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Koenjihyakkei - 弌 (two) [Aka: Viva Koenji !] CD (album) cover




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5 stars Right from the start, this labum draws you into a whirlwind of synth, bass, guitar and drums outined by hectic vocals. I saw a liver perfomance by them with them opening their set with the opening track "Grembo Zavia". I sat with my jaw dropped from the intensity and uniqueness this band presents. It must be heard to be believed. Yoshida Tatsuya blends bit's a nd pieces of music similar to Magma, Il Balletto di Bronzo and his very own Ruins.
Report this review (#42988)
Posted Monday, August 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Although Koenjihyakkei can be said to play a modern interpretation of zeuhl, complete with indecipherable chanted lyrics and song-titles, be aware that their music is a little more punishing on the ears than any of the classic bands. Their songs are loud, insistent and prone to sudden metamorphoses - you'll be lucky if half of the songs on any Koenji album possess an introduction worth the name.

The very first track, "Grembo Zavia" illustrates these points within two minutes of pressing play, being a mixture of mantras at every vocal register and demented bass lines built around intentionally stilted time structures, as if during composition they had written the melodies in a sane signature and simply stripped out all of the calm beats.

It's an exciting way to begin an album but I hope you're enthusiastic as they are, because they maintain this level of manic energy from start to finish with only the gaps between tracks as reprieve. Some of the songs are slower but they're written in such a way as to take this as an opportunity to become heavier! It is this tenacity that unfortunately renders some of the shorter tracks a little faceless and skippable - a little light and shade could have helped to grant each song its own definite personality but here they run together. To this reviewer, the most brilliant songs are the ones that reach past eight minutes.

If you're looking for something decidedly fresh and challenging then I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this album to you - just make sure you don't have a headache when you press play.

Report this review (#109779)
Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. When I listened to this the first time my initial reaction was "This isn't Zeuhl, it's Rio / Avant". Well after many listens this clearly is Zeuhl, it's just a modern take on the genre. Of course there have been many styles of Zeuhl over the years and I guess this is more of a Rio / Avant / Zeuhl combination. I would not suggest starting with this band if you want to check out the Zeuhl genre. This is at times fast paced, chaotic and frantic. It is drum led (featuring the RUINS drummer) with their own made up language (wonder where they got that idea from), with often operatic and crazy vocals thrown in the mix. The Alternative Press had this to say about this band "...this is not only the most brilliant of all of contemporary Japanese bands but perhaps the greatest band currently operating in the world." The most difficult part of this album for me is the frantic vocal dominated sections, I just don't like them.

"Grembo Zavia" is pedal to the metal with vocals and drums leading the way in this fast paced tune. Some brief guitar after 3 minutes and later 6 minutes in.After 6 minutes the song changes as it slows down with a dark and heavy soundscape. Nice. Light, haunting female vocal melodies arrive as the heavy melody stops. The heaviness returns and the drums are all over the place, this is an intense ending. "Graddinoba Revoss" has vocals that seem like they should be in an opera as they dominate with the drums playing a lesser role. "Sllina Vezom" features fast paced female vocals. Zeuhl-like vocal sounds a minute in. The song stops and all you hear are piano notes that build to a melody. A full sound 2 1/2 minutes in with male vocals this time.The guitar is great 3 minutes in and the female vocals are back. "Quidom" is a really good song that contrasts the heavy sections (with female vocals), with the more uptempo passages (with guitar, piano and drums). I like the way the guitar grinds out the melodies on this one, and I love the heavy slower sections. A top three track for me.

"Aramidda Horva" hits the ground running with male and female vocals leading the way accompanied with drums. Crazy vocals 5 minutes in. Tough song to get into. "Cembell Rotta" is more like it ! My second top three tune. Great vocal display in the beginning. Soft vocals are contrasted with the screaming vocals. Nice guitar 3 1/2 minutes in. "Brahggo" is another top three that opens with some fantastic guitar that continues throughout, more in the background though as the vocals dominate. "Rissenddo Rraimb" has such a good,uptempo melody. The keys sort of run with it 2 minutes in and later at 5 1/2 minutes. Vocal melodies are good 2 1/2 minutes in, and the other highlight for me is the blistering guitar after 6 minutes. "Guoth Dahha" is a powerful song that reminds me of SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM. This is a dramatic song with yelling and a lot going on. This is such a great song. 5 1/2 minutes in it changes to a more straight forward sound as drums and female vocal melodies lead the way. "Pamillazze" is a short concluding track just under a minute and a half in length. It features some crazy female vocals as piano,guitar and other sounds pierce the soundscape.

While I appreciate the complexity of the playing and of the arrangements (including the vocals) this is often difficult to digest and therefore to enjoy. It keeps getting better though. Amazing stuff.

Report this review (#142152)
Posted Thursday, October 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Adjectives for this album: Impressive, super quick, insane, abnormal, excellent, masterpiece. The Koenjihyakkei in this album take the Zheul to the limit Or it is adored or falls in love and I was fallen in love. The more I hear the more taste. They can think that they are completely crazy, to touch them to me to the living creature with musical lists, only it demonstrates what are excellent musicians and make a musical one a lot of dificil of touching and of hearing. The madness what they provoke in the listener does so that this album is a masterpiece. I appreciate specially the voices. The mixture of feminine voices with masculine, remembering operates, it managed be an original, thing that was not happening from bohemian rapsody of the Queen. In my opinion this album is compulsory to hear and to appreciate
Report this review (#177034)
Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Frightening and aggressive. Sonically grim and unforgiving. Insane operatic chants dominate over repetitive pounding drums and distorted bass. Often dissonant and chaotic, this music may be hard for some to endure.

Koenjhyakkei are similar to Magma, but i actually prefer this band. Their sound is relentless and deranged... madness put to tape.

'Quidom' is my favorite track, and is absolutely terrifying! The operatic female vocals are spine-chilling and fit perfectly alongside horror-film piano and monstrous, lumbering drums which drag along like the footsteps of a malevolent stalking oni.

'Brahggo' is a similarly scary track with vocals that alternate between creepy ghost-like whispers and harsh demonic shrieks.

'Quoth Dahha' is another favorite which features more slow doomy parts broken up by anxiety-soaked up-tempo sections that are frantic and panic-inducing.

This music is mind-altering and disorienting... it is relentless and never allows you comfort. It is, therefore, an extremely challenging listen and I think the average Prog fan may have a hard time with this. Seasoned Zeuhl listeners will eat this up right away though, and I strongly recommended it for any RIO/Avant Garde music collection.

The album is a bit too long and repetitive however, with some songs dragging on way too long and lessening somewhat the overall impression of the album... less would have been more. It's hard to listen to the whole album in one sitting.

I will give it 3.5 stars and bump it up to 4 for it's sheer visceral impact. It's impossible to not react to this music... you'll either strongly hate it or love it.

Report this review (#201999)
Posted Saturday, February 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Koenjihyakkei are far from the most accessible prog, and their second outing is definitely among the least accessible of the lot. Very aggressive and relentless compared to most zeuhl, the album shifts schizophrenically from chaotic breakdowns to weird, alien soundscapes of multi-layered vocals and operatic, epic instruments, which then immediately evolves into middle-eastern sounding jams, and then back to the chaos. It's very varied (mildly schizophrenic, though not necessarily in a bad way), and it's certainly an experience no serious zeuhl fan should go without.

Opener Grembo Zavia sets the mood for the rest of the album, with energetic female vocals and Tatsuya Yoshida's trademark octopus-like drumming, it's a very nicely arranged 10-minute epic. If you only heard the first and last minutes of it, you wouldn't have been able to guess it was the same song. The rest of the album follows nicely along in the same groove, but getting weirder and weirder the farther you go. I won't give a track-by-track breakdown, because there are plenty of those already, but trust me. 2 (ni) really is something, and you'd be mad to miss it.

Report this review (#202088)
Posted Sunday, February 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've got the 'Prog Archives' to thank for this one. I'd never heard of these crazy Japs until searching out Zeuhl bands on the net. From the ruins of "Ruins" come these demented folk from Japan.

Imagine Magma on steroids looking for a fight - that's how this album sounds! Immaculately played with precision timing at high tempo make this a mastepiece. Brilliant production and volume level helps things as well. Each time I hear it it simply gets better and better. The fouth track - 'Quidom' sounds to me like a Japanese version of Laibach only far more eccentric. It's very difficult to find out any news on Koenjihyakkei or if they'll ever record another studio album. I really hope they do, as all four of their releases are brilliant. Much more intense in scope than most prog bands and they're full of playful vocals. Koenjihyakkei clearly owe a debt to the mighty MAGMA in this respect. One of the most intense Zeuhl albums you'll ever hear. It'll either annoy or please, with nothing in between. Probably the best album I've heard in the last year.

Report this review (#296402)
Posted Friday, August 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars I really don't know what to say other than VIVA KOENJI is vastly mediocre compared to the other works Koenjihyakkei has put out. Most of the pieces try to cater to the epic opera style filled with melodrama, slowing down the tempo but not sacrificing any noise or craziness. Everything I expect from Koenjihyakkei is here, and maybe that's the problem considering I've heard all other Koenjihyakkei albums up to this point.

The three long epic tracks are very well done with ''Rissenddo Rraimb'' being the best track here; the band takes only a few ideas and expands them well, particularly the 7/4 idea at the beginning. ''Guoth Dahha'' follows in that slow, manic, loud, operatic style I mentioned earlier before a semi-explosion. ''Grembo Zavia'' is a typical Koenjihyakkei track; the first six minutes can't sit still, but the pace and energy keep the track entertaining. The more epic ending is a little overdone, but not surprising since this IS Koenjihyakkei.

The remaining tracks are pretty much void in my eyes. Then again, I have a handicap in being exposed to many Koenjihyakkei works before this, so songs like ''Brahggo'' and ''Quidom'' I tend to shrug off in indifference. If you like obtuse, weird operatic music that is loud and obnoxious, yet haven't heard Koenjihyakkei before, then you'll like VIVA KOENJI. Else, this is more of what you know if you're a fan, or it's insanely crazy avant-opera-rock for those unfamiliar to the band.

Report this review (#301476)
Posted Friday, October 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars Second album from this Japanese Zeuhl outfit. Unlike French Zeuhl, this band has strong metal, punk and avant-garde influences. If you are a fan of Tech/Extreme Prog Metal and you are interested in Zeuhl, I would suggest you ignore the French scene altogether and start here. That is if you don't mind crazy vocals sung in a made up language. The unnamed language Koenjihyakkei sing in is even weirder than Kobaian. The vocals(both male and female) can sometimes sound like a drunk opera singer at times or a child throwing a temper tantrum.

The guitar is very metal sounding most of the time. The rhythm section is very jazzy but can be punky too. The music generally hits you over the head, knocks you out, waits till you regain consciousness and then hits you over the head again. The keyboards are a mix of digital synths, piano and organ. The bass playing is not as dominant as in a lot of French Zeuhl, but is still important to the music overall. The drumming of Ruins/Koenji founder Tatsuya Yoshida is all over the place and is great to air drum to.

The album begins with "Grembo Zavia", which is a song that can give you whiplash just by listening to it. I like the parts where a couple of voices say "Grembo" and then a different couple of voices respond "kavala"...back and forth. Intense. Great chanted harmony vocals in places. Nice fast piano at one point. The song changes a lot in the first half. Over halfway it settles into a slower pace with operatic singing. The music gets noisy at times.

"Graddinoba Revoss" has some majestic sounding trumpet sounds from the synth. The harmony vocals and music play in unison most of the song. "Sllina Vezom"(say that 10 times fast!) has the music stopping dead at one point and you hear some random piano playing. Then the other instruments come back. The vocals right after sound like the members are half-asleep or intoxicated...or both. "Aramida Horva" has some great organ work. The majority of the song sounds like a cross between opera-metal and jazz-metal.

"Cembell Rotta" features tabla and sitar/tamboura. Nice Italian style vocal melodies done in harmony. Very metal guitar playing in this song. At one point an exotic wind instrument sound on the synth. "Brahggo" at various points has the music stopping and there is some nice chanting; almost like a lullaby. The music is basically opera-metal. Cool metal riffing near the end. "Rissenddo Rraimb" uses major keys for a change; more happy sounding than most of the album. Great organ playing in this song. Cool "ha...ha...ha..." vocals. Great bass playing in the middle. Good guitar solo too.

"Guoth Dahha" starts off as almost operatic doom metal. Goes into more jazz-rock territory later. I like how the sound changes at the end with the drums all in the left channel and the guitar all in the right channel. "Pamillazze" at little over a minute is the shortest song. Basically avant-jazz with operatic singing. Good idea to put it at the end of the album, otherwise it would ruin the flow of the whole thing.

The more popular and ever so slightly more accesible Angherr Shispa would make a better place to start for most people wanting to get into this band. But as I said, those who enjoy the more technical and extreme versions of metal, or those who enjoy the heavier side of fusion, would find much to like here. As long as they don't mind the vocals. The crazy, crazy vocals. For the more adventurous progger. 4 stars.

Report this review (#373439)
Posted Wednesday, January 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you don't like absolutely freaking out, don't listen to Koenjihyakkei. This is their second album, after the self-titled Hundred Sights of Koenji (which translates to Koenji Hyakkei). This band seems closer to Tatsuya Yoshida's other band, Ruins, with a fuller sound due to a larger amount of people playing at once. Please note that this is not Magma, it mixes traditional Zeuhl with Noise-Rock.

This album doesn't have an introduction. It gets right to the point with "Grembo Zavia". Shrieking guitars, frantic drumming, and the crazy gibberish vocals of Zeuhl. Most of the song is hyper like the intro, however, there is a more calm breakdown after the middle, towards the end. This breakdown, despite being calmer, is still crazy. It's only calmer by comparison. Overall this is one of Koenjihyakkei's best songs in my opinion. I highly recommend it. 5/5

"Graddinoba Revoss" (all of the album's titles are unintelligible) starts off with chanting lyrics, like most of the other songs have. It is a very "imperial" song, sounding like the music made for some emperor's army to march to. Very dissonant, and also very strange. 3/5

"Sllina Vezom" is much more sleek than the last track. It's more keyboard based, and has more chanted lyrics. After this section, there is a dissonant piano section that I tentatively call a solo. The main piano part in this section blooms into a full out section a bit later in the track. This track is really good, I think it's the best track on the album. 5/5

"Quidom" makes use of screechy vocals and dissonant guitars to provide a very short and choral song. Had it been longer, it would have gotten annoying, but they kept it under five minutes, so it's not so bad. 4/5

Surprisingly, "Aramidda Horva" does not contain an introduction. It's another Noise-Zeuhl song and this one is especially loud and dissonant. 4/5

"Brahggo" is a bit slower, which is a refreshing change. It features a tabla track that gives an ethnic feel. The guitar is still loud and distorted, though, so it keeps a noise-rock sound. 4/5

"Cembell Rotta" (what is with these titles?) is a bit of a departure. The guitar is a bit calmer in this track, and, in my opinion, this sounds much more like Angherr Shisspa-era Koenjihyakkei. After some loud sections, quiet acapella whisper sections transfer to some more loud sections. 4/5

"Rissenddo Rraimb" is a very fast-paced song. It places fast riffing keyboards (can keyboards riff?) at the front of the music. I like Yoshida's drumming here, it's very frantic as if he's playing for his life. 5/5

"Guoth Dahha" is like a mix of "Cembell Rotta" and "Graddinoba Revoss". You'll find yourself saying 'whoa' after listening to this. It takes a lot to get into. 3/5

We've come to the last song, "Pamillazze". This track is very avant-garde and random. The only instrument that seems to be playing to any sort of pattern is the vocals, the rest are very dissonant and extremely random. It's a bit lacking, you want more to close the album out. 2/5

If you're a fan of either Noise-Rock or Zeuhl and especially Ruins, this is worth checking out. I think the group of the former will appreciate it more, though. An all around good album and highly recommended for people who want something new.

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Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars It all comes together for Koenjihyakkei on Viva Koenji, which takes all the ingredients of their debut album, cranks them up to 11 and mashes them together in a chaotic fury to present a tempestuous and complex variety of Zeuhl. With guitar work at points verging on metal, vocals at points verging on hysterics, and compositions verging on the ridiculous, this is a furious and fast-paced album which will take multiple listens to digest - not least because you'll have your work cut out for you keeping up with what's going on! This is far from a relaxing listen - in fact, it's pretty exhausting - but it's truly worth it for any zeuhl fan.
Report this review (#631734)
Posted Sunday, February 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars The Zeuhl bloom of 1990's Japan appeared explosive from my vantage point across the sea. One of the most important figures, one might even use an overblown term like "The Godfather of Japanese Zeuhl", was percussionist Tatsuya Yoshida. As the creator of Ruins, what was likely the best known Zeuhl act in the country and progenitor of the movement, Tatsuya set out on a more diverse undertaking than the 2-man act he was previously known for. The result was Koenjihyakkei. Here we find their second album which I will refer to as Viva Koenji!! since that is the part of the cover I can read, likely the most accessible Koenjihyakkei album to this point.

At risk of overusing the term, this album opens in explosive fashion. Right out of the gate Viva Koenji!! shows that the comparative diversity to Ruins does not come at the cost of energy. The similarities between the two bands are obvious and numerous. Vocally the album is preached with the administration of syllabic rhythms of an unknown, seemingly alien language; a perhaps a sort of omni-lingual Esperanto, very similar if not exactly the language used in Ruins. I have honestly not researched the actual spoken words deeply enough to know. In any case, this linguistic set comes from a larger chorus that consists of two female voices that on this album is keyboardist Aki Kubota overdubbed in recording, and three male backing vocals. It is clear that the female vocal is the intended lead, with the male vocals either harmonizing or providing background orcish grunts and chants. Later manifestations and live performances would have multiple female vox on board. Stylistically the is an obvious leaning to the operatic tonality that is the Zeuhl formula on either continent where it is semi-popularized. The vocals alternate between dominant manic sequences and the drawn out clear legatos. The compositional themes are rhythmically dynamic, but do not employ any poly-metrics. Guitars are distorted but not to metal levels. Keyboards employ the use of organ and piano sounds with the occasional moogy waveforms. The overall presentation is complex but accessible, dark but energetic, and dynamic but deliberate.

Later Koenjihyakkei would employ more Rock in Opposition style rhythmic abnormality and instrumental dissonance. That likely makes Viva Koenji!! the most accessible of their albums to this point. Therefore it is highly recommended as an entry point to Koenjihyakkei's music, and in fact, the Japanese Zeuhl scene as a whole. I also recommend as a companion to this album the live DVD Live at Doors which features a number of songs from their first four albums including Viva Koenji!! as a good transition to their more challenging albums.

A very excellent album that would be a fine addition to any prog collection. 4 stars

Report this review (#1698895)
Posted Sunday, March 5, 2017 | Review Permalink

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