Let it not be said that there is no variety in Metal. It is an ever expanding genre that add more styles and sub-genres with each passing year. I’m a big prog/death metal fan myself, but I have a major soft spot for bands that like to add something new to the mix. Think Eluveitie’s Folk metal, Amon Armath’s viking metal or Waylander’s celtic metal. Hell, even Alestorm’s pirate metal is good if you are in the mood for something fun. Some elitists find it gimmicky, and to be fair to them, a lot of it can be. Sometimes going too far with a gimmick can push even the most open minded of listeners over the edge. (Ladybaby anyone?)
Enter whispered. Founded in 2004, Whispered is a Finnish Death/Power Metal band consisting of Kai Palo (Bass and vocals), Jouni Valjakka (Vocals and guitar), Jussi Kallava (Drums), and Mikko Mattila (Guitar) that plays what they refer to as “Samurai Metal.” Theirs is a blend of that wonderful European death metal and traditional Japanese instruments and melodies. I’m not talking J-pop Babymetal Japan either, I’m talking ninjas and warlords and dragons and shit. My first impressions were that they had a somewhat similar sound to the Taiwanese Chthonic, but I completely missed the mark, they are something very unique. I expected to find nothing but gimmicky fun, but what I got was something far, far more. It just worked so well. It was polished, tight and admittedly pretty epic. Absolutely one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. With that said, let’s get down to the tracks:
1. Chi No Odori opens the album with a very traditional sounding Japanese melody to set the mood and let you know what you are in store for…Nothing special here.
2. Strike really embodies the sound that Whispered brings to the metal community. A catchy combination of their quintessential sound: death/power metal flawlessly blended with “traditional” Japanese melodies. This is the kind of track that gets stuck in your head for weeks to come as you catch yourself humming that chorus riff over and over again.
3. Exile of the floating World is a darker, heavier track with a slow, melodic backup vocals that are actually quite enchanting. It really has a lot of twists and time changes and though erratic and cooky at times, it’s a lot of fun.
4. Sakura Omen is fantastic. A long, building intro with a hauntingly beautiful chorus and traditional instruments gives way to a frantic and furious track, full of double bass and simple, catchy riffs. The vocals really stuck out for me on this one as they were particularly melodic and intense. It’s a really long track that tells a story of war and vengeance. It was really enjoyable and I couldn’t help but find myself toe tapping and head banging along. The outro is a very dramatic conclusion that was well worth the wait.
5. Kensei (A master swordsman; sword saint) is another very complex track, mixing blast beats, harsh vocals, a shredding solo and some really harmonious melodies. The song is speckled with time changes, traditional chants and even some symphonic segments. A very memorable track indeed and one of the best on the album.
6. Our Voice Shall Be Heard! Double bass and Shakuhachi (I think) permeate this intense and heavily instrumental track. Honestly not my favourite track on the album. The track is supposed to be ghostly and otherworldly, but I found found is somewhat lackluster compared to some of the other masterworks on the album.
7. Tsukiakari gets right back on track though with an eargasm of an intro blending koto, guitar, piano, flutes; you name it. This is a super intense track with double bass, blast beats and breakdowns galore. Growls, screams, symphonies, solos…It’s an ever changing melodic masterpiece that is tighter than a nun’s nookie.
8. Warriors of Yama is an interlude before the build up to the grand finale. A very traditional track that sounds like something out of a Japanese period drama or Rurouni Kenshin movie.
9. Victory Grounds Nothing opens like a power metal cliché, but then takes it up a notch with a somber recitative. The pace never really slows much, rather building like a crescendo until the bridge and then finishing in the same manner in which it started. Not much in the ways of depth, but a treat for those fans that enjoy pace and power.
10. Bloodred Shores of Enoshima, the magnum opus. Vocalist and guitarist Jouni Valjakka had this to say about the track:
“For thousands of years, a dragon Gozuryu has tormented a peaceful village, so the Goddess Benzaiten descends to confront the beast and help the people. The dragon falls in love with the Goddess, but is rejected. Through tremendous anger the serpent finally sees what he has done, falls in shame and turns into a mountain. The song is inspired by famous Japanese folklore. It’s really an orchestra-driven fairytale divided into five acts, while reflecting everything that’s happening musically. It’s also the most ambitious song we’ve ever made.”
Ambitious doesn’t even begin to describe this masterpiece of metal and mayhem. It is everything I want in a song and more. It checks all the boxes – boxes you didn’t even know were on the fucking list. It’s a rocking, eleven minute journey with a fantastic story, sneaky little time changes, gorgeous riffs and mystical melodies. It’s angry growls and symphonic subtleties, furious drums and righteous riffs. 10/10
All in all an awesome album. Definitely worth a listen and something that will be in queue for years to come. I’m looking forward to the next installment as well.
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