人間椅子 / Ningen-Isu- 萬燈籠 / Mandoro (2013)
Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
Ningen-Isu (The Human Chair) is a criminally underrated doom metal band from Aomori in Japan. The tight trio has a very dynamic sound that ventures into the heavy metal and progressive rock genres here and there. Imagine a mixture of Black Sabbath and Rush with a unique twist and consistently high quality (the band’s discography doesn’t feature any noticeable disappointments). The heart and soul of the band are guitarist and singer Wajima Shinji and bassist and singer Suzuki Kenichi, who are both original band members since founding in 1987. The trio is completed by drummer Nakajima Nobu, who has called the band his some since 2004, and who is the fourth drummer of the otherwise perfectly stable line-up. The chemistry between the three band members is really stunning. There are a lot of tracks that feel spontaneous and fresh, as if they were recorded during jam sessions. The title of their latest output, Mandoro, is a synonym for the full moon, and as of May 2014, the perseverant band is already working on a follow-up.
The band opens its latest masterpiece with the short but very engaging “Shigan Goeika” (“Song In Praise Of The Buddha Of This Life”), which opens with some spiritual percussion before engaging riffs and hypnotizing vocals set in, reminiscent of old Black Sabbath. The gloomy sing-along vocals are simplistic but extremely effective from an atmospheric point of view and actually surprisingly catchy. After the record’s shortest song follows the epic of the album, entitled “Kuroyuri Nikki” (“Black Lily Diary”), which is a heavy doom anthem with thundering riffs, apocalyptically pumping bass guitar, tight drumming, and dramatic vocals that deliver a standout chorus. My favorite passage is the slightly destructive instrumental part that reminds me of the heaviest songs from King Crimson like “21st Century Schizoid Man” (which is one of my favourite songs ever).
“Jigoku Hen” (“Changes In Hell”) surprises with versatile and deep vocals, and comes around as an engaging mid tempo stomper with a few psychedelic elements such as the hysterical laughter in the middle part. The destructive bass guitar runs everything down, the riffs are precise and effective, and the few short solo parts are ecstatic without sounding like wankery – they’re always effective and concise.“Jigoku Den” indeed has a hellish atmosphere and feels like a Black Sabbathian drug trip.
“Sakura Ranman” (“Cherry Blossoms In Full Glory”) is a mid-tempo rocker with perfectly chosen, engaging riffs. The middle part surprised me with a few folk sounds and the use of traditional Japanese instruments without letting go off the tight guitar. The guitar solo in this song is seriously one of the coolest I have ever heard. It sounds a little bit like traditional Japanese music, but still contemporary and tight. This incredibly impressive track (which is maybe my personal favorite on the album) ends with fast drumming and a powerful thrashy section. The combination of traditional Japanese folklore, classic doom metal, and a few more modern elements sounds perfectly balanced.
“Neputa No Mandoriko“ is another standout. It’s a short song with an energizing punk vibe, fast buildups, and galloping riffs that pair with hysterical and intriguingly menacing vocals, as well as a few background screams here and there. I imagine that this wild kind of song must work extremely well in concert. Tight heaviness meets a few wisely-used psychedelic sound collages here and there. This track is another instant album highlight and band classic: it represents perfectly what the band can accomplish in barely three minutes.
Every single song on Mandoro really deserves a detailed description. I limited myself to these five tracks because they are the first songs on the album and represent the band’s sound very well. I could randomly have chosen any other five songs and I would have been just as enthusiastic about them. The chemistry between band members: their tight sound without any extended length, the few well-employed surprises in the form of bass and guitar solos, dynamic pace changes, and psychedelic sound collages are the winning elements that make this band stand out. Even in a prolific and strong discography like Ningen-Isu’s, the band’s seventeenth full length effort must be cited as one of the highlights of its career. If you have never heard of this band before, I can absolutely recommend you this album to start with. If you care for doom, heavy metal, and tight progressive rock, I would be surprised if you didn’t like this masterwork. This is definitely one of my favorites from the year 2013. This band and its album are definitely worthy of your attention, and if you like what you hear, it’s worth spending some money on an import version.
4.75 // 5