NINGEN ISU — Ougon no Yoake (review)

NINGEN ISU — Ougon no Yoake album cover Album · 1992 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
After more or less digesting all of this band's 21 studio albums, I think this one is one of my favourites. It's not because it has proportionately more good songs than all of the other albums; each album is well endowed with songs I enjoy. It's because on this album, the band really stretched into progressive rock and heavy prog territory more obviously than on other albums.

Here on the third album, Ningen Isu offer us a larger batch of relatively long songs than previously and employ more textures and moods than the more or less straightforward seventies heavy rock masterclass material that their first two albums delivered.

Right from the start, the title track sets the stage with a 7:44 four-part song that begins with a slow, partially muted guitar arpeggio and then erupts in heavy chords while horrendous voices of howling hordes of Jigoku will make you fear this new "Golden Dawn" (translation of the title, "Ougon no Yoake"). Bassist Ken'ichi Suzuki takes the lead vocal first, his distinctive gruff style sounding like a Buddhist monk prophesying the end of the world. The guitar riff is slow and ominous, like some great behemoth from below dragging itself across the earth. After guitarist Shinji Wajima announces something that surely sounds like affirmation of Armageddon, the riff changes to something more akin to eighties metal as he takes the lead vocal. The music takes an unexpected turn next as we go into a gentle clean guitar instrumental passage that is reminiscent of Iron Maiden without sounding like Iron Maiden. This builds to a climax that executes a classic Rush move before abruptly introducing a riff that could easily have come from a Megadeth album. Suzuki takes the mic once more and brings us home with the song's final part and finale, Wajima's lead guitar working up a storm.

This album has four more such monumental tracks: "Suibotsu Toshi (Submerged City)", "Mandoragora no Hana (Flower of the Mandragora)", "Mugon Denwa (Prank Call)", and "Kyohki Sanmyaku (Mountains of Madness)". Each of these tracks introduce themselves with a song, then move on into an instrumental passage quite different from the beginning, and then either return to the song or introduce a new riff and rhythm. I also really like "Mugon Denwa" for its Voivod-like guitar/bass/drums part at the beginning and for the chorus but also for the slower instrumental part with a really cool slow and emotive guitar solo. Wajima seems to have been spoon fed with seventies guitar solos as he can pull them off beautifully and with apparent inherent ease. Word also goes to Suzuki's hoarse shout of the Japanese telephone greeting, "moshi moshi" because just before the riff change it sounds like he's shouting, "Mosh! Mosh!"

"Suibotsu Toshi" is also one of my favourite tracks, this one beginning slowly, becoming heavier, and then also moving through a moody instrumental passage.

Though the other songs are shorter (3:54 to 5:57), they don't shy away from heaviness or tight and sometimes tricky playing, and there are instrumental breaks with some pretty quick but precise musical moves. The music can be deliberately hard and harsh as with the opening and closing music of "Hei-Sei Asa Borake" or fast and fun like in the middle of "Shinpan no Hi", hinting at some King Crimson influence. The shortest track is Wajima's acoustic instrumental, "Subarashiki Nichiyobi (Wonderful Sunday)", a three-guitar and tambourine-for-percussion piece that sounds at times like part of the soundtrack for a 1950's movie from Italy or Greece.

The bands fortunes were diminishing album to album. Wajima was behind in lyric writing and there was pressure to finish the album by the deadline. The eldest member of the band, drummer Noriyoshi Kamidate, was not pleased with the way things were going and he parted ways with Wajima and Suzuki soon after this album was recorded. Sales of this album were less than the previous two. As for future compilation albums, only two songs from "Ougon no Yoake" appear on the first compilation album of 1994, one on the third compilation double-disc of 2009, and no songs appear on the 25 year anniversary or 30 year anniversary albums. It seems the band feels less inclined to keep this album fresh in the minds of fans than most of their other albums. Such a pity as the English-speaking Internet holds this album in high regard with one reviewer gushing praises for it and another fan ranking it at number 2 out of 19 albums ranked.

I say that if you only buy one album of this band's large discography, this album should certainly be one you consider!
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3 months ago
Cool! Yes, I realize the Japanese only lyrics are what might prevent some people from continuing to check out the band. But if you can get by that part, there's a strong show of interest in this band on the Internet these days. They're really good at what they play.
UMUR wrote:
3 months ago
Just listened to a song on Youtube from this album, and it sounded really great. It takes a Little getting used to the Japanes lyrics, but it´s not a big obstacle for me, as I´m seldom interested in lyrics anyway.


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