Dark Phoenix – Arrow Rain – 4/5
I’m not sure quite how I happened upon this artist – they have no myspace page and every site about them seems to be in Japanese. In fact, finding any trace of this album seems to be a nightmare; playing what seems to be a heavily electronic inspired Power, occasionally with a deep Heavy Metal/Rock crunch, and often with a healthy dose of funky yet chunky riffs beneath the virtuoso and frantic drums and keyboards, it comes to little surprise to discover that this album is actually an ‘OST/Compilation’ as it were. Thrown red herrings with references to “The Phoenix Project” and “Lost in Darkness,” (unknown entities, though I believe them both to simply be other pseudonyms), I believe it to be the work of “Team Shanghai Alice,” which actually only consists of one man who goes by the pseudonym ‘Zun.’ Specialising in the programmed creation of epic, neo-classical, orchestral, instrumental and electronic Power metal for a long running series of 2D scrolling sideshooters called “Touhou,” he caters for the niche market of people obsessed with such games, and the frantic ‘wall of bullets’ situation that often occurs within the game is often reflected in the chaotic manner of the tracks.
The music is created with incredible attention to detail – especially the furious keyboard work and programmed drumming – and the music produced is superbly varied from the slower neo-classical piano/violin work slamming straight into some fast paced guitar solo; the drumming is often technical and feels thought out and performed with machine-like precision and the bass also makes his presence known, creating the pivotal bombastic tone required of the heavier passages. There is also some very overt synth work, but rather than drowning out the other instruments a lot of it forms the body of the rhythm, performing riffs over chord sequences, working in tandem with the guitars without drowning them out.
There is little coherency to the album as a whole – the tracks feel unique but ultimately disconnecting, which is unsurprising given the fact they’ve been dragged from an array of different – albeit very similar – games. The end result is also incredibly ‘polished’ and ‘shiny’ as a result of the large amount of synthetic effects used, which is of particular issue with the bass and drums, lacking any kind of raw gritty human aspect, mechanically working away in a melodic yet ultimately sterile and emotionally detached manner.
This becomes a fiendishly difficult album to recommend, and not just because of the general animosity towards both programmed music but also towards electronic effects in general. It all rests on what you want from the music; you won’t become emotionally involved, but the manner in which it has been created has allowed for the utmost attention to detail to each line being fully utilised, and all being performed and written by the same musician allowing for a clarity of what is wanted from the piece. Those with an interest in the electronic-infused depths of J-Rock, or are simply prepared for something ‘different’ may find this interesting, but the most important point I wish to get across is not to judge it before you’ve heard it. My personal verdict? Surprisingly good.
Highlights: Pre-Asia, Ghost’s Orchestra, Color Master Spark of Love, NEKUROFANTAJIA
So I thought I’d try to track down the rest of their stuff (There’s a ridiculous amount as it turns out, there is a second called Arrow Revolver and a third called “Arrow Revolution” in this series, then there are three more albums under the name “Shotshell,” and then theres the work under the name “The Phoenix Project,” about a dozen albums of re-worked tracks from other games). The first of these album follows suit from the last, with a lot less ‘power’ to their sound, sounding often more like a neo-classically influenced form of electronic dance. The rhythms still have a nice groove, and the keyboard focus switches to the guitars in the second half of the album. Nothing stood out as well as the last though. I have yet to listen to the third at all.
As a further note, I'll just add the images of anything else I find with a link, as I don't expect many more notes to emerge, beyond perhaps a rating of what I thought.
| ShotShell III - Link||Arrow Realize "Best of" - Link|