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Guapo - Black Oni CD (album) cover





4.02 | 82 ratings

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4 stars Black Oni is part 2 of a trilogy that started with the magnificent 5 Suns. This album is less immediate than its predecessor, but it does move forward into a subtly different direction. The same elements are present, but the focus here has shifted; if 5 Suns called to mind Magma circa Kontarkhosz, Black Oni is more like Univers Zero circa Heresie. This is partly down to a change in the sound, which features some extremely sepulchral harmonium and also has the guitar more prominently featured than before. There has also been a change in the writing - where 5 Suns, for all the shifts in rhythm and tempo, maintained a relentless pace for the duration of the 5 pieces, Black Oni alternates between dark, brooding ambience and the kind of relentless, pedal-to-the metal Zeuhl/Crimson assault on the senses that Guapo do so well.

Where 5 Suns felt like one long piece, the 5 individual segments of Black Oni are quite distinct. The brief opening track is like an overture for the album as a whole - 2 minutes of brooding, low pitched rumblings before the drums kick in and the white knuckle ride begins, only to end as abruptly as it started. Part 2 is built around a kind of lopsided bolero figure played by Matt Thompson and Dave Smith, which gradually builds to a crescendo before falling away about halfway through the piece to make way for a brief minor key interlude on the harmonium, before starting up again. This is one of those deceptive compositions where the beat never falls quite where you expect it and the pieces fit together in the least obvious way possible. Part 3 comes the closest to replicating the 5 Suns sound, when after a slow beginning the pace picks up and we're hurtling along to the next patch of darkness. Part 4 is Guapo at their darkest - Daniel O'Sullivan and Matt Thompson conjure an atmosphere of stygian gloom with minimal electronica and buzzing guitars, while Dave Smith uses just cymbals and gong to underpin the atmosphere of lurking menace. This gives way to part 5, which bursts into life as an uptempo Guapo rock-out, but which gradually slows down from about halfway through. This is the only place where this album disappoints - whist the gradual slowing down is an effective device, here it is drawn out for longer than is strictly necessary and for the last 2 or 3 minutes it sounds like filler.

Black Oni does not quite equal 5 Suns, but it still an excellent album and any fans of RIO/Zeuhl/Experimenatl rock will not be disappointed. More importantly, it shows that Guapo have plenty more up their sleeves, and bodes well for the final part of the trilogy.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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