RAMI - Aspiration

review - 14.10.2016 01:01

With a little help from the GALNERYUS boys, the one-time queen of "girls metal" gets her solo career off to an intriguing start.

It’s coming up for two years since RAMI, founding vocalist of Aldious, returned to music after a four-year absence. In March this year, following the completion of her band Raglaia’s promotional tour for their debut album Creation, it was announced they would take an unofficial hiatus while RAMI focused on her solo career. Now, just seven months later, the one-time standard bearer of Japan’s all-female metal band boom has released her first solo album.

For Aspiration, RAMI enlisted the services of Hisatake Yorimasa, the famed producer of ANIMETAL and GALNERYUS. One perk of having such a well-connected collaborator is the unexpected doors it can open, and RAMI certainly seems to have benefited from Hisatake’s network. What gives this impression exactly? The fact three of the album's tracks have been composed by GALNERYUS guitarist Syu, including the opening two.

Overture to Aspiration is a slow-burning quasi-symphonic instrumental worthy of Uematsu Nobuo, and makes an almost perfect lead-in to In My Eyes. Almost, because the crescendo Overture sounds like it’s building to never actually comes. Instead, the tempo dips, spikes, then dips again, all of which conjures up an image of Syu umming and ahing about letting the song sound too much like something GALNERYUS might play. Mercifully, about two minutes in, he suddenly seems to stop caring, and the rest is four minutes of pure power metal bliss.

His other contribution, the seven-minute epic Forever Precious, is less distinctly Syu. Opening with an excerpt from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, the song unfolds much like an X JAPAN ballad. RAMI is accompanied by just a piano for the first two minutes, and Syu’s guitar solo is uncharacteristically tame.

This isn't RAMI’s first time working with one of the GALNERYUS boys. Keyboardist YUHKI has guested on releases by both Aldious and Raglaia, but not until now has he had the liberty of composing the tracks he’s played on, and he’s taken full advantage of the opportunity. Pray To The Sky boasts an intro so reminiscent of Jim Steinman’s work, you half-expect to hear Meat Loaf start singing before RAMI pipes up. It quickly becomes clear the songstress isn’t quite at home with this style of progressive rock, but she does her best amid the maelstrom of keyboard and guitar solos from YUHKI and his ALHAMBRA bandmate Toshihiro.

Syu and YUHKI’s offerings comprise precisely half Aspiration’s running order, and the contrast between these and the other four songs is best illustrated by the transition from Pray To The Sky to closing number Rainwater. The very second the former’s gentle music box outro fades out, Gargoyle guitarist KENTARO’s Zemaitis Greco – a very different-sounding guitar to Syu’s Crying Star – cuts in for one last blast of frivolous hard rock.

There’s nothing particularly bad about the other half of Aspiration. For instance, the KENTARO-composed Sing For You delivers a very welcome jolt of energy after the lethargic Forever Precious. Even so, if there’s one thing Aspiration lacks, it’s consistency; not in quality, but in flow. While KENTARO’s contributions offer an interesting change of pace, the atmospheric oddity Secret Flame and the cover of Shinohara Ryoko’s 1994 hit Itoshisa to setsunasa to kokoro tsuyosa to aren't so easy to explain.
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