Fumihiko Kitsutaka and Friends – Never Ending Story – 4/5
Formed by established Japanese guitarist Fumihiko (X.Y.Z. --> A) is this collaboration between him and multiple other musicians, filling the roles of vocals, backing guitars, drums and keyboards. Whilst a solo project at its heart, he has no issue delegating focus to the vocals, letting the keyboards perform their own passages and solos, despite the guitarist clearly being the main aspect here. Packed with neo-classical stylings, with tones from the thrashy to the heavy, never straying from the power he performs so well, he proves capable of an impressive amount variation throughout.
The vocals are sung in both English and Japanese, and are clean to a certain extent, occasionally utilising a more punk-ish rasped yell (e.g. Find my Life), to the more operatic style. Despite the number of vocalists presented, the delivery is consistently good, with little of the annoying overly-smooth sounding vocals often employed by Japanese bands. The backing for the most part is literally that, the drums are often fairly creative but overshadowed by other instrumentation, the keyboards brief appearances used for atmospheric purposes, and the backing guitar supplying a basic riff to thicken the sound. This is essentially an album of two main components.
Thus how the lead guitarist performs is something of importance then, and it’s a good job he proves what he is capable of here. Capable of more than just the standard power metal affair, he comfortably creates addictive riffs to accompany the vocalist, he often performs in distinctly ‘traditional heavy metal’ style, creating something that certainly can’t be considered ‘flowery.’ Despite this, it’s when he charges up and takes control that we see the best this album has to offer, the instrumental track ‘Falcon’ or ‘Dream Castle’ exemplifying precisely why he has become renowned as a superb guitarist for his main band.
Despite the changes in vocalists and musicians, the variation is not so large between tracks that it yields a sense of inconsistency, that this is something of a compilation album, but with enough to survive multiple listens. Despite this though, there are distinctive highlights and low points, some of the vocalists less capable than others, some tracks less fleshed out, and so on. This is definitely one for fans of creative guitar playing, who don’t want to be bogged down with simplistic shredding.
Highlights: Never Ending Story, Find My Life, Dream Castle, Falcon