Exposé Online banner

Koenjihyakkei — Viva Koenji!
(Skin Graft GR83CD, 1997/2006, CD)

by Peter Thelen, 1997-10-01:

Viva Koenji! Cover art

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 Mike McLatchey, 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 Steve Robey, 1997-10-01:

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.


Filed under: Reissues , Issue 13 , 2006 releases, 1997 releases

Related artist(s): Koenjihyakkei, Tatsuya Yoshida

More info

Latest news

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

The Pineapple Thief - Someone Here Is Missing – The Pineapple Thief have always had an affinity for indie rock that’s put them at the forefront of the new generation of British prog bands. They push the envelope even further here, with a modern...  (2011) » Read more

Inquire - Melancholia – The second CD on this 2-disk set is devoted to a lively and entertaining rendition of Louis Verne’s 3rd Organ Symphony. Fans of Keith Emerson’s various classical interpretations, or IQ’s better...  (2005) » Read more

Various Artists - 70 Minutes de Rock Progressif Français pour 30 Balles – OK, here's the deal: Musea has collected thirteen tracks of symphonic progressive rock sung in French, and put it on this low price (70 Francs) sampler CD. If you've been hesitating to take...  (1995) » Read more

Ars Nova - Chrysalis – I know this band from The Goddess of Darkness and Book of the Dead, both from the 90s. The Goddess of Darkness is a near masterpiece of bombastic prog. Despite several changes in line up, Ars Nova...  (2007) » Read more

Mystery - Destiny? 10th Anniversary Edition – This is a reissue of Mystery’s second disc, Destiny? Originally issued in 1988, it features original singer Gary Savoie along with main song-writer and guitarist Michel St-Père. When it...  (2011) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues