A guest album review by Andrew Goodhew of Wota of the Roundtable Podcast.
Steam punk Captain Mina and her crew in the name of Fate Gear are back with their fourth full length album called The Sky Prison, featuring a great range of talented vocalists.
The Sky Prison featuring Nana: The first single release of the album, not only packs a punch with a very classic power metal vibe, but also features guest violinist Jill of Unlucky Morpheus. It is a catchy and maybe even a great way to start a live show too. Bonvoi Jars anyone to this amazing journey across the sky.
カルミア featuring Nana: A much faster track with another great feel to album with loads of great riffs from every angle followed with an amazing guitar solo from Mina with a epic chorus that could get the crowd going.
Draw Your Dagger : A dark intro feel like Headless Goddess was, with guea vocals from Mali Oyama. Erica shows off her energetic talent at the start and keeps this dark atmospheric feel going which I like. This song definitely gives keyboard player Yuri her time to shine with dual solos with Mina, also bagpipes are being heard here too.
Dancing in the Moonlight featuring RAMI: This song features RAMI on vocals and those of you that do not know her, she was the original vocalist of all female metal veterans Aldious. In my opinion this song has that sort of Aldious vibe too. I love how the song has a great guitar solo intro from Mina. Everything just blends well with RAMI here. Great work as always from Fate Gear, with a classic power metal gallop in this too.
Battle Against Justice: Wow, this is probably the heaviest song on the album. Nana is shouting and screaming in this, as well as her clean vocals in the chorus that she has been been doing in this album. A great little breakdown followed by a great solo too.
Prisoners featuring Nana: Slow and heavy start to the song, a sudden one second pause and then Big Bang of everything to follow. Another fantastic song which has that power that could get the crowd going at times. I love how the verses are done here.
Father: A instrumental song and it is a peaceful 1 too. Nothing more I can say.
処断の刻: Vocalist Maki Oyami is back on this track, with a slow start for a few seconds and then song takes off fast. I am liking it and is another lovely track, with great verses and an epic chorus that I would be proud to sing along too. A lovely slow guitar solo and back into full power with a keyboard solo in the middle. Words cannot described the ending for this. It is just so good.
Child of Memories: The last song of the album and it has got a similar feel to The Sky Pirates but slightly different. Another song for Nana which she shows what she can do for what she can do with her singing. Keyboard solo Yuri with a guitar solo too.
This album has been a great ride and brilliant story telling, featuring so many talented musicians and vocalists. There is a great blend of everything that makes this record so great. A great way to start the year with The Sky Prison
With today’s announcement of new album ‘From the Basement’, Tokyo based indie rockers HEAVENSTAMP joined Beyond Senpai for a chat about all that has happened this year and their outlook for the year ahead.
BS. Welcome to Beyond Senpai, congratulations on joining the Setsuzoku records roster! Can you tell us how this partnership started?
HS. Heavenstamp was supposed to tour the UK in June and July of this year, but due to the new coronavirus, we had to postpone.
In order to make the most of the time we didn’t have to tour, we started to work on a new album.
After completing the album, we decided to release the album in the UK, which we had always wanted to do, so we talked to a British friend who was supporting us on our UK tour and introduced us to Setsuzoku Records.
HS. It is a mind-blowing experience. For example, it could be a great movie, a beautiful landscape, a conversation with a friend, a relationship with a family member, or the world news. I think all the inspirational things we see and experience are a source of inspiration.
There are various forms of creative process, such as the two of us discussing the direction of the song and lyrics, or vocalist Sally writing lyrics to a song inspired by guitarist Tomoya, but most of the time we write the lyrics with the song first. Sometimes Tomoya is in charge of both writing and composing lyrics.
HS. Both of us have loved and listened to all kinds of music from all over the world, from classical music, which we have listened to since we were children, to rock, hip-hop, and ambient, but we have also seen and experienced many wonderful live performances by foreign musicians who have visited Japan, which has had an important influence on Heavenstamp’s music.
I want to express the grooves that I feel with my body and the sense of unity with the audience in Heavenstamp’s music. It also made me want to enjoy music with people all over the world.
BS. What artists have inspired you to make music and who would you like to collaborate with?
HS. Tomoya first composed music at the age of six, imitating Beethoven on the piano. He first composed rock music in junior high school, probably due to The Beatles. Since then, I have been inspired by David Bowie, Radiohead, Blur, Super Furry Animals, and many other UK rock bands, as well as Bjork, The Flaming Lips, and Yura Yura Empire.
The band I would most like to collaborate with now is the Canadian band Arcade Fire.
HS. It’s a bit of a duplicate, but I think it was the production of a new album. It was all done in Tomoya’s private studio, and we had a lot of new ideas to try, but we had plenty of time so we were able to complete the album on our own.
It was definitely a difficult time, but we are positive that we learned a lot and gained a lot from it.
BS. Do you think the live music industry will change due to the pandemic?
HS. To be honest, we don’t know. But I don’t think it’s necessarily all doom and gloom. Nowadays, people all over the world can watch our live performances wherever they are, thanks to the technology of distribution, so there may be more people who get to know our music. However, there is still a greatness that cannot be replaced by actually experiencing a live concert in a venue. I believe that the day will come when we will be able to safely enjoy live music with people all over the world. All we can do is to make the best choice we can at that time and do our best.
BS. We missed you in the UK this year, are there plans for you to return?
HS. The summer tour was postponed, but I am sure it will happen someday.
BS. Do you have a message for your fans?
HS. If you have known Heavenstamp in the past, or if you are new to us, we are glad to meet you. People all over the world are going through difficult times, but we will continue to send out music. I hope you enjoy it. I believe that we will meet at a live concert someday. Until then, please be well. I wish you all the best.
Once again, PassCode are back with an all new live album and it is something we all need right now.
Filmed at the iconic KT Zepp, Yokohama back in August’s 2020, PassCode are back with their take on metalcore infused J-pop.
I don’t have to say that 2020 has been a strange year and for live concerts, some things had to change. If you have listened to past PassCode live albums or watched any of the live videos, you will know the audience plays a big part in the sound.
Understandably, due to restrictions that come with the current world situation, there is an audience at the venue but sadly very little crowd interaction can be heard. You can hear some clapping, but for a live PassCode show it is missing that energy the audience brings to make you want to be right there in the middle of the madness.
One thing you notice while listening to the members sing live, is their passion for being live on stage. Even with the audience interaction being minimal, the girls aren’t letting that hold them back. They definitely make up for what is normally missing and you feel the energy that always accompanies a live show.
The one thing I admire about PassCode is the use of their live band. It brings an element of sound that a backing track doesn’t have and really lifts the show to another level. Praise has to be given to the musicians here. The talent they have is second to none and you can feel the energy the band and girls feed to each other.
The setlist from the show included classics like ‘Bite the Bullet’, ‘Maze of Minds’ and ‘Ray’. Not forgetting crowd favourite ‘Miss Unlimited’, and the song that shows the power of Yuna’s voice, ‘Taking You Out’.
There is an excellent mix of songs from classics right through to new releases. My personal stand out song from the show is ‘Sieze Approaching Brand New Era’. I’m sure this is going to become a fan favourite and really is awesome to hear live.
Overall this is a PassCode live show slightly different to the past release. But don’t let that put you off from listening to it. This is truly a live show that we all need at the moment. Powerful and uplifting, it really is a pleasure to listen to.
Underground indie pop-rock band HEAVENSTAMP has been signed by SETSUZOKU RECORDS.
Today’s announcement from the newly established label brings the Tokyo duos chilled and uplifting sounds to an international audience for the first time. Since their inception way back in 2009, vocalist Sally#Cinnamon and guitarist Tomoya.S have developed their signature groove with a nod to pop-rock acts such as Blur, Bjork and Bowie.
The duos first full length release, HEAVENSTAMP, was back in 2012 under Warner Music Japan, after catching the labels attention just a year earlier. HEAVENSTAMP went on to establish their own indie label, Tengoku Records, in 2017 after going back underground, where they went onto release their second record TENGOKU-INKAN WO KIKINASAI, an epic pop-guitar driven moment.
After successful festival appearances in Japan and a UK TOUR, HEAVENSTAMP had made their mark and built an international reputation, co-producing work with British guitarist Russell Lissack (Bloc Party) and US Indie band Animal Collective. Third album, LOVE BUILDERS, showcased Sally#Cinnamons incredible voice backed by Tomoya.S and his infectious song writing and productions skills.
The duo have performed in the UK before, most recently the latter part of 2019. With the summer of 2020 tour being postponed, there is no announcement as of yet about rescheduled dates. They have recently been working on new music, which we can look forward to soon in 2021.
Heavenstamps addictive and organic pop-rock melodies will surely make an impression with their first international release due in the early 2021 with SETSUZOKU RECORDS.
The long awaited release from JILUKA on October 14th, ‘Xtopia’ brings a welcomed return of new music from the visual kei band.
After almost a year since the bands previous release ‘Xanadu’ and the fifth anniversary special DVD ‘The Outis’ back in May 2020, they have come back harder than ever with a new look, a new mini album and an official MV for title track ‘Edifice’. The technical metalcore quartet also embarked on their first domestic one-man live tour, The Integration, in support of the new 7-track release.
Known for their heavy breakdowns and melodic choruses, this mini serving certainly hits hard from the start.
Title track ‘Edifice’ brings the dark sounds of church organs with a quick build up to the heavy guitar and drums we know well from this band. The official MV fits with the sound and theme with a lavish church setting. This track features clean vocals throughout from frontman Ricko, and it’s clear he is able to command the upper range with ease. His melodic vocal is supported by guitarist Sena providing welcomed chaotic runs up and down the fret board, which perfectly sets up the feel for the rest of the album.
It’s not long before we are blessed with building heaviness in third track ‘Menace’, Zyean’s thundering drums never missing a beat. Clean vocals leading into Rickos growls, a feature we have waited for til now. Guitar maestro Sena shows off precise skill throughout. From the heavy minor chord verses into the major melodic chorus, there is balance amongst the chaos.
Boogie provides the heaviest of bass lines throughout this mini offering. The way Boogie and Zyean keep the momentum for each track, each working together to create the dark and heavy breakdowns JILUKA are known for. ‘Flux’ gives us heavy riffage from the start, the bass and drums driving through with ease, giving Sena free reign for impeccable solo work. This is evident in ‘Ignite’, a track that is sure to become a fan favourite.
Each track effortlessly leads to the next, with the welcomed – Prologos – allowing the listener a brief moment of melodic metal with Sena’s perfectly placed guitar work shining through before Xtopia’s final highlight, ‘The Purge’.
This track hits you like no other, and highlights Ricko’s versatile vocal abilities. With a chorus comprising of clean, uplifting vocals and frantic screaming, it is absolutely clear that the frontman has grown in both confidence and proficiency. JILUKAs talent in creating both dark and colourful melody is a stand out attribute, and is perfectly arranged during the course if this record.
‘Xtopia’ brings the best of each member and leaves the listener wanting more. It is clear that JILUKA have matured over their 5 years and show no sign of stopping. The continued evolution and unique identity of this band shines through on this record. And we are grateful for that.
Xtopia is released in two versions, regular and limited edition, with the latter featuring bonus MVs for ‘Elice In Slow Motion’ and ‘Last Faith’.
Melodic trance metal pioneers Blood Stain Child performed a live stream concert on their official YouTube channel on October 23rd.
A highly anticipated show, the band were able to involve fans both in Japan and internationally through the voting of 4 songs to be included in the set list.
And as an added bonus, a special online lottery allowed for fans to be included as a digital crowd participation during the live.
The band from Osaka gained ‘legend status’ and quite the following internationally after their show-stealing performance at the 2019 Metal Matsuri in London.
It’s been almost 2 years since the release of the incredible Amateras album, a record that brought original vocalist Sadew back into the BSC family.
Before the start of the live stream, fans from across the world gathered in the live chat. With almost 300 watching the show live, there was a lot of love coming from all who were viewing.
Around the stage were bar stools with balloons featuring the faces of fans who participated to be part of the virtual crowd.
This is a band who can get an audience fired up from the first song, but they did not let the lack of crowd stop them from fully embracing this performance.
The members gave their all during this performance, with guitarist GSR and bassist Yakky playing off one another, it was clear they were having a great time.
Drummer Yasuo received plenty shout outs in the live chat, his foot work impeccable and the driving force of each track, his thundering double bass drum could be felt deep in your chest.
Lead guitarist Ryu never disappoints with clean solo work, never missing a note. Her talent for both guitar and composing can be heard throughout the set.
Frontman Sadew as always brings all that is required as vocalist. His screams are hard and precise, the clean elements never faltering. His return to BSC after some time away brought great joy to the fanbase, and his outgoing personality and interaction with the crowd has only grown in the years since.
Fan favourite Freedom got the chat room jumping, and Exotic-6- Cordinator took fans back to the incredible 2007 Mozaiq album. It is clear that this bands songs still sound just as brilliant as they did 13 years ago.
Amateras singles Del Sol and Sumeragi hit hard showing that this band have continues to only get better over the years.
Ending with Final Sky from the 2005 album Idolator, the fans present in the chat were definitely craving more.
After the show, the band got together to chat casually and answer fans questions, announcing that two new songs are to be released in December. This news was well received by fans in the live chat.
After the postponement of their UK show back in March, plus shows due to take place on Japanese soil, Blood Stain Child came hard into this live stream. They have gained a following from their high impact live shows, and they did not disappoint their fans tonight.
Fans both domestic and international will await news of live shows in the coming months.
SETSUZOKU RECORDS announces IBUKI as first artist – solo album ExMyself to receive European release with exclusive bonus track.
SETSUZOKU RECORDS is proud to announce heavy metal vocalist IBUKI as the label’s first artist on October 12th.
The new label will release IBUKI’s debut solo album ExMyself as a European Special Edition on CD and collector’s edition vinyl on the 29th January 2021. The ExMyself European Special Edition will feature the original 8 album tracks plus a bonus track recorded exclusively for SETSUZOKU RECORDS.
“I am very honoured that my album will be released in the UK and the EU,” said IBUKI. “This album is a special edition compared to the original release in Japan and includes a brand-new song as a bonus track just for the UK/EU release…please look forward to it!”
Boasting both power and range, IBUKI’s reputation in J-metal as a vocal powerhouse is secure, but it is time for international audiences to discover one of Japanese metal’s brightest talents.
“IBUKI is not just a great vocalist but also a songwriter and arranger who deserves an opportunity to shine outside of Japan,” said SETSUZOKU RECORDS co-director Christopher Morris. “IBUKI’s work as guest vocalist with numerous projects over the years has been excellent, but it is as a solo artist that she really becomes a force to be reckoned with.”
Along with the original 8 album tracks and an exclusive bonus track, the ExMyself European Special Edition will feature a new booklet with additional content. SETSUZOKU RECORDS will also be producing a range of new IBUKI merchandise to be made available via the label’s soon to be launched webstore.
IBUKI – ExMyself European Special Edition is out 29/01/2021 on CD and collector’s edition vinyl. Available at online retailers, the SETSUZOKU RECORDS webstore, and select physical record shops in the UK and EU.
About SETSUZOKU RECORDS SETSUZOKU RECORDS is the record label arm of Orion Live (UK) Limited, an artist services company dedicated to Japanese artists. The label licenses for the UK/EU market the music and merchandise of a diverse array of artists representing hard rock and heavy metal, idol, J-pop, anisong, and more.
Since the 14th of August I’ve been waiting for the release of this album. There had been three full songs released already: Ignite, Singin’ For and Sakura Rising. In the end I was very lucky that 9 days before the official release (14th of October) the digital album has been released.
At 2am I sat behind my laptop to give the album a go! I had been waiting to hear this for so long that I was too excited and couldn’t sleep. I shall let you know what my thoughts are of this beautiful album, which in my opinion is a piece of art.
The album starts with the song ‘Calling’ and it took me right in to it. It was the classic Wagakki Band sound I heard, and I was sold inmediately. ‘Calling’ is a real album opener. It’s a song that is between powerful and slow, it’s the perfect way to start.
The second song of the album is one that I already knew, and which they played live in August. Of course it is ‘Ignite’, a very powerful song, which for me has the surprising Machiya “rap” part, he does so amazingly. I loved ‘Ignite’ since the first time I heard it.
Next is a track called ‘Reload Dead’ and I loved this song since I heard the preview of it. It starts powerfully but gets slower in pace right away. I really love the combination of the traditional Japanese instruments with the drums and guitars. It also has the perfect balance between the voices of Yuko and Machiya.
‘Ikitoshi Ikeru Hana’ is next to feature, and has a perfect combination of the intruments: Sakuchachi, Shamisen and Koto which gives this song the traditional Japanese vibe. It’s a really cheerful uplifting song.
The fifth song, ‘Gekka Bijin’ had been released as a preview, including a great animated video. Yuko wrote and produced this song and I think you can really tell it’s her work. It’s such a beautiful and peaceful song. It made me feel very calm when I listened to it. In this song they also used a great combination of the traditional Japanese instruments, but also the guitar in the back gives this song an extra dimension.
Now it’s up to the song that is known by a lot of people now. ‘Sakura Rising’ featuring Amy Lee of Evanescence fame. I have to be honest and I am still getting used to it. I have never been fond of Amy’s voice and I personally still don’t understand the collaboration, but it is a beautiful song. The band and Yuko sound amazing. It is just that Amy’s part is not my cup of tea. I hope I will get used to it the more I listen to this song.
After this song Machiya really hits it with the guitar, another great and powerful song called ‘Guernica’. I really love his voice in this one, it’s a more raw side we have never really heard before in Wagakki Band songs. It still fits perfectly with Yuko’s voice, but I must say I was pretty surprised when I heard Machiya’s voice this way, but it sounds really amazing.
The eighth song on this album is ‘Tokyo Sensation’ and the title actually says it all. It is a sensation listening to the song. It’s a pretty ‘busy’ song, but it really does it justice. When I heard it for the first time I got a party vibe from it, it made me dance!
‘Origami-ism’ is next on the album and we are getting slowly to the end. That doesn’t say a thing because this one is also a great track. I still had the dancing vibe of the last song and they continue giving me this feeling. Another song which has the perfect balance between the guitars and the traditional instruments. I am so happy to hear so many great shamisen parts.
The song that follows is ‘Atena no nai Tegami’ (unadressed letter) which I had a hard time listening too. The way it starts, it’s very calm and serene, Yuko’s whispering voice in the background already give me goosebumps. But the more I heard this song my eyes filled with tears and I really cried my eyes out. I’ve listened to this song multiple times but I keep feeling the same. It is such a beautiful song with a very strong vibe. The Koto sounds so perfectly together with Yuko’s voice. It is also one of the longer songs on the album. I love the fact the song builds from slow and softly to powerful with a great guitar solo in it. Although for me it was hard to listen to, I think it’s one of the most beautiful songs on the album.
Thankfully after this heavy song we’re getting something powerful again. ‘Nichirin’ has a more rock vibe and kicks in right from the start. I love the fact that the song starts with a lot of guitars and drums which gives it that rock sound, but as the song evolves there is this strong array of traditional instruments giving this song the full package.
‘Eclipse’ is the twelfth song on the album. I’m still getting used to the beginning, which is pretty slow in pace but Yuko’s vocal is strong and powerful, but then the feeling completely changes. I like this very much. You can hear that the album is coming to the end, the song builds more, and then the last song arrives (at least for the physical album).
‘Singin’ For’ is the song that was revealed for the first time at the August 14th concert. I got goosebumps and tears flowed when I heard that song for the first time. And thoae goosebumps never left while listening to it. It is such a powerful song, especially during these diffuclt times. People are saying that ‘Sakura Rising’ has this feeling of hope, well for me this is that song! From the start when I hear all the voices of the eight members together, it is such a strong and powerful emotion. It feels like a connection with all of them. I think this is a great ending of the album.
Since I am listening to the release of the digital version of the album, there is a bonus track available. It’s called ‘Roki’ and is a vocaloid cover, it has been a while since Wagakki Band did one of these. But honestly, this song is such a party! It’s so happy, and has this anime sound, even the voices of Yuko and Machiya sound almost like anime characters. It really has the vocaloid vibe and it made me want to dance non-stop. I think it is such a shame this isn’t on the physical cd as a bonus track, because I love it to bits! At least the digital version ends with a big bang!
My overall opnion of this album is, that it is a truly beautiful and amazing piece or work. All of the instruments and voices have great harmony. And the vibe of each of the songs is well balanced, after a powerful song there will be a slower one which will be followed again by another upbeat song.
There are many instrumental solo’s to be found where every member shines and shows what great musicianship they have. The voices of Yuko and Machiya are always great, and fit perfectly together. As for my opnion and experience, the songs really tell a story and are all connected to each other. And that’s why I think it is a masterpiece.
I am so impressed by what they all pulled off together. It may have been an album they have worked on for two and a half years, but it definitely was worth the wait!
There are songs I feel more connected to at this point after hearing it for the first time. But I really can’t name a favorite. Every song has someting that makes it beautiful and special. I can’t wait until I receive my physical copies and blast the cd through my stereo.
To end my review with the famous internet joke: What is your favourite song? Rosy: Yes!
Wagakki Band, thank you once again for your music and hard work. I feel very blessed to be able to expierence this music.
Christopher Morris, co-founder of SETSUZOKU RECORDS and co-director of ORIONlive, said “So many great artists, from hard rock and heavy metal to J-rock and Idol, deserve the opportunity to reach a larger audience and see their careers ascend”.
With Setsuzoku meaning ‘connection’ in Japanese, Christopher continued “After the success ORIONlive has achieved connecting Japanese artists with foreign fans via live events, a record label was the next logical step in assisting artists in reaching their goals.”
The new label will release exclusive European editions of full albums, EPs and singles; there will also be a focus on the revival of physical music products. “Digital releases are also important and SETSUZOKU will be entering that world as well,” continued Christopher. “But consumer tastes are leaning towards a revival of physical music product and we hope to continue that trend.”
We can expect SETSUZOKU RECORDS first release in January 2021, with a full schedule of further releases in the New Year also on the cards. Releases will be distributed across the UK and Europe for physical retailers, available via most online sellers, and available directly through the SETSUZOKU RECORDS retail webstore.
ORIONlive have made a name for themselves in the live event and promotion scene in the UK since 2017, bringing an array of Japanese bands and artists to both the UK and Europe. In the fall of 2019 the successful Metal Matsuri weekend at the O2 Islington, London attracted bands such as Marys Blood, Unlucky Morpheus, Mardelas and Blood Stain Child, for a first of its kind spectacular.
ORIONlive is dedicated to promoting the best artists from Japan’s diverse music scenes to the UK and Europe.
The announcement of the new label will have Japanese music enthusiasts excited for what will come to these shores, and it is surely to be an electrifying start to 2021.
For any further queries please contact Christopher Morris – email@example.com David Batey – firstname.lastname@example.org