Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Matatabi's Liner Notes for Fūjin Kaikō

11th Album "Fūjin Kaikō"

       Created with "wind" as the key concept, this is Onmyōza's 11th album. As the word wind can bring to mind everything from gentle zephyrs to violent storms, the range the pieces on this album cover is extremely wide. Still, as we have been known for expanding our musicality by incorporating various new elements into our music, it might be a little late to be discussing about the width of our range. Rather, I think that you can feel the pride of Onmyōza in the fact that no matter how much we may broaden our horizons, we possess a nucleus that will never be lost. Besides that, you get the sense that this is the opening of a new musical world for Onmyōza. I can assert that Fūjin Kaikō has indeed turned out to be such an album.

       This is something that can be said for both Fūjin Kaikō and Raijin Sōsei; it is not the case that they each contain only songs that have to do with either wind or thunder. Those were merely the keywords while creating the albums, and the keywords were to broaden my mental images instead of limiting them, so there is no need to fear that the albums contain only songs that are fixed on a single image. Just relax and enjoy them.



       This is an overture for the whole album Fūjin Kaikō. The image is that of a lull that turns into a zephyr, and then into a gust that gives you the feeling that something is about to begin. Additionally, assuming that most of the people who bought both albums at the same time will begin by listening to Fūjin Kaikō, I have also intended it to be an overture that maximizes the sense of anticipation that you feel at the moment when the curtains open for the two new albums.

       While the first half with the focus on the gentle timbre of the mellotron is suggestive of good old progressive rock, the second half focuses on orchestration that is like wind blowing and it gives you an elevating feeling as if you were listening to theatrical music.

       This piece was completed relatively early into the production of Fūjin Kaikō, and while I was composing, I would listen to the demo of this piece every day to get myself pumped up as I began to work.



       Tearing through the echoes of "Fūjin" comes this piece that is straight Onmyōza with its intro, chorus and guitar solo. "Kamikaze" refers to the supernatural wind that gods raise with their powers, but here we are singing about the idea that when you place the existence of gods within yourself, then it is up to your own will and conviction to raise it (the divine wind).

       Naturally, I am sure that there are doctrines where the thought that god is found within yourself would be considered blasphemous, and if you ask which religion's which teaching this theory is based on, I can only answer you that it is my own idea that is not based on any religion. (I myself have no need for such a thing, so I am not at all religious. However, I think that phenomena and powers that are beyond human understanding certainly do exist. Therefore, I take the stance that the existence of the word "god" can also be justified.) Why then have I placed god there you may ask. Whether the god in question resides in the heavens, in the sea, or in the mountains, such a being first comes into existence when you yourself believe in it. In other words, if you do not believe in it, it will be found nowhere at all. Through such reasoning I came to the thought that the only place where one can say they exist is within your own mind.

       According to the books, it seems that Buddha also preached that "gods exist inside your mind". Although we are saying the same thing, Buddha's thoughts are true enlightenment, mine can be filed under sophistry.


"Saredo itsuwari no okuribi"

       With a catchy tune riding a riff filled with melancholy and a speeding, simple beat, this can be called quite British...... no, "UKish" would probably be closer. I really like pieces like this and have always wanted to try making one sometime.

       As for the contents of the lyrics, to put it in plain words in order to indicate that I have no intention of complaining about religion itself, it goes like this: "Improper priests should behave properly". Respectable priests should not need to get into trouble because of priests that behave improperly.

       Whether they are Buddhist or not, most Japanese cannot enter the next world without the help of a priest in the end, or at least it feels like they cannot. That is not something that should be rejected, I think, as long as it does not have a special place in the organization of society. However, since you need to place absolute trust in the priest into whose care you trust your last moments, the priest also needs to behave absolutely respectably. That is the story in a nutshell. It is the same thing as when you take a taxi, you have no choice but to leave the driving to the driver, and if they are not driving properly, you could be in trouble.

       Please do not take me wrong. I have no intention whatsoever of criticizing or demeaning priesthood itself. Actually, it is quite the opposite. Since I basically respect priests, I would like those priests who are the cause of that trust wavering to behave properly.



       "Ichimokuren" refers to a yōkai that is said to be a god of storms. Among Onmyōza's songs, there is one really listless, slow-paced piece called "Mokumokuren" (In fact, all of the members really like that one), and although the titles sound similar, the pieces themselves are polar opposites. With the riffs and guitar solo raging like storm winds, this turned out as one of the heaviest pieces on Fūjin Kaikō. Another highlight is the contrasting nuances brought about by the entanglement of the male and female voices that adds an Onmyōza-flavor into the song. If I may blow my own trumpet, I cannot help but feeling proud at the excellence of the intro riff, and when I came up with it, I was quite literally snorting up a storm. It is not that I named a riff that turned out good "Ichimokuren"; I was working on it while waiting for the riff of "Ichimokuren" to materialize, so it was quite exciting for me when it hit me.

       In the lyrics I have juxtaposed Onmyōza's position on the music scene with Ichimokuren, who as a ruler of storms is not always a welcome guest. I began writing the lyrics with the thought, "I should write about us from a negative viewpoint for a change. That would be true shade and light." That is because we already have many lyrics that generally perceive Onmyōza's conviction and the path we should take and whatnot from an extremely positive viewpoint. Despite that fact, what I ended up with was the following message: "Like a raging storm, we'll blow away even those negative circumstances with the power of our conviction and head on onward!"......  In short, this demonstrates the fact that one cannot act against one's convictions.



       "Hebimiko" is what they call the snake in the "tsukimonosuji"[1] of a certain region. This snake eats into the internal organs of its victim whom a person of the hebimiko lineage considers hateful, and it is so powerful that it can even lead to death.... Well, sometimes it just so happens that you end up feeling hatred toward a person you fell in love with when you find out that your love is unrequited.... Such a simple explanation is all you will need in order to imagine the tragedy that is depicted in this song. You could say that it is the same theme of killing someone you love as in "Dōjōji kuchinawa no goku", but what is fundamentally different is the fact that whereas Kiyohime in "Dōjōji kuchinawa no goku" ended up doing what she did because of clear intent to kill, the heroine of this song becomes part of a tragedy just by thinking that she hates someone and due to her special circumstances. It is the difference between homicide and involuntary manslaughter; though they may appear the same, they are totally different stories. Hebimiko itself is actual folklore that exists, but what comes after "sometimes it just so happens..." is of course my own invention.

       In the finished song we have lively rhythms with limpid guitars, plus the exquisitely emotional vocals by Kuroneko. All that put together makes the piece mellow enough to drive you mad. I think you will agree that the functionality of the rhyming parts of the lyrics and the way they come together are also quite good craftsmanship.

[1] "Possessed lineage": It was believed that once you called the help of a spirit and let it possess your target (or yourself), that spirit would then stay with your family and the descendants of the family would have to keep presenting it with the proper offerings and whatnot, otherwise that spirit could curse members of that family too. Such families, where an animal spirit was worshiped, would be discriminated against, and "normal" families would be reluctant to marry their children off to a descendant from such a family.



       This piece has as its theme whirlwind (tsumujikaze), which can also be written "旋風" and pronounced "senpū" or "tsujikaze".[1] Like "Kamikaze", here we are also singing about the fact that instead of just waiting for the wind to blow, it is your own will that transforms the conviction within yourself into a whirl that flings up and blows away everything. Naturally, I am not referring to external things, but internal things such as hesitation and sorrow.

       For us humans, in most cases, whirlwinds themselves are simply natural disasters and nothing to be thankful about, and there should never be any need to produce them artificially. However, in the case of this piece, I have taken up a positive view of the swell of power nature produces in order to make those whirlwinds and I have likened it with the swell of power one musters within oneself.

       With its punchy riffs and the lead guitars going berserk at a high tempo, this is a piece that headbangers will find most welcome. Kuroneko's voice, which while on the stage floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, has taken the leap from awesome to fearsome.[2] I am convinced that this is a masterpiece in which the essence of Onmyōza is in full bloom by demonstrating that this is what happens when you accompany heavy metal with a bona fide singing voice without relying on brute force or cheap tricks.

[1] Even more ways to write it: 飇, 飄, 飃, 颶, 猋. The character 飆 is made up of three dogs 犬 + wind 風. The three dogs signify the meaning of quickly whizzing past.
[2] Literally: from vivid (鮮烈 senretsu) to shivers (戦慄 senritsu).



       In addition to describing a situation where there is no wind, the word calm also signifies the absence of that which causes disturbances or exerts an influence. "No influence" means both not exerting an influencing and not being influenced. Active or not, we exert no influence of any kind on the music scene and cause no amusing disturbances. I always think that it is fitting to describe Onmyōza as "a windless band". Additionally, I have incorporated in this piece my opinion that it is preferable to be in a state of calm when facing external influences and disturbances. Although the theme of the lyrics might feel slightly self-deprecating, from the zippy mood that the composition itself radiates I think you can gather that I consider it decisively agreeable. As a matter of fact, I would even go as far as to say that instead of being merely agreeable, without calm nothing is possible. A calm situation is the best!

       A chipper rhythm that sways from left to right but makes you want to jump up and down is accompanied by chipper guitar riffs. At any rate, both playing this piece and listening to it feels great. Chipper is also the only word that can describe the bounce in Kuroneko's singing.

       Chipper might be a word that has fallen into disuse, but as it is a word I like, and as I cannot find a more fitting word, I have been hiding the fact of its death for three years. Therefore the chipper used here is the body double of chipper.[1]

[1] The word used by Matatabi, which I have translated as chipper, is ゴキゲン (gokigen). An obsolete word in Japanese is called 死語 (shigo), literally "dead word". The "body double for three years" is a reference to Kurosawa Akira's Kagemusha.



       The Yaobikuni in the title of this piece does not refer to the girl that ate the meat of a mermaid, became a bhikkhuni and lived for 800 years, but to the middle part "Strange Beings" that stands out prominently even among the other excellent volumes in the immortal masterpiece Phoenix by the god of manga, Tezuka Osamu (Oh, I guess gods do exist after all). Please get your hands on a copy of Phoenix: Strange Beings by all possible means. By listening to this after reading that, the enjoyment you experience will skyrocket by 800%. Of course I will guarantee 100% enjoyment even if you have not read it so rest assured.

       Incidentally, it is not like Phoenix: Strange Beings is a story that has nothing to do with Yaobikuni; in it two stories that share a common theme, "what eternal life does and shows to humans", have been ingeniously intertwined, then sublimated with sci-fi flavoring. It is a tour de force by a god that looks into the abyss of life and death.

       You might get mad at me for only commenting on the manga, but "Yaobikuni" is (or tries to be) the true musical form of Phoenix: Strange Beings, which is why explaining the manga is equivalent to explaining this piece. Putting aside the objective evaluation of whether I have been able to sublimate the tour de force of a god into music, in my own subjective opinion I flatter myself that I have succeeded in the attempt of turning the story and theme of Phoenix: Strange Beings into musical tones, and I believe that as an indispensable part to the realization of that story as music, Kuroneko's singing does an excellent job in expressing the emotions of the characters. I was able to witness, at least inside my head, a phoenix that materialized together with Kuroneko's singing.

       As an aside, if you have the chance of verifying the playing time of this piece, please do so. Is it this length just because it's "Yao"bikuni...?[1] I believe you will agree that this reconfirms the fact I am a weirdo. (The way it will be displayed on your CD player is machine-dependent, so if there happens to be a difference between what is written in the booklet, then that's "according to specifications", but I think most machines will be all right)

[1] The "Yao" in Yaobikuni stands for 800.



       This one is a piece by Karukan in a long while. In fact, the demo of this piece was handed to me by Karukan nearly ten years ago, and after waiting for the album which it should be appear on, it has finally been recorded for Fūjin Kaikō. From the first moment I heard the demo, I thought to myself: "This is a good tune!", and since I was listening to it repeatedly night after night, I count myself as the number one fan of this piece.

       The demo Karukan had made was a simple thing almost like a jotted down memo, but it had within it the hidden potential that predicted the final product you find here. I am probably the one who is happiest of the fact that this tune sees the light of day of being released.

       The lyrics are about the power and importance of gazes. They do say that "eyes are as eloquent as the tongue", but here the basis is the idea that oftentimes eyes can be even more eloquent than the tongue. "The situation where they fixedly look your way but do not say anything" or "the situation where you are engaged in a conversation, but they do not look your way even for a moment". Though it depends on the person, one of these is more unbearable than the other and gives you the feeling that the way your partner thinks about you is peeking through.... In some cases, it can be the latter, and that is what the lyrics are about. Though the calm melody and Kuroneko's voice do make you feel quite comfortable, the song itself is about quite a cheerless scene.


"Kumo wa ryū ni mai, kaze wa tori ni utau"

       In this title, which is based on the proverb "kumo wa ryū ni shitagai kaze wa tora ni shitagau"[1] and which was given to the song by Kuroneko, manifests the conviction and unity that Onmyōza's coat of arms represents. Accordingly, the contents of the lyrics are also about that same theme.

       In any case, I believe that the outlook on the world and the atmosphere of this majestic yet delicate, heroic yet gorgeous piece are proof of the bottomless sensibility of its originator, Kuroneko. Although the demo first handed to me contained only the song melody with a piano accompaniment, the idea was enlarged quite a bit as Kuroneko explained to me her vision for the rhythm and orchestration. Expanding that inside my brain, it was not that difficult to imagine an ensemble close to the finished piece. After receiving the demo, the task ahead of me was programming each of the instruments, layering them with the band parts, and completing the orchestration by adding the intro, interlude and other sections. The piece was then completed by having Kuroneko sing the vocals according to her renewed image of the song after hearing that orchestration. As might be expected of her thorough determination, the exquisiteness of both the expressiveness and the vibrancy of Kuroneko's singing in this piece is ineffable.

       While you cannot quite label this piece as a ballad, I would hesitate to call it rock either... Although it cannot be grasped from the viewpoint of genres and categories, no matter what kind of ears you have, it sounds like Onmyōza, and I believe that this song unmistakably illuminates the very conviction of Onmyōza and expands Onmyōza's musicality. Additionally, it rings out as if it were an indication of our potentiality.

[1] 雲は竜に従い、風は虎に従う (The clouds obey the dragon, the winds obey the tiger): As long as the emperor is virtuous he will inevitably get talented retainers. The proverb comes from the I Ching.


"Yue ni sono toki koto kaze no gotoku"  

       If before going to bed you start thinking about why human life goes by so quickly, in no time at all the sun will have passed the meridian (When exactly did you go to bed?) While getting a definite answer is impossible, you can still work out some sophistry that satisfies yourself. The result of such an effort is this song.

       I gave the piece this title, which incorporates a concept from the "Military Maneuvers" chapter of The Art of War, before I began composing it. I started working on it with the intention of creating a piece with such a name, and the first thing I focused on was the part "sono" (its). And right after asking myself: "What is as fast as the wind?", I hit upon the topic of the last paragraph, the topic I had been thinking about night after night. Although I had made the connection between "quickness" and "human life", it left something to be desired. With the word "therefore", I would at least have to find out the reason for why life goes by so quickly within the song.

       This is what I came up with—— as an advance notice, you will need to keep in mind that this is nothing more than an idea that was formed for this single song; I have absolutely no intention of asserting that life should be lived in a particular way, neither am I pretending to have found the answer — If there is a satisfying answer for the question why does human life go by as quickly as the wind, it has to be an answer that we can be thankful for and one that makes you cherish that speed. If life for everyone were a long (slow) thing that never ended, and if everyone only thought at the verge of death: "Finally this interminable life is over. What a relief", then I would have no choice but to say that that is miserable. Of course, I am sure there actually are such lives that make you feel like that. But that is precisely why the opposite, i.e. the fact that you can think that "life went by before I knew it" is the proof that you have led a sufficient life, and that indeed is a fortunate thing. Therefore, life is fast so that you can feel like that... Could that not be the case? That is my pet theory in this piece.

       For humans it is hard to appreciate something abundant, whereas being thankful for something rare goes without saying. I have simply compared that with human life and its absolute time; it is a very simple idea. Now that I have explained it, you might think that it's an obvious story that doesn't amount to much, but the more obvious something is, the more we need to be conscious of it. I believe it is a good thing to sometimes investigate why something is obvious.

       The faster it is, the greater its preciousness and the appreciation for it become. "That is why human life passes away as quickly as the wind." This is the theme of this song. I believe that this piece, which has sublimated that theme into sorrowful, melodic heavy metal, is one of the highlights of Fūjin Kaikō.


 "Haru ranman ni shiki no mau nari"

       Every now and then we use the titles of past tours as the titles for our songs, but this one is the title of the one tour that was canceled after being announced. Explaining how it came to be canceled would itself become "the gimmick" so I will refrain from doing so. This piece is about the feelings that the members of Onmyōza felt about the generous affection and consideration that our fans showed us at the time when the tour was canceled, and not related to that, it is also about the daily feelings of gratitude and affection that I feel, unashamedly made into a song.

       We regularly hear from concert staff and others how they have never seen such wonderful fans as the fans Onmyōza has. If the ones being praised were ourselves, it could not have made us feel any gladder or prouder, and there really is no way to be grateful enough for that. After all, fans can choose their bands, but bands cannot choose their fans. And yet we are supported by more wonderful fans than we could ever have hoped for. If we did not appreciate this, what would there be to appreciate? With such feelings I wrote these lyrics. The reason I refrained from even sprinkling the usual archaic words and dialect to hide my embarrassment is because I thought to myself that I should sometimes write straightforwardly about the feeling of gratitude. And after completing the piece, I am confident that carrying out that plan was worth the effort.

       I hope that these feelings of ours will reach all of our fans.