Posts Tagged ‘ Jupiter ’

Best of 2019: The Albums

Every year, I write sort of an introductory statement to the list of my favorite albums of the year. But since I feel like I am starting to sound like a broken record with most of my observations, I will keep it brief. In internet terms, brief often means bullet points. So here we go with my observations about 2019 in music:

  • Last year was a relatively good year for western music. Including some bands that I was not particularly interested in before.
  • I don’t know whether my taste got slower or if it was just a great year for slower rock and metal music.
  • Even the most reissue oriented labels did not go as overboard with reissues instead of new releases as in recent years.
  • It was slightly less difficult to come up with fifteen titles this time around. Oh yeah, I decided to stick with fifteen titles.
  • My numbers one and two were extremely obvious for me. They were also so close that I literally flipped a coin to decide who would come first. Okay, it was a guitar pick.

So without further ado, here is my best of 2019 list, starting with the winner of my pick toss.

1. Rammstein – Rammstein

While I liked Rammstein before, I did not expect their first studio album in a decade to be anywhere near as good as ‘Reise, Reise’. Especially not since the lack of a title often suggests some sort of rebirth or unwanted maturation process. Turns out I was wrong. This is the Germans sextet’s strongest set of songs from a melodic standpoint, whilst retaining their danceable rhythms, their twisted sense of humor and the aggression of their riff work. There is definitely some top 10 Rammstein work on this record and as always, the record is notably more sophisticated than it may seem. ‘Rammstein’ is a carefully crafted and arranged record, but not so much that the life is completely sucked out of it. Also, it is simply fun.

Recommended tracks: ‘Puppe’, ‘Radio’, ‘Zeig Dich’, ‘Hallomann’

2. Capilla Ardiente – The Siege

Capilla Ardiente is one of those doom metal bands that does everything right. Felipe Plaza Kutzbach has the perfect darmatic voice for this type of epic doom metal, but Claudio Botarro Neira’s riffs also borrow enough from the early Peaceville doom-death bands to create a somewhat more grimy vibe than the umpteenth Black Sabbath or Candlemass clone. In addition, Capilla Ardiente seems to realize that there is more to doom metal than just massive riffs. The music on ‘The Siege’ is extremely dynamic. And while it’s generally slow to mid-tempo music, the band doesn’t fear aiming for something faster if it enhances the atmosphere. Just like ‘Bravery, Truth And The Endless Darkness’ before it, ‘The Siege’ is a must for everyone into doom metal and classic heavy metal.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Crimson Fortress’, ‘Fallen Alphas And Rising Omega’

3. Myrath – Shehili

Initially, I thought ‘Shehili’ was slightly disappointing. I must have been full of shit. ‘Shehili’ is another excellent Myrath album. It even brings back some of their earlier progressive metal riffing, which should be a delight to anyone who thought the band went slightly too much down the accessible Kamelot-ish road with ‘Legacy’. Don’t expect an overly complicated prog record, however. Myrath is simply doing what they are good at here: instantly recognizable melodies, North-African atmospheres enhanced by the incredible, ma’luf-inspired string arrangements and the fantastic voice of Zaher Zorgati. Myrath’s sense of melodicism combined with their impressive musical skill is difficult to equal. Because of that, Myrath is one of the best bands around these days.

Recommended tracks: ‘Wicked Dice’, ‘Shehili’, ‘Monster In My Closet’

4. Jupiter – Zeus ~Legends Never Die~

When Zin departed Jupiter, I feared they was done for. Fortunately, his replacement – former Concerto Moon singer Atsushi Kuze – proved to be better than I could ever expect him to be and the first set of songs they wrote for him as a frontman is every bit as good as the first two Jupiter albums. In fact, it feels slightly more consistent than ‘The History Of Genesis’. There are quite a few reworkings of older tracks on ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’, but the album has a very pleasant, while ‘The Spirit Within Me’ and ‘Tears Of The Sun’ in particular sound like they were made for Kuze. It’s hard enough to find symphonic power metal this good these days, let alone with as much power as Jupiter shows here. My only criticism would be the extremely bass-heavy master.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Spirit Within Me’, ‘Straight Into The Fire’, ‘Theory Of Evolution’

5. Monomyth – Orbis Quadrantis

Monomyth has been around for some time now and while I could appreciate them, nothing could prepare me for their new album ‘Orbis Quadrantis’. The Duch quintet doesn’t do anything radically different here; they are still playing atmospheric, at times quasi-cinematic instrumental rock music, but there is just a bit of an extra push here. It could be the arrival of new guitarist Boudewijn Bonebakker (formerly of Gorefest and Gingerpig) doing that, but they also simply made a lot of progress on the compositional front. Sure, the tracks are still long and slow to unfold, but it’s slightly less krautrock-oriented, there is a sense of directness to the riff work and Bonebakker is a little more bluesy in his lead guitar approach. Highly recommended to space rockers.

Recommended tracks: ‘Aquilo’, ‘Eurus’

6. Avatarium – The Fire I Long For

Now this one took me by surprise. For the longest time, I had considered Avatarium just another Leif Edling project. ‘The Fire I Long For’, however, is the first album on which guitarist Marcus Jidell and singer Jessie-Ann Smith wrote the majority of the material. It finds them closer to the realms of dark rock music than the traditional doom metal Eidling is known for or even the more upbeat seventies rock of its predecessor ‘Hurricanes And Halos’. The results are spectacular. More than ever before, Avatarium tailored its music to Smith’s charismatic voice and while the music is still heavy, there is a more dynamic vibe to the record. From the dark blues of ‘Lay Me Down’ to the hopeful melancholy of ‘Rubicon’, ‘The Fire I Long For’ is a surprising masterpiece.

Recommended tracks: ‘Rubicon’, ‘Lay Me Down’, ‘Great Beyond’, ‘Stars They Move’

7. Hatriot – From Daze Unto Darkness

Zetro’s band with his kids doesn’t include Zetro anymore. Some industry people may consider that commercial suicide, but with Kosta Varvatakis’ endless supply of incredible riffs and Cody Souza sounding uncannily like his father sometimes, the change is not as big as some might expect. ‘From Daze Unto Darkness’ is certainly an engaging thrash metal record that certainly blows many retro bands and older guys trying to relive their past glories out of the water. Varvatakis’ compositions are rooted in the Bay Area tradition, but definitely closer to Forbidden than Exodus, while he obviously took some hints from European thrash bands like Destruction as well. ‘From Daze Unto Darkness’ is an intense, pissed-off record that greatly exceeded my expectations.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ethereal Nightmare’, ‘Organic Remains’, ‘World, Flesh & Devil’

8. Ningen Isu – Shin Seinen

Many Japanese bands should be jealous at the level of consistency the discography of Ningen Isu displays. Hell, many non-Japanese bands should as well. Having said that, I did find their 2017 release ‘Ijigen Kara No Hoko’ slightly disappointing. ‘Shin Seinen’ was a pleasant surprise though. Here, Ningen Isu focuses on what they are good at: huge, Sabbath-ish riffs, fat rock ‘n’ roll grooves and the occasional proggy twist. The folky touches on ‘Shin Seinen’ are minimal, but it’s not liek the album needs them. Ningen Isu shows itself to be an excellent hard rock band here. This is their second top five album in three years and that alone is enough to give the band all the praise they can get. And yes, that’s four “Jigoku” tracks if you have the bonus track edition.

Recommended tracks: ‘Kagami Jigoku’, ‘Mujo No Scat’, ‘Shin Seinen Maegaki’

9. Kinniku Shojo Tai – Love

What to expect when one of Japan’s oddest bands releases a record called ‘Love’? A collection of power ballads? Well, not quite. For the most part, ‘Love’ sounds exactly like Kinniku Shojo Tai should sound. Punkish aggression, classy melodicism, funky rhythm guitars, bright keyboards, an amount of bombast that would make Queen feel ashamed, weird proggy passages… Have I mentioned this band is odd? Contrary to many other odd bands, however, Kinniku Shojo Tai writes highly accessible songs with memorable melodies, even when Kenji Otsuki is yelling them out as if it’s a political manifest. ‘Love’ surprisingly is heavier than its predecessor ‘Za Shisa’ and a highly entertaining listen. Here’s to hoping Kinniku Shojo Tai’s second youth will last much longer.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ai Wa Kagero’, ‘Donmai Sakaba’, ‘Chokugeki Kamakiri Ken! Ningen Bakuhatsu’

10. Swallow The Sun – When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light

The story has been well-publicized, but I will summarize it once more. When South African singer Aleah Starbridge died of cancer at the age of 39, her partner, Swallow The Sun guitarist Juha Raivio, processed his grief through several musical projects. ‘When A Shadow Is Force Into The Light’ allegedly the record about coming to terms with his loss, but the music hardly sounds like it. The album is oppressively dark, desperate and heart-wrenchingly sad, even by Swallow The Sun standards. It is a difficult album to listen to, but it is hauntingly beautiful and easily the best thing Swallow The Sun ever released. Musically, the album weaves a profoundly dark gothic rock sound into the doom-death tapestry the Finns are known for. Not for everyone, but deeply impressive.

Recommended tracks: ‘Stone Wings’, ‘The Crimson Crown’, ‘Never Left’

11. The Magpie Salute – High Water II

After titling their brilliant debut album ‘High Water I’, ‘High Water II’ was already a highly anticipated album before the debut was even released. Naturally, the history several members of The Magpie Salute have with The Black Crowes contributes to that as well, but to be honest, The Magpie Salute is a more consistent band than the Crowes ever were. The focus here is on Rich Robinson’s excellent songwriting rather than psychedelic exercises. As a result, ‘High Water II’ sounds confident and focused. Possibly even more focused than its predecessor, but the immediacy of the songwriting may contribute to that as well. Having an incredible singer like John Hogg helps, of course. ‘II’ does not soar to the same highs as ‘I’, but it is still a great record.

Recommended tracks: ‘Where Is This Place’, ‘Mother Storm’, ‘Gimme Something’

12. Arch/Matheos – Winter Ethereal

‘Sympathetic Resonance’ caused a significant stir in the world of progressive metal back in 2011. After all, it was the first full album that the songwriting duo of the legendary Fates Warning album ‘Awaken The Guardian’ (1986) worked on since… Well… ‘Awaken The Guardian’. Follow-up ‘Winter Ethereal’ is not quite as consistent, but it is still a strong progressive metal album with a little more spirit than the average band that Fates Warning inspired. John Arch is still in great shape and his melodies still have an almost otherworldly vibe and Jim Matheos manages to bridge the gap between old school prog metal and contemporary progressive music in a manner that feels completely natural. Despite the prog allstar cast, ‘Winter Ethereal’ is still about Arch and Matheos.

Recommended tracks: ‘Wrath Of The Universe’, ‘Pitch Black Prism’, ‘Kindred Spirits’

13. Candlemass – The Door To Doom

Epic doom metal pioneers Candlemass – or more specifically their bassist and chief songwriter Leif Edling – vowed to focus on playing live instead of recording half-assed albums like 2012’s ‘Psalms For The Dead’ shortly after that album’s release. He didn’t technically say that about that particular album, but he would have been right if he did. But then original singer Johan Längqvist returned. And despite not having done anything of note since his departure in 1986, his vocals are easily the best thing about ‘The Door to Doom’. The compositions are pretty standard Candlemass fare, but ‘The Door To Doom’ is great doom metal and easily their most inspired album since 2007’s ‘King Of The Grey Islands’. Bonus points for the Tony Iommi guest spot!

Recommended tracks: ‘Bridge Of The Blind’, ‘Astorolus – The Great Octopus’, ‘Under The Ocean’

14. Sisters Of Suffocation – Humans Are Broken

Conservative as the metal scene is, the audience often doesn’t like to see their bands change. However, change can also be gradual and beneficial, as is the case with Sisters Of Suffocation. Second guitarist Emmelie Herwegh was added to the line-up and because of that, guitarist and main songwriter Simone van Straten really focused on writing music for two guitars. It really added some depth to the Sisters Of Suffocation sound without straying too far from the fairly blunt, but simultaneously intelligent take on death metal that the band is known for. It does help that Sisters Of Suffocation doesn’t just stick to one particular era or style of death metal. ‘Humans Are Broken’ can be aggressive and pummeling, but it also provides breathing room and technical prowess.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Objective’, ‘Wolves’, ‘What We Create’

15. Spoil Engine – Renaissance Noire

Often mistaken for a metalcore band, Belgium’s Spoil Engine actually takes the thick, hardcore-infused riffing of bands often associated with that scene and puts them in compositions that are far more interesting than the tired tropes of the metalcore scene. The choruses are catchy, but they don’t cancel all the momentum – of course it is helpful that Iris Goessens is too vicious a vocalist for that – and the band does not waste any time with drawn-out breakdowns that go on too long for their own good. On ‘Renaissance Noire’, the band is simultaneously more compact and more dynamic than ever. The riffs feel like you’re getting hit in the face with a brick, but at the same time, there’s plenty of clean guitar passages and sing-along parts to keep things interesting.

Recommended tracks: ‘Golden Cage’, ‘Warzone’, ‘Storms Of Tragedy’

Album of the Week 14-2019: Jupiter – Zeus ~Legends Never Die~

Multiple times over the last few years, I had feared that Jupiter would disband. There have been several line-up changes and I thought the final nail in the coffin would be the reformation of Versailles, the hugely popular, but slightly inferior band that almost the entire original line-up came from. These developments alone would be enough reason to be happy with the release of their third album ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’. But it’s also really, really good. New kid and former Concerto Moon singer Atsushi Kuze fits the band amazingly well and the album is probably Jupiter’s most consistent to date.

Jupiter does not suddenly sound different on ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’. The music is still high octane symphonic power metal with prominent influences from progressive metal and melodic death metal, as well as plenty of room for the impressive dexterity of guitarists Hizaki and Teru. In fact, some might argue that the inclusion of two tracks from the spectacular single ‘Theory Of Evolution’ and two that were previously recorded with former singer Zin further diminishes the surprise impact of the album. Kuze’s somewhat husky hardrock voice further broadens the appeal of Jupiter outside of the visual kei scene, however, and the impact his voice had on Hizaki’s songwriting is significant.

Now, Hizaki has a way of making singers better. He managed to make Kamijo sound semi-acceptable in Versailles, Juka’s best vocal performance was on his ‘Dignity Of Crest’ album and he transformed Zin into one of the best singers in the visual kei scene. Anticipating what would happen if he worked with Kuze’s already impressive set of pipes was half the fun of waiting for ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’ to be released. And to be brief: the album contains Kuze’s best vocals to date. He does not do anything radically different from what he did in Concerto Moon and Screaming Symphony, but he’s like a fish in the water with the bombastic, theatrical material that Hizaki wrote for the album.

With Kuze being a hardrock singer first and foremost, it is notable that the songwriting plays to these strengths. ‘Drastic Night’ has a seventies hardrock vibe due to the simple, but brutally effective main riff and the inclusion of a Hammond organ, but manages to sound contemporary power metal enough to make perfect sense on the record. More dramatic tracks, like the highly dynamic ‘No Cry No More’ and the absolutely sensational ‘Straight Into The Fire’ could not have been written for any other singer. The most powerful choruses, such as the ones for ‘Theory Of Evolution’ and the long closing epic title track really profit from having a singer with significantly more power than the average visual kei frontman.

To those who were afraid that Zin’s departure would result in Jupiter shunning their melodic death metal songs: rest assured. In ‘Tempest’ and the previously released ‘Angel’s Wings’, the album contains two tracks that feature prominent melodeath influences. The former sounds a little like a mash-up of Galneryus’ neoclassical abandon and Jupiter’s own ‘Allegory Cave’, while the latter has a mind-blowing final chorus. Both rely heavily on aggressive, borderline thrash metal riffing. Kuze does not yet have the versatility in his growls that Zin had, but there is almost a hardcore-like quality to their blunt aggression. Something which also works surprisingly well on the last section of the lone Teru composition ‘Show Must Go On’, a powerful modern hardrock track.

Out of the songs that had already been recorded with Zin, ‘The Spirit Within Me’ really takes the cake. Not only does it have what is possibly the best riff of the album, the song fits Kuze’s voice so perfectly that it’s hard to imagine it had not orignally been written for him. It is kind of ironic that one works so well, as ‘Tears Of The Sun’ underwent a more significant change, being transposed to a different key. Relatively new drummer Daisuke played on the original versions of both of these tracks, but his contributions to ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’ should not be overlooked, as his playing is incredible. He has all the skills that his predecessor Yuki also had, but he appears to be a little more understated and serviceable, which does sound a little weird, given the fact that a track like ‘Theory Of Evolution’ is basically fifty percent blazing fills and ‘The Spirit Within Me’ has some of the most impressive double bass rolling I have heard in recent years.

As a whole, ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’ could be the start of a new era for Jupiter. People who liked their music before should have no issue with the record, but the inclusion of a singer with the type of voice that usually is not associated with visual kei really opens them up for people who generally stay away from the scene. In addition, every single song on the album is worth hearing. ‘Memories Of You’ goes on a bit long near the end, but the darker first half of the song is the best ballad-esque bit Hizaki has written to date. Everything else is a perfect blend of power metal, hardrock, progressive metal and melodeath. If that sounds right up your alley, you can’t go wrong with ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Spirit Within Me’, ‘Straight Into The Fire’, ‘No Cry No More’, ‘Theory Of Evolution’

Album of the Week 02-2015: Jupiter – The History Of Genesis

Jupiter’s debut ‘Classical Element’ was responsible for making me fall in love with Power Metal all over again. Their intense riffs, keen ear for melody, guitar histrionics and amazingly written songs awakened a Power Metal euphoria I haven’t felt since my adolescent years. As a result, ‘The History Of Genesis’ was the first 2015 album I anticipated immensely. And not without reason; ‘The History Of Genesis’ is the definitive proof that Jupiter can stand on its own merits, regardless of the Versailles history of the majority of its band members. A strong album that combines the beauty of Jupiter’s melodies with the aggression of some of their riff work.

If ‘Classical Element’ showed a band finding its comfort zone, ‘The History Of Genesis’ has the band exploring and pushing their own boundaries. The opening salvo of the upbeat ‘The Birth Of Venus’ and the Power Metal supreme of ‘Last Moment’ may suggest we’re dealing with an album that follows the trend of its predecessor, but there have been some significant changes. The aggressive side of the band has gotten a little more room, most evidently in the vocal work of Zin, who is heard equipping his competent grunt and some rawer clean approaches more often this time, resulting in the awesome melodic Death Metal of ‘Darkness’ and bonus track ‘Sacred Altar’. The main focus is still his beautiful cleans though.

Also, the band seems to switch back and forth between these extremes within single songs a little more this time. Upon first listen, that may cause some of the songs to seem a little chaotic. If not downright messy, as with ‘B.L.A.S.T.’, which turns out to be a thoroughly enjoyable Speed Metal song with a catchy chorus in the end. Another example is the closing title track, which contains surprisingly little repetition for an epic Metal track. I would have loved to hear some of these goosebumps inducing riffs more often, but that may very well be what makes them so powerful in the first place.

When considering the ethereal instrumental ‘Church Candle’ the intermission of the album, I slightly prefer the second act, starting with the back-to-back highlights ‘Red Carnation’ and ‘Zetsubou Labyrinth’. The former is a Zin composition with an amazing chorus reminiscent of Rhapsody’s best work and the latter is just unbelievable. The amazing dramatic guitar intro makes way for an almost Thrashy verse, a more melodic chorus and a mindblowing guitar battle between Hizaki and Teru. It has to be heard to believed. Speaking of lead guitars, they’re all over the place. The awesome ‘Arcadia’ even has both men playing distinctly different solos simultaneously.

Even both ballads are amazing. With Jupiter being a guitar driven band first and foremost – the classical element (pun intended) is limited to coloring the songs and the occasional lead violin – they are a lot less sappy and dragging than what can be expected from a Visual Kei or J-Rock band. ‘The Moon’ may seem a bit weird because of its jazzy interplay between the piano, guitars and Masashi’s bass near the end, but is pretty good, while the somewhat progressive ‘Luminous’ is an amazing track likely to please people who loved ‘Nostalgie’ from the previous album (I’m looking at you, fellow blogger Arria Cross!). The more standard, upbeat J-Rock sound is represented by ‘Shining’ and the fantastic ‘Koori No Naka No Shoujo’. The latter seems less positive lyrically though.

Since ‘The History Of Genesis’ finds Jupiter branching out from their symphonic Power Metal roots a little, the results are a little less consistent than their debut, but the album once again makes my Power Metal heart beat a little faster. It’s beyond me why they didn’t choose to include the best song from the singles preceding this album (‘Azalea’), but then again, the album is packed with amazing material already. I’d be surprised if anyone releases a better Power Metal record this year, but if someone does, it will be a great year for the genre.

Recommended tracks: ‘Zetsubou Labyrinth’, ‘Red Carnation’, ‘Last Moment’

Album of the Week 32-2014: Versailles – Jubilee

‘Jubilee’ marked the end of a tempestuous period for Versailles, both positively and negatively. The band had just signed with a major label and the difference is immediately noticeable sonically, but on the other hand, there was the untimely death of their original bass player Jasmine You during the recordings, effectively making this Jasmine’s final appearance with the band. It’s also the band’s best effort to date and their last fantastic album. While its follow-ups would both contain a number of good songs, ‘Jubilee’ is the band’s apex in terms of songwriting, intensity, execution and overall consistency.

Versailles was part of the Japanese Visual Kei scene, as is fairly obvious straight away when you see of their band photos or hear Kamijo’s slightly too melodramatic vocal delivery. Musically, they were one of the most interesting bands of the movement, combining a fundament of highly symphonic Power Metal with overtones of Progmetal and J-Rock and a strong dose of theatrics. And where I feel the band lost a lot of their edge on the following records, ‘Jubilee’ still has the right amount of aggression – especially in the riffing department – and intensity to appeal to the headbanging crowd.

A lot of Japanese music is very vocal based. The production and mix on ‘Jubilee’ – or any other Versailles album for that matter – emphasizes that as well. However, for me, it’s the rest of the band that makes this record. Hizaki and Teru are geniuses in composing riffs as well as executing brilliant guitar solos, many of them neoclasically tinged, and Yuki is easily the best Japanese drummer I have heard so far due to his creative approach to Power Metal drumming. And the power he displays is just delightful. Just listen to how he gives the awesome riffs in ‘月下香‘ (‘Gekkakou’ when romanized) their last push into aggressive territories and you’ll get what I mean.

Though the album is best listened to in its entirity, there are definitely some standout moments. My favorite song on the album is probably ‘愛と哀しみのノクターン‘ (romanized: ‘Ai To Kanashimi No Nocturne’) due to its perfect blend of melody and aggresive guitar power. Yuki’s drumming is once again spectacular and the little twin guitar riffs between verses are guaranteed to bring me to Metal bliss. ‘Catharsis’, opening track ‘God Palace – Method Of Inheritance-‘, single ‘Ascendead Master’ and ‘Princess -Revival Of Church-‘ are fantastic epic Power Metal tracks, while the lighter ‘Amorphous’ highlights the band’s more Pop oriented side surprisingly well.

Every fan of Japanese music should give this album at least one spin, but due to their heavy reliance on European Power Metal influences, ‘Jubilee’ may also be very appealing to melodic Metal crowds that are traditionally less likely to turn to any band from the Visual Kei scene. The fact of the matter is that Versailles is one of the very few latter day bands of the movement that actually made the music come before the visuals, despite obviously putting quite some effort into them. Both in composition and in execution, this is some of the best Power Metal released in this century, only outdone later by Jupiter, which features three members who can be heard on this album.

Recommended tracks:愛と哀しみのノクターン‘, ‘Ascendead Master’, ‘Princess -Revival Of Church-‘, ‘月下香

Album of the Week 28-2014: Jupiter – Classical Element

Versailles was one of the most Metal – and arguably one of the best – bands of the latter day Visual Kei movement, but they lost most of their edge after the ‘Jubilee’ album. When the band split last year, singer Kamijo moved on to a solo carreer, while the rest of the band formed Jupiter with new singer Zin. The resulting debut album is already one to be pround of. Not only is it even better than all the material that Versailles ever released, ‘Classical Element’ is one of the very best Power Metal albums released in the 21st century.

Essentially, Jupiter is a continuation of Versailles’ sound – or at least the contributions that guitarists Hizaki and Teru did to Versailles’ compositions – albeit a bit less theatrical and therefore more guitar oriented. The songwriting is also more concise than on the average Versailles album. As the album title suggests, the neoclassical Power Metal sound is still intact, but ‘Classical Element’ is above all a guitar album, lending the album its powerful edge. Also, while facilitating somewhat similar melodies, Zin has a much clearer timbre than Kamijo, which I find much more pleasant to listen to.

Remarkably enough, Zin’s compositional contributions fit the band perfectly. His own composition ‘Heaven’s Atlas’ is fairly standard, but enjoyable Power Metal and ‘Rhythmos’, which he co-wrote with Hizaki, is a unique progressive Metal song and as such one of the highlights of the album. Other highlights include the classic Power Metal euphoria of ‘Scarlet’, the perfect combination of melodic sensibilities and aggressive riffing that is ‘Decadence’ and the somewhat more neoclassical masterpiece ‘Atmosphere’.

On many Visual Kei-related albums, the ballads have the tendency to severely disrupt the flow of the record. Surprisingly, one of the two ballads here is actually quite good. ‘Nostalgie’ maybe has somewhat of a more progressive build-up than the average ballad of the movement, but that is exactly what makes it above average. The title track shows Jupiter succeeding where Rhapsody usually fails; the 12 minute epic is full of surprising twists and remains engaging all throughout its length. ‘Allegory Cave’ sees Zin equipping a somewhat unnecessary, but proficient death grunt and features some of the most delightfully aggressive riffing on the album.

When focusing on individual performances, we can’t leave drummer Yuki unmentioned. The man is easily one of the most versatile and technically competent drummers in the contemporary Power Metal scene. And while Japan is full of fantastic musicians, Yuki is my favorite Japanese drummer due to his creative approach to his parts. With a guitar record such as ‘Classical Element’, a downright amazing guitar duo like Teru and Hizaki is mandatory. Both are extremely tight in the riff department and virtuosic in their leads, without sacrificing any catchiness in the melodic field. An impressive and much too rare achievement.

Earlier this year, Jupiter released the ‘Last Moment’ EP, which already hinted that the band – especially Zin – would be moving in even more impressive territory and I for one can’t wait to hear what the future will hold for these guys. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been this impressed by a symphonic Power Metal record. It’s not hard to hear why; Jupiter is one of the few bands that has both technical mastery and concise, catchy songwriting in high regard. And they succeed in both. Every Power Metal fan should hear and love this album. If only because that may bring them to Europe more often.

Recommended tracks: ‘Scarlet’, ‘Atmosphere’, ‘Decadence’, ‘Rhythmos’