With so many newer bands adopting a classic thrash approach these days, the metal scene is getting cluttered with a lot of third-rate Exodus wannabees. Luckily, there is an elite breed of groups (Municipal Waste, Violator) actually doing the sound justice. Japan’s lone thrash purveyors, Grief of WAR have built a buzz around themselves the old-fashioned way; by writing blistering material and getting praise from the underground zine scene. Knowing a great thing when they see it, the folks at Prosthetic Records recently released the band’s killer debut album, A Mounting Crisis…As Their Fury Got Released. PureGrainAudio recently chatted with frontman Manabu Hirose and lead guitarist Ken Sato about the band’s history, the Japanese underground scene, and their love for Bay Area thrash!

First off, you obviously have a huge late 80’s thrash influence in your approach. Where you more into the European bands like Kreator and Destruction or was the Bay Area (Testament, Vio-Lence) sound more to your liking?
Manabu: We got influences from late 80s to early 90s thrash metal. As for our first album, we might have had many influences from European thrash metal bands but you may notice the influences from Bay Area Thrash bands like Testament or Vio-Lence on our upcoming second album. So it’s like the good mixture of Euro/Bay Area thrash! We can hear both European thrash and Bay Area thrash sound here in Japan so the influences should naturally be from both sides. We had some problems making the first album with very limited time and budget and there were many things we couldn’t do at that time. But as for the production of second album, we have plenty of time and we have more money to make good album. It’s a good chance to prove that we are not a copycat of old school metal bands!

Is there a strong current thrash scene in Japan? It has really come back in a big way here in the States.
Manabu: I think there isn’t a strong thrash scene. Actually, there isn’t a thrash scene at all here in Japan! That’s why we’ve gone to the States, only to look for good a thrash scene. And really, we hope to be a part of that thrash scene soon!

Ken: I think the music scene here itself is totally corrupting. We only have make-up bands and hair bands, something like only dancing on the stage and they never play any instruments!

Even though you have a classic metal sound, your lyrics have a punk, almost crust edge to them. Can you talk about them a little bit?
Manabu: Yes, I agree with you. My lyrics might be similar to punk style-wise! I just want to express my feelings or what I want to say in just a very straightforward way. I guess it shows my character!

How is the political climate in Japan right now?
Manabu: I don’t think we have good political situation right now here in Japan. Every day we have a series of incidents and meaningless political criticism. People here are still mild, so there’s no sign of rioting or something, but I can feel the tenseness in the air from frustrated people. And, I think the number of horrible incidents are increasing.

Ken: It’s a sad thing but Japan is getting more dangerous because of the prolonged recession and many political scandals.

Your bio describes the grief of WAR sound as “Samurai Crunch.” What exactly does that mean and who coined the term?
Manabu: In Japan, the Bay Area sounds like Testament or Vio-Lence are known as “Bay Area Crunch,” so we took the idea and changed it a bit to describe our style with the phrase “Samurai Crunch” because we’re from Japan! Actually, I stole it from the guy from the old label that once said that phrase after he saw our show, ha ha!!

If you had to pick one song off of A Mounting Crisis…As Their Fury Got Released that encapsulates the goF sound, which would it be?
Manabu: “Rat Race.” This song means so much to us and we always play this song in every show. Actually, we re-recorded this song for second album but this will not be included in the final press. So hopefully, we may have a chance to release this new version of “Rat Race” in the near future.

Ken: Of course, I played the guitar on new version of “Rat Race.” So please check this out when it’s released in some way!

I know you are in the studio working on new material. Is there going to be a much difference in terms of writing style? Who will be producing the album?
Manabu: The producer for the second album is me, Manabu Hirose! We have already finished all the studio works and we’ve been in the rehearsals for the tour. I think the writing style for second album is basically the same. I wrote all songs for our first and second albums, but I’m sure that our sound developed and became much better due to replacements of some members! And Ken [Sato, guitarist] helps expand my songwriting so now we have good variety of songs.

Ken: Manabu as a producer is very strict, strict as an army! He is totally a perfectionist and he takes control of the schedule, sound production, and everything about goF!

What are your touring plans for the next 12 months? Can we expect to see you on some festivals in the States and Canada?
Manabu: Unfortunately, the tour date isn’t confirmed yet. We’ve been in the studio for such a long time so we will talk about the tour plans from now on. I know it’s not an easy thing. We always hope to have tours in the States and Canada!!

Ken: I just want to go on a tour and hope to see you guys there. I’m so obsessed with that plan!

What are your top 5 favorite thrash albums?
Manabu:
Sepultura – Beneath the Remains
Testament – The New Order
Nuclear Assault – Handle With Care
Cyclone Temple – I HATE THEREFORE I AM
Forbidden – Twisted Into Form

Ken:
Slayer – Reign In Blood
Testament – Practice What You Preach
Megadeth – Rust in Peace
Sepultura – Arise
Artillery – By Inheritance  [ END ]