Friday, March 3, 2017

電気式華憐音楽集団 - DETONATOR

Excellent Weaboo Metal

Denkishiki Karen Ongaku Shuudan (電気式華憐音楽集団), DenKare for short, means "Electronic-Style Karen Music Group" with Karen being the pseudonym of their vocalist. Like other doujin groups, DenKare's discography is kind of confusing with a ton of releases. Technically, most of the stuff they've done are actually soundtracks to hentai games with some songs being reworked/re-recorded over the years (and many of those releases are quite worthwhile). Detonator is what they consider to be their first "original album" (as far as I know, all of their music is original), and it's quite a good album at that.

The identities of the circle aren't public (with the exception of Shiren from Yousei Teikoku and Unlucky Morpheus), but there's plenty of not-so-subtle hints that there's some more serious crossover with members of Yousei Teikoku (妖精帝國). First and foremost, vocalist Karen is undoubtedly Yui Itsuki. Her helium-tier voice is completely unmistakable and totally unique. The PV of the song Detonator also strongly hints at Nanami and Gight (both also Yousei Teikoku members) being a part of the circle as well. This shared membership is a fantastic asset as these guys are all very talented players that can really let it rip.

Thankfully, the "electronic-style" in the name is not very accurate and what you have here is some hard-hitting metal with plenty of double bass and all that jazz. The album is unabashedly metal with tons of riffs, but it's also very true to the cover and full of "weabooisms." By that, I mean you'll get the hyper-fast tempos, the over-the-top style, but most importantly, you'll get the cutesy voice. The fact that you're even reading this review means that you're probably already well aware of what I'm talking about. But in case someone accidentally stumbled through the dark portions of the internet and ended up here, you at least deserve a heads up. Yui very comfortably falls into the "squeaky anime-esque female Japanese vocalist" range. If cute vocals plus aggressive, thrashy riffs doesn't sound awesome to you, you should probably head back to the more normal parts of the internet.

But for those of us that sit in our basements all day downloading the best Hdoujin of our favorite anime characters, DenKare is just downright awesome. They constantly whip out aggressive, lighting-fast riffs left and right that appeal strongly to the latent metal tendencies that still exist in me. Like a lot of Japanese bands, Denkare's genre is fairly ambiguous, but they do hover around harder-edge of the spectrum in the power/thrash range with some occasional coreism/chugging tastefully thrown in. Throw in Yui's squeaky vocals into that for some contrast, and you've got a strong winner.

However, don't think I'm just some casual that's satisfied by any hack that chugs an E string and gets some cute chick to do their vocals. Oh no, Japan has a ton of these groups, so you have to stand out to truly grab my attention. Where DenKare really shines is with their exceptional guitar playing. Shiren, Shiki, and all the other guitarists simply go ballistic all throughout the album. There's a fairly high amount of flashy leads and high-octane, technical soloing permeated all over this thing. The leads are generally power metal-esque and melodic in nature, but they fit quite snugly with the rhythm.

And speaking of the rhythm, it's crafted with the utmost care. Songs like Unbind and Her Kingdom Come center around bizarre, twisty rhythmic patterns that are embellished with ridiculous guitar leads. Most of their riffs sound like thrash metal to me, but the songwriting often phrases them in smart ways. For instance, the opening track, Detonator, has a simple but effective melody that interrupts the chorus with some nicely acccented drum fills to shake it up. That instance lasts like 5 seconds, but it's extremely effective and makes the chorus of the song as awesome as it is. And brilliant touches like that are not unique to that song. Her Kingdom Come also has a cool "guitar interruption/rhythmic shakeup" in the chorus and other little touches exist throughout the entire album.

Gaku and Syu are a pretty damn good bass and drum duo. One slight downside to this album is that the heavier production (they might also use some 7 string guitars in here but I'm not totally sure on that) does drown out the bass a bit compared to their earlier works, but Gaku still gets a fair amount of nice bass digs in there. Syu's drumming style suspiciously sounds a lot like Gight from Yousei Teikoku (hmm...) and that turns out to be a great thing. He's got a very fast style that likes the double bass and is perfectly capable of throwing in those nice fills right where it's needed.

Most of the album takes an extremely rapid, brisk pace, but it does have a handful of slower tracks for some contrast. This is probably a good thing since constant 150+ BPM can get tiring after a while, but I do feel those portions of the album are notably a bit weaker. For instance, Athazagoraphobia (that's a real word by the way) is basically a slower rocker. While it's nice and pleasing, I can't pretend it's anywhere near as brilliant as some of the stuff that preceded it. Another slight criticism of mine would be that the beginning of the album is definitely the strongest portion. 宵闇の宴 and 電気式華憐情愛歌 are both speedy, awesome tracks, but they are both more straightforward in composition and lack the unusual arrangements present in songs like Unbind.

But those previous gripes are all just nitpicks really. Sure, it's not the greatest album ever, but Detonator (and the rest of DenKare's stuff) is just ridiculously fun to listen to. They hit a great sweet spot for me with those addictive, saccharine vocals (Yui is a fantastic vocalist) and honest-to-god, headbanging metal. For those of you who suffer from an unholy combination of weaboo and metal tendencies, this right here is your niche. There's a lot of doujin groups out there (I'm not even sure if they count as one anymore), but DenKare is pretty clearly one of the exceptional ones. They have some high profile members, excellent musicianship, and offer some super fun, top-notch weaboo metal.

Rating: 85/100

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