From the moment I looked at the beautifully disgusting one eyed, two snouted plant creature oozing from the cover of the disc I knew this was not going to be a straight forward album.
After one listen to Naishikyo-Sekai, which translates to "Your Inner World", three words immedaiately sprung to mind. Madness, Mayhem and Compelling. Describing themselves as Progressive Death Metal, which really only covers a small part of what is going on here, Gonin-Ish formed over ten years ago and this is their second album, although their first to be released outside of Japan, and even then four years after it's Japanese release.
It would be fair to suggest that if you have a problem with vocals not sung in English then you may well struggle with this album as not only are the lyrics in Japanese, they are words taken from ancient Japanese that even most people from that country would fail to recognise. If however you are a tad more adventurous you will find that the the intensity of the "voices" on this album are one of it's main strengths. Singer and guitarist Anoji Matsuoka has a the ability to sound as beautiful and haunting as Kate Bush one second, as quirky, twee and mad as Bjork the next and then follows that up with growls that verge on the voice of insanity. Amazingly it all makes sense and almost immediately the fact that none of the actual word have any meaning to most listeners seems irrelevant. In fact Anoji's amazing over the top versatility gives the impression of more than one singer and lends the whole album a conceptual feel with a story being told by at least three different people.
The album opens with crazy piano runs, a cacophony of drums and cymbals, wild time signatures and tight pointed riffs. All that from "Tokoyami Kairou" an instrumental clocking in at just over two mintues! From there it's a rollercoaster of technical Progressive and Death Metal with hints of Jazz and Fusion all melded together with passages containing sublime melody and mesmerising singing before the maelstrom consumes everthing once more.
The standard of musicianship is quite breathtaking at times, it can't have been easy moulding all these disparate ideas into cohesive songs that are both challenging and memorable at the same time. All this becomes more impressive when you take into account that the band of the afore mentioned Anoji on vocals and guitar, Fumio Takahashi (guitar), Oyama Tetsuya (bass), Gaku (drums) and Masashi Momota (keyboards), wrote, recorded and produced everything on show here. The band really have done themselves justice sound wise, as anything but a crystal clear production could have ruined the end product very easily and rendered this album as unlistenable. Translating into "To unite songs by five members", Gonin-Ish as an apt name for this band.
It's impossible to pretend that Naishikyo-Sekai is a comfortable, easy listen, or an album for all occassions, however the organised chaos of track two "Narenohate" pulls you into it's madness, while the beautiful guitar and piano at the beginning of "Jinbaika" is welcome respite and gives the album another dimension. It is however Anoji who continually steals the show with her amazing vocal versatility and believability. The joining of Western musical ideas with Japanese traditional language works extremely well and it is unusual to find such melody in music as challenging as this.
I have to honest and say I had never heard of Gonin-Ish before this CD, however I am extremely glad I have now.
1. Tokoyami Kairou (Eternally Dark Corridor)
2. Narenohate (Na Re No Ha Te)
3. Shagan No Tou (The Spiral Temple)
4. Jinbaika (Parasite Flower)
5. Muge No Hito (The Free Man)
6. Akai Kioku (The Crimson Memory)