FLOWER TRAVELLIN' BAND — Satori (review)

FLOWER TRAVELLIN' BAND — Satori album cover Album · 1971 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
If anywhere in the world the impact of the sound of Black Sabbath was picked up quickly, it was Japan, which has long since been a country where heavy metal remains popular. For their first album of original music, Flower Travelin' Band went with an Indian spiritual theme which they combined with a very convincing performance of heavy metal. There are only five tracks on the album and each a part of the theme "Satori". The music is pretty diverse over the five tracks but still within the limits of heavy guitar rock and this eastern music theme.

The album begins with a high tone interrupted soon by gentle cymbal percussion. This quietude is broken by a banshee scream. Doom metal chords begin the song proper and then switch to charging heavy rock. Akara Yamanaka lets loose with an insane, Tarzan scream. The pace slows down to a sluggish doomy affair as the lyrical delivery ensues. There's no proper guitar solo in this song but Yamanaka once more lets a scream soar up high, pause and then drop. It's pretty incredible to hear considering that this was 1971. The Tarzan screams are also pretty incredible but in a different way.

Part two introduces the Eastern sound with a long guitar solo playing eastern scales. There is a guitar effect that seems to mimic the sitar. This track has a definite Eastern rhythm. It's very effective and also features some good metal chords. The vocals are near screaming. There's a percussion solo but not a show off drum solo. Just the percussive rhythm for a bit and then buzzing guitar effects fade in and out. The guitar solo goes on until end but rhythm intensifies and slow clean guitar chords enter and gradually build in intensity until heavy dual chords finish the song.

Part three begins with some distant low tone like slow steady walk of something ominous and huge. It reminds me of Bathory's opening of "The Return..." album. But instead of Quorthon's growls and ultra distorted guitar we get more eastern guitar soloing. This time it sounds almost like those snake charming flutes. Perhaps you can picture the guy in his turban and loin cloth playing his flute as a cobra sways upwards from the basket. Then at 5:00 or so it changes to some rocking power chords and a dual solo reminiscent of early Scorpions crossed with Black Sabbath. From 7:16 to 8:20 there are spacey effects with guitar, percussion, and bass like Nektar's "Journey to the Centre of the Eye" and then the music returns to the slow eastern melody theme. At about 9:15 it suddenly goes into a galloping rhythm with the guitar solo still in eastern mode but sped up to a frenetic pace through to conclusion at 10:43.

There's some light electric guitar at the beginning of Part four but soon the sound becomes scratchy, muted guitar chords and then the drums come in. A very groovy guitar and bass riff is established with no hint of eastern scales this time. There are proper lyrics once more. Two guitar sounds are used: one scratchy early 70's distortion and one buzzing 1969 fuzz tone. The guitars sometimes play in unison and it sounds pretty darn cool. This groovy tune is a refreshing change from tracks 2 and 3. At 4:00 the riff and tempo change and there's a harmonica solo. A guitar solo takes over at 6:00 and ends at 7:30 and then just guitar, bass, and harmonica play until 8:50. We go back to the groovy song for a space before it all concludes with accelerating music and final crash.

Part five begins like an early prog metal tune with quick stops and starts, and staccato bursts of arpeggios. Then there's a slow, steady beat with heavy muted guitar chords. Awesome. And then? "Whoa-aahhh" and "Ohh-oh-ohhh". You know how Robert Plant sang in "Dazed and Confused"? That wavering "ah-AHH-ah"?. This is a bit like that only much louder and sounding like someone is chanting for meditation while falling from an airplane without a parachute. What's least expected is a vocal solo but that is indeed next. Thankfully it's short and then we return to the steady, slow beat and guitar solo ensues. Clean, almost like a soft chime guitar chords with slowly picked individual notes, rising and falling, join. This creates a beautiful yet haunting and mysterious background to the solo. At 5:27 we are back to more "whoa-ah-ohh". I could skip this part. But then more distorted guitar and a beat that together are ominous yet accompanied by the haunting clean guitar, which creates a nice contrast. The song goes back to the prog metal part again, which I think is the best part of the song.

For an album with an Indian meditation theme it kind of works. "Hare Krishna" is written on the artwork inside the album. The metal sound gives it a feeling of unease and foreboding in contrast to the meditation theme. At times the instrumental sections do seem to go on a bit and I once or twice wonder if I should be in some altered state of mind or consciousness to appreciate it better. There are some spectacular riffs and awesome metal guitar sounds, not to mention the solos in places. But I will admit it takes a certain frame of mind or taste in music to actually like all of this album. Still, tracks one to three have been covered by modern metal bands and some critic somewhere called this his favourite Japanese album.

I've rated this as "excellent addition to any metal music collection" but let me emphasis that this is for a proto-metal collection, which is quite a different thing, wouldn't you say?
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