! were only in their early stages and didn’t truly get going until the mid 80s, heck, Loudness‘ debut The Birthday Eve only appeared in late 1981, nearly a full 3 years after From the Black World. What followed this album was the formation of the entire Japanese metal scene.
You can picture the Japanese youth in 1978 being blown away by this home-grown band, fresh off of a huge tournament win performing with a young Judas Priest(!) across Japan on their tour for Stained Class, and the impact that would have left on them, wanting to play heavy metal themselves. When listening to From the Black World, you can hear the bands that influenced Nokemono, I’d say for the most part Judas Priest, plus perhaps a bit of influence from early Scorpions a la Taken By Force era, as well as Bow Wow‘s first few mid 70s albums when they were still a hard rock band. Despite being influenced by Bow Wow, I feel like Bow Wow took a few cues from Nokemono’s style, reflected at times on Warning From Stardust, when they became a more consistently metal band themselves.
Musically this album is all around excellent; it’s an innovative and stylish 70s heavy metal album by a band whose country’s metal scene had yet to really develop. In terms of individual performances, Ace’s vocals are very strong, with a similar delivery to Kyoji Yamamoto’s style, but aren’t as hyper, though still smooth and very nearly as good. Cherry’s bass is played incredibly well, taking on melodies constantly throughout the album and driving the music forward with as great of an effect as a bassist can possibly have without overwhelming other instrumentalists, Popeye’s drums are nimble and and slick and with an added cowbell on certain songs, as well as usage of a gong on others, it contributes largely to From the Black World‘s overall catchiness, but perhaps the best part of all is the dual guitar work of Rolla and Bunchan. With a constant flow of fantastic riffs and solos, their guitar tone isn’t one that typically comes to mind for a metal album, as I’m more accustomed to hearing it on the rock albums of the 70s, though it works brilliantly well. The whole band’s chemistry is crazy tight and every member compliments the others performances.
While the album is loaded with great tracks, some of my very favorites include “Ushinawareta Ai”, “Run Away”, the title track “From the Black World”, and “Terrible Night”. “Ushinawareta Ai” is a bit more of a laid back hard rocking song with a slower tempo, perhaps my favorite portion of the song is its guitar intro which is rather reminiscent of X Japan‘s “Kurenai” intro. “From the Black World” is one of the album’s more nimble tunes, boasting impressive guitar work, a catchy chorus and easily one of the album’s best solo sections, meanwhile “Terrible Night” is a bit of a slower, 70s-style hard rocker with a primary emphasis on its guitar riffs in combination with Ace’s vocal performance, of course Popeye’s drums are a nice aspect of the song too, utilizing both a gong and plenty of cowbell.
My favorite song on this album is the very first track. “Run Away” is one of the finest Japanese metal songs written at any point from the end of 1971 up until Loudness‘ height began in 1984. It’s one of the speediest 70s metal tracks you’ll find anywhere; it’s a notch below stuff like Judas Priest‘s “Exciter” and Riot‘s “Warrior” in that regard, but still, aggressive as hell on all fronts, in about the same speed wheelhouse as “Call for the Priest” or “Kill the King” and 70s metal songs of that variety for comparison. “Run Away” features one of Nokemono’s best choruses, as well as a remarkable solo-section, twin guitar solo included, where the band as a whole is simply firing on all cylinders. An interesting and well-thought out thing the band did was close out the album with the 0:25 acoustic closer “Run Away (Part II)”, fittingly both opening and closing the album with their greatest and best known song.
Another one of my favorite things about this album is the production quality which is good enough to beat out a large portion of the Japanese metal albums of the 80s and early 90s. This is a 1979 heavy metal album from a (at the time they were recording this, though thankfully appreciation for them has increased in years since) fairly obscure band in Japan, and everything is leveled beautifully, the instruments are very clear and it’s evident they put plenty of effort into these aspects. If I had any complaint at all about this, it would be a couple of tracks sounding fairly similar to others on the album for example “Ari Jigoku” sounding a bit like “Run Away” once you get past its intro, though this is made up for first by them both being plenty of fun, and second they’re both at opposite ends of the album. I also feel like the band would have further benefited this album by including their song “Down to Hell”, which despite fitting the style of this album perfectly, would in reality never get a studio release.
All in all, From the Black World is an album that deserves and needs to be remembered. Before there was Loudness, Earthshaker, Anthem, and X, there was Nokemono; without this band the Japanese metal scene would likely sound entirely different that it currently does. If you want to hear not only a solid early metal album, but one that helped define Japan’s early metal scene, as well as if you’re a fan of Bow Wow’s style, this is most certainly an album you won’t want to miss out on.
Album Rating: 88/100
Favorite Track: Run Away