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NINGEN-ISU

Heavy Prog • Japan


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Ningen-Isu picture
Ningen-Isu biography
Founded in Hirosaki, Japan in 1987 - Still active as of 2019

The Japanese heavy rock outfit NINGEN-ISU (literally "The Human Chair") was formed in 1987 by Shinji WAJIMA (guitar, vocals), Kenichi SUZUKI (bass, vocals) and Noriyoshi KAMIDATE (drums). In this incarnation, the trio bummed around Japan for a couple years before garnering media attention in 1989 via the TV variety/game show 'Heisei Meibutsu TV?Ikasu! Band Tengoku' and released their self-titled debut later that same year.

Both the sound and spirit of NINGEN-ISU have remained constant throughout the years. Sonically, the influence of such 70's hard rock bands as BUDGIE, BLACK SABBATH and KING CRIMSON has resulted in a heavy, thrashy, grungy, stoner rock blend that often veers into Crims' Red-era territory. Additionally, the music and lyrics are sometimes directly influenced by Japanese folk - Shinji is an expert in Buddhist & Japanese literature, and Kenichi is an avid collector of local occult - resulting in the standard stoner/art/metal getting a unique Japanese twist (1998's 'Taihai-Geijutsuten' being a good example).

Despite the lack of a permanent drummer (Noriyoshi left in 1992, replaced by Masuhiro GOTOH in 1993, Iwao TSUCHIYA in '95 and again by Masuhiro in 1996), for the moment the position is held by Nobu NAKAJIMA. The band has steadily produced fourteen albums over nearly twenty years. Recommended for fans of classic heavy music with a strong national identity.

- The Whistler -

See also: WiKi

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NINGEN-ISU discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

NINGEN-ISU top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 3 ratings
Ningen-Isu
1989
3.50 | 4 ratings
Ningen Shikkaku
1990
3.05 | 2 ratings
Sakura No Mori No Mankai No Shita
1991
4.95 | 2 ratings
Ohgon No Yoake
1992
3.00 | 1 ratings
Rashomon
1993
4.00 | 1 ratings
Odoru Issun-Bohshi
1995
4.00 | 2 ratings
Mugen No Junin
1996
4.00 | 2 ratings
Taihai Geijutsu-Ten
1998
3.05 | 2 ratings
Nijusseiki Sohsohkyoku
1999
4.00 | 1 ratings
Kaijin Niju-Mensoh
2000
4.00 | 2 ratings
Mishiranu Sekai
2001
3.95 | 2 ratings
Shura-Bayashi
2003
3.00 | 1 ratings
San'aku-Dohchu-Hizakurige
2004
4.00 | 1 ratings
Hoochie Koo
2006
3.00 | 2 ratings
Manatsu No Yoru No Yume
2007
3.00 | 1 ratings
Mirai Romanha
2009
3.00 | 1 ratings
Shigan Raisan
2011
4.00 | 1 ratings
Mandoro
2013
3.00 | 1 ratings
Kaidan Soshite Shi To Erosu
2016
3.00 | 1 ratings
Ijigen no Houkou
2017
5.00 | 1 ratings
Shin Seinen
2019

NINGEN-ISU Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

NINGEN-ISU Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

NINGEN-ISU Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Peten-Shi To Kuuki-Otoko
1994
0.00 | 0 ratings
Oshie To Tabisuru Otoko
2002
4.91 | 2 ratings
Ningen-Isu Kessakusen
2009

NINGEN-ISU Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

NINGEN-ISU Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Nijusseiki Sohsohkyoku by NINGEN-ISU album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.05 | 2 ratings

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Nijusseiki Sohsohkyoku
Ningen-Isu Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Requiem for the 20th Century. This was Ningen Isu's eighth album and it saw them back with the label Meldac after a three-album absence. The band released four albums with Meldac in the early nineties, but then their contract expired and a compilation album became their fifth and final album with Meldac. Guitarist Shinji Wajima and bassist Kenichi Suzuki not only had to find a new label but at the time they also had to find a new drummer. They spent the next three albums working things out on their own for the most part and were joined for two albums with a new drummer. But he quit as well. Finally, they acquired Masahiro Goto of Gerard and offered him a full-time position. At this point, Meldac rang up and asked Ningen Isu if the band would like to return.

Released in 1999, the album title was conceived of as a farewell to the century. Wajima was notorious for being behind on lyric writing but he had some extra help as Goto came up with two songs. Suzuki offered two songs as well. Nevertheless, during the recording sessions there were times when everyone would hang about the studio waiting for Wajima to show up.

The sound on this album was not an entirely new approach by Ningen Isu but there was a conscious effort to do something new. If you've heard their more recent albums with their full, rich metal guitar sound and drummer Nakajima's work, you'll likely be surprised to hear this old thing. The guitar sound is somewhere between a retro rock guitar sound and modern prog rock/alternative rock. While this means the band don't always come across as metal heavy, they do still hit hard and heavy on some tracks.

The song to have a music video made was the opening track, "Yuurei Ressha - Ghost Train". Here the guitar riff has a bit of a spy movie feel. Musically, it's up to Ningen Isu's standards; however, I haven't really latched on to this one. In fact, if I were to rank Ningen Isu's albums, this one would be at the lower end of the list. It's still a very good album but I am less enamored with it than I am most of their other albums.

Suzuki's first song is "Mushi - Bugs". It's off to a good pace and a fun rocker. Not as strong as "Imomushi - The Caterpillar" of the next album but nevertheless a fun track. Wajima's "Koi wa Sankaku Mokuba no Ue de - Love Is on a Wood Horse" keeps the lively and homorous feel but is more rock than hard rock and certainly not metal. I find it's one of those songs that sound better when you actually play it than when you just think about maybe listening to it.

Goto's "Tokai no Douwa - Urban Fairytale" at first makes Ningen Isu sound like some other Japanese rock band. Certainly his vocals stand out for being neither like Wajima's nor Suzuki's. The song does get some Ningen Isu styled treatment about halfway through to make it a little more interesting and familiar.

"Akatsuki no Dantou-dai - Guillotine at Dawn" begins with the album sound that is now no surprise. What is a surprise is how the song jumps into rapid pace partway through. Wajima's lead breaks are wild and fun.

"Shoujo Jigoku - Girl Hell" gives us more of a hard rock feel but Wajima seems to be straining for the notes in places. He was also known for writing songs a little too high for his vocal range. Not a song I usually think to spin unless I play the whole album.

The highlight of the album for me is track 7, "Haru no Umi - The Spring Sea". It begins with Ningen Isu's more recognized doom riff pounding before toning down for an eerie verse. Goto's drumming is frenetic to Suzuki's wails. The song takes a psychedelic turn with voices chanting hauntingly and guitar effects. Then it changes to speedy rock with some cool lead guitar effects (backwards guitar?) by Wajima.

"Fumin-shou Blues - Insomnia Blues" is kind of bluesy and has a nice groove. Goto's vocals are not that strong I feel. The music is a more enjoyable but still it sounds like a blues rock band. But wait! Here comes the thrash with Suzuki's "Sabbath Thrash Sabbath". It's a short blasting track with Suzuki snarling "Black Sabbath!" after the choruses. The lyrics are actually rather amusing. Each member of Sabbath's classic line up is mentioned: Ozzy Osbourne - bat songs, Tony Iommi - the enchanting guitar, Geezer Butler - the ghostly bass, Bill Ward - the drunken drums. The track concludes with an deliberate homage to "Iron Man".

"Kuro Taiyou - Black Sun" is the final track and should be where Ningen Isu show their doom metal side most strongly. The playing is heavy, though the guitar still doesn't have that metal feel. The drumming is great. The final tracks are usually quite long and with extra parts. But this song is only just over six minutes. At least it becomes more interesting in the final stretch of the song. It is one of the better songs on the album if you're looking for the band's heavy side.

Ningen Isu never make a bad album. There are no disasters or "What were they thinking?!" albums in their catalogue. These blokes have talent for writing and playing. However, they do have a couple of albums that are home to two or three great tunes and the rest as less outstanding. I like this one, but I don't love it. Mainly, it's not heavy enough to be metal but it's also not quite proggy enough to be real prog. It's like crossover prog gone hard rock and stoner rock. When I listen to it, I think it sounds great mostly. If it's your first Ningen Isu album, you're still likely to be impressed. But nearly all of their other albums excite me more.

Best tracks in my opinion: "Haru no Umi", "Sabbath Thrash Sabbath", "Kuroi Taiyou" and "Mushi".

 Peten-Shi To Kuuki-Otoko by NINGEN-ISU album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1994
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Peten-Shi To Kuuki-Otoko
Ningen-Isu Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars This is the first compilation album of Ningen Isu. It was released on Meldac in 1994, the fifth release on that label and the final release in the band's contract with the label until resigning with them in 1999.

This compilation includes songs from their first four original studio albums with Meldac: Ningen Shikkaku (1990), Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita (1991), Ougon no Yoake (1992), and Rashoumon (1993). There are three bonus tracks as well.

The album does a good job of representing these albums. Ningen Shikkaku has Ayakashi no Tsuzumi, Tengoku ni Musubu Koi, and Ringo no Namida. These three songs capture that band in a very heavy and hard hitting retro sound that was their style on the debut album. The music resembles classic Budgie and Black Sabbath while sometimes going faster, bearing some influence of both NWoBHM and speed metal.

From Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita, there's Kokoro no Kaji, Yashagaike, and Taiyou Kokuten. This album's guitar sound brought us closer to the mid-seventies but the band's style remained a blend of seventies heavy and hard rock with some eighties influences. Kokoro no Kaji begins almost like thrash metal, Yashagaike features a Japanese folk beginning before the song evolves into a heavier electric mood, and Taiyou Kokuten reflects the band's fondness for doom-heavy, Black Sabbath-styled songs.

Two songs are from Ougon no Yoake: Shinpan no Hi and Kofun no Neji. This album was more progressive with longer songs; however, these two tracks here, while still showing the band's progressive rock influences, are more concise and capture the band's metal spirit. It's interesting to note that future compilations would largely ignore this album. Unfortunate, as I consider it one of their best.

Finally, from Rashoumon we have Namakemono no Jinsei, which is a medium tempo but rousing heavy rock track about the life of a loafer; Seishun Rock Daijin, a hard rocker with an upbeat mood; Maisoh Mushi no Uta, which begins like a slow, hard rock track but breaks double-time into a lead guitar solo in tandem with the bass; and Motto Hikari wo, which was the opening track on Rashoumon and is a one-punch, two-punch hard and heavy rocker that's quite catchy I find.

The three bonus tracks are Daiyogen, a rugged, speed metal number that slows down for a solid metal riff in the middle before picking up the pace again; Hashire Melos, a Maiden-esque instrumental that was used for a Honda motorcycle commercial, and the Yashagaike single B-side version of Jinmensou. The original song appeared on the debut ep. This version was recorded with an acoustic guitar intro instead of the clean guitar intro of the original.

This is rather a good compilation, capturing the band's heavy and hard rock sound while at the same time giving some room for the impression that they are also a progressive band. For a first time listener, you will be get an excellent impression of Ningen Isu's early years. No other compilation includes as many tracks from the second to fourth albums. As well, two of the three bonus tracks are available only on this compilation. My personal thoughts are that there are some songs on those albums that better represent the band's prog side. So, for fans of progressive rock, this album is alright, but it's better for fans of hard and heavy rock with a progressive edge to it.

Two strikes against this are one: it's out of print, and two: in 2016 most of Ningen Isu's catalogue to date was reissued on HQCDs and so the actual reissued albums from 2016 sound better than this compilation album. The album can be found on iTunes and possibly with other streaming services. Used CDs are available on the Internet

 Taihai Geijutsu-Ten by NINGEN-ISU album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Taihai Geijutsu-Ten
Ningen-Isu Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Taihai Geijitsu-ten is the seventh album by Ningen Isu. It features the return of Masahiro Goto on drums, who had previously played on the fourth album, Rashoumon in 1993. The album was released on the Trycle label, their only album with that label. After the band's contract with Meldac expired in 1994, they released an album on an independent label in 1995 and then were fortunate enough to release their sixth album on Pony Canyon thanks to a collaboration with a manga artist. But after that, they were still without a regular label and their drummer, Iwao Tsuchiya left the band. From this album though, their fortunes were going to improve.

The album title translates as "Degenerate Art Exhibit" and was inspired by the Nazi exhibits of modernist art in the 1930's as examples of degenerate art. Guitarist Shinji Wajima reckoned that rock and pop music were also a type of degenerate art and thought it would make a good album title.

The music here has taken a retro turn once more. The guitar sound is decidedly old school, early seventies, and at least a couple of reviewers have called this album very heavy psych. The opening track, Tainai Meguri, begins with some punchy chords and Goto's psychedelic/early seventies/Ginger Baker-inspired drumming. The album stays pretty close to this approach throughout and wraps up sounding very much like a lost gem of 72/73.

As is usual for a Ningen Isu album, there are heavy stoner rock / early doom metal tracks with a strong Sabbath influence. "Ahen-kutsu no Otoko (The Man in the Opium Den)" and "Dunwich no Kai (The Dunwich Horror)" are two tracks that hammer low and heavy. But there's more to the album than just that.

"Kuzouzu no Scat" is a grooving, hard rock track whose title was inspired by Heian Period Buddhist art in Japan that depicts in nine frames the stages of decay of a human corpse. Wajima's "Chu, churu, chu-chu-chu-chuu, yeah" sounds uncannily like Jim Morrison. Suzuki's "Chinurareta Hinamatsuri (Blood-soaked Dolls Day)" is a unique cross of progressive heavy rock and traditional Japanese singing. It also includes what I think is a Taishogoto, a type of koto, a traditional stringed-instrument. Meanwhile, "Kikuningyou no Noroi (Curse of the Chrysanthemum Doll)" is probably the only Ningen Isu song to have any keyboards, but only at the end, and "Ginga Tetsudou 777 (Galaxy Express 777)" is the only track in their catalogue to include horns.

Two other tracks that stand out for me are "Mura no Hazure de Big Bang", a song that captures the band's humorous side. The lyrics open with, "Today is the Sheep's Sports Day / One Sheep, two sheep they jump over the fence". The song's chorus mentions an explosion on the outskirts of the village. It's a pretty fun song. I also really like "Tentai Shikou-shou". This roughly translates as "Celestial Body Dysguesia". Dysguesia in the condition some women experience when they're pregnant and their taste preferences change. The title could suggest someone have a special palatability for space, but I'm not sure as the title that of a short story. This is possibly one of the band's most melodic songs. It's pretty cool because it begins with a drum pattern and slightly distorted guitar and the bass guitar comes in played high up the neck and the bass strings humming the main melody. It's also unusual because it's one of the very few Ningen Isu songs to include hand claps.

This album gets very high ratings on the Internet with one person ranking this in the number one position for 19 of Ningen Isu's 21 albums. My first reaction when I heard it was that it was indeed their best album. However since then, I have found I like quite a few of Ningen Isu's albums just as well and possibly even better. Still, for fans of early seventies heavy rock and progressive rock, this album satisfies very well considered it was released 25 years after the phenomena of this music had passed.

 Mugen No Junin by NINGEN-ISU album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Mugen No Junin
Ningen-Isu Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After self-producing their previous album and releasing it on an indie label, Ningen Isu's Shinji Wajima and Ken'ichi Suzuki were wondering what their next move should be. They at least had a permanent member for a drummer now with Iwao Tsuchiya, who joined the band in time for 1995's 'Odoru Issun Boushi'. They still had their management office as well. But no label.

As luck would have it, manga artist Hiroaki Samura was a fan of the band and contacted them about doing a collaboration project. The deal was that Wajima and Suzuki were free to write any songs they liked so long as the lyrics could be imagined as being part of Japan's Edo Period. Lyrics mentioning cars, phones, and pachinko machines were out. Samura would illustrate the album cover and inner sleeve. The album would be released by Pony Canyon, a major label, with a one-time-release contract. The two song writers threw themselves into their work, relishing the new experience of writing for someone else.

Though they were given free rein over what kind of music to record, they naturally stuck with their early seventies heavy rock style with some exceptions. Wajima came up with the idea to feature a bit of traditional Japanese music included in 'Mokko no Komori-uta' as well as a dash in the title track. Of their 21 albums, I have heard 20 of them, and this seems to be the only album to venture that far into traditional Japanese music territory. I think it's a nice touch, at least for one album, and a refreshing new sound in their catalogue which until this album had been a smorgasbord of seventies-influenced hard rock, heavy rock, heavy psych, and heavy prog with some eighties metal as well.

Song lyrics always had to be considered. How about 'Jigoku', a song about Hell? Well, the Japanese Buddhist concept of hell was around back then for certain. 'Baka-yoi Kurui' (Bacchus Crazy) was about alcohol, so they were safe there. 'Kuroneko' (Black Cat) with a Sabbath-worship heavy riff was also safe. The one song that needed justification was Suzuki's 'Uchu Yuei' ' Space Swim. Suzuki was heavily into Hawkwind at the time and couldn't resist writing a Hawkwind-influenced song complete with spacy sounds. Wajima's logic was that space has always been around so it was okay to include the song on the album.

The result I feel is a very strong album and one that is at once unique in the Ningen Isu canon and also true enough to the band's style that it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. Though not usually considered their absolute best work, 'Mugen no Juunin' is still rather highly regarded. It's unfortunate that this album is out of print and a physical copy is hard to track down without paying a steep price. However, it can be heard on iTunes and YouTube and I think also on Spotify. If you're interested in hearing some unique Japanese heavy rock / heavy prog or want to hear more from this phenomenal band, why not give this album a listen? I'm very thankful that I was able to get a hold of a used copy in very good condition from Yahoo Japan Auction.

 Ningen-Isu by NINGEN-ISU album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Ningen-Isu
Ningen-Isu Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars There are two reasons why this album is a collectors/fans only. The first is because it's out of print, and to get one is going to be expensive unless you can track one down in Japan. Even then, it's not cheap to get a used ep in decent condition. The second reason is that all the songs have been re-released either in their original form on a compilation album or re-recorded and included on a compilation album. So, if you really want to hear this album and these recordings, you'll probably need to resort to listening to it on YouTube.

Forgetting those points, however, this album is probably going to be most attractive to fans because this album shows Ningen Isu at their earliest stages. Before the album "Ningen Shikkaku" and the song "Hari no Yama" came this seven-song ep, released on Band Stock by Ika Ten. Ningen Isu had wowed judges on the TV program, "Ikasu!! Band no Tengoku" (a program showcasing new bands) and earned themselves a recording session for their impressive style of seventies heavy rock as well as their performance. The band didn't have to pay anything for this recording.

The first track, "Jinmensou" - Facial Pustules (that appear on Yokai and look like human faces) is here in its original form with a clean electric guitar intro. In 1991, a re-recorded version of the song appeared as a B-side to a single. That version began with an acoustic guitar intro. I personally prefer this version because I think it has more swagger to the groove. The song sets the tone not only for the rest of the album but for Ningen Issue's career. Guitarist Shinji Wajima has stated that he and bassist Ken'ichi Suzuki try to find the groove in the riff. They certainly bring that out here.

"Inju" - Strange Beast is inspired from a story by Edogawa Ranpo of the same title. It's a very heavy, wah-wah pedal-using tune. Ken'ichi Suzuki's vocals have that very decided and exaggerated Japanese accent. Though I prefer the version that was recorded for the 20th anniversary in 2009, this version still sounds very good. It was this song that impressed judges so on the TV show.

Next is one of the band's legendary songs, "Ringo no Namida" - Tears of the Apple. This was re-recorded more strongly for the debut album the following year. Still, this original version captures the fun and groove pretty well. Most notably different is Wajima's spoken part before the riff change. He lacks the "cool" tough vibe he affects on the debut album. Nevertheless, this is a fun song with good use of accents and syllabic stress on the Japanese language with the music.

"Ryoki ga Machi ni Yattekuru" is another fun track, this one rollicking and grooving with some great lead guitar by Wajima and some amusing vocalizations by Suzuki. Once again, the 2009 version is much better, I think, but it's fun to hear this original version when the band was still so young.

"Shinkeishou I LOVE YOU!" translates as "Neurosis I Love You". This is the most rock and roll song on the album and even one of the most rock and roll songs in their catalogue. It really has a young seventies band spirit to it. This is the only song from the debut never to have been re-recorded. It appears on the 25th anniversary album along with "Inju" in its original form.

Up to here, the album has been mostly hard rock and hard rock and roll numbers. The final two tracks reflect the band's early seventies heavy rock and heavy prog side. "Ningen Shikkaku" is a really heavy rocker with a slow breakdown in the middle. Clean electric guitar is played over spacey effects and a steady bass pulse. This gradually builds until reaching a climax and a riff close to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal comes in before the song takes a different twist to it. The version recorded for the debut the following year is better in my opinion but once again, it's fun to hear this original version.

"Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita" was not only re-recorded for the debut but it also became the title of the second album. It has become for me a monster track, a real favourite. This song begins with a slow and heavy riff and wah-wah pedal but then speeds up for the guitar solo, slows back down to that heavy riff with the wah-wah, and then charges into another riff for a dramatic two- minute finale with some great bass playing and great drumming by Noriyoshi Kamidate as well as a ripping solo by Wajima. The song approaches the end with dual lead guitars playing a melody that it easily reminiscent of Iron Maiden. The version on the debut is magical for me. But although this version is less fine tuned, it still cooks. Whatever feelings we enjoyed listening to this album up to here, this track really steals the cake.

This album doesn't really get close to heavy prog until near the end. The band would pursue the progressive aspect of their music more over the next three albums, culminating at their third album, "Ougon no Yoake". For the casual listener and the curious, there's more to be thrilled about on the later albums (the singing is better too). This album stands more as a curio than a must have. It's a bit like hearing the early De Lane Lea demos recorded by Queen in 1971 prior to the recording session that would become Queen's self-titled debut: you can hear the magic of the band coming together but it's in the final recording that history remembers the songs. The same goes for here. As for me, I have nearly acquired every album this band has released, so when I found this ep available in very good condition for not too absurd a price, I had to bring it home. For me, it was worth it. For anyone else, I would say that if you are really curious, listen on YouTube. Otherwise you'll likely much prefer the 1990 album, "Ningen Shikkaku".

 Shura-Bayashi by NINGEN-ISU album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.95 | 2 ratings

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Shura-Bayashi
Ningen-Isu Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The fifth consecutive album with Masahiro Goto on drums and the sixth album with him in total, also the last Ningen Isu album with him before his departure. (Last I heard he's with Kinzoku Yebisu.) Though every Ningen Isu album comes across as well-thought out, well-written, and well-recorded, I have found myself discovering more stand out tracks on this album recently than I first noticed.

Touyou no Majo - The Witch of the Eastern Sea. Typical for many Ningen Isu albums if not most, there is a heavy opening riff that is clearly inspired by one of the band's most influential groups, Black Sabbath. It's a solid heavy rock track with Ken'ichi Suzuki's gruff, kabuki-styled vocals. There's a riff change and then another really cool one, which is sadly repeated only once. Why do bands often put in the most killer riffs in the transitional parts of the track? Then the song changes again. There are 4-5 really good riffs in this musical mini story.

Oni - Daemon. Another heavy, doom metal style track describing, I presume, the character of the Japanese oni, a denizen of Jigoku (Hell) and torturer of the souls of sinners. In folktakes, oni have been known to emerge from the netherworld and attempt to trick humans or simply make off with them. There are some Voivod-sounding riffs in this track, something I have come to recognize in many Ningen Isu songs. Howling demons create a monstrous atmosphere in the chorus buildup with more doom metal chords. Drummer Goto goes for the double kick drum in chorus. It's a fierce and ominous track!

Ai no Kotoba wo Oshieyo - Teach the Words of Love. Here's Shinji Wajima at last and what a contrast to Suzuki's themes of demons and witches! This is a bluesy rock and roll number with a hint of Stevie Ray Vaughn or other blues rock guitar legends in the lead guitar style and sound. The guitar solo is very seventies, one of Wajima's specialties. The song takes an eased back turn for a bit before returning to its initial form. Check out that drumming!

Tsuki ni Samayo - Misled by the Moon. We're back to heavy rock with Suzuki again. This time, there's a less immediate doom punch. The music reminds me a bit of Trouble. The chorus is heavy and then there's an instrumental part like a requiem or dirge. The bass pulses like something by Iron Maiden. There's more of the doomy song and then riff change to something more positive, followed by a guitar solo. Ningen Isu are a three piece band, so you'll notice how the bass and drums really stand out. I have read comparisons to Rush before for the tight interplay between Wajima's guitar and Suzuki's bass.

Yakyuu Yarou - Baseball Idiot. I think this must be drummer Masahiro Goto on vocals? This is a coarse, rocker style of vocals but it's not Suzuki who is gruffer and more theatrical. This is a good and fun, straightforward hard rocker, but I feel Goto is not a completely strong lead vocalist. For one fun, hard rocking track, it's cool. The sound of this track is like pumped up mid-seventies hard rock.

Saigo no Bansan - The Last Supper. This track is very Beatles-like in the beginning, I feel. It's another track by Shinji Wajima. It's mellower and melodious. There's a change up in the middle like melodic alternative rock and then an atmospheric psychedelic part before the chorus abruptly returns in a sudden rhythm change then back to the song as it began. One of my favourites from this album!

Owaranai Ensoukai - The Unending Concert. We're back to a charging heavy rock track with Suzuki. There's an eighties metal riff. The guitar solo is short and fast and the music goes right back to that riff. The finale introduces a second guitar like Iron Maiden before reaching a dramatic conclusion.

Oosama no Mimi wa Roba no Mimi - The King's Ears Are Donkey Ears. This is a fun Suzuki-sung alternative rocker with a grooving bouncing bass and rhythm. Like Saigo no Bansan, it's a surprise change of pace to this otherwise heavy rock/stoner rock album. The chorus is sung once with the title repeated four times in comical falsetto voices. Then there's a really lively and fun solo by Wajima. And later dual vocals for the final part of the song. In spite of my love for the heavy tracks, this one is an ear worm that stands out for being fun and different.

Osorezan - Terror Mountain. This track opens with a finger picked acoustic intro. It's Wajima singing what sounds like an old folk tale. The guitar switches to strumming and band comes in for the chorus. Wajima's voice keeps the raconteur vocalist style. We hear a rain stick or beads and then Suzuki takes the background with a "Hei... Ooo..." repeated. It has a ritual feeling to it no doubt complementing the story in the lyrics. It's a good track for setting a kind of ballad atmosphere, like hearing an old traditional myth or folk tale performed with music.

Jasho no In - Serpent-like Arousal. This is another Suzuki heavy rock number but wow what a nice bounce and hit bass and drum rhythm. The riff reminds me of Voivod again with the guitar and drums joining the bass for an effective riff. "Ba-dum, ba-Da-dum, ba-Da-dum, ba-da-Da". Suzuki's vocal style adds Ningen Isu's unique stamp. Wajima's lead guitar is the icing on the cake! The track switches gear to a speed metal- like style reminiscent of Anvil. The drumming is once again notable. There's a frantic heavy bit bookending solo. Then we return to that bass rhythm perfect transition. The final guitar solo is done with chorus effects pedal. This track is one of my top five picks from this album!

Soukoku no Ie - House of Antagonism. As with many Ningen Isu albums, Wajima takes the final track with a small epic number. This is a typical Ningen Isu heavy rocker with slow heavy chords that go breaking into a gallop for the chorus. The "Hei-oh" chanting and almost tribal-meets-rock drumming is a stand out feature of this song. It reaches a slower melodic part in the middle and keeps it for the guitar solo and after. The bass and drums return and mood becomes darker. There's a haunting mood to the chanting, "Omae wa nigiteru" (You are running away). We get another galloping riff and then go back to chant and tribal rhythm. Just the chant and drums close this well-developed song.

I find this to be one of the more impressive albums of Ningen Issue's 2000's output, though any of the albums packs some great songs. This album is not a work of excellent progressive rock but rather an excellent album of skillful song-writing and musical performance. This band proves with every album that they know how to create songs with great riffs, cool bass lines, awesome drumming, fantastic and diverse guitar solos, and captivating vocal styles. Shura Bayashi is worth checking out as an example of this band's creativity.

 Manatsu No Yoru No Yume by NINGEN-ISU album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Manatsu No Yoru No Yume
Ningen-Isu Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars A Midsummer Night's Dream. That's the title of Ningen Issue's 14th album, only it's written in the Japanese translation. Released in 2007, this was the final studio album to be released by the band in their first 20 years of recording. Two years later, a twentieth anniversary double-disc compilation would be released, followed thereafter by their 15th studio album, "Mirai Romanha".

This album sees the band continue on the course they set for the 2000's, which was to continue their perpetual embracing of all things heavy rock while keeping their sound close enough to alternative rock and hard rock that they could maneuver into more melodious and divergent song-writing as it suited them. Yet precursors to the heavier metal sound of the 2010's were already apparent in places.

The album begins unusually with a track by Shinji Wajima. I say unusually because the majority of Ningen Issue's albums begin with a song by the gruffer and usually more heavy-hitting Ken'ichi Suzuki. Wajima's track, "Yoru ga Naku (The Night Cries)" exhibits the band's penchant for delivering solid hard and heavy rock tracks that abruptly break off into something unexpected. In this case, there's a break down where the music becomes a guitar rock version of what sounds like some older generation's easy listening tunes. The first time I heard the album, I had to check what new track had begun playing, only to discover that I was still on track one. The song then returns to the faster, more heavy rock styled package it came in.

Ken'ichi Suzuki shows up true to form on track two, "Tenraku no Gakkyoku (A Musical Piece of a Downfall)". Fast and heavy, the track is closer to thrash metal. Suzuki employs his usual tortured and growly vocals with a decided enunciation harkening back to Kabuki theater. This song is one hell of a butt kicker and a sign of things to come in the next decade.

Track three, "Seinen wa Arano wo Mezasu (Youth Strives for the Wasteland)", is a surprise track by Suzuki because although it begins like a Saxon-inspired hard rock track, it switches gears partway through and becomes something melodious and pretty, resembling music from a Devin Townsend Project album like "Sky Blue" or "Epicloud". Wajima pulls off a very cool slide guitar solo here as the song returns to its early eighties metal riff and rhythm.

Then there's the Twilight Zone. Well, it sounds that way as "Soratobu Enban (Flying Saucer)" begins. This starts off sounding like a more laid back Red Hot Chili Peppers funky alternative rock piece. But by the chorus it sounds more like an early seventies Japanese rock band. Wajima brings out the Theremin for this track, creating space effects. After a smooth guitar solo, the song becomes more atmospheric and thanks to that Theremin, more psychedelic sounding before returning to its main form.

"Saru no Sendan (Fleet of the Apes)" is a charging rocker with drummer Nobu Nakajima taking the lead vocals. "Enma Chou (Record Book of the King of Hell)" is a Suzuki heavy rocker about where all sorts of sinners can expect to go after death. The King of Hell, Enma, keeps a record book of all sinners and their sins and decides which of the eight hells they should be sent to. In contrast, Wajima's "Hakujitsu-mu (Day dream)" is a mellower song with wavering space guitars that marry psychedelic rock with modern Japanese rock.

"Botan Doro (Peony Lantern)" is inspired by a 19th century Japanese ghost story that was originally inspired by a Chinese ghost story. The track is one of Suzuki's heavy and ominous works with his deliberate theatrical vocal style and a bass/guitar riff that seems to trip over itself. Frequent short bass breaks put their stamps on this track as well. This is followed by Wajima's "Sekai ni Hanataba wo (A Flower Bouquet for the World)" which reads, through spoken word, the message in a letter written by a fictional war journalist photographer about what he sees and experiences and thinks as he documents a war-torn south sea island. The song bears a message of the ravages of war and a plea for peace.

Suzuki's quick-step rocker, "Umi Monogatari (A Pus Tale)" plays with a pachinko machine line from Sanyo called the Umi Monogatari Series. In this case, the Kanji for "umi" is the one for "sea". Suzuki uses the Kanji for "pus" instead. The lyrics in the chorus are a collection of Japanese onomatopoeia for descriptions of pus. The song is a fun, hard rocker that almost seems to invite a Dick Dale guitar solo or could almost break into a Cossack tune and dance at any moment. It's a fun track with a suggestion of Eastern European lineage.

Suzuki throws one more humorous title at us which yet another solid early eighties heavy metal track in "Himan Tenshi (Metabolic Angel)" which seems to be about an obese angel with an unstoppable appetite. Wajima gives us yet another perfect heavy metal guitar solo. The we reach the album's finale with the live staple, "Dottoharai", meaning the grand finale but often translated as "That's All for Tonight". It's one of the band's signature stoner/doom metal tracks by Wajima with a King Crimson-inspired instrumental section that is built upon short bursts of guitar, drums and bass.

I personally find this album to have less to offer of stand out interest than many of Ningen Isu's other albums, though from a heavy metal perspective this album sure kicks some major butt! I still have my own selection of favourite tracks, many of which get carefully placed into mixed playlists of Ningen Isu's music. I think that it is one of their less progressive albums, and for that I can't get as excited on this site about it as I could on the MetalMusicArchives site. I sometimes think that Ningen Isu are in ways similar to Rush. No one doubts the prog rock masterpieces that are "Farewell to Kings" and "Hemispheres" but some other albums seem less proggy and more focused on songwriting. Ningen Isu frequently sound like Rush around the "Vapor Trails" and "Snakes and Arrows" albums. Solid musicianship, good songwriting, great playing without being too showy, and a real sense for guitar solos. "Presto" may not be a good example of a prog album and this one here might not be either. But it has a very good selection of songs.

Essential if you love the band. Excellent addition to your collection if you love this kind of hard-hitting and heavy rock. Good if like like heavy prog, but if you want something with a little more obvious progressiveness to it then there are other albums by this band that do better to satisfy the prog appetite. I'm quite happy with it but for a prog web site I have to give it three stars only.

 Ohgon No Yoake by NINGEN-ISU album cover Studio Album, 1992
4.95 | 2 ratings

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Ohgon No Yoake
Ningen-Isu Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

5 stars After more or less digesting 19 of this band's 21 studio albums, I think this one is my favourite. It's not because it has proportionately more good songs than all of the other albums; each album is well endowed with songs I enjoy. It's because on this album, the band really stretched into progressive rock and heavy prog territory more than on other albums.

Listening to the first two albums, there were only hints that they had this potential. The debut, Ningen Shikkaku, is prog in the way that some Black Sabbath songs are prog: there are frequent twists and unexpected turns in the music which are deftly executed. Here on the third album, Ningen Isu offer us a larger batch of relatively long songs than previously and employ more textures and moods than the more or less straightforward seventies heavy rock masterclass material that their first two albums delivered.

Right from the start, the title track sets the stage with a 7:44 four-part song that begins with a slow, partially muted guitar arpeggio and then erupts in heavy chords while horrendous voices of howling hordes of Jigoku will make you fear this new "Golden Dawn" (translation of the title, "Ougon no Yoake"). Bassist Ken'ichi Suzuki takes the lead vocal first, his distinctive gruff style sounding like a Buddhist monk prophesying the end of the world. The guitar riff is slow and ominous, like some great behemoth from below dragging itself across the earth. After guitarist Shinji Wajima announces something that surely sounds like affirmation of Armageddon, the riff changes to something more akin to eighties metal as he takes the lead vocal. The music takes an unexpected turn next as we go into a gentle clean guitar instrumental passage that is reminiscent of Iron Maiden without sounding like Iron Maiden. This builds to a climax that approaches Rush in sound before abruptly introducing a riff that could easily have come from a Megadeth album. Suzuki takes the mic once more and brings us home with the song's final part and finale.

This album has four more such monumental tracks: "Suibotsu Toshi (Submerged City)", "Mandoragora no Hana (Flower of the Mandragora)", "Mugon Denwa (Prank Call)", and "Kyohki Sanmyaku (Mountains of Madness)". Each of these tracks introduce themselves with a song, then move on into an instrumental passage quite different from the beginning, and then either return to the song or introduce a new riff and rhythm. I also really like "Mugon Denwa" for its Voivod-like guitar/bass/drums part at the beginning and for the chorus but also for the slower instrumental part with a really cool slow and emotive guitar solo. Wajima seems to have been spoon fed with seventies guitar solos as he can pull them off beautifully and with apparent inherent ease. Word also goes to Suzuki's hoarse shout of the Japanese telephone greeting, "moshi moshi" because just before the riff change it sounds like he's shouting, "Mosh! Mosh!" "Suibotsu Toshi" is also one of my favourite tracks, this one beginning slowly, becoming heavier, and then also moving through a moody instrumental passage.

Though the other songs are shorter (3:54 to 5:57), they don't shy away from heaviness or tight and sometimes tricky playing, and there are instrumental breaks with some pretty quick but precise musical moves. The music can be deliberately hard and harsh as with the opening and closing music of "Hei-Sei Asa Borake" or fast and fun like in the middle of "Shinpan no Hi". The shortest track is Wajima's acoustic instrumental, "Subarashiki Nichiyobi (Wonderful Sunday)", a three-guitar and tambourine-for-percussion piece that sounds at times like part of the soundtrack for a 1950's movie from Italy or Greece.

The bands fortunes were diminishing album to album. Wajima was behind in lyric writing and there was pressure to finish the album by the deadline. The eldest member of the band, drummer Noriyoshi Kamidate, was not pleased with the way things were going and he parted ways with Wajima and Suzuki soon after this album was recorded. Sales of this album were less than the previous two. As for future compilation albums, only two songs from "Ougon no Yoake" appear on the first compilation album of 1994, one on the third compilation double-disc of 2009, and no songs appear on the 25 year anniversary or 30 year anniversary albums. It seems the band feels less inclined to keep this album fresh in the minds of fans than most of their other albums. Such a pity as the English-speaking Internet holds this album in high regard with one reviewer gushing praises for it and another fan ranking it at number 2 out of 19 albums ranked.

I say that if you only buy one album of this band's large discography, this album should certainly be one you consider!

 Sakura No Mori No Mankai No Shita by NINGEN-ISU album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.05 | 2 ratings

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Sakura No Mori No Mankai No Shita
Ningen-Isu Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I'll begin this review with a disclaimer. If you are looking for PROGRESSIVE rock or heavy PROG then you will likely be disappointed with this album that I have rated with three stars. Ningen Isu are described as a stoner metal/doom metal/hard rock/progressive rock band and you can add to that from what I gather from reviews elsewhere that they are also a bit psychedelic on some albums. Yes, the prog factor is raised depending on the album, and even the album before this one, which I reviewed on PA, leans a bit more in that direction than this album. So, if you are looking for something truly in the prog camp, move along. If, however, you enjoy a good bit of stoner metal that harkens back to the glory days of Budgie and Black Sabbath, read on'

'Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita' (Beneath the Full Bloom of the Cherry Blossom Forest) is the second full-length album by the Japanese heavy rock/heavy metal power trio, Ningen Isu. Though the band's style is still very much rooted the early years of heavy rock, the sound of the guitars is a little more updated from the debut.

The opening track, 'Bakudan Shinkohkyoku' (Bomb Marching Song) is simply a straight up heavy rocker that charges furiously. The opening riff alone convinced me that this was a band I would love. There is a breakdown in the middle that emulates a rudimentary marching song but it seems to be executed in an intentionally exaggerated way in order to fit the intensity of the rest of the song.

'Yuutsu Jidai' (Depression Period) features a really groovy bass and guitar riff and a bluesy acoustic guitar solo. There's also that retro call and response between the bass and drums and the lead guitar.

'Tokyo Bondage' is yet another grooving, heavy rock number. In a rare English interview I read on The Metal Observer, band members Shinji Wajima and Ken'ichi Suzuki stated that they usually try to find the groove in the riff. As such, many of their songs really capture that essence of Black Sabbath, Budgie and even early Pentagram or Bang.

The songs on this album go a bit further into metal territory than the debut, something you'll notice on 'Yuigonjoh Hohsoh' (Testament Broadcast) which is quite a speedy hard rocker or 'Kokoro no Kaji' (Fire of the Heart - in this case 'fire' meaning like a house fire), which is speedy and heavy enough to sound like Anvil or early Anthrax. It does have a cool middle part that resembles something from a Wolfmother album. The closing track, 'Taiyoh Kuroten' (Sun Blackspot) crosses slow and heavy Black Sabbath-like riffs with a speedy, almost thrash middle part.

Songs that stand out for offering something not totally in the heavy metal camp are 'Sumo no Uta' (The Sumo Song) because it begins with a traditional Japanese hand drum that is played like one might hear in the sumo ring (?) maybe (?); 'Kohjohsenjoh no Maria' (Maria of the Thyroid Gland? I'm not sure what that song is about!) because it is picked clean electric guitar and vocals only; and 'Yasha ga Ike' (Pond of the Yasha, them being Buddhist guardian deities according to Weblio). This track features acoustic guitar and I think shakuhachi (a traditional Japanese flute) or some kind of flute and is played more like an old traditional Japanese ditty for the first 2:20 before a strummed acoustic guitar makes the song more uplifting and positive. Drums and clean electric guitar come in and add colour. Then from 3:30, from the left channel, the heavy band fades in and soon it becomes like an early-eighties metal- inspired track, similar to early eighties Loudness, I think.

Yes, the prog factor sounds rather low on this one. Perhaps Rick Beato would be able to tell me about some unusual chords, chord structures, or time signatures. But for me this is just a really good heavy rock album. I rate it three stars for Prog Archives, though I will point out that it is not as interesting with regards to heavy prog as the debut album, "Ningen Shikkaku".

 Ningen Shikkaku by NINGEN-ISU album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.50 | 4 ratings

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Ningen Shikkaku
Ningen-Isu Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I probably wouldn't have watched the video had it not been for the name, Ningen Isu. I knew the name to be the title of a short story by the famous Japanese mystery and suspense writer, Edogawa Ranpo. The story of a furniture maker who wanted to be part of his creation and feel what it was like to be a chair. The Human Chair. I had opened up the YouTube app to watch a video, and at the top of my suggested video feed was a band called Ningen Isu. I watched the video and was floored. What a sound! Three members and with all the guts of Black Sabbath and Budgie plus a host of other influences throughout the early years of heavy metal delivered with a modern metal sound, and still daring enough to release as a single from their 21st album a song over eight minutes long with a middle section that goes off from the main song and explores that early seventies heavy rock/heavy prog territory that I love. I ordered two CDs. I ordered two more. I ordered eight more. Man, these guys are good!

"Ningen Shikkaku" is the band's debut release from 1990. There was an ep the year before, but it's out of print and hard to find and basically features songs that are on this album but not sounding as good, based on one review I read. The song title is from a book by Osamu Dazai and is translated as "No Longer Human" but more directly translated means "Human Disqualification" as in "disqualified as a human being". The band's love of early seventies heavy rock is undeniable. Think "Behind the Wall of Sleep", "Fairies Wear Boots" and "Children of the Grave" by Black Sabbath or "Guts", "Crash Course in Brain Surgery" and "Breadfan" by Budgie and you'll immediately understand where this band is coming from. In fact, the song "Hari no Yama" ("Needle Mountain" or translated on YouTube as "Spiny Mountain in Hell") is a Japanese lyric version of "Breadfan" with a different story but all the speed and bombast of the original that inspired a Metallica cover.

The album opens with an instrumental that is half guitar effects and half a grooving heavy riff before the Spiny Mountain in Hell song charges in. "Ringo no Namida" (Tears of the Apple - The band is from Japan's Aomori Prefecture, which is a major producer of apples) has a really grooving riff and beat. The title track takes us partway through the song before going of into a sparse guitar effects adventure backed with a steady pulsing bass, and then gradually builds until it erupts into a kind of part two with a different riff before finally returning to the original song. "Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita" (Beneath the Full Bloom of the Cherry Blossom Forest" is another mini- epic with a song within a song. It's also the title of their next album. "Arnheim no Izumi" (The Spring of Arnheim) is the one major sidestep on the album as it's a simple clean guitar instrumental that sounds like someone left a present on the doorstep of Atom Heart Mother Pink Floyd but they missed it.

Without describing each of the other tracks in detail, the album is not only early seventies heavy rock in style but the sound is very closely duplicated, an homage to the period. Whether short ("Heavy Metal no Gyakushu", 3:00) or longer than five minutes, most of the songs include unexpected turns in the music, suddenly changing tempo and charging ahead or abruptly changing riffs or slowing down.

The vocal style is also worth mentioning. The two vocalists of Wajima and Suzuki don't sing in a usual Japanese rock or heavy metal way (think Loudness or Onmyo-Za). Their style is more like Japanese theater or like two story tellers singing the stories. They are from a part of Japan with a very distinctive dialect and they see no need to conform to what's popular. It gives Ningen Isu's sound something very Japanese and fits in perfectly with the British heavy rock playing style.

Honestly, I was surprised to find Ningen Isu on ProgArchives. Though they are described as a stoner metal/doom metal/hard rock/progressive rock band, I expected to find them on MetalMusicArchives, where they are not listed at this time, and only found them here while looking for album rankings on Google. I hesitate to call bands like Black Sabbath and Budgie true prog because I feel a lot of early seventies bands just fell in with the progressive attitude toward writing because that was the style of the time, but many moved on as hard rock took over in the mid- seventies. Ningen Isu fit right into that 1969-1973/4 period where heavy rock and progressive rock co-existed and often crossed over between one another.

One point worthy of mentioning here though is that this album is not indicative of Ningen Isu's overall sound. This album really sounds like a lost gem from 1971. Their later albums feature a more modern sound. Check out songs like "Heartless Scat" or "Namahage" on YouTube to get an idea of their 2010's sound. Still, heavy, doomy, and man do they know how to play this kind of music!

I'd give it five stars as a rock album, but as a prog rock album I have to tone down the rating a little and I'll give it four. Also, I've heard it said that some of the later albums include more of a prog rock attitude so I'll keep my five stars for when I get to those.

Thanks to Atavachron for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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