CROWLEY, Whisper of the Evil (1986, Electric Lady Land)
Skulls impaled on crosses are in no short supply, and indeed the most famous example of the form was also released in 1986, but this is a particularly fine specimen. The blood red brains are an obvious focal point, but it’s the worried expression that really seals the deal. “How bad does it look?” he asks, knowing that something’s not right but, perhaps in a state of shock, not able to fully grasp the magnitude of his injuries. “Oh, it’s not too bad. You look good. You’ll be feeling right as rain in no time, and hey, that star thing looks pretty cool” you mumble, as you slowly back away. “What star thing?” he asks, but you’re already gone. He’ll figure it all out soon enough, and you don’t want to be the one to break it to him.
If the only Japanese metal band you’ve ever heard is Loudness, then, well, you can still pretty much imagine what Crowley sounds like, although Crowley are more or less all metal, avoiding the cheesier hard rock tendencies of Loudness. Of course, we’re talking about pre-Thunder in the East Loudness, not the hairy stuff you might have seen on MTV (not that there’s anything wrong with that period, either.) There are some hints of Mercyful Fate black metal in Crowley, but mostly this is midtempo American-style power metal not entirely unlike early Savatage (although not nearly as good) or Lääz Rockit. The vocals, high pitched and powerful, are solid, with the understanding that this is mid 80s Japanese metal, so he vibrato is extreme and you’ll probably never figure out if Takashi Iwai is singing English or Japanese. Whisper of the Evil is a pleasant enough album, but it’s not a lost relic of total brilliance. You’re unlikely to ever come across a copy in the wild, so if you’re bored at work and want to waste 30 minutes listening to old Nippon metal on YouTube, well, you could do worse.
— Friar Johnsen