Gonin-Ish - Gonin-Ish
Gonin-Ish Showkai
Japanese Progressive Metal
5 songs (41:54)
Release year: 2000
Reviewed by Crash
Archive review

I love Japanese metal. Love it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the prancing fairy boys of X Japan or the phat ass low end of Boris. Something about the land of the rising sun just sets a spark for me. There is a certain tang that is peppered throughout their art and it has always appealed to me in a big way. Like all discussions of everything metallic and squinty eyed we inevitably turn to Sigh. Now if you didn’t already know, I cock and balls worship Sigh and everything they’ve ever done. Every morsel of greatness that Mirai can pump out of his beautiful festive loins is celebrated by me and it is always just a matter of time before I listen to Ghastly Funeral Theater for the tenth time this week. That’s why I was recommended Gonin-Ish, a band who shared the same drummer with the aforementioned Sigh. But where Sigh is insane, bombastic, quirky, and Avant Gonin-Ish is flowing and elegant. For anyone who loves that band, this is the perfect companion, filling in the cracks that Sigh just can’t.

This brings me to their debut album of the same name. It is no wonder that I had never heard of this band until a few weeks ago. They seem to have little interest in trying to crack into any market outside of Japan. Their logo for one is in Japanese scripture… which I can’t read. All of their song titles and lyrics are in Japanese as well, which makes me feel like an doofus American every time I remember that not everyone in the world writes in English. I was lucky enough to find some song translations though, so that makes things a bit easier. I am thankful though. If our paths had not crossed it would be a tragedy of Shakespearian levels. Simply put, this record rocks.

Gonin-Ish play dark and gloomy prog metal. Like most great progressive bands, the emphasis is not on one particular instrument but on the band as a whole. The album is a constantly switching focus. They have no problem letting the listener onto this early with album opener and intro Dream of Maddening Secret Knowledge. At only a minute and a half, the band make sure you know exactly what lies ahead. Bass and low end piano start the track, weaving in and out of multiple time signatures within the first twenty seconds alone. Then that crunchy guitar… Oh my god… those gorgeous keyboards…. And then… oh Jesus… a completely lyrical guitar solo that wouldn’t be out of place on a Transatlantic record. Within a minute it is evident that we are in for something very special.

And we are indeed. There are only four songs here, ranging from eight to fourteen minutes each and every one is a little masterpiece. Each song is an exploration into a dark, wonderful, and sometimes haunting Japanese dream. I’ve met a couple people who praise Dream Theater’s Awake for its melancholy mix of happiness and depression. But that’s not to suggest that it’s all about being mopey here. The band is constantly on the attack and like Dream Theater, they are not afraid to go off on a musical tangent. Fans of Metropolis: Part One or Erotomania will be very pleased with the amount of twists and turns the music takes through its journey.

It is a beautiful and chaotic burst of emotion with a yin for every yang. A perfect example lies in the vocals. Like many bands, Gonin-Ish have two vocalists with one doing the screamy screams and another with another handling the clean. The screams are distorted and painful, perfectly capturing the band’s nightmare atmosphere. The real star of the album though lies in the clean vocals. Anoji Matsuoka is easily one of the best female singers in metal, hands down. While at first her vocals would seem more in place coming out of a Dance Dance Revolution machine, they will quickly win you over. Emotionally and thematically, the female presence brings more to the table. The music paints a picture of a deep and dark forest off in some strange land. Suddenly, there is a female presence. The innocence in her voice places the image of a little girl, trapped by the fog. The imagery is far out. Songs like “Body Covered in Carved Seals of Scriptures” and “A Month with the Merman” are sure to bring these colors into play.

To be certain, this is not metal to bang your head to. This is an album to put on while doing homework, driving, or taking a walk. Let the sounds put you into a deep focus. If your reaction is anything like mine, be prepared to let forty minutes go by without notice because this album will anchor your thoughts and mind until it releases its hold. Fans of Cynic, Unexpect, and much of Devin Townsend’s material would smartly consider checking out Gonin-Ish. The best thing that could happen is that you find a great forgotten gem. The worst thing that could happen is that you don’t like it.

Killing Songs :
Beginning to end... then beginning to end again
Crash quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Gonin-Ish that we have reviewed:
Gonin-Ish - Naishikyo-Sekai reviewed by Goat and quoted 91 / 100
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