Hizaki Grace Project – Ruined Kingdom – 3.5/5
This debut ‘solo’ effort from the neo-classical wizard Hizaki, contains a full line-up of musicians he has previously worked with. Featuring both the guitarists from ‘Versailles,’ as well as the bassist, it comes as no surprise that the resultant sound is rather similar. Coupled with a less proficient vocalist, and the distinct absence of a keyboard player, what results is a far more guitar-orientated album. It is hence prudent to point out that it’s rather a good thing that they are both on top form with this release.
Once again the drums are capable enough, though perhaps a little quiet at times, the aggression drowned in the final production when compared to the guitars. The bass too remains inaudible, and I almost wish the same could be said for the vocalist. Whereas in ‘Versailles,’ the vocalist rarely attempted the higher notes, here the vocalist, more akin to fronting the gothic metal band ‘Moi dix Mois,’ has no problem, happily wailing like your grandmother trying to sing like she could in her youth (e.g. ‘Ritual’). Combined with the overtly forced sound to the vibrato used, we have a force to be reckoned with. Mr. Bidwell once told me that in power metal, even the bad vocalists still aren’t terrible. After hearing this vocalist’s work, I beg to differ.
The guitar work is if anything, better than ever before, displaying excellent speed and fluidity through the numerous upbeat passages and solo’s galore, of which throughout the hard hitting riffs, melodic solo’s and classical keyboard interludes generously sprinkled throughout this piece, rarely does it falter, but even this cannot compensate for the vocals, really detracting from the end result.
If you are capable of ignoring the vocals, (which I have found to be possible) there is some excellent guitar work presented here, and some good tracks where the vocalist fails to detract from the end result, even though at times it does perhaps begin to feel a little monotonous, an unavoidable hazard of neo-classical territory. Whilst not a bad release, it fails to meet expectations.
Highlights: Distorted Thought, Philosopher