• Schizophrenic crossover from a charismatic Japanese quartet - A review of Maximum the Hormone's ''Yoshū Fukushū''

    マキシマムザホルモン - 予襲復讐 (2013)

    Maximum the Hormone is a truly unique crossover rock quartet from Tokyo. The band manages to mix most addicting female pop vocals performed by drummer Kawakita Nao with harsh male vocals by eccentric band leader Tsuda Daisuke and occasional clean vocals by guitarist Kawakita Ryo. The mixture of a highly dynamic drum performance, a dominant bass guitar and a diversified guitar play between brutal riffs  and harmonious melodies plus occasional experiments such as electronic sound samples or rap parts form the instrumental backbone of this unusual group. 

    This band would be best described as crossover group because its influences come from completely different genres, sometimes even within one particular song. The band takes a lot of influences from the punk genre including both commercial and contemporary groups like Green Day but also from hardcore bands like Refused. The band also takes a lot of inspiration from different metal subgenres, in particular nu metal in the key of KoRn for example, metalcore recalling Caliban and a modern version of melodic death metal reminding me at times of In Flames. On the other side, the melodic female vocals recall different idol bands like Doll Elements or even respectable female artists like Hamada Mari. Other crossover rock bands like System Of A Down for ist vivid genre changes, Red Hot Chili Peppers for ist funky bass guitar or even Volbeat for its  addicting vocal lines are also obvious inspirations.

    The band's most recent studio album is a quite special release, even for an unpredictable band like this one. First of all, it includes sixteen songs and a running time of more than one hour which is quite different from the band's earlier efforts that contained maybe around ten tunes and a running time around thirty minutes. This here is value for money and a perfect starting point for potential new fans of the band. This record comes along in a book format featuring not only some background information and the lyrics but a genuine manga spanning around one hundred fifty pages. This manga is as crazy, diversified and entertaining as the band itself but you should know some Japanese to understand what's going on in the story. It's also the first album that reached the first place of the Japanese Oricon Charts and it sold more than three hundred thousand copies so far, obtaining therefor the band's first platinum certification in the first fifteen years of its unusual career.

    The band received some international attention for the song ''A-L-I-E-N'' which perfectly describes the band's radical crossover style. The song opens as noisy mixture of brutal hardcore and metalcore before a funky punk rock middle section transcends into an almost childish bubble gum pop closure. In this tongue-in-cheek anthem, the band mocks the influence of file sharing websites like Winny that have gone through criminal procedures due to sharing copyrighted material on the internet. An incredible music video featuring a pitiless band during one of its concerts in a shabby undeground location where fans perform backflips in moshpits as opposed to the band disguised as pop starts on a colourful and shiny stage playing in front of happy children is absolutely entertaining and hilarious. The song's surprising progression of styles makes this track the most remarkable on the record. 

    The other tracks are a little bit less schizophrenic but still quite diversified. Among the best tunes, we can find the opening title song ''Yoshu Fukushu''. It starts and ends like an enchanting female pop ballad. The verses are much more sinister, recalling some of the angrier System Of A Down tracks. Furious rap parts that aren't far away from Public Enemy and melodic interludes recalling Green Day at its peak are welcome changes of style that sound surprisingly fitting and fluid. Especially the melodic punk parts are truly catchy and memorable. This track is probably not only a highlight on this record but one of the best tracks in the band's entire career.

    Another highlight is the popular up-tempo punk rock song ''F'' about a Dragon Ball character that features death metal riffs and funk rock parts.

    The entertaining ''Tsume Tsume Tsume'' includes concert sound samples, cooly provocative female vocals and vivid rap parts mixed with the band's charismatic mixture of addicting punk melodies in the chorus and brutal hard- and metalcore passages in the verses. 

    ''My Girl'' sounds like a mixture of Van Halen and Green Day in the melodic bridge and catchy chorus while the raw verses with hardcore guitar riffs and funky bass lines remind of a mixture of Primus and The Exploited. 

    Band anthem ''Maximum the Hormone'' represents the group authentically. It mixes calm and slow parts with sudden loud and fast outbursts when sluggish death metal, alternative rock with hypnotiying vocals and world music drum patterns meet brutal hardcore punk with harsh vocals. This track is a little bit harder to digest and takes some time to grow but turns out to be as intellectually written and performed as most of the other songs on this highly entertaining output.

    Obviously, the band wouldn't be credible if they didn't surprise us once again at the end of the album. The closing ''Koi no Sperm'' sounds like a joyful Blink-182 track with a catchy chorus and sing-along parts but adds a few electronic sound samples and innocent female vocal parts to this. This joyous tune is occasionally interrupted by opposing grim death metal parts. This conclusion resumes the band's philosophy and the sound of this album very well once again.

    Aside of fans who are already familiar with this experimental group, who might buy such a vivid record? I think that punk fans should be able to adore several tracks on here since Maximum the Hormone is probably slightly closer to punk than to metal music. If you like stuff like Green Day, Refused or The Exploited, you should dig some of the tunes on here. Comparable Japanese punk bands are the forgotten underground legends Monkey Pirates and maybe the more contemporary and commercial Knock Out Monkey. Songs from both bands were already used in Takashi Miike's highly epxerimental and unique movies and Maximum the Hormone should definitely be next. Those who like hardcore and metalcore should also immediately dig this release since both genres are cleverly employed in each regular song. Metal fans should only approach this record if they like a more alternative and modern twist of the genre including multiple genre influences. Alternative rock fans should be able to appreciate harsher sounds and unusual song structures to fully appreciate this release. In the end, Maximum the Hormone is a truly unique band that can be compared to dozens of different bands but the group has the talent to always sound exactly like itself. This band is one of a rare kind where you can easily identify its signature sound thirty seconds into a song. ''Yoshu Fukushu'' is both a great record and a perfect starting point to get to know one of the most exciting contemporary rock bands on this planet. Open your mind and enjoy this to the meximum!  

    Final Rating: 80%

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