Review: 夢遊病者 – 一期一会

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Not weeb metal, but I do think it’s one for the nerds.

Okay, first things first: the band name transcribes to Sleepwalker, and the album title is Ichi-go Ichi-e, meaning “one time, one meeting.” I’m not gonna muse on that too much and simply go with the rather obvious interpretation that this is a one-of-a-kind album, and the wide and wild array of styles that meet on it might never reconvene in this particular way again. Friends of experimental, psychedelic sort-of black metal that really goes off the deep end should enjoy the ride.

The album sounds and feels a bit like a trip through a cavern. Accordingly, “Sitting for the Road” starts things off with a droning, swelling build-up akin to journeying underground in a minecart. Most music described as having a “cavernous” sound, however, will mostly present you with darkness and horror, whereas this particular cave has quite some interesting sights for the visitor. Exhibit A: rather unexpectedly, drums that sound a bit like bongos starts to come in, and the first notes we hear from the guitar are not aggressive, but rather soothing. So far, this could be a lo-fi Bong record… if it wasn’t for the vocals. Hear for yourself.

Somewhat unsettling hissing and shrieking, yes, but since it’s so hard to discern – largely due to massive reverb – it somehow doesn’t come off as menacing as one might think it ought to. At least until the band erupts into the song’s climax with a blast beat and tremolo picking (I think?) that winds up and down like a rollercoaster. Now, the vocals grow to a mesmerizing cacophony sounding colder than any snowstorm that any Scandinavian band ever tried to emulate. But just as quickly as it came, it’s over, and the song winds back down into the calm sounds it started out with. A raging beast briefly awoken from sleep.

Having passed the first attraction, we move on through the cavern to meet “If Return – A Mirror Glance” (yeah, most of the song titles are kinda Engrish). Charging out the gate much more forcefully with a high-pitched wail, the song soon makes way for a mournful guitar melody, which in turn transitions into a jazzy part. Despite the chaotic, freeform nature of the song, it does end up finding room for a calmer passage, where the guitars are left to wander freely against a backdrop of steady, krautrock-esque drumming. Everything feels pretty improvisational, which might also be what the album title is referring to. More chaos awaits in “Never Through a Threshold”, but again it’s balanced with comparatively easy to follow parts before it becomes overwhelming, and subtly sneaks in some unconventional instrumentation.

Onwards we go, from showcase to showcase, from huge displays involving fire and brimstone to performances of tumblers, jugglers, and acrobats to intricate, finely designed dioramas. “No Premature Celebrations” is perhaps closest to a traditional, riff-based song structure, and offers up melodies that might actually stick in your ear. The jolting start-stop parts and dynamic range of “Never Ailments on Oneself” sound like someone tried to cover “Chop Suey” after only seeing the waveform of the song. Lastly, “No Clinking of Glasses” functions almost as a resumé of everything we’ve just been through, and after a total runtime of 23 minutes or so (cue “more minutes = better” copypasta), we emerge on the other side. Richer? Poorer? I’ve been through the cave a number of times now and still can’t really tell, which is one of the reasons I will forego a rating on this one (the other being that I just don’t feel like it). I do think the short duration serves to encourage another trip to discover more details about what the hell is going on, and so far, every round has been rewarding or somehow satisfying – and indeed a little different each time.

Digital and physical copies are available from Sentient Ruin. Also check the band’s debut. Couldn’t find them on Facebook, but maybe you want to follow the label.

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