Fatima Hill - Aion
Worldchaos Production
Power metal/hard rock hybrid with 70s influences
8 songs (47'37")
Release year: 2002
Reviewed by Alex

I am not very familiar with the Japanese heavy metal scene. I know that power metal and melodic death metal are quite popular in the Land of the Rising Sun. Aside from Concerto Moon (not my cup of tea), Shadow (quite pathetic Arch Enemy copycat) and Sigh (now we are talking!) I haven’t heard any other Japanese metal act. So, when I came across some praise for Fatima Hill and Aion fell into my lap (well, I had to spend my hard-earned $$ for it) I took a chance.

The first two songs had me jumping up and down with joy. Guitar wizard and band mastermind Anjue Yamashiro delivers two excellent power metal tracks. Heavy buzzsaw riffs in Ares Dragon flow over the audible grumbling bass lines. A touch of synthesizer here and there does not distract. Some samples are even orchestral in their nature. The balance between keyboard and guitar has the latter winning the match in the excellent harmonized lead. Now – the vocals. It is NOT what I expected to hear at all. First of all, it is a girl. Second of all, Yuko is both melodic and powerful. Her voice soars over the music yet never becomes an annoying nasal vibrato – a trait so many male power metal singers succumb to. With my jaw still somewhere on the floor I am presented with Babel Dune. If this tune isn’t a catchy concert starter/crowd pleaser, then I don’t know what is. Quiet synthesizers open up playing the main melody, then drums kick in. After a verse and the catchiest chorus Yamashiro produces an Eastern influenced lead with lots of fast scales playing. Yuko shines and I find myself singing “Dune and a scroll” right along with her. Intrigued? So was I. Unfortunately, this is where the good ends and we go pretty much downhill from there.

Anjue Yamashiro, of course, has his own ideas on what he wants Fatima Hill to be. Judging on those first two songs he could have turned it into a good power metal act. Instead, he decided to go more in the direction of the Japanese folk influenced radio friendly pop rock. What does one have to do to achieve that? Well, you start out by reigning in your excellent singer. You sap energy out of her totally and let her showcase herself only a few times on the rest of the album in Ultimata. I simply do not understand this. If you have such an asset, why not use it? Keyboards take on increasingly heavier load and on Other become the one and only audible instrument. Contrymates Sigh use the 70’s influences sparingly and appropriately. Fatima Hill makes it The Sound on The Black Bat. Poppy and radio friendly, yes, good metal music, not quite. Well, I guess when your keyboard player goes after the Grave Digger look “I will pull the hood over my head so you won’t see my face” you have to make him prominent.

Native Japanese melodies are a good twist, when they are not overdone that is. Just like it was the case with Babel Dune. The problem is Anjue wants these melodies to take center stage. For them to be heard loud and clear he grabs an electric mandolin and wankers his way along. If this mandolin sound is occasional, I can stomach it, but when it is a 4:30 largely mandolin-centered instrumental song Aeon, my stomach has indigestion. Also, with this “I will show you what I can do with my mandolin” instrumental approach, an epic orchestral closer The Song for Beatrice Part 3 becomes long and boring.

The drummer is a hired studio gun, and never really contributed anything. Big minus. The bass player, Hayato Asano, on the other hand is an excellent musician and deserves a boatload of credit. Where he is allowed to be heard, he delivers (Ares Dragon, The Black Bat). Big plus. The production is definitely not powerful, and puts an emphasis on the radio friendliness. Another minus. The lyrics are translated into English and that makes them sound very naïve and have lots of grammatical errors. No big deal as English is not my native language either.

Listening to Fatima Hill was a frustrating experience. The first two tracks show a lot of potential and promise a hell of an album. Then, as if to torture you, the music takes a U-turn and never delivers. You are left wanting so much more.

Killing Songs :
Ares Dragon, Babel Dune
Alex quoted 55 / 100
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