Gonin-Ish – Gonin Ish – 4/5

I first came upon this band a while ago now, on the blog for the facebook group ‘metal heads,’ where the genre was classified as ‘wtf’ (or words to that effect), and upon listening I couldn’t agree more. Often referred to as the little sister of sigh, this is a Japanese band featuring the sigh drummer, and that same crazy Japanese aspect, but that’s about as far as the comparison can go.

Calling this anything but ‘Extreme progressive metal’ would be inaccurate. At first glance the almost black-vocals, combined with the at times evil sounding keyboards may give rise to the idea that they could be
considered melodic black, until you realise the atmosphere takes a back-seat as keyboards are frequently more neo-classical in nature. Power then perhaps? Well perhaps not, as the riffs have a far more thrash-like tone to them more often than not. And like-wise the drumming reminds me more of progressive death. Featuring no strong influences from non-metal genres rules out avant-garde, and when the Japanese sounding clean female vocals come in this only makes matters even more confusing. This is a band that has as many clean melodic passages as quick-paced aggressive sections, presenting a sound that has an odd consistency about it, as it meanders from track to track, and outright refusing all attempts made to be considered any genre but ‘gonin-ish.’

The bass is fairly inaudible at all but the quieter passages, and whilst the drums are clearly heard they do little but serve as an interesting beat and framework to build upon, but the layers presented on top of this are
simply phenomenal. More often than not, the framework seems less solid, almost as though they are at the base of a precarious game of jenga where more layers keep getting laid on top, poked and prodded, testing the limits just waiting for it to crash, yet it never does. The guitars and keyboards spend a good portion of time sharing the spotlight, the guitars creating a thrash riff for the keyboards to play a classically influenced sounding melody, or shredding whilst the keyboards add a layer of atmosphere. And on top of all this lies the vocal abilities of Anoji.

Despite her tiny frame, she is capable of growling with surprising vocal range, from the black metal shrieks to the deeper deathly grunt, interspersed with quiet whispers, almost that faux-operatic style popularised by nightwish, and a far more Japanese pop direction, yet all the time with that Japanese accent distinguishing them from many European and American vocalists. The lyrics are impossible to decipher, and intentionally so. The tone and variety is the focus here, and the vocalist has gone out of her way to include Ancient Chinese language in her vocals, so they literally need a translator in order to comprehend.

This sound is quite frankly impossible to describe. They are progressive beyond the boundaries of any other progressive metal artist I have heard, and have created a sound as unique as it is fascinating. Varying plenty between styles, remaining with the same boundaries so as to feel like a single entity, this really is one that you’re just going to have to try for yourself.

Highlights: Kyoumon Kokuin Shintoi, Tsuki To Hangyoujin

Gonin-Ish – Naishikyou-Sekai – 4.5/5

Whilst the same tone largely makes itself known, there are number of notable differences that lead to a slightly different breed on the old style. The drumming and guitars tend to be quicker in pace, the guitars in particular take a more neoclassical virtuoso-like approach, with more melodic solo’s than their previous work. As well as this, the keyboards spend more time adding a layer of atmosphere, and are given more presence in the piano/vocal pieces that present themselves at points within the album, combined with the ‘keytar’ solo’s they play a far more integral role this time around. They have pushed the boundaries of their sound even further, varying more rapidly not only between the melodic sequences and the more aggressive thrash/death/black pieces, but between the keytar and shredded solo’s.

Despite all this, their sound remains largely the same with little variation to the core of what defines them. Many of the tracks are shorter, offset by the quicker pace, with the notable exception of the final track. More reminiscent perhaps of green carnation’s ‘Light of Day, Day of Darkness’ than any other epic progressive piece, slowly varying from a death/doom-like crawl to all out fury, back to melodic poweresque styles, a definite highlight.

Essentially, if you liked their earlier work, then this can be considered an extension of that, though perhaps a little disappointing. I was hoping for something perhaps more unique from their last offering but this is by no means bad.

P.S. Unusually, their FAQ about the band is very interesting, giving good insight to behind the scenes of the band. It can be found here.

Highlights: Nare no hate, Shagan no Tou, Akai Kioku