Friday, August 26, 2016

Octaviagrace - Recollect Storia

Prog Remains Kawaii

Only a few months after the release of the excellent Resonant Cinema, the quintet returns with yet another high-quality offering to the altar of Japanese metal. As expected of the all-star lineup, there is plenty of instrumental prowess on display. The progressive influence is primarily concentrated in the abundance of embellishments and frills. And underneath the instrumental flurry, the poppy backbone in the musical skeleton provides the desired catchiness and attention-grabbing melodies required for any good album. Additionally, power metal elements stem from the strong key presence and highly melodic guitar leads. All together, these elements blend to create the unique and wonderful Octaviagrace sound.

Stylistically, Recollect Storia fits quite snugly with the previously release. While there's no doubt that Resonant Cinema was already quite accomplished from an instrumental point of view, this release seems to turn up the technical aspects up a notch. Part of what makes Octaviagrace so great are all the little touches and ornaments all over their songs, and there seems to be more of those distinctive quirks on Recollect Storia. On the very first verse of the opener, albescence, Yosuke throws in some nice, tasteful bass slaps. There's also a cool drum fill during the second verse. For another example, Aurally Lover features an awesome tapping guitar part during the chorus. You can find stylistic flourishes like that all over Recollect Storia if you look for it.

I suppose the biggest loss is the lack of a jazzier track like ラストノスタルジア from the previous EP, but the band more than makes up for it. Mikitty improves her vocals this time around. Resonant Cinema had some tuning and pitch issues at times, but they are gone here. She's on point and provides that style of ridiculously catchy and poppy vocal melodies that only exists in Japan. I also found Reanne to have more standout moments. The keyboard fluff is always nice, and he delivers a lot of memorable lines.

But just like last time, the stars of the show are undoubtedly Yosuke on bass and Hanako on guitars. Like before, Yosuke is a beast, and the bass almost never follows the rhythm here. He goes all over the fretboard playing long, complicated counterpoint lines and even throws in some slaps and leads for good measure. Hanako is essentially the riff backbone of the band and the main reason why Recollect Storia is has any metal elements to begin with. Despite not being very heavy in tone, the guitar work is still excellent and Hanako plays technical leads and solos all over this thing.

追想列車, penned by Hanako, may be the band's most complicated song yet. It features some more odd angular rhythms, and some very spastic guitar leads. I don't think I've quite figured out that song myself. The closing track, アザーブルー, is basically the textbook, catchy single number. The way the verses lead up to the big chorus is perfect, and of course the chorus itself is no slouch with Yosuke in particular stealing a lot of the spotlight. And as always, the technical interplay between Yosuke and Hanako with the poppy backdrop is really the main draw of the band for me.

Unfortunately, the single/EP clocks in at under 20 minutes with 4 tracks, so it's even shorter than Resonant Cinema. However, all four songs are top notch and considering there wasn't even a full year between the two EPs, I can't really complain. A full album is indeed on the way, so I'm quite excited for this. The hiatus of Light Bringer left a strong desire for more jpop/prog/power amalgamations, and luckily, Octaviagrace is doing an excellent job filling that void.

Rating: 96/100

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