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BLACK ONI

Guapo

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!

If you read Mr. Vasquez's review of the previous Five Suns, he talks about Nebelnest doing this sort of music better and about this album being much better than that one. The good thing aboput this site is that we are allowed to express our different opnions. I did not hear of this album prior going to the concert in Brussels on March 3rd and a good deal of it was presented in concert. This sounded awesome and as good as the Five Suns album they had also played for the most part that evening. Upon the remark about Nebelnest, yes they are relatively better (but Nebelnest is a foursome and have a guitarist) using some slideshow , but definitely much more static on stage than Guapo.

But upon repeated listenings, I can obviously say that I disagree rather strongly with the fellow reviewer, as this album is more of the same but definitely lamer and tamer. The influences you heard in previous albums ( Crimson, Magma) are still quite present but the Post rock is taking a bit more space here. There are longer (and it seems endless) moments where they meander around (a bit aimlessly, I must say) before starting up their 100 MPH Crimsonic folly! It all seems a bit tedious but still extremely well done. It appears that Mr. Thompson will not play guitar anymore as he has not for the last two albums , now. Too bad because some guitar would have added to the music they presented here.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#34735)
Posted Monday, April 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
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.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#34737)
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The sounds and ideas that flow forth in Guapo's Black Oni are shocking, breathtaking, and innovative, often sounding like a sonic King Crimson assault mixed with instrumental Magma works. The result is often distorted organs and harmonium, a bit of guitar in the maelstrom, and a cohesively and amazingly creative rhythm section that seem to play the trickiest bits and pieces, offing revolving in over-bearingly tricky meters and rhythms. The previous effort from this band, Five Suns, is another stunning piece of music that really shined with its diversity of sound. This album takes that diversity and turns it upside down, making it one of the darkest albums musically I've come across in awhile.

The 5 part instrumental suite goes through a significant amount of changes, from quiet interludes to juggarnaut wastelands of sonic bombardment on the ears. It isn't always easy to listen to, but the rhythms and melodies are solid and keep the listener involved even in the most mathematically technical sections. Matt Thompson plays powerful, grungy bass over the technical precision of Dave Smith's drums, which are all augmented by the keyboard/guitar stylings of Daniel O'Sullivan, who is the key point in the Crimson/Zeuhl/Univers Zero sound.

Overall, this is an excellent display of what music can be if given a bit of time for creativity and experimentation. The only real downside of the album is that it is a bit short, although there is enough musical density to make a knowledgable musical scholar wince. But despite that short length (only around 44 minutes), there is enough here that should satisfy any avant-garde fan for a long time to come. Avant-Garde doesn't get much better than this, it gets full marks and a very high recommendation from me. 5/5.

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Send comments to Cygnus X-2 (BETA) | Report this review (#72098)
Posted Friday, March 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A very raw, dark and stretch record. It's an excelent mix of minimalism, hard rock and the unique sound of RIO. It could serve as an introduction to this genre before gettin' to bands such as Magma, Henry Cow and Univers Zero. The album shows us that it's possible to obtain great quality music with few elements (some of the tracks are just bass and drums with the ocasional addition of keyboards and guitar) and althought it could seem a low budget production, it stills keep the interest.

This band cares not for commercial success, they play for themselves you can tell that. But that it's what i appreciate more in a band, when they play music that pleases them i can get more easely into their world. The same thing King Crimson does, as long as they feel they can make a contribution they'll continue doin' it.

Rating: 4/5

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Send comments to Pascual (BETA) | Report this review (#89213)
Posted Thursday, September 07, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 3.5 stars. This record was a let down for me after the masterpiece "Five Suns". The things that I liked so much about "Five Suns" have all been scaled back. A lot less mellotron, very little guitar, and this is not very melodic. Having said all that this is still a good album, it's just different from the last one that's all.

"Black Oni I" is dark and haunting like something out of the "Heresie" album. Drums and some heaviness after 2 minutes. Nice. This continues for about a minute then it settles to the end. "Black Oni II" is again dark and disturbing. Drums take a prominant role before a minute with chunky bass lines. The piano joins in then the guitar around 3 minutes. The drumming is outstanding. The tempo continues to change. It's dark and eerie before 4 minutes as we get a calm for about a minute then it kicks back in. These contrasts and themes continue. Excellent song.

"Black Oni Part III" opens with piano that continues for almost 4 minutes then the drums and a fuller sound join in. A driving, hypnotic soundscape is the result. Nice. The tempo picks up around 5 1/2 minutes and it has a real Zeuhl flavour to it. Guitar and organ join in a minute later. "Black Oni Part IV" is pretty much eerie noises that rise and fall throughout. "Black Oni V" hits the ground running with huge bass lines and great drum work while keys play along. Mellotron rolls in at 2 1/2 minutes, and check it out at 4 minutes. This is the mellotron track right here. The driving rhythm stops and the organ comes in before 5 minutes. It's slowly building. This is dark and creepy. No scary is the word.

So this album takes the band away from that ANEKDOTEN sound to more of a UNIVERS ZERO / ART ZOYD flavour. I like both but much prefer the former. I've changed my rating for this 3 times now. It's just a tough one for me to enjoy.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#99971)
Posted Wednesday, November 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've made blind purchases in the past and was usually let down by them (see: "Todd Rundgren's Utopia" and Dredg's "Catch Without Arms") but I decided to try my luck (or lack thereof) again with Guapo's "Black Oni". I was very surprised, to say the least. They really remind me of King Crimson without actually sounding like them. But deep inside lies a dark and brooding conglomeration of rock, fusion and avant-garde. The album is chilly, eerie and bleak with haunting melodies between the bursts of demonic energy. The band throws in all sorts of stuff from electronics to harmoniums in order to create their frightful dream. The album is one long piece and to get the full effect it must be listened to from beginning to end. Everything is constructed very well, despite the frantic and seemingly haphazard nature of the music. It's also very dynamic, ranging from discomfortingly loud and powerful to very quiet and soft ambient noise.

The band's performance is really great here. They've got some amazing chops (and guts) to pull off this type of stuff so well. "Black Oni" is not for the faint of heart or the chronically depressed. Tread with caution but don't be put off by the almost directionless nature of the music. Fans of avant-garde experimental rock be sure to check this out.

Standout songs: "III" is particularly enjoyable

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Send comments to Arsillus (BETA) | Report this review (#127073)
Posted Thursday, June 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Only one year after their incendiary 5 Suns, Guapo released yet another top-notch, red hot catalogue of modern zheul music: Black Oni. The family resembńance is clearly there, but this is no facsimile of the previous album. On the contrary, Guapo manages to keep its core essence intact while redefining it in a different performative strategy, one that relies more on subtlety and controlled tension. O'Sullivan, Thompson and Smith decice to slow down the fire a bit (just a bit) and include some post-rock inspired sonorities through the instrumental expansions. Simultaneously, the group's sound bears a more robust feel, which is mainly due to the fact that the guitar has a stronger presence in the mix - there are passages in which Guapo looks determined to experiment with the standards of heavy prog. The opener kicks off with a foggy texture that gradually lets go of a punchy motif not exempted of a certain catchiness, solidly build up through the jam. This track's structure is evidently introductory, since it gives the impression that something else is on its way but is not going to happen in this same track. It will happen in Part II, which includes the first set of various successive motifs. The recurrent ones set the nucleus of integrity for the whole piece. The band's sonic power is in full swing, at times quite explicitly, other times constrained to a certain degree: everything is kept under tight control in the expansions of the musical ideas. Part III kicks off with pieano flows that sound like Magma-meets-Philip Glass. The basic 3/4 tempo is taken away by the full band before the arrival of minute 4, which is when the basic tempo is transformed into a 2/2 pace: the band displays a combination of De Futura-era Magma and Matching Mole, particularly in the jazzier moments. When things reach their darkest point, Guapo shows some inheritance from Present. The segued Part IV follows, getting started with alleatory sounds based on the musique concrete ideology. The typical RIO neurosis comes to the fore during the most disturbing moments of this schemeless travel, especially the creepy ambiences displayed on the harmonium layers (a parallel with Popol Vuh's soundtrack to Nosferatu comes to my mind whenever I listen to this section). No doubt that the band is, at this point, radiantly focused on the darkest side of their musical vision and there's no turning back. With the arrival of the last track, Part V, the horror is replaced by a weird sense of colorfulness. But of course, this is Guapo that we're talking about, so this atmosphere is merely momentary. Tension and paranoia are the most recurrent facets of Guapo's music, and this track is no exception to this rule. At a crucial moment, the sense of terror is delivered in a pompous fashion, like the sun that appears in the sky of a doomed day so the horrors to come can be seen in all their glory. The expectation motivated by the martial cadence of the drum kit and the overwhelming keyboard layers serves as a solid rhythmic foundation for the overall instrumentation. There is no rush here, since the tempo is kept at a relatively slow pace, but definitely there is menace in the air, a menace that we can't escape from no matter how fast we try to run. In fact, things get really ethereal for the languid last section, unabashedly flirting with the post-rock standard but keeping away from spiritual moods: it's more as if the menace had taken place at last, leaving the landscape still in the quiet. This is a very effective way to end Black Oni, one of the best Guapo efforts ever.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#163407)
Posted Saturday, March 08, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I really liked this album. It's my first Guapo album, though, so I can't comment in light of the rest of their catalog. It's saturated with a very dark, ominous mood; with dissonant/evil riffs throughout. It's very gothic sounding, but without sounding too big, or overblown with reverb. My taste normally steers me away from standard medieval/gothic sounding music, but I find this is definitely more up-front and dry than typically overblown music. It's definitely more akin to standard zheul. There is quite a bit of space despite it's sometimes frantic orchestration. It reminds me a lot of some of King Crimson's more evil sounding pieces. If you're shopping for some good, moody, technical instrumental music, I definitely recommend it.

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Send comments to jmcdaniel_ee (BETA) | Report this review (#230812)
Posted Monday, August 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Guapo's Black Oni is much in the same vein as the preceding Five Suns - an intoxicating blend of mid-1970s King Crimson, early Univers Zero, classic-era Magma and a whole bunch more besides. Once again, the band take a Magma-inspired approach to compositional structure, producing an album-length suite which is full of twists and turns and remains vivid and entertaining right to the end, and on the whole I think there's a bit more of a Univers Zero vibe about this one than the previous one, but really they're much of a muchness - if you like one, you'll like the other, if you don't like one you'll most likely like neither.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#680930)
Posted Saturday, March 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am so blown away by this CD! I had found a used copy of this CD at a Eugene, Oregon record store for cheap. I couldn't believe I found a Guapo CD (Eugene isn't exactly a bastion of obscure prog in record stores, but they do appear out of the nowhere from time to time), and although I heard of them for a few years, this is my first try at them and I am ever so glad I did! Black Oni was their followup to Five Suns, and actually features the same lineup of bassist Matt Thompson, drummer Dave Smith, and keyboardist Daniel O'Sullivan. Matt Thompson is the brother of Andy Thompson, he of Litmus, and most importantly, the Planet Mellotron website. It should come as no surprise the Mellotron on this album is Andy's, since he is a Mellotron owner.

For those who want to play it safe, pretty much want to stay in the Marillion safety zone, you'll be running like hell listening to this! It's harsh, abrasive, with a doomy feel too it. Angular guitar riffs, heavily fuzzed bass, and lots of electric piano, and Mellotron on the fifth and final part. This is no doubt RIO. This stuff is heavily influenced by the more extreme King Crimson with the angular guitar riffs, Magma with the heavily fuzzed bass, and Univers Zero with that doomy feel overall. Also I noticed a bit of a Canterbury feel at times, whenever O'Sullivan uses some nice dreamy use of the electric piano, which really seems at odds with the noisy, often heavily distorted guitar and fuzz bass, but I love this approach, so I'm not complaining. This brand of prog is certainly not for everyone. But I love the intensity this group gives here, with some great drumming from Dave Smith too. At just 43 minutes, it's just right, so the music never overstays its welcome. For the average neo-prog fan, stay away, but for those who like the more extreme end of prog, you need this CD!

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Send comments to Progfan97402 (BETA) | Report this review (#702144)
Posted Sunday, April 01, 2012 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars BLACK ONI is Guapo's statement to the music world that their breakout FIVE SUNS is not a one-shot attempt, and they even dare to progress a bit from the FIVE SUNS. If that album was mostly RIO crossed with Zeuhl with a bit of Crimson for taste, BLACK ONI runs in more of a post-rock direction that bolsters the already fresh sound of Guapo. They also kept things in relative taste as just the BLACK ONI epic (in five sections) appears on the album. It allows for better focus on the heart of the epic as the two end pieces of FIVE SUNS were rather distracting.

''Part IV'' is really where the slight sonic adjustments were made from FIVE SUNS to BLACK ONI. It is essentially tonal post-symphonic rock that sets the mood and tension. Unlike the minute of silence after the epic on the last album, the quietude allows for a breather to prepare for the intensity of the final part of the epic.

BLACK ONI establishes itself a competent equal for FIVE SUNS, but in the long run doesn't quite overshadow its predecessor enough to grab the spotlight. The two are like brother and sister albums.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#749207)
Posted Saturday, May 05, 2012 | Review Permalink

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