14 October 2013
by Ruth Booth
It’s kind of difficult to define a difficult second album when it comes to experimental metal. Essentially, it’s the difference between wilfully unaccessible and accidentally unaccessible – which is akin to finding the bit between scalding hot and freezing on a shower dial. If you like the Yin Yang swing that comes with eschewing genre purity you’ll be amongst fierce fans of 2010’s Senjyu. How you’ll feel about Cyclamen’s far darker follow-up, Ashura, is another matter.
Like its older sibling, Ashura is progressive post-metal and muso-tech butting teeth against punk rock anthem choruses, wound into a teen braces kiss of disjointed discordant genre-subversion, and done with that same kind of proficiency and unselfconscious sass that made Mad Capsule Markets cult favourites. Waltzing measured prog (‘Mugen-Houyou‘) sits next to gibbering slipstream System of a Down’ism (‘Hyakusetsu-Futou‘). Or maybe we’ll just make a burning Tequila Sunrise out of lightspeed punks Melt Banana and post-metallers Envy (‘Shimbu-Futasu‘) for good measure, eh?
Yet for all this technicolour, if you’re a fan of Hayato Imanishi’s heavier work, this might be more your record than the last. Still split into pop-friendly doses, the texture’s quite different – dominated this time by darker, almost death-y tracks, sprinkled with an anti-hero’s redemption of anthem melodies. The sweetness twists the knife. Even ‘Hika-Kougai‘ (‘To sing a dirge of lamentation’) is essentially the negative of ‘Hope’ from the last album, right down to the pounding bass rhythm.
For all of Ashura’s darker turn, it’s in no way given over to a single facet of that darkness – see ‘Shiden-Issen”s Dragonforce guitar solos, hollow death-metal-video-games riffs and alt-rock panic. If anything, it’s a tighter concentration of that crushed up mix. Quite apart from that, it’s clear Imanishi’s retaining a tight hold on these eclectic elements to not only make it blend so well, but for it to come across as so many shades different to Senjyu.
Which kind of makes this both the more and less accessible of the two Cyclamen albums so far. For those who loved Senjyu‘s almost radio-friendly variety, Ashura may prove a jolt to the system. Those who prefer a more single-minded approach might prefer being eased into Cyclamen’s more eclectic fare later in the album as this record does. Those that don’t like either, have fun picking out the anime and Tekken references in here. Imanishi is still forging his own path, which is something to at least respect in itself.
Sounds like: An Orthodontist’s nightmare
Standout Tracks: Hika-Kougai, Shimba-Futatsu, Hyakusetsu-Futou