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Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida leads Koenji-Hyakkei, and Nivraym is the band's third album. Former vocalist Aki Kubota left the group after II, and though fans may consider that she was irreplaceable, they're only half right: Kenso's Kenichi Oguchi easily fulfills her old role as keyboardist, and much of the music seems to have been written to suit his strengths. Additionally, new singer Nami Sagara certainly has the vocal chops to pull off more than her fair share of theatrics. The biggest losses here are Kubota's compositions, which were always among the band's most colorful. Furthermore, the sound of the recording is a bit muddy considering the amount of detail at work in the compositions. In many ways, Nivraym is the most traditional progressive rock record Yoshida has made. Koenji-Hyakkei's previous albums never shied away from theatrics, but tended to forgo the flashy solos common in most "symphonic" prog. Here, Oguchi gets in his licks and then some, similar to his work on Ruins' Symphonica, on which he practically stole the show. In fact, much of this album is reminiscent of Symphonica, also due to a slightly lighter sound than its predecessors, and one that is more obviously tied to the symphonic style of bands like Gentle Giant and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. This suits the synths, as well as the vocal lines, which are not generally as manic as on the band's first two records. Pieces like "Becttem Pollt" and the excellent "Gassttrum" feature very complex instrumental counterpoint and a kind of playful attitude to experimentation, though Yoshida's penchant for abrasion is always a threat. Others, like "Vissqauell," are similar to the angular, dissonant acrobatics of Ruins, while the futuristic car-chase music of "Axall Hasck" is reminiscent of the late-'90s Japanese avant-progressive band Happy Family. Taken on its own merits, Nivraym is an accomplished, fun record, though invariably one that suffers in comparison to the band's prior output.

Nivraym, Koenjihyakkei
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