In the spirit of listening to something new, I’d like to talk about a fairly unique band hailing from Tokyo, Japan. As cliché as this sounds, I suppose we all got used to Japan providing us with the most exciting and unique cultural exports whether it’s traditional culture like martial arts and Japanese cuisine or more contemporary culture like video games and anime. In Metal, Japan also had a solid scene during the 80’s with bands like Sabbat before J-pop completely took over in the 90’s.
Now, what’s the worst (or best) that could happen if you happen to mix some ancient Japanese literature lyrics, growls, extreme Metal, Enka-similar chants, a light touch of Jazz, Avant-garde, Japanese Buddhist-like chants, keyboard melodies and guitar/bass solos? I would have guessed Ramen but you actually get 五人一首 (I’ll be using “Gonin-Ish” from now on), an incredible progressive outfit.
Anoji Matsuoka – Vocals, Rhythm Guitars
Masashi Momota – Piano, Keys
Fumio Takahashi – Lead Guitars
Tetsuya Oyama – Bass
Gaku Yamagushi – Drums
About the band’s name, as explained on their website, “ish” means poem and “gonin” means five people. That defines how their songs are this deep mixture of five instruments that seem to clearly stand out individually but end up forming a brilliant combination.
The music is very experimental, the keyboards fly from a very Avant-Garde approach to traditional progressive metal keyboards to jazz soloing. Guitar riffing is in general not too complex but has the low death metal groove and the bass and guitar often exchange lines which sounds like something from an Atheist song. Never a bad sign.
Another highlight of the music is Anoji‘s vocals. Her delivery is special not only because of the mix between clean and growled vocals. Her dry growls differentiate her from other female growlers in the sense that it is much easier to decipher that a woman is behind the growls. And then there is the magical clean vocals, even more intriguing. Instead of trying to describe them, I’ll let the music speak for itself, here is Kyoumon Kukoin Shintoi:
So in short, Gonin-Ish is probably not a band for everyone and that’s just simply because of the intense experimenting in their songs. However for those of you who get hooked like I did, there is a lot to discover about this band and the best thing about Gonin-Ish‘s music is that it leaves so much room for personal interpretation. It is spiritual in a sense that it opens up our imagination and gives us a path to follow in order to discover ourselves and how much stretching we can achieve in our minds.
And to stress this out, the band answered the question: How is the best way to listen to Gonin-Ish? on their website, with:
“Our lyrics are in Japanese. We think this is not a disadvantage because we use ancient words, so even Japanese listeners can’t understand! Therefore, we recommend listening in this way – Close your eyes! Our songs can present a most enchanting sight to you! Sometimes it is awe, or maybe fear, or even something mystical! You can imagine freely, and each of you can make a story in your minds. That’s the way to enjoy our sound!”