Thursday, December 24, 2015

Mysterious Priestess - 夢国ノ義士

Extremely Unique Progressive Metal

What really put Mysterious Priestess on my radar was the video for 満願ノ夜明 (Mangan no Yoake) for their upcoming album, 夢国ノ義士 (Yumeguni no Gishi). I was pretty much instantly floored. The huge large presence of folkish keys, winding basslines, and that really bizarre solo was quite unusual and compelling. I've seen someone describe the song as Yes getting into a buscrash with Sigh which is an amusing image, but not completely inaccurate. Mysterious Priestess makes a very large sonic shift with their second album, Yumeguni no Gishi. The first was primarily rooted in melodeath, but this album sheds almost all of that and opts for a more strange extreme progressive metal approach with lots and lots of folk vibes.

One unfortunate thing about Yumeguni no Gishi is that's actually very short. The first two tracks serve more as a long introduction to Mangan no Yoake as opposed to standalone songs. It's very well done and give an appropriate, dreamy atmosphere. Things become a little more dissonant and chaotic after a brief narration, and the buildup to the real first song completes. The introduction doesn't feel overlong or excessive, but it does suck about 5 minutes out of an album that's already pretty short. Yumeguni no Gishi is really more like an EP than a full length.

The good news is that's where my complaints end. Despite being short, the actual material is absolutely stellar. One of the biggest notable changes from the last album is the addition of keyboardist, Kurumi Fujioka who makes her presence very well known. There was some keyboard work on Agency of Fate, but here it is much more extensive and developed. In addition the to the keyboards, Yumeguni no Gishi also features extensive usage of female vocals, strings, percussion, flutes and various other instruments. This gives a very strong folk undercurrent through the whole album that's executed excellently.

The band's most accomplished work is the 10 minute progressive metal title track, 夢国ノ義士. This non linear track is extremely moody with the use of all the different instruments and strong keyboard presence. It contains very little vocals; Kei does some robotic sounding stuff through a vocoder, and there's a short section near the end where he does his usual snarling. However, the majority of the song is actually rather soft and laid back. It goes for a moody prog approach as opposed to furious instrumentals and manages to succeed.

The remaining two songs (終焉 is a closing track with weird narration and synths) are more in line with Mangan no Yoake with the large key presence and progressive metal approach. Even though there is no shortage of impressive instrumental work from everyone in the band, Yumeguni no Gishi is primarily a moody, strange beast. The songs are all crafted with twisty, nonlinear structures, but simultaneously evoke an ethereal dreamy vibe. I've not heard anything quite like it. My best point of reference would be from some more laid back prog bands (the Keyboardist cites Mr. Sirius and Kenso as influences and both are bands I absolutely adore), but I can't really point to anything solid. This is a completely different affair than their debut album, but I also find it much more superior. Japan has a pretty good track record of putting out weird music, and you can safely file this one in that category.

Rating: 90/100

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