Friday, July 3, 2015

Loszeal - Ideal World

Solid Japanese Prog

Loszeal is yet another newcomer to the Japanese metal scene. As far as I can tell, they struggled underground for a couple of years before releasing this debut album through the respectable label, Black-listed Productions. Atypical of the country, there's almost zero power metal to be found here. Indeed, this is just a “straightfoward” progressive metal release as the cover would indicate. Despite not being highly groundbreaking or revolutionary, Loszeal's form of prog is quite enjoyable, and the band is capable of crafting good melodies while displaying some technical virtuosity.

The album doesn't actually credit anyone as a drummer which initially made me worry that there was a drum machine. However, the PV of Freak Outsider has some random dude in the back that seems to actually be playing the drum part so I'll assume that was the same guy on the album. There is more mechanical drumming from techdeath bands that abuse triggers anyway, so it's not something to fuss over.

Their sound is pretty standard progressive metal although Loszeal never drifts into what I like to call “riffless prog” (like Dream Theater). Loszeal also plays more on the aggressive end of the prog metal spectrum, but manages to write actual melodies in the riffs without falling into the “chug prog” trap (like later Between the Buried and Me). Structure-wise, the songs here aren't terribly complex, but they do all deviate from verse-chorus with plenty of musical ideas to justify the song lengths. The band injects odd time signatures, complexity, and technical proficiency in all of the individual sections making this release overtly progressive.

One distinguishing feature of the band, for better or worse, is vocalist Mami Hachiya. On a purely technical level, she's solid in terms of intonation and all of that, but her tone is actually quite grating, and there are sections where she's intentionally off-key. It sort of works for the music, but it's a surprisingly harsh vocal delivery for female clean singing especially from a country that's so oriented around melodic songs. As a side note, there's a healthy amount of Engrish in the lyrics here so beware. The vocal melodies themselves are actually extremely catchy (the chorus of 懶惰、断絶 is fantastic), and there's lots of really nice moments on it. It's just a little different, but it's completely understandable why someone might be turned off.

Production-wise, the album is nice and clean. Ryosuke Yamada, the main star of the show, plays a lot on the low end of his guitar, and the distortion overlaps the bass tone a lot and drowns it out a little bit. However, it is nowhere near inaudible, and you can pick the bass out easily if you look for it. I would prefer the bass tone to be more defined and higher in the mix, but it's just a personal preference and nothing major. Fortunately, Takuma Hongo often deviates from the guitar and becomes completely clear, so my gripe becomes irrelevant there. As expected of progressive metal, there's quite a bit of synths here, but it's mostly reserved for the wank sections and adds some extra countermelodies.

The standout tracks to me would be the slightly jazzy and more mellow Adaptation : uoitatdapV, the spastic Freak Outsider, and the closing epic Ideal world. On those tracks, all of the elements of the band seem to come together the best and most of the technically impressive moments occur there. I have no strong complaints overall, but the chorus of Repeat Itself is notably weak. The biggest flaw of Loszeal is that they simply don't stand out. Paradoxically, a group like this is not too common in their home country since most prog bands in Japan inject a large amount of power metal influence in their sound. Loszeal has almost zero power metal, but when compared to the amount of progressive metal groups in the western world, it's not terribly original. Fortunately, the band does not fall into most of the traps of modern progressive metal. The melodies here are all very memorable without too much wank, and the band never goes to half-assed ambient territory nor try sappy lame ballads.

All in all, it's a solid, well-written release that would be entertaining to prog fans despite not being absolutely essential.

Rating: 80/100

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