Japan’s Barbatos is apparently a side project of Yasuyuki, vocalist/bassist for punk-metal combo Abigail. While the two bands are similar to the point of redundancy, Barbatos has been far less prolific, releasing only four full-lengths (and a bunch of 7″ splits) during a 15-year career. Straight Metal War is their first LP in nearly a decade, and it’s on Hell’s Headbangers — a label whose resistance to modernity is rivaled only by the Amish — so you KNOW it’s gonna be some old-school shit.
Besides Abigail, the other obvious comparison is Metalucifer, with whom Barbatos share both a home country and a love of true heavy metal. However, Barbatos also occasionally has lyrics about sluts (yay for diversity). Despite the sloppy-yet-competent musical performance, the obvious focal point is Yasuyuki. To be blunt, the man sounds like an Asian version of Olaf from Clerks, and/or someone doing extremely drunk karaoke. In addition, his lyrics are some of the most over-the-top, insane butchery of the English language I’ve ever seen.
While Barbatos couldn’t be any more blatant about their love of the old school, the stylistic execution is inconsistent at best. “Straight Metal War” bursts from the speakers like something off of Show No Mercy, holding down a classic thrash tempo while punctuating every verse with a completely insane guitar solo. On the other hand, “Heavy Metal Forces 3” and “World War 3” sound like long-lost early-80’s Motley Crue outtakes played at the wrong RPM. “Seven Teen” (sic) attempts a melodic, almost pop-punk approach, but in this context Yasuyuki’s never-on-key vocals don’t really work.
The obvious highlight, as far as I’m concerned, is easily “Fly To the Sexual World.” This is that one track where everything — sex-obsessed lyrics, slop-thrash riffs, ludicrous guitar solos — finally comes together to create a goddamn masterpiece. Words fail me, so I’ll let the music do the talking below.
The sexy times continue with “Rockin’ Metal Sluts” and “Goodbye High School Girls” (it’s unclear whether Yasuyuki is leaving the high school girls, or vice versa). I can’t think of any “real” metal bands that sang about sex much, other than perhaps Sarcofago, so at least the approach is somewhat novel. And if that stuff seems icky to you, there are still plenty of songs about metal and Satan.
Interestingly, Barbatos currently has SIX different active lineups in six different countries, with Yasuyuki being the only common link amongst them. The idea of having various territories covered by local musicians, merely awaiting the arrival of one guy carrying a microphone, is actually kind of brilliant, and probably cuts down on travel expenses and potential visa hassles. That said, I have no idea which of these people, if any, performed on this album.
I don’t even know how to rate Straight Metal War. It drunkenly stumbles across the line between “really fun” and “pure shit,” resulting in something that’s way more enjoyable than it has any right to be. I was about to write something about “lack of repeat value,” and then realized that I’ve listened to it five times this morning. If you like your heavy metal raw, fast, and incorrect both politically and grammatically, perhaps you should fly to the sexual world with Barbatos [Will there be meal service on that flight? – Steel Druhm].