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Ningen-Isu (The Human Chair) is a criminally underrated doom metal band from Aomori in Japan. The tight trio has a very dynamical sound that also ventures into the heavy metal and progressive rock genres here and there. Imagine a mixture of Black Sabbath and Rush with a very own sound and a constantly high quality as the band’s discography doesn’t feature one single disappointment. The heart and soul of the band are guitarist and singer Wajima Shinji and bassist and singer Suzuki Kenichi who are both original band members and active since 1987. The trio is completed by drummer Nakajima Nobu who calls the band his some since 2004 and who is the fourth drummer of the otherwise perfectly stable line-up. The chemistry between the three band members is really stunning. There are no parts that sound boring or out of place even though a lot of tracks feel spontaneous and fresh as if they were recorded in jam sessions. The band has released a total of seventeen studio albums starting with “Ningen Shikkaku” (“No Longer Human”) in 1990 and their last record “Mandoro” (“Ten Thousand Hanging Lanterns”) was released in August 2013. The title of their latest output is a synonym for the full moon and the absolutely amazing cover artwork underlines this fact. As of May 2014, the perseverant band is already working on a follow-up.
The band opens its latest masterpiece with the short but very engaging “Shigan Goeika” (“Song In Praise Of The Buddha Of This Life”) that opens with some spiritual percussion before engaging riffs and hypnotizing vocals set in that could come straight from old Black Sabbath. After a few seconds, you are already nodding along and shaking your legs to this track. The gloomy sing along vocals are simplistic but extremely effective from an atmospheric point of view and apart of that quite catchy.
After the record’s shortest song follows the epic of the album entitled “Kuroyuri Nikki” (“Black Lily Diary”) which is a heavy doom metal anthem with thundering riffs, an apocalyptically pumping bass guitar, a tight drumming and dramatic vocals. The chorus is extremely catchy and won’t get out of your mind anytime soon. My favourite passage is though the slightly destructive instrumental part that reminds me of the heaviest songs of King Crimson like “21st Century Schizoid Man” which is one of my favourite songs ever.
“Jigoku Hen” (“Changes In Hell”) surprises with versatile and deep vocals and comes around as an engaging mid tempo stomper with a few psychedelic elements such as the hysterical laughter in the middle part. The instrumental work is out of this world again. The destructive bass guitar sound runs everything down, the riffs are precise and effective and the few short solo parts are ecstatic without sounding like wankery. They are always short and concise. “Jigoku Den” indeed has a hellish atmosphere and feels like a Black Sabbathian drug trip.
“Sakura Ranman” (“Cherry Blossoms In Full Glory”) is a mid-tempo stomper with perfectly chosen engaging riffs. The middle part surprises with a few folk sounds and the use of traditional Japanese instruments without letting go off the tight riffs. The guitar solo in this song is seriously one of the coolest I have ever heard of. It sounds a little bit like traditional Japanese music but still contemporary and tight. This amazing track which is maybe my personal favourite on the album ends with fast drumming and a very tight instrumental part that almost sounds like thrash metal. The combination of traditional Japanese folklore, classic doom metal and a few more modern heavy or thrash metal parts sounds perfectly balanced on this track.
“Neputa No Mandoriko“ is a quite short song with an energizing punk vibe, fast buildups and galloping riffs that convinces with hysterical and intriguingly menacing vocals and a few dynamical background screams here and there. I imagine that this kind of wild song must work extremely well in concert. The guitar solo in here is quite close to the amazing one in the previous song. Tight heaviness meets a few wisely used psychedelic sound collages here and there. This track is another instant album highlight and band classic. It represents perfectly what the band stands for in barely three minutes.
Every single song on “Mandoro” really deserves a detailed description. I simply chose these five tracks because they are the first songs on the album and represent the band sound very well. I could randomly chosen any other five songs and I would have been as enthusiastic about them. This album never ever falls off the edge and always remains excellent. I simply don’t want to write a book here. To keep it short, the chemistry between the band members, their tight sound without any lengths and the few well employed surprises in form of bass and guitar solos, dynamical pace changes and psychedelic sound collages are the three winning elements that make this band stand out. This record never gets boring and is constantly addicting with a running time of almost sixty-three minutes. Even in an extremely abundant and strong discography as Ningen-Isu’s, their seventeenth full length effort must be cited as one of the highlights. If you have never heard of this band before, I can absolutely recommend you this album to start with. If you care for doom metal, heavy metal and tight progressive rock, I would be surprised if you didn’t like this masterpiece. This is definitely one of the best albums of the year 2013. This album is worth spending some extra money on to get the expensive import version of this masterpiece.