I'm not sure if there is a term for a band a few notches below the level of a true supergroup, so I'll just dub Octaviagrace as a fairly-successful-in-their-own-niche-group. Composed of both members and ex-members of Cross Vein, Albion, Roman so Words, and Scrambled Soul Circus, Octaviagrace boasts a lineup of talented, well-accomplished musicians. Consequently, the good amount of progressive elements featured in the mini-album trailer was not a surprise, and the EP turned out to be a bit more technical than I expected.
Similar to their more famous peer, Light Bringer, the progressive elements of the music does not come from long, extended song structures. In fact, these songs are all basically verse-chorus. Instead, Octaviagrace inserts a lot of embellishments, frills and variation into the tracks to engage and throws curveballs at the listener. From the jazzier ラストノスタルジア to the slightly heavier Hardenbergia, there's a lot of nuance and display of technical skill and virtuosity.
Despite the skill of the musicians, Octaviagrace's main distinguishing feature is that the music is surprisingly adorable. Like any other self-respecting metalhead, I am perfectly down for crushing, heavy riffs that get my head moving, but this stuff just sounds so cute. The jpop elements are a huge driving force thanks to the delivery of Roman so words' vocalist, Miki. Other than some of the borderline out-of-tune lines, her voice is quite sweet and melodic with the pop sensibilities typical of the late night anime opening track.
Of course, the rest of the band is armed with light, fluffy tone to match. The production is crisp and clean with very light guitar tone, bass that's astronomically high in the mix, and soaring synths. Not surprisingly, the most apt comparison would be the jpop/power/prog amalgamation from the previously mentioned band, Light Bringer. Octaviagrace also falls into this niche, but their take on this genre-fusion is to downplay power metal aggression and up the pop and keyboards. This has the result of making everything cute and poppy yet technical and progressive.
The most showy instrument is probably Yosuke on bass. The man provides lots of tasteful bass leads, countermelodies and even solos. Of course, good bass in progressive metal is nothing new, but this guy could easily give most Dream Theater clones a run for their money. Hanako would be the other highly-gifted player in the group. Despite the fluffy guitar tone, she also deliveries the goods. There's plenty of melodic riffs, leads and shredding solos to be found on the Resonant Cinema. While everyone else also does a great job (there's plenty of good drumming and melodic keywork), the album's biggest strength is really the fantastic interplay between Yosuke and Hanako. The way the guitar and bass play off each other is just incredibly satisfying, and the jpop texture really makes this thing rather unique.
Only 5 tracks in about 25 minutes, Resonant Cinema is a short, but very sweet treat. Cute and fluffy progressive jpop power metal (what a mouthful) is not very "metal," but it's apparently really awesome. Hopefully a full album will come soon.Rating: 95/100