Hizaki's big break and claim to fame was the power metal sensation Versailles, but he was actually a pretty prolific musician before those days. When he started his solo project, Hizaki wasn't exactly a veteran in the visual kei but certainly not a newcomer. Maiden Ritual is his first solo EP, but his unmistakable guitar and songwriting style is written all over this. This is a fairly low budget affair, and it's pretty obvious in the drum programming. There's that low budget, underground visual kei feel to the whole thing which is quite honestly a charm point for me. It's perhaps unfair, but simply the knowledge that this is music made by Hizaki when he was pretty much a nobody makes this more enjoyable.
Not counting the intro track, it's just a 4 song affair. Ritual and tragic serenade feature guest vocals from Fu-ki (of the visual kei band Blood). He has a fairly standard voice, but it fits perfectly with the music. The overall feel is slightly rough around the edges (perhaps due to the production), and there's a bit more indie-style visual kei in the riffage here. But stylistically, it's basically the same kind of power metal that anyone familiar with Versailles or Jupiter would expect just cast into a more "underground" context. The songs with the guest vocals are both quite good, but the best part of the EP are the two instrumental tracks at the end.
What makes Hizaki such a great guitarist is both his skill and his ability to craft highly melodic, ear-pleasing solos and leads. Both Lunar Eclipse and Requiem demonstrate this perfectly. Of course, you know he could just shred his brains out 24/7, but that doesn't happen here. The two instrumentals are absolutely fun to listen to. Hizaki plays a bunch of neoclassical melodies and leads, but always tastefully and in a controlled manner. Admittedly, the backing tracks are nothing too special, but the lead is what's really important and it's absolutely ace. It's a short and sweet little EP and anyone who enjoys Versailles or Jupiter would also dig this one.Rating: 85/100