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Andrew’s Judgmental Album Reviews: Ningen Isu – Kuraku (2021)

The JAR is still navigating the globe and we end up in Japan! Land of the best wrestling and anime! Ningen Isu has been formed since the late 80s, and are like a combination of Black Sabbath and Kiss. How is their newest album?

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The JAR is still navigating the globe and we end up in Japan! Land of the best wrestling and anime! Ningen Isu has been formed since the late 80s, and are like a combination of Black Sabbath and Kiss. How is their newest album?

You ever stumble upon a song from a 30+ year old band that just blows up about of nowhere? That was Heartless Scat, released in 2019 it was promoted by the YouTube algorithm and really helped to spread these rock and roll grandpas. Amusingly the 3 piece likes to dress in the spirit of characters, the lead singer looking like a scribe or scholar from older Japanese eras, the bassist does white face paint Buddhist themes and the drummer looks like a Japanese street punk/gangster.

Visually they are interesting, but the music really is very very Black Sabbath. Amusingly enough, similar to last week’s band Alien Weaponry, these guys like to write songs about history, old literature or mythology. With all that set, Kuraku is the dichotomy of life in a way since it means pleasure and pain or joys and sorrow.

So let’s see if we get pleasure or pain from this album!

  • Artist: Ningen Isu
  • Album: Kuraku (2021)
  • Label: Tokuma Japan Communications

Toshishun is the first single as well as the lead off song. Starting a little light, we get a really nice slow guitar riff that brings the atmosphere into almost a horror movie. Which is apt since the song seems to be based of the story and 80s movie adaptation depicting a child who was separated from his mother after a cruel warlord killed his father and took the mother, leaving the boy to grow up in poverty. When the song gets to the point in the story where the boy is granted the power to go in search of his own truth out of poverty, the instrumentation changes to a hopeful almost victory march. Dark where it needs to be and then culminating in sharp harmonics is a great way to end the song on a high note, literally and figuratively. Kamigami no Koushin means March of the Gods, and it definitely sounds like a battle song. Sung by the bassist (who steps in occasionally on the Gene Simmons side of the game), this definitely sounds like a fusion of Kiss and Iron Maiden. It has a larger than life feeling, great harmonies with the instruments and the bassist singing adds a nice level of heaviness.

Akuma no shohousen means Devil’s Prescription. Musically is starts in almost a pop rock vein with the speed and the fact it’s not as heavy of chords that they’re playing. But about midway through we get into a Sabbath-esque breakdown capped off with an erratic solo that almost sounds like the first half of the song trying to escape from being pulled into the darkness. I guess the fact they’ve only been gaining traction in the west for a little over 2 years doesn’t really lend to a plethora of translation sites. Ankoku Ou is the King of Darkness, and no I don’t mean NJPW wrestler EVIL. Though, I mean this is a cool song. The bassist takes the lead again, which does wonders to complement the lower tuning and just sound heavy and almost like a prayer in vain. As we move into the crescendo of the song, it speeds up a little and the bassist even lets out a kind of cruel growl as the song finishes. Ningen Robot is an easy translation, it means Human Robot. I’ll give them credit, they pivot a little away from the heavy Bluesy guitar riffs at points to help give off more of a Sci-Fi undertone. There’s a great slide effect they use to sound like radar or one of those classic Sci-Fi sounds. Even the fact that some of the riffing sounds stuck or to be skipping because they just hit the note more times than expected, helps to drive home that technology vibe.

Uchuu Kaizoku nice fret slide to kick off Space Pirates. So we’re staying in space with the guitarist and bassist trading off lead at points. The loose picking mixed with a cackling sound effect and possibly a…Theremin, gives the space travel/spaceship kind of vibe really cleverly. Hashire GT has a faster rhythm since it’s obviously about motorcycles. The guitar keeps the expected tone of something like Déjà vu, Fuel, 502, Bat out of Hell, or Redline, and they even throw in racing effects to compliment the bass and drum parts. Seikimatsu Jinta so I wasn’t expecting the song about the Apocalypse to sound like a ZZ Top song, or at least start off with that southern blues rock rhythm. Okay after the first verse and chorus is seems to slow into more of the traditional metal/doom metal riffing, but still likes to throw in elements of the 70s blues rock. It’s a very interesting mixture, not because they don’t work, they definitely do, just interesting to see a fusion like that.

Nayami wo Tsukinukete Kanki ni Itare means something to the effect of Joy through Suffering, which is kind of part of the theme of this whole album. The instrumentation is very interesting because it seems to signify the title, where it’s erratic yet held together through a great drum beat and rhythm guitar section. It sounds joyful at times while then also nearly fighting with itself at other points. Koukotsu no Tourou no…this mean, Ecstatic Mantis? They do this increasing echo backing vocal effect that reminds me of what Babymetal does in a bunch of their songs. But I have no real context here, the song title is weird and the song is upbeat, awkward and really sounds like it Kiss and Babymetal did a song together. Shijou no Kuchibiru is…something like The Best Lips. So we’re in more of a traditional metal vein here, because this is definitely a great radio rocking song. I’m not sure how it fits into the great theme of the album, but it has vibes like Highway Star and a typical 70s or 80s traditional rock song.

Nikutai no Bourei I think is Gate of the Ghost. But hey, just as the rocking tune confused me, this down tunes and goes back to the darker tone most of the album has had. This floats nicely from a sludgy Doom song, to picking the tempo up a little with a great bassline and a simple blues style riff going into a screeching solo. It does its job as a song to make the atmosphere dark and the occasional screeches of the guitar parts is usually how ghosts get signified in movies. Amusingly the more I hear the main riff it sounds a little like a down tuned Mission Impossible theme. Yoakemae or in English, Before the Dawn. Instrumentally it has elements of what feels like a new day dawning, but at the same time, the heavier breakdowns actually seem a little out of place. I feel they would’ve been better suited starting dark and coming into lighter tones, this feels too similar throughout.

Now Shinji Wajima (guitar/lead vocals), Kenichi Suzuki (bass/backing/lead) and Nobu Nakajima (drums/backing) definitely know what works. Unlike Alien Weaponry the lack of English does make it harder for non-Japanese speaking/understanding fans to really get into it. Apparently Wajima did do an interview that got translated claiming that Kuraku is based on the ideas of children from the Showa Era and their outlook on the 21st century. The children then expected a rosy and comfortable utopia, but what we currently have is more resembling an Orwellian dystopia. The concept of ease and comfort may be relevant but the joy is gone. Especially given the recent events proving that pain and suffering has resulted more in comfortable bitterness. So the two sides of the same coin, inspired the Kuraku album.

Given that, the music and the themes based on the titles (and limited translations), I think this does a good job explaining the story they were intending. There is still a large obstacle in losing some of the imagery and with a lack of accessibility to translations. Also it can’t be overlooked that the music was polished, but didn’t really push any boundaries. Even with the space themes and the applications of the song structures, it felt a little too safe. Still a really enjoyable listen and if you’re a newer fan it doesn’t drift away from what you were made aware of in the last few years.

Final Judgment: 7/10

 


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Hockey Talk looks at the conclusion of the 2nd Round of the 2024 NHL Playoffs and gets you set up for the Conference Finals!

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On this week’s edition of Hockey Talk, the guys recap the conclusion (mostly) of the 2nd round of the 2024 NHL Playoffs. Out West, the Dallas Stars looked like world beaters as they dispatched the Colorado Avalanche in 6 games. On the other side of the bracket, the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers were engaged in a thrilling series that was going to Game 7 as this Episode was being recorded. On the East Coast, the New York Rangers avoided an epic collapse against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers asserted their dominance against the Boston Bruins. The Final Four is now set. Who has the edge? Tune in and find out!

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Superhero Madness reaches its awesome conclusion, plus trailers for Season 2 of The Rings of Power, and more streaming services decide to band together.

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Superhero Madness reaches its endgame this week with the Final Four and the Final battle to determine the greatest superhero of them all. Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Superman walked into the Final Four, but only one left being able to lay claim as the GOAT of superheroes. Who came away with the ultimate prize? An extended trip to the Trailer Park looked at the latest offerings from Season 2 of The Rings of Power, a prequel to Dune, a movie from Francis Ford Coppola decades in the making, and a new take on the Wizard of Oz prequel story, Wicked. In News Around the Nerdosphere, Patrick debunks a rumor about one of Disney’s most beloved characters, more streaming services decide to combine forces, still more Fantastic Four casting news, and a Spider-Man Noir series is coming soon….and you’ll never guess who will be playing the titular role.

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Join Patrick O’Dowd, David Ungar, PC Tunney, Rey Cash, and DPP as they keep everyone up on all things nerd, and maybe add some new nerds along the way. It’s the Bandwagon Nerds Podcast!

About the Chairshot Radio Network

Launched in 2017, the Chairshot Radio Network presents you with the best in sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment. Wrestling and wrestling crossover podcasts + the most interesting content + the most engaging hosts = the most entertaining podcasts you’ll find!

Featuring shows such as POD is WAR (sports, entertainment & sports entertainment) Bandwagon Nerds (entertainment & popular culture), The DWI Podcast (Drunk Wrestling Intellect), The Greg DeMarco Show (wrestling), The #Miranda Show (wrestling and entertainment), Hockey Talk (sports), Patrick O’Dowd’s 5×5 (pop culture), The Outsider’s Edge (wrestling), Down The Wire (Sports), Talk The Keki (Anime), The Mindless Wrestling Podcast, Attitude Of Aggression/The Big Four (wrestling), and more!


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