The Hizaki Mini-Special
Right, so whats the cause for this little breather in the female fronted specials? In researching Japanese Power Metal bands, I happened across the work of this neo-classical guitarist. Unlike many contemporary artists, he has something of an 80s style flair to him, a strong sense of melody that too often gets lost amidst much in this genre, which begins to sound like playing fast simply because they can. He may not be as technically proficient as other artists with this style, but his compositional abilities haven’t failed to impress, and so here I am, assisting in correcting how poorly known this underrated musician is.
Versailles – Noble – 4/5
First up is this recent release from the Japanese Symphonic Power Metal band, where once again Hizaki’s signature neo-classical style makes itself known. Unlike perhaps a lot of notions of Japanese Power metal, this isn’t overtly flowery. Its symphonic but it still has its balls still firmly attached, combining upbeat drum work with melodic and neo-classical guitar solo’s and hard hitting riff’s. In fact, this can almost be described as a cross between Fairyland’s and Stratovarious’ style of thinking, this is the flower power that bites back.
After the epic rhapsody-esque intro finishes, we emerge into a triumphant main track that leaves no illusion as to the style their heading. Combining soft smooth passages with aggressive drum work and beautiful guitar harmonies, this is the sort of start to an album that has you eager to hear what else they’ve come up with, as if its this good then you know you’re in for a treat. Unfortunately, the quality does decline, but nonetheless they have produced a superb album.
The drumming is quick and upbeat, fulfilling the duties of keeping the beat with ease, and varying enough to help transition between the styles produced on this album. The bass is essentially inaudible (short of really straining), and the vocals can at times present a minor issue. Backed by the guitarists sporadically performing thrash-like yells in the more aggressive tracks, this lead vocalist has both a major strength and a major weakness. His ability to vary pitch and volume, as well as use vibrato so as to not feel overdone is quite noteworthy (despite his frequent smooth style) but he rarely hits his upper register, which is truly a shame as where he does he displays a considerable level of prowess (e.g. ‘Windress’). He is clearly a capable vocalist, but all too often he fails to show his colours.
Instead, a lot of emphasis is placed on the dual guitar work from the two guitarists – and with good reason – who share lead roles in this outfit. The number of styles approached by them varies immensely, from the thrashier ‘To the Chaos inside,’ the heavy metal groove-filled ‘Zombie,’ as well as the more neo-classical style expected featured prominently throughout this piece. And for those craving a fix of neo-classical solo’s, they perform outstandingly every time, never betraying the overall atmosphere of the song.
There is still room to improve on this effort, with less use of keyboards than I would like to see, and a vocalist performing below his capabilities, but despite this the variety in aggression and style shows considerable capabilities, and leave me with hope for promising work in the future.
Highlights: Aristocrat’s Symphony, Windress, History of the Other Side
Bonus Round: Versailles - Lyrical Sympathy [EP]
Not perhaps as strong as their debut, it nonetheless shows a perhaps slightly less symphonic, and more guitar orientated approach. Worth grabbing if you enjoyed 'Noble.'