Tony's note : During this review, I'll use romanized Japanese because it's way easier than having to copy the Japanese alphabet. It will also make things easier for you, the readers. Furthermore, the page of the album on the Metal Archives has the romaji translations of the songs in the additional notes so you can perhaps try to unveil the mystery behind their songs. Also refer to my two previous reviews!
This is my third review for this insane Japanese trio and true to their reputation, their 16th album (yes!) is still a rock solid release. Even if I wanted to repeat myself, it would be a rough thing to do since all their albums have their own differences but never without compromising on their long time mission and vision. Their varied approach is no exception on Shigan Raisan and its thirteen songs attack, the length of their albums is certainly one of the characteristics that is hard to handle for newcomers (I do hope there's some westerners discovering the band and I know I managed to get some people into them at least!)
The sixty-eight minutes release is rich, vast and explores many eras of their sound. Compared to their 90s stuff, there's a huge groove influence but rest assured, it's nothing like Pantera's awful material. It's more in the aesthetics of their craft, it's embracing a sort of modern, neat and mechanical production, it's also reflected in their guitar tone. I'll even proclaim that it's one of their most diverse album to date, it's melding the old school blues inspired heavy rock with progressive Rush-esque rock, progressive metal, doom metal, heavy metal and even thrash at times. Sometimes on the same song like the epic “Kochouran” and its eight minutes of intense, emotional songwriting. Their older influences are totally connected to the younger and well assimilated elements that came to life and it's creating a coherent, strong album.
The riffs are heavy and they have this danceable approach made possible by the airy production. Even though there's only guitarist, it's a constant attack both with the barrage of riffs, the melodic solos or even slide guitar on “Gusha No Rakuen” which is basically hard rock/blues in Japanese. This song is instantly followed by a three minutes Kill 'Em All inspired thrashy track, that's the perfect illustration of how the band works, they're coherently incoherent if you want.
There's still the vocals/language barrier to overcome but I think it's one of their most accessible album concerning these issues. It will once again be a deal breaker for certain people since you kind of need to be a Japanophile to like them. The relatively deep delivery of both singers (Kenichi and Shinji, the immortal core of Ningen-Isu who always handled everything except the drums) is pretty enjoyable for me, it's refresing and fun! The Japanese enunciation is simply hard to get used to when you're a foreigner and it can't be hidden beneath harsh vocals since they're not an extreme metal band!
Everything is weird in Japan, I recently discovered this awesome band called Koenjihyakkei (progressive rock, Zeulh) and the whole scene is full of jewels, Ningen Isu is perhaps the brightest though.
Here's two songs for your enjoyment: