Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. This week, we are tackling a band that has pretty much everything I look for in music (i.e., they’re Japanese and have a female singer) – Gonin-ish’s Naishikyo-Sekai (Disk Union).
I absolutely love the Japanese take on metal. Sure, the land of the rising sun has its share of clone bands, but the very best stuff provides a skewed perspective on the music that we love. Sometimes that translates to elevating a subgenre – like Dir en grey with nu-metal or Coffins with modern death-doom – and sometimes it leads to totally batshit chimerical alchemy. Whether it’s the melodic death metal-trance hybrid of Blood Stain Child or the sheer, anything-goes experimentation of Sigh, you can always expect something interesting and different (even if it’s not quite listenable).
Gonin-ish share much more in common with the latter band, including a drummer, but these guys aren’t just Deeper Sigh. Whereas Sigh come from a very metal, in-your-face approach, this five piece (in fact, their name means “To unite songs by five members “) attacks the music from a proggy, even jazzy, place. Not that they aren’t insistent – it’s hard to ignore Anoji Matsuoka when she’s spitting, snarling, squealing, and crooning at you. Still, they almost feel like a mutated version of Dream Theater, Cynic, or Opeth, fused with the psychedelic insanity of the Japanese Ghost, tearing through time changes, switching from intense metal parts to intent instrumental exploration.
Their second proper record, Naishikyo-Sekai, is the one where they really channeled the insanity into greatness. The weird plant/ghost/tentacle monster on the cover perfectly describes the crazy, creepy amalgamation within. Even though there are only six tracks, this clocks in at just under an hour, giving them ample room to experiment. So something like “Shagan No Tou (The Spiral Temple)” allows them to indulge their more metal side, and “Jinbaika (Parasite Flower)” their gentler, piano-driven anime closing theme impulses. And they really stretch out on the 20 minute closer, “Akai Kioku (The Crimson Memory),” with crazy Dream Theatrical keyboard overdrive, Dillinger Escape Plan mathematical calculations, and horror movie hauntings, ringing with Matsuoka’s demented cries.
Even though this came out in 2005 (and was subsequently reissued in the US by Season of Mist in 2008), Gonin-ish remain woefully unknown over here. They should be a household name, at least in households containing people that love experimental music and extreme metal. Which is, admittedly, a limited audience. Still, thanks to the aforementioned reissue, this is much easier to find than a whole lot of other Japanese metal (no having to pay for really expensive imports or resort to illegal downloading). So take a trip down the wild side with this band as your guide.