Onmyouza – Kongou Kyuubi

kongoukyuubi1

Tracklist:

  1. Baku
  2. Aoki Dokugan
  3. Izayoi no Ame
  4. Kosode no Te
  5. Kuzaku Ninpouchou
  6. Banka
  7. Soukoku
  8. Doukoku
  9. Kumikyoku “Kyuubi” ~ Tamamo-no-mae
  10. Kumikyoku “Kyuubi” ~ Shoumakyou
  11. Kumikyoku “Kyuubi” ~ Sesshouseki
  12. Kuraiau

———————————

1. Baku

Baku begins with ethereal synths and bright, clean guitar. As the thrumming bass comes in, Matatabi takes the lead part with his deep voice. The tempo picks up with added percussion and electric guitar, and the vocals continue with power and perfectly timed vibrato. Kuroneko then leads the chorus while Matatabi sings backing. Her head voice is exquisite here, and when she sings “hiraite” it sounds fantastic. In the next verse, Kuroneko sings instead of Matatabi, and brings a higher tone to the previously lower verse. Surprisingly, the instrumentation is more clean guitars than distorted, yet Baku still feels like a metal track.  More fool me ‘cos I didn’t realise until about a month ago. Towards the end of the song, there is a major tempo change to about two-thirds speed – pretty epic if you ask me!

2. Aoki Dokugan

Next up is one of their most well-known tracks, Aoki Dokugan. The song kicks off with rhythmic electric guitar riffs that can also be found later in the song. Matatabi begins the vocals in an impressive way as common with Onmyouza, and Kuroneko continues the energy and power in the chorus. Both vocalists have a fierceness in their voices, fitting the theme of the song, daimyo Date Masamune. The guitar solo is a great mix of shredding and harmonising, and utilises the expertise of both guitarists. Definitely one of their best songs.

3. Izayoi no Ame

Buzzing riffs and clean arpeggios start Izayoi no Ame, followed by pounding drums and power chords from the guitarists. The verse is less intense by comparison, with slow chords, a pulsing bass and basic percussion lines, but a frantic feel is then introduced in the pre-chorus. This is brought about by the semiquaver hi-hats played by their drummer, and the increase in guitar speed. But the chorus is where it all gets taken up a notch. Kuroneko’s sheer power is simply mind-blowing, and she commands attention with an amazing display of her vocals. Matatabi is relegated to backing duties and bass playing, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, this song is Kuroneko’s time to shine. It’s my favourite song from the album.

4. Kosode no Te

The fourth track Kosode no Te bears some resemblance to Izayoi no Ame, with a similar buzzing guitar riff, and that it’s also Kuroneko lead. However this track is slower and calmer than the previous. More clean guitars feature, and there is also a lead guitar melody line. In the verse, you can hear some light synths, but the main instrument is the jangling guitar. The chorus has interplay between Kuroneko and the countermelody of the lead guitar line, filling in the gaps between sustained vocal notes. There are also a multitude of guitar parts – I counted six during the guitar solo. Unfortunately, it’s not the particularly memorable. A nice piece, but kind of forgettable at the same time.

5. Kuzaku Ninpouchou

Track 5 is the required speedy song of the album. It starts with blazing guitar lines and soon the drums come in to hurry the track along. Kuroneko uses a deeper tone this time, suitable for the aggressive feel of the song. The chorus features angry shouts from the band members, which complements the Kuroneko’s attacking vocals in the chorus. There’s lots of power in this track, but it doesn’t particularly stand out to me among their discography.

6. Banka

Contrary to the previous track Kuzaku Ninpouchou, Banka is a relaxed and flowing mid-tempo piece, with Matatabi on lead vocals. In the introduction it uses clean guitar in the rhythm section playing interesting chord progressions, with a soaring guitar line playing lead. Through the song, the vocals and guitar complement each other, the guitar filling in the vocal breaks. The guitar work in this song has a rough-around-the-edges feel, but it fits with the slightly old school nature of the track. I also love the ascending chord progressions that serve as a transition between verse/chorus and solo/bridge. The vocals are predominantly male; while Kuroneko does have a small part in the bridge, apart from that it’s Matatabi all the way. Banka finishes in a really cool way too – after an extended note from Matatabi, there’s a short guitar solo which preludes a jazzy ending chord.

7. Soukoku

Soukoku opens with a loudish xylophone melody, before guitar riffs and thumping drums enter, along with soft yet evil whispering and cackling from the sides. Matatabi leads the vocals at first, and he’s accompanied by the usual distorted guitar, but there’s also clean guitar playing too, which is awesome. Kuroneko delivers the chorus brilliantly with a strong, emphatic tone. The only problem I have with this song is the guitar solo. The solo should be one of the high points of the song, but instead the tempo slows and instrumentation has less presence. It’s a drop in energy, and doesn’t fit that well. Apart from that though, it’s pretty cool.

8. Doukoku

The same instrument that opened Soukoku also opens Doukoku (they were on the same single) but plays slower, as Doukoku is a ballad. Then a guitar plays a melody line to a backing of synths and piano, but the instrumentation is stripped back as Kuroneko enters to sing the verse. She does a good job on the vocals, but while the arrangement is fine, there are a few things I’m iffy about. The guitar solo is messy, and I don’t like some of the bass parts, for example the faster part in the bridge which didn’t really fit the song. If you focus on the godly vocals, you can ignore the those few things, that’s my advice.

9. Kumikyoku “Kyuubi” ~ Tamamo-no-mae

***

Sometimes, Onmyouza do suites (Kumikyoku in Japanese), which are sets of songs with similar musical themes (and I assume lyrical too, but I am yet to find an Onmyouza lyrics translation). The Kyuubi suite (I assume) tells the legend of Tamamo-no-mae, a beautiful woman who was actually a nine-tailed fox (a Kyuubi). The Emperor was in love with her, but she was working for an enemy daimyo and caused the Emperor to become ill. The Emperor ordered her to be hunted and killed, and when she was slain she became the Sesshouseki, or Killing Stone. As you can see, Tamamo-no-mae and Sesshouseki are two of the titles in this suite, but I couldn’t figure out what Shoumakyou meant. Maybe something to do with the hunt? Sourced from Wikipedia if you’re interested.

***

The first track of the Kyuubi suite, Tamamo-no-Mae, begins with a short guitar part, variations of which can also be found in the next two tracks. The song is an unusually light piece from the group, having a pop-rock feel with bright, harmonising guitar riffs, offbeat hi-hats and the octave-jumping bassline reminiscent of some FLOW songs. Only clean guitars are used in the first verse, and Kuroneko even cuts down on the vibrato a bit to match the poppy feel. The chord progressions and such are fairly standard, but I like how this gives a good result of Onmyouza putting their own spin on the pop-rock formula. I think it turned out very well!

10. Kumikyoku “Kyuubi” ~ Shoumakyou

Tamamo-no-Mae transitions without pause to the second track of the suite, Shoumakyou. It starts with a similar theme to the previous song, but a darker version this time, played with distorted guitar. After a riff-based introduction, we come to the verse, which uses the lovely 7/4 time signature that Onmyouza like to play with sometimes. Kuroneko begins the vocals, but unlike the last track, Matatabi also has lead parts. This works well, as Matatabi handles the edgier parts with ease and Kuroneko fits the lighter sections. The tempo in the song remains slow for the until about 4/5 the way through. But after the Kyuubi theme appears for the second time, there is a chorus and then a lift in the tempo. This leads to the outro of the song, a really cool descending chromatic harmony between the two vocalists. It’s an awesome song. Also nine and a half minutes long. ^_^

11. Kumikyoku “Kyuubi” ~ Sesshouseki

There is also a smooth transition between Shoumakyou and Sesshouseki, which begins in a light manner with synths and drums. Another variation of the Kyuubi theme then enters with an acoustic guitar solo. But contrary to the gentle nature of the introduction, heavy guitars and drums then arrive, announcing the heaviest track of the album. Matatabi starts the vocals sounding as fierce and rough as I’ve ever heard, and the band provides shouts for emphasis. When Kuroneko comes in she sounds fierce as well, but not to the levels of the Matatabi madness. There’s a short bridge with the main theme which is relatively calming, but it gets heavy quickly as guitars come in for an instrumental break. It’s an angry and insane track, but that’s a good thing.

12. Kuraiau

The last track of the album, Kuraiau is a fun finisher like Ikiru Koto to Mitsuketari from Maou-Taiten. Except Kuraiau is better. It’s actually got happy chords, and fun guitar riffs, which is such a contrast from the anger of the last track. Kuroneko leads the vocals, and you can tell she’s enjoying herself while singing it. She even sounds a little cute – awwwwwww. The chorus is super exciting with Kuroneko and Matatabi both singing, and the band shouts along with the vocals too. There’s a cool wah-wah guitar solo, which builds up nicely to the energetic and powerful final chorus. At the end there’s a drums solo, and it finishes with a wild, high note (which I was surprised to find was from Matatabi) and the band jamming like crazy. Surely this song is the god of album closers. If you need to get pumped up, just listen to Kuraiau.

Kongou Kyuubi was an excellent metal album from Onmyouza. Nearly all the tracks were pretty much perfect, Kosode no Te was probably the weakest but really it was pretty decent too. Yeah it’s great, listen to it.

Top Tracks:

  • Izayoi no Ame
  • Aoki Dokugan
  • Kuraiau
  • Baku
  • Kumikyoku “Kyuubi” ~ Tamamo-no-mae

Rating: 10/10

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