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Koenjihyakkei - Angherr Shisspa CD (album) cover

ANGHERR SHISSPA

Koenjihyakkei

 

Zeuhl

3.94 | 114 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Fight Club
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Warning: May frighten small children

I first heard the term "Zeuhl" on a little, very unpopular website called Prog Archives. Its label read "Zeuhl is an adjective in Koba´an, the language written by Christian Vander, drummer and founder of the French band Magma."

"Interesting..." I thought, "I've heard of the band, Magma before, but never a style of music called Zeuhl!" I remember hearing the name Magma on the forum at digitaldreamdoor.com, a long long time ago. I think it was Micky who mentioned the name (who's actually now a reviewer here!). Supposedly they were very weird, and weird they were. I listened to probably only a minute of M.D.K. before coming to the conclusion that this genre just wasn't for me.

What made me decide to give Zeuhl another chance. Well, sadly this time I have no inspiring stories about experiencing an epiphany. Unlike Anglagard or Opeth, I didn't keep persisting and suddenly understand all the beauties that were to be found in the music. I just happened to find a band called Koenjijyakkei on my computer one day. Honestly, I haven't the slightest idea of how they got here. Their name looked to be very Japanese, and my sister happens to be into all this Japanese stuff, so at first I thought that maybe she put their CD on here. So I went over to my ever-so-grumpy sister and asked her about the band. She gave me the dirty look I expected, God forbid she had to look away from Facebook for two seconds. She simply said "No" and went back to ignoring me. Well I'm used to her lying when I find bands such as Dir En Grey or Despair's Ray in my iTunes library, and she says she doesn't know how they got there, but now I know there's no way she was responsible for Koenjihyakkei. These guys are way too weird for her tastes!

Well, I sure was in for a surprise when I clicked the play button. Operatic Japanese Avant-Fusion? That's what it seemed like I was playing, but man was it great! Their turbulent piano lines leaped around my cranium like maggots being fried in hot grease. These guys were all over the place! And those drums.... my God, I'd never heard such a unique combination of jazz, prog, and opera!

One of the first things that stood out to me was the vocal usage. The singer's voice was highly operatic, and I couldn't understand a single word she was uttering, but that did not matter. It was so unique! The vocals were harnessed as if they were a completely independent instrument, using them to form textures rather than for lyrical purposes. Her voice is even synced with brass instrumentation at times. Who the hell thinks of that, anyway?

As disorderly as all this seems to be, the band never seems to suffer from a bad case of ADD. They clearly know where each section is heading and rarely ever spiral out of control. This is a problem I usually find in a lot of Avant-Garde; bands either overdo weirdness just for the sake of being weird or become too involved in their own abilities as they throw too much focus into technicality. Koenjihyakkei does neither. The music is weird, but not too weird for the average progger, and there is only a moderate amount of focus put on technical skill. Even though each member is highly talented (especially that drummer and vocalist), it's all displayed very subtly. Imagine if Sleepytime Gorilla Museum was playing jazz and you'll get somewhat of an idea.

Even with the joy I receive listening to such bizarreness and virtuosity, I still find this album lacking. The most obvious problem seems to be the overall lack of emotion and melody. If you're in a really strange and ridiculous state of mind this album is perfect, but on the other hand, if you want to sit down and really enjoy some thought provoking music, this album isn't for you. It's fun to analyze with some of the most unconventional structures and songwriting techniques to be found in modern music, but it just doesn't stick with you. In the end it feels like purely improvisation and that the musicians had no idea what they wanted to do before writing this. One day they just went into the studio and said "screw it, let's just record whatever!" and jammed out weirdness for an hour.

That's not to say it's bad at all, there's just a couple weaknesses that stops this album from being a genuinely rewarding experience. In my opinion the best albums touch the deepest regions of our souls, leaving an impression that cannot easily be copied. While expanding my tastes into the genre known as Zeuhl, and overall allowing me to understand an even wider range of music, Koenjihyakkei just didn't leave that impression. To a progger or a Zeuhl fan, they will prove to be an excellent listen though. Fun, technically impressive, and incredibly insane, but no masterpiece. And I'm still not exactly sure how they got on my hard drive...

My rating: 8/10

Fight Club | 4/5 |

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