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Naikaku - Shell CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.18 | 47 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Words in the Spanish language cannot really describe the sort of esthetical excitement that I felt when I got acquainted with Naikaku's repertoire: I suppose that in the English language - not my native one - the explaining task will even be more unattainable. I'll give it a try now that I'm reviewing this Japanese band's sophomore album "Shell". The first hour is occupied by 'Crisis 051209' (a revamped version of a track from the debut album), which gets started with an exotic frenzy of fusionesque influences led by the drum kit and the flute. One the whole ensemble settles in, things get very intense and varied, including: a reasonable disturbing ad libitum section; a Crimson-meets-Don Caballero exercise on neurotic ambiences; a frontally prog-metal portion; an emulation of 80s KC (how does Kobayashi make his bass guitar sound like a Chapman Stick?). All this ends with a splendid coda that sounds as if Atila Kollar had hired Don Caballero as his support band. Mind blowing, neck breaking, jaw dropping, all this and more must describe the display of progressive inventiveness orchestrated in the opener. 'Ressentiment' is another solid example of contemporary prog's most robust facet. The main motif mixes the complex power of prog metal and Arabesque fusion textures with stunning fluidity, with the rhythm section paving its way into the cadences of jazz-rock. When we get to the 3 minute mark, the interlude arrives as some sort of tribute to the infamous mid section of 'Starless', although this time the lead guitarist is more Holdsworthian than Frippian. The flute solo with distorted vibrato is almost extraterrestrial! Track 3 bears the challenging full title 'I Found a Deep Dark Hole and I Am Going to Jump In! There Will Be No Proof of My Existence in This Dark Abyss. No-one Will Find Me Here! I Have to Compensate for Being Born by the Redemption of My Life into Death. I Will Become a Commendable Entity and Stop All the Senseless Butchery and Useless Cruelty I Have Inflicted onto Other Souls. Right from the Start We Only Live in the Now. But If We Even Stop to Think of the Here and Now, It Has Already Become the Past in a Twinkling of a Moment. In Turn, the Future is Pushing Against the Now and This Whole Perception as We Know It Soon Becomes the Past. To Try and Verify the Moment of Life is an Impossible Task. When Trying to Prove Life, It Becomes a Past Existence in Which There Are Too Many Memories. All in All, in the End Life and Death Are Exactly the Same. So I Am Going to Follow My Dream and Dive into My Chosen Fate!' - it mat sound like a Kierkegaard-meets-Kafka thing, but actually the track is very playful, even nave, with the flute and trumpet dueling in a half-cabaret, half-circus mood. Eventually, things will end up growing a psychedelic vein, but the track remains playful to the end. The 9-minute long 'Lethe' finds Naikaku digging deeper into their jazz-fusion interests: the kind of sound achieved here can be described as a lost Kenso piece performed by a supergroup of Djam Karet and Don Caballero members. The pieces' general ambience focuses on the melodic motifs, but there is a special moment in which anguish rules the track's development and creates a sordidly demented climax somewhere in the middle: this trick really works as a variation provider. The 16 minute namesake track is pure progressive delight in a partially retro manner. The opening motif (that will also reappear in the coda) is a languid Crimsonian serenade that wouldn't have been out of place in an album by Anglagard, Landberk or early Anekdoten - mesmeric in a real Scandinavian way. By now, the typical alternation of math-rock, prog metal and fusion shouldn't surprise the listener, but the fact remains that the successive musical ideas work perfectly in the continuum. The album's final track is also the shortest: 'Tautrogy' is a hybrid of space-rock and heavy rock, bearing a celebratory spirit. I wish 'Shell' had been the closure because of its eerie climax, but this one is also dynamic enough as to bring a spectacular ending to this prog masterpiece for the new millennium. The people of Naikaku have really honored their inspirational bands with this spectacular album, generating something refreshing as it is sonically powerful.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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