The Japanese instrumental trio Show-Yen have released their sophomore disc simply naming it II. On this album, the band opts for a more focused and defined form of instrumental music, sticking to songwriter and guitarist Yasuhiro Nishio's expressive and precise guitar work. The album sees bassist Hiroaki Fujii and drummer Naoki Itoi mostly supporting Nishio with a strong rhythmic anchor prevalant through the whole disc. As a whole, it could be argued that this is more like Nishio's solo album with a solid rhythm tandem backing him up. However, that doesn't mean the album is bass or drum shy in any way. There is plenty to be heard from each instrument; especially Fujii's bass playing is quite vital to the overall success of the album.
Compared to their heavily fusion-inspired eponymous disc, their second album is more direct and perhaps groove-friendly. Moreover, there seems to be a subtle musical theme going on through its entirety, as it begins with the hysterical crying of a baby which can also be heard later on towards the end of the album on the eleventh track. This theme glues the songs together, giving them a character that is preserved through and through, regardless of the genres the band likes to explore. From the groovy hard rock numbers "Life Game" and "Insanity", both littered with thick guitar chords, pummeling drums, and fat bass lines; to the more bluesy guitar statement on "Kirin" coloured with awesome bends; to their usual fusion-driven aggression on "The Moon Knows Everything", the general flow of the album is not distracted for even a second. Give a close listen to Nishio's picking on "The Moon Knows Everything"; each note comes out differently evoking mixed feelings, especially when put into the same context that features beautiful sweeps reeking of classical music. The fretless bass solo in the middle is simply awesome as is Itoi's cymbal hitting. "Quappa" is also a tune with jaw-dropping slap bass, something we'd normally expect from the likes of Stu Hamm.
"Athorny Path" is the album's ballad quite reminiscent of Marty Friedman's brilliant instrumental works on Scenes. It builds slowly with careful alternate picking and memorable melodies. I personally think Nishio might have been quite influenced by some of Marty Friedman's earlier compositions. The album's darker side comes from the four-part piece "Sakura", with each each piece randomly scattered on the album. They're all short tracks, all four of them clocking in at less than two minutes. However, they feature really dark acoustic passages occasionally supported by chiming bass arpeggios (as on "Sakuda 2") and over-dubbed strummed chords. The last piece sounds kind of like a more fusion meets classical styled version of 90's pop band Pet Shop Boys' big hit "Go West", particularly in its intro. It feels like Jason Becker is covering the tune giving it an original spin. It's quite beautiful indeed. Not the whole disc is filled with melancholy, however. The album ends on a happy note with the classic rock styled song called "(I Can) Rock N' Roll Again" - a good way to seal a good album. Show Yen's II comes recommended to all instrumental music fans who like to hear clever compositions with occasional technical parts as well as traditional moments full of great guitar hooks and cohesive rhythms.
- Sakura I (1'15)
- Life Game (5'15)
- Ceremony for the Evil (5'22)
- The Moon Knows Everything (6'39)
- Insanity (4'17)
- Sakura II (1'26)
- Quappa (3'58)
- Kirin (3'58)
- A Thorny Path (4'48)
- Sakura (1'31)
- The Power of the Earth (8'25)
- Sakura IV (1'38)
- Rock N' Roll Again - I Can… (4'56)