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Track By Tracks: IMARI TONES - Nabeshima (2021)


Disc1:

1. Passion:

It’s a Japanese style heavy metal song. Musically it’s using Japanese traditional scales and chords. It has a strong Christian message. Maybe the word is a bit strong because the chorus part says “destroy every idol”. But you have to understand that we are not promoting violence here. Because the idol is in your own heart.

The working title of this song was “Yayoi Killer” which supposedly means “Japanese Painkiller” or something like that. Basically an old school metal song with Japanese flavor.

2. Lord’s Prayer:

I don’t really what to call this song. A progressive jazz Gospel rock song, maybe?
It’s got this funky groove and rhythm, yet with the hard rock sound. And that jazz style breakdown and Steve Vai style guitar solo. This song has so many elements.
I’m aware some people don’t like it when we put the word “progressive” in the same sentence with “Christian/Gospel”, but it’s our musical style. What can we do?

We tried to portray the holy light with the guitar sound. Like stained glass in a big cathedral.

“Lord’s Prayer” is a very generic name for a Christian song, but we have confidence in this song, so we decided to go with it. It’s like the most powerful weapon for a Christian band.

3. Sakura Day:

A very personal song. J-pop style ballad sung in Japanese.

I don’t really know how to explain the lyrics but as the song title suggests, it’s a song about Sakura blossoms. In Japan we have Sakura trees everywhere. So many people get emotional about beautiful Sakura blossoms. Yes it’s a love song. It’s also about death and rebirth. We Japanese people like to say “Nothing lasts forever” which is based on a Buddhist notion. But we have the same thing in Christianity. That mixed culture element makes this song sound unique, I think.

4. Atomic Jam:

This song is more of a joke. Because we are more of “let’s rock and have fun” type of a band, which is not very typical for Christian bands.

If you know it, I started this band just by myself. I was doing this home recording thing and making funny sounds. It was before this band Imari Tones really became a band. I didn’t expect we would become a Christian band. I didn’t expect we would come this far. But I didn’t want to forget my own roots as a home recordist. So I just made funny sounds here once again.

Lyric wise, this song is an irony about the social situation in Japan after the nuclear power plant incident in 2011. It’s not really a Christian song.

5. 123,4&5:

This is a Japanese style Gospel rock song.

The lyrics are based on Psalms 123, 124, and 125 in the Old Testament.

Musically speaking, I wanted to do a J-rock song. We are not one of those Visual-kei bands but this song has just a bit of “V-kei” vibe. We just wanted to show our Japanese band identity, I guess.

6. Sakura Night:

Mysterious Soul Blues is what I like to call this song.

Again it’s a song about Sakura blossoms. That’s how Japanese people are fanatic about Sakura. And we combined that emotion with our Christian faith.

The guitar solo is one of my favorites on the album. To me, this song is pure blues. I was influenced heavily by the late great Peter Green in the last 10 years. I think this guitar solo shows his influence on me.

7. Extravaganza:

I’m a basic rock guy. I’m a big fan of Van Halen. I’m a big fan of Led Zeppelin. We have always been playing and writing our style of Zeppelin songs. This is one of them. Old British hard rock, but in our own style.

The lyrics are based on Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. In the Bible it says something like “There is no use in doing a party because everything is empty”. But this song sounds more like “Hey let’s party because everything is empty”. That makes this song funny.

8. Chanbara:

This is a Samurai song. It’s a guys’ song.

Boys, guys, we like to fight. That’s the way men have been made since an ancient age.

It’s like two gunmen dueling. It’s like two Samurai fighters fighting. That’s what the lyrics say.

At the same time, it’s a song about musicians. Rock musicians don’t grow up. We keep playing music no matter what. To regular people, we look like fools. But there is a story behind every musician, every song, and every band.

So this song is like a homage to those guys.

Again this is not a Christian song. We just wanted to pay homage to our fellow musicians.

9. Yamagoya3:

It’s a little acoustic guitar instrumental tune.

Yamagoya means a cabin on a mountain.

A night at a cottage on a mountain, something like that.

10. Jidai:

This is a mysterious progressive song.

Japanese traditional progressive song, maybe?

It sounds like a Ninja. Well I don’t really know what Ninja sounds like, but it still sounds like a Ninja.

It’s a song about the ephemeral nature of the never stopping time.

Jidai means time, or era. So this is not a song about Star Wars. Jidai Geki means old samurai movies and that’s where they took the word Jedi from.

I think you can feel some Japanese ancient spirit here.

11. Bloodthirsty:

Again this song is a very personal one. This song is dedicated to Hideki Yoshimura of Bloodthirsty Butchers, a legendary Japanese alternative rock band.

He is my favorite Japanese rocker and he passed away in 2013.

In my book, he is one of the greatest in the world.

But he has gone too soon.

Here I’m saying “Why did you go so soon? Come back and sing more songs!”
It’s my sincere homage to him, with some deep mixed feelings.

12. God Anthem:

So this song is based on Japanese National Anthem.

It sounds different from the actual National Anthem, but I’m certain most Japanese people can tell it’s “Kimigayo” (name of the Japanese National Anthem) when they hear it.

So yes, basically we turned our National Anthem into a Christian Metal song. It’s a big message. It’s a spiritual and religious message, but it can also be taken as a political statement.

Possibly some people will be angry. When I wrote this song, I thought in my mind “Whoa, maybe I get killed by some right wing dude” but it sounded awesome, so we decided to go with it.

Disc2

1. Crucified Boy:

This song is called “Haritsuke Shounenn” in Japanese. But we had to have an English title, too.

It’s a Jidai Geki song. It’s a song from ancient Japan.

It’s a sad, sad song. We have to save children. Because they are the ones who always suffer the most. This guitar solo is a sad cry of a child in pain. You didn’t want to know that? But you can feel the pain.

2. Sonic Soldiers:

It’s a song about superheroes. Heroes in those shiny costumes.

It’s a hard rock song in the 1980’s style. It’s a Japanese rock. I’m a big fan of a Japanese rock band Earthshaker and you can hear the influence in this song. But we play it with our Christian message. Loud and bold, yet it’s still fun.

3. The Garden:

This is a ballad song. It’s a love song. I want to call it a “spiritual love song”. I consider it a Christian love song but some people may not agree.

This song has a very dramatic storyline. Destiny, sin, rebel, falling, vow, life, growth, death, rebirth, and eternity. Surely, love is not an easy thing.

And yes, the guitar solo. The guitar solo in this song is probably the sexiest one I have ever played.

4. Who Are You:

This is a monologue style Gospel rock song. Soothing, soft sounding song. More of a ballad, I guess.

It’s about the blessed feeling and being grateful for everything.

But this song has my favorite line of lyrics, which says “When I go online I see the world has now become liars’ heaven”. You may think it’s harsh but the song is very gentle.

5. Sengoku Christians:

It’s more appropriate if you spell “Sengoku Kirishitan”, because Kirishitan is the old way we spelled Christian in ancient Japan.

As the title suggests, it’s a song about the Sengoku era. It was mostly in the 16th century. Some of the Samurais were Christians in that era, but later the Tokugawa shogunate banned Christianity in Japan. So those Christian people were persecuted.

If you are familiar with Japanese history, we sing about 2 actual persons in this song. One is Hosokawa Gracia, a famous Christian princess from the era. Another is Takayama Ukon, one of the most famous Christian samurais from the Sengoku era.

6. Screaming Sin:

It’s a hard rock song and it’s a song about human sin.

We are basically a classic style metal band and we don’t really enter into modern heaviness territory, but I think this is the song with the heaviest sound on the album.

To me it sounds like 1990’s Van Halen, and surely I struggled with the English lyrics. But it’s still rocking.

There is a joke in the ending part of this song. Only Japanese metal heads can understand. It’s based on some famous misheard lyrics in a metal song. But I won’t explain it here.

7. Matsuo:

I don’t really know how to explain the meaning of this song. But if you ask me, it’s a song about Japanese sake. Some Christian people may not like it, because some of the Christian people are completely against alcoholic beverages. But hey, Jesus turned water into wine. Basically that’s what this song is about.

So in Japan we have this God called Matsuo. It’s a traditional god of Japanese sake. But then again, some researchers say this culture has its roots in ancient Israel. I don’t know if it’s true. But I want to believe it. Not only because I want to believe that Japanese tradition has the same roots as Christianity but also I’m a big fan of Japanese sake.

Funny thing is, at least to me, this song sounds more like Central Asian music rather than Japanese.

8. Once In A Lifetime:

Again, this song has a Japanese title which is “Senzai Ichiguu”. That means something like “once in a thousand times”.

Admittedly, it’s a party song. It has 1990’s Japanese alternative rock vibe. At least that’s how I feel about this song. It’s got a funky rhythm. This was actually a very difficult song to play. I’m not sure if we could nail it, but it sounds fun and we hope you enjoy it, too.

9. Redemption:

This song probably is the spiritual highlight on Disc2.

A very dramatic song. It’s sung in Japanese but maybe we should have done an English version, too.

This song reminds me of Goethe’s Faust.

I see the devil dancing, and a man who is fighting the temptation and trying to obey God. That kind of spiritual battle I see in this song.

But this song is all about hope and salvation.

Suffering, tension, pain and agony, yet there is the Savior coming.

Again, the guitar solo in this song is one of the best I have ever played.

We are practicing this song right in our rehearsal place now and we can’t wait to play this song live.

10. Tsukuru:

This is a little cute instrumental tune.

It’s a song to make you relax, after the very heavy song.

Tsukuru means “to make”, “to create”. It’s a song about being creative.

Actually this song has a secret meaning. But since it’s a secret, I’m not going to tell you here.

11. Not Of This World:

Main theme of this song is the Christian notion of “not belonging to the world”, which is shown in several parts of the Bible such as John 17:14.

Christianity is a funny thing. Because when you say “I don’t belong to this place” it sounds like an unhappy word, but in Christianity it’s a message of hope.

Music wise, this is Van Halen. It’s inspired by 1990’s Van Halen. Now don’t get me wrong, I love early Van Halen with David Lee Roth. But the classic Van Halen from the 1970’s is just untouchable. There is no way to recreate the energy. That’s why I often go for the Van Hagar sound from the 1990’s.

So you don’t belong here. You sacrificed yourself for someone else. So you did something important for someone you love. You may have lost something but you got something bigger.

That’s why this song sounds so happy, I suppose?

12. Utage:

When we make an album, I always think “what if this is our last?”

Some musicians like to end an album with a beautiful song, but I prefer to end it with a joke, in some unexpected way.

When I wrote the lyrics to this song, I thought “Okay, this is how I die”. I simply wanted to write a song about how I die. Because everyone dies sooner or later.

I get sick. I get weak. I lose consciousness and then I’m gone.

I portrayed it as a festival, or a feast. Feast with devils and angels.

It’s a big party. It’s a death of a physical body. But at the same time, it’s a new birth for a soul.

It’s sung in Japanese, but my favorite line goes like this:

“Have you ever been scared when you jump off the platform - Just like the first ever drop in - Remember what it was like” (Drop in is a word from skateboarding)

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