"And now for something completely different…"
Like it or not, Babymetal is now a thing. What many folks don’t realize, however, is mixing Japanese pop music with metal isn’t exactly a new concept. Case in point: Yōsei Teikoku have been performing this style of music since 1997 and have accumulated a respectable discography. All that said, how does their newest album Shadow Corps(e) stand up?
Yōsei Teikoku (translated: "Fairy Empire") is part of the Team Fairithm unit. If you’re an anime fan, you might recognize them from the opening tracks of Kurokami: The Animation, Future Diary, Innocent Venus, or Tokyo ESP. Otherwise, all you need to know is the music is a combination of J-pop, gothic rock, heavy metal, electronic, and classical music.
After the intolerably long opener, Attack!! (Why did this need to be four and a half minutes?), "D" Chronicle opens the album in an up-tempo fashion. A crunchy guitar rhythm kicks the track off before a brief choral interlude, and then Yui Itsuki’s vocals begin, which could be the breaking point for a lot of people. Yes, it’s almost sickeningly sweet, and the electronic video game music leading into the refrain doesn’t fit with many metal fans’ idea of heavy music, but Shiren and Takaha get some impressive guitar work during the solo.
If you haven’t checked out after the first track, 闇色corsage opens in a grandiose fashion, giving a strong nod to (Luca Turilli’s) Rhapsody (Of Fire). Towards the end of the song, Yui switches to an eerie whisper which adds some ambiance.
Track four, 白銀薔薇奇譚, is one of the heavier songs on Shadow Corps(e) and also has one of the least typical song structures. The myriad of rhythm and tempo changes alternating between traditional singing and spoken word make it an interesting listen.
Assuming Yōsei Teikoku performs live, Infection and 檄 seem like they were written for this. Employing more traditional structures, both have some added "heys" in the chorus, and these could easily be sing-along concert numbers. The latter has more of a dance rhythm, and is a definite earworm.
The real problem with this style of music is that a lot of the songs tend to run together. Additionally, some of the tracks like 残夜の獣 tend to go on a bit long. That one in particular runs over six minutes, and doesn’t do enough interesting to justify more than four. The vocals are also considerably higher in the mix than the instruments, which takes away some of their impact.
Essentially, your enjoyment of Shadow Corps(e) is going to depend on your like (or conversely, dislike) for this style of music. Being a fan of heavier anime soundtracks, this is an album I can get behind. Yōsei Teikoku is by no means the most extreme act coming out of Japan, nor are they doing anything strikingly original, but if I’m in the mood for something light and whimsical with a bit of a gothic edge, this definitely scratches that itch. If you’re new to this style and don’t want to appear on an FBI watchlist by viewing Babymetal videos, Yōsei Teikoku is a good place to expand your horizons.