Onmyo-za - Ouka Ninpouchou

review - 29.04.2018 10:01

The masters of youkai heavy metal break their year-long silence.

In recent years, a notion has taken hold on the English-language web that Onmyo-za are in some way a ‘folk metal’ band. Given the lack of traditional instruments in their line-up, we hardly need tell you this isn’t true. What is true is that with thirteen studio albums under their obis, with a fourteenth on the way, Onmyo-za continue to be one of Japan’s most accomplished heavy metal bands. Their most recent single, Ouka Ninpouchou, released on January 10th, saw them reprise their association with the “Basilisk” franchise.

For Ouka Ninpouchou, composer Matatabi does something he’s not done since 2014: featuring a synthesized traditional instrument, namely a koto, throughout the song. This isn’t at the expense of Maneki and Karukan’s guitar work, but the title track’s status as an anime theme song all but guarantees a lack of heaviness. In fact, it has a lot in common with 2005’s Kouga Ninpouchou, give or take a shakuhachi. Like its predecessor, it’s sung solo by frontwoman Kuroneko, who’s still on fine form after nearly twenty years on the road.

So, does Ouka Ninpouchou offer any good portents for Onmyo-za’s forthcoming album Hadou Myouou? We know it’ll be on the album, which is a positive, but considering how mercurial the band’s music style has become over the years – the contents of their 2016 effort Karyo-Binga ranged from melodic rock to thrash metal – singles like this one are rarely useful in predicting an album’s overall sound.

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