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(62 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Jemah & She 2. Afro 3. Eat Triplet 4. WP 5. To King Rush 6. Get Up 7. EGF 8. Chili Men Ballad 9. Seven Spices 10. Abraham Bee 11. San-Byou-She 12. Hane 13. Strange Smoke 14. Slight Return All tracks: by Bandvivil. Produced & engineered by Bandvivil. LINE-UP: Issei Takami - guitar, guitar-synth Naoki Sawada - bass Jun Isobe - drums
Prolusion. BANDVIVIL is a power guitar trio from Japan. On their website they state that they are "influenced by rock, funk, blues, jazz, fusion, hard rock, heavy metal and progressive rock", and they do their best to pack it all into one album. "Junaokissei" is an amalgam of all their influences.
Analysis. "Junaokissei" (which appears to be a combining of the musicians' first names: Jun, Naoki & Issei) is an ensemble instrumental album, featuring the work of guitarist Issei Takami. Throughout the album, the drums and bass take a definite backseat to Takami, as the frontman for the band's sound. This album is full of energy and high quality musicianship, but cannot be classified into any one Prog category, as the styles change from track to track. The music shoots off the starting line with Jemah & She, a fast paced jazz-fusion track with a metal edge and quickly shifting tempos and time signatures. Afro doesn't sound the least bit African, but continues in a jazz influenced shuffle with a rather joyous sound as it tumbles along. The overall sound of these first couple of tracks has the kind of metallic ring to the guitar reminiscent of Rush, as does Get Up. With Eat Triplet, the band slows down the tempo into a bluesy shuffle waltz, and then downshifts even more with the quiet, almost smooth jazz feel of WP. The surprise on WP is the guitar synth, sounding like a keyboard, which offers a welcome respite from the guitar/bass/drum combo. Although To King Rush is a title that sounds like it would be a tribute to an obvious musical influence, it is more of a funk fest, complete with lots of wah-wah pedal effects. Chili Men's Ballad slows things down again and could almost be a love song, with its plaintive guitar work. Seven Spices has an early metal flavor (though it never finds a 4/4 beat) and features some of the fastest shredding on the album. Abraham Bee gives the drummer an opportunity to shine in a solo, though unfortunately accompanied by a rather unnecessary and repetitious bass line. A better drum solo occurs in the very next track, San-Byou-Shi, a quirky bop jazz styling, complete with synthesized vibraphones. Two of the tracks, EGF and Zoo Zoo Da Juju owe much to the Hendrix sound, though neither carries it throughout. Hane is another jazz piece that shifts and slides from mood to mood and gives the illusion of shifting time signatures, but actually maintains a steady 4/4 beat. Strange Smoke is another, though briefer, wah-wah party, which seems to be more improvised than charted. It is also the shortest track, clocking in at just 1:42. Zoo Zoo Da Juju has such a strong Hendrix sound that I keep expecting to hear his distinctive baritone voice say "foxy lady!" This track also features a lengthy improvised solo by Issei. Shuffle De Go is a sandwich, with a slice of shuffle on either side of the solos, including one by the bassist. The free form finale, Slight Return, builds in a bolero like crescendo until the Hendrix-like theme from the earlier Zoo makes its reprise.
Conclusion. "Junaokissei" is a good debut album, which will appeal most of all to lovers of guitar based rocking. The band utilizes jazz-fusion, metal, jazz & funk to weave a range of moods throughout the disk, but even with all the variety, there is a sameness that sets in, due largely to the instrumentation. Although the playing is strong, the band would be so much more interesting with a greater variety in their sound. The guitar synth is used well, but too minimally, and could be pushed much further to enhance their music. The other greatest weakness is Bandvivil's melodies, which feel more like a light skeleton on which to hang the guitar soloing, rather than being central to their music. Hopefully they will develop a greater depth in their compositions before their next outing.
KW: June 2, 2005
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