Lovebites – Battle Against Damnation

Just gimme a 1/3rd of an album pls

The first draft of this review opened with a lengthy thinking-aloud segment where I opined on how exploitative the idol industry treats women in the Far East, and how desperately I hoped that this wasn’t the case with the current wave of all-girl J-metal bands that have been sweeping the nation in recent years.  But before publishing, I (for once in my life) had the good sense to hold off on spouting Epstein Brain bullshit and actually just talk to some people who actually understand the culture in which these bands spawn and thrive.  The good news is that it isn’t nearly as cynical as I was dreading, with basically every one of these bands being a genuine creative effort from talented women who are seizing a cultural shift that sees the women of Japan no longer being demure and submissive, and using this newfound power to express themselves in ways they previously never really did.  The important one here, obviously, is forming metal bands.  Early progenitors of this specific wave like Aldious and Destrose helped pave the way for the Mary’s Blood’s of the world to break from their cultural chains to dress like cute anime girls while simultaneously ripping listeners to shreds with honest-to-god future metal classics without playing into dumbass pop stereotypes, which helps differentiate this scene from the more cynical marketing moves like Babymetal.  Of those early examples, my clear favorite is Destrose.  Not just because I had mostly found them on accident when doing a shallow dive into Touhou bands and actually reviewed their sole full length years ago before I really knew how much this scene was going to blow up, but because three of the best current bands in the style were all formed by former members.  We’ve got the steampunk fever dream of Fate Gear, the powerhouse of Mary’s Blood, and the deceptively dangerous power metal maniacs hiding behind a saccharine image (and the subject of this review), Lovebites.

The reason I so badly wanted the dystopian hellscape of idol culture to not hold sway over Lovebites is because they absolutely fucking rule.  I could’ve guessed that this band contained members of Destrose (the bassist and drummer, if you were curious) based entirely on the fact that the rhythm section here is equally as menacing and powerful as their previous band.  Lovebites tends to be, as a rule, less traditional and more power metal with regards to their songwriting when compared to their origins (apart from Clockwork Immortality, which (smartly) leans a bit more into AOR at parts, but this was (unfortunately) abandoned with Electric Pentagram), and as a result everything they write tends to be a fuckload faster.  Their sense of melody is completely awe inspiring, with breathtaking choruses peppering every song they’ve ever written and never shying away from an extended dueling guitar solo.

I’ve been speaking in generalities and not really focusing on the release at hand, so I suppose the question needs to be asked why I’m choosing to review their second EP, Battle Against Damnation, instead of any of their other myriad releases.  The reason is simple: this is basically the only release I ever really go back to and listen from front to back.  Lovebites is an incredible power metal band with a bewildering skill to weave between high speed rippers and melodic singalongs without ever delving into pop influence the way stereotypes would have you expect, but their three full length albums have enough material to fill out like four and a half LPs.  There is no reason for their albums to be as long as they are, especially when their songwriting so rarely deviates from their winning formula.  They don’t really fuck around with ballads or interludes, so their albums tend to be completely overwhelming due to the constant barrage of double bass and shredding.  Don’t get me wrong, I love double bass and shredding, but Battle Against Damnation is their strongest release entirely because they only assault me for 20 minutes instead of 70.

The EP kicks off with “The Crusade”, which I’d say often jockeys for the pole when it comes to deciding my favorite song they’ve written, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that it’s basically just a rewrite of Iron Maiden’s “Aces High” but even faster.  The other three tracks more or less stick to their “Galneryus meets Stratovarius with an injection of Megadeth” formula, but the fact that there’s only three of them is a huge boon to the release’s enjoyment.  That… really is the secret to Lovebites’s success I think, they just need to trim the fuckin’ fat and deliver their best cuts instead of bloating everything to absurd proportions.  “Break the Wall” and “Above the Black Sea” are completely dominating power/speed metal typhoons with balls-forward thrash gallops that could even make Persuader blush, and I’d say I want a full album of this but I already know what a full album would be like (totally overwhelming).

I know I keep harping on the length of their LPs and using that as a reason to say their EPs like this one are significantly better, but that’s honestly the truth.  Lovebites writes some absolutely thundering power metal with an impossibly meaty riffset underneath, complemented by powerful, soaring, and crystal clear vocals and absolutely fucking feral guitar solos, and they’re at their best here when they’re restricted and unable to do the same thing too many times in a row.  Just give me a quick, bite-sized morsel of your genius and then take a break.  To the Western Hemisphere folks who see the band of cute girls in white dresses with the word “love” in their name, absolutely do not sleep on Lovebites.  They will absolutely fuckin’ wreck your neck.

Rating: 89%

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