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Koenjihyakkei — Viva Koenji!
(Skin Graft GR83CD, 1997/2006, CD)
This tight Japanese zeuhl band is led by none other than Yoshida Tatsuya (drums, keys, vocals), leader of the zeuhl punk band Ruins since the early 90s. I have to say that although Ruins invited many comparisons to Magma, this band sounds even more like Magma than usual. A full band (bass, guitar, keys, drums, plus all four members contribute vocals, often in unison) helps to flesh out the sound only hinted at in the tribal rantings of Ruins. That said, this is definitely more "progressive" than that aforementioned band, and holds a promising future should Tatsuya choose to continue recording with this band. For those unfamiliar with the zeuhl sound, allow me to summarize. Imagine a church choir up in the sky, driven rhythmically and melodically by the ebb and flow of a chaotic storm, pausing only to reflect on the carnage wrought by the storm's power and majesty. Zeuhl-styled music transports the listener to a front row seat in front of the choir, leaving the listener shocked and disturbed, but greatly moved by the music's beauty. Magma was the first of these bands — Koenji Hyakkei faithfully carries on the tradition, pushing their musical skills to the breaking point, so wrought with musical passion and precision.
Fans of Ruins or Magma will find plenty of enjoyment with this CD. Listeners looking to introduce themselves to zeuhl may find this a good place to start as well, although Magma undoubtedly offers the definitive version of this type of music. Since so few bands apart from Magma and Koenji Hyakkei execute this type of music with power and precision (Eskaton is another example that comes to mind), this release is especially valuable as one of the few living bands who live by the zeuhl creed.
by Steve Robey, Published 1997-10-01
Tatsuya Yoshida is one busy dude. In addition to being one half of the constantly-touring constantly-releasing Ruins, working in several collaborative musical units, being the drummer for Japanese Magma cover band Mekanik Kommandoh, he's also the drummer and primary writer for four-piece Koenji Hyakkei, whose debut release "Hundred Sights of Koenji" turned more than a few heads in zeuhl circles two years ago. Their style adopts many of the elements of the zeuhl style, while leaving others completely behind, and builds the results into a more aggressive, intense, and foreboding whole. One will hear that throbbing Janik Top style bass attack, interlocking multi-part vocal harmonies, and lyrics aplenty in some uncharted language. Not a stitch of Magma's jazzier elements, though — in fact from the shouting and intense energy on a few of the tracks, this might be easily be mistaken for punk music by those with no zeuhl-school familiarity. But the arrangements are quite complex and multifaceted, and when one adds in their penchant for grandiose visions, it pulls them back toward the progressive rock camp. Both bassist Kengo Sakamoto and guitarist Jin Harada are new to the lineup, the latter bringing a lot of new firepower to the band's arsenal. The end result is completely over-the-top frenetic in-your-face madness. A must-have for any fan of the zeuhl sound, and highly recommended for everyone else as well.
by Peter Thelen, Published 1997-10-01
Need to get rid of unwanted in-laws? Need to lose all the listeners of your radio show? Want to clear a party that's gone on too late? Enter Koenji Hyakkei, the royal family of bombast, the band that makes Magma seem like late night lounge music. Could anything get any more intense than this? I mean here's a band that really takes the Magma ethic to new extremes, that takes the "zeuhl" out of zeuhl (I did think Zeuhl meant "celestial"), that removes any sense of the spiritual that imbues Vander's legendary project. With all this, I can't say I don't like Koenji, their almost heavy metal version of Eskaton puts me in stitches and redefines the word overboard. Their second album does give an attempt to bring some instrumental music in there, after all it was the instrumentals that gave some diversity to Magma's music, yet Koenji are still much too vocal oriented for my tastes. Their instrumental explorations are very promising though, the sense of a more familiar progressive rock does reside here; yet come on guys, you are drinking far too much coffee for one band!
by Mike McLatchey, Published 1997-10-01
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