• Rocking roots meet blooming gloom - A review of Ningen-Isu's "The Present World is a Dream ~25th Anniversary Commemoration Best-Of Album~"

    人間椅子 - 現世は夢 ~25周年記念ベストアルバム~ (2014)

    "The Present World is a Dream ~25th Anniversary Commemoration Best-Of Album~" is another compilation record of the productive Japanese trio Ningen-Isu that celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of its first release on this greatest hits album. Aside of being highly recommendable to those who want to get introduced to this legendary band that mixes swaggering rock 'n roll, sweating hard rock, tight heavy metal, brooding doom metal and occasional speed metal with fascinating lyrics about Japanese traditions, mythology and literature, this compilation is also recommendable for those who are already slightly familiar with the band.

    First of all, if compared to previous compilations, this record focuses a lot on the band's first EP which has been out of print for many years and the band's first full length record which is also rather hard to find. Especially the first disc introduces the listener to the first steps of the band that already had a natural flow and tight chemistry back in those days. The energizing and fast ''Mountain of Needles'' with its punk vibes and the catchy retro rock anthem ''Neurotic I LOVE YOU'' that invites to dance represent the large spectrum of musical inspiration that already characterized this open-minded band two and a half decades earlier. The rest of the first disc is composed of the band's greatest tracks from the early and middle years such as the gloomy and hypnotizing ''Ghost Train'' with its dominating bass sound and numbing vocals or the constantly shifting yet perfectly floating ''Shinagawa Lover's Suicide'' which doesn't only summarize the band's incredible song writing qualities but which might be the singular best song the band has ever written.

    The second disc focuses on the band's more recent material. Between the last compilation released five years prior to this one which I reviewed before the band finally got some well-deserved international praise and this ambitious release, the hard-working Japanese trio released four highly recommendable new studio albums that are represented with many songs here. As if this wasn't enough, the last four tunes of the second disc are brand new and exclusive to this release. ''A Written Invitation to Hell'' is one of the band's fastest and most aggressive tracks with a vibe somewhere between thrash and speed metal with a hard rocking vibe that recalls a mixture of Anthrax and Motorhead. This outstanding tune will tear your head off. ''The Glory of Vice'' showcases a completely different side of the band and is a psychedelic doom metal monster with gloomy riffs and highly emotional and versatile vocals. It's a typical song for the band but for those who aren't familiar with Ningen-Isu, this track might be compared to Black Sabbath at its peak in the mid-seventies. Yes, this song is that great. ''The Sad Librarian'' is a more rhythm-orientated heavy metal track that develops a great flow based on a simple yet addicting main riff, a diversified performance by both vocalist and a playfully extended hard rocking guitar solo. This song also recalls Black Sabbath and Motorhead but beats anything these bands have released recently. Finally, ''The Colour Out of Space'' which also got an official video clip and can be seen as the lead single of this record, is the most atmospheric of the four new tunes. It mixes eerie and almost spacey sounds with heavy riffs, a tight bass guitar sound and precise drumming. This track sounds like a gothic version of a Black Sabbath song with some King Crimson influences. It takes some time for this track to grow but it ends up being an absolute highlight on a consistent high-quality release. All four new songs are absolutely outstanding and rate this compilation up.

    To keep it short, this release is both essential for new and old fans of the band. It mostly focuses on the band's forgotten early records and rocking roots and on the trio's most recent releases including four great new tracks. Obviously, it also includes some of the most important hits of the group. The colourful artwork, the extended booklet and the quality of the material including the jewel case itself are carefully crafted and rate this product up. This isn't a cheap greatest hits efforts compiling a few singles but a product where the band was obviously involved and put its heart and soul into it. Anybody who calls himself a metal fan should own an album of this band and this greatest hits effort is a highly recommendable choice. If you still mourn the loss of Motorhead and fear the nearing end of Black Sabbath, rejoice and listen to some Ningen-Isu.

    Final verdict: 95%

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