Masaki Project – Universal Syndicate – 4.5/5
Occasionally something will come my way completely out of the blue and astound me, as this instrumental album has. An experimentally inclined heavy metal band featuring most notably the bassist Masaki (Animetal), accompanied by fellow guitarist Syu (Animetal, Galneryus), this is perfect marriage between the two instruments, combining “Marco Sfogli’s” (Marco Sfogli, Magni Animi Viri) sense of melody with “Mark King’s” (Level 42) funk sensibilities. This is not a simple ‘shred’ album, this is an album filled with emotions and melody, with experimentation into more electronic (‘Technopolis), Jazz (Buzz Bullets) and ambient tones (Winter Rose), their core sound always retains that essential upbeat addictive quality.
It’s not uncommon to find artists with a virtuoso amongst their ranks, heavily relied on to perform neo-classical material which all too often becomes tiring. Add a second virtuoso to the mix and you could easily find yourself with an extremely monotonous affair, but this never occurs; both are clearly very talented musicians, capable of performing with blistering speed without ever feeling redundant; it never feels as though they are playing quickly for the sake of it. Meandering in between one another seamlessly, both guitarists perform their own lines, and whilst the guitarist often takes dominance the bassist can be heard at all times.
The guitar work fluctuates between slower melodic riffs and the more upbeat neo-classical, feeling fairly progressive in the manner it flows between the chorus lines and constantly varying riffs, often with a light Power-esque air to them but not incapable of working with the bass in providing a heavy metal groove. The bass often proves himself the match for this work, not only in speed but diversity too, lending delicate touches, funk-filled bass rhythms and hard hitting rock riffs to the proceedings.
Impressively, the drums always manage to keep up with the pace set by the leaders of the pack, and whilst left little room to breathe expertly maintain the beat. The occasional use of keyboards (often mimicking other instruments) feels well utilised to polish off an already impressive album. I was long since curious as to what the clearly capable musicians from Animetal – a band that almost exclusively performs metal covers of popular anime theme tunes – were capable of, and this album doesn’t disappoint.
Highlights: Chaos of Beauty, Down, Buzz Bullets, Sin of Envy, Swallowed
Masaki Project – Modern Day Crossover
If that wasn’t enough, I also managed to obtain a copy of their debut album. Whilst the lines didn’t feel as gripping as in ‘Universal Syndicate,’ much of the tone remains similar; there is still that same experimental nature to them, still that careful marriage between the two instruments. Simply, neither feels as strong, but may nonetheless be a worthy addition for fans.