The instrumental power trio line up of this Japanese band is predictably treading the boards where others have gone with a powerful work out of grungy prog-rock, jazz fusion, influenced heavily by King Crimson and their Japanese and Argentine/Chilean allies such as Bi Kyo Ran or Red. Fans of Montreal fusion trio Spaced Out will also readily take to this band. That isn't to say that the album lacks sophistication or ideas; far from it. The 20 minute "Bharmad" suite has a creative mix of sonic structures from outright Zeppelin-style rock and fiery fusion reminding you of Todd Rundgren's Utopia to spacey synths and languid, soaring, Camelesque guitar spots. The six sections display a wide variety of techniques, tempo changes and moods which make it the clear highlight of the album.
This is their seventh album since starting in 1997 and has more of a melodic content than some of its predecessors making it arguably more accessible to the general rock listener who may otherwise be put off by too much of the almost prog-metal, Liquid Tension Experiment, style of some of its hotter components (like the very end of the Bharmad suite). "Stella Maris" for example is a mellow combination where Ichikawa's understated bass complements the delicate percussion of Max Hiraishi while Issei Takami weaves a mix of bluesy and wah-wah guitar lines through the weft of the back line.
In "Phantom" they succeed in generating a menacing air before a vibrant hard-rock theme kicks in with plenty of Zepp and Rush influence present. These two opposing moods swap several times in a schizophrenic arrangement which is a great showcase for Takami's fluid and varied guitar style. "2M78" is an edgy, nervous affair where the band generate a constrained and fuzzed out effect but, like a recovery from intoxication, a clearer theme emerges led by a scorching guitar solo over a rolling bass motif. You can practically feel the electricity cascade down your spine. "Sand and Stone" takes us back to Crimson territory again and is saved from mediocrity only by some intriguing synth work and the blistering last one and a half minutes. "Antares" is initially a quite beautiful guitar-led lament which develops a dreamy context midway through. Very different from the denser material they are more familiar with, this one's a winner in my book. "Wormhole" completes this quite entertaining album in their more familiar Red-era Crimson style.
Catch them live if you can. They had very good reviews from their European tour at Prog-Sud and Madrid.
3. Stella Maris
6. Sand and Stone