Ryujin
Ryujin

Formerly known as ‘Gyze‘, and with four albums under that moniker from 2013-2019, this Japanese melodic death metal band has themed their music as ‘Samurai metal’, using copious Eastern instrumentation and influences (dragon flute, erhu, shamisen, etc) and visuals to bolster their energetic, shredding take on melodic death metal.

And now armed with a new name (‘Dragon God’- also a famous Korean female rapper, which took my research of the name to a weird place….), a new big label, and the considerable interest of Trivium’s Matt Heafy who produced and appears throughout the album on four songs. His interest in Eastern culture, of course, stems from his heritage, being present on Trivium releases as well as his side project Ibaraki.

So what does all this sound like? Well of course, there’s a heavy Trivium metalcore/melo-death influence, but to these ears, Ryujin sounds as if Ensiferm were from Japan; bouncy, catchy riffs, lots of shredding, rousing choruses, etc, all delivered with the band’s ‘Samurai metal’ aesthetic. So also like Finland’s Whispered, I guess? But more commercially viable with more clean vocals, choruses, and a heavy anime soundtrack vibe (they and Heafy cover the Attack on Titan theme “Guren No Yumiya” to hit that influence home).

Either way, it’s fun as heck, with some really cool moments, especially with the ethnic orchestration and instruments/choirs that border on power metal cheese, as do Ensiferum and such. It’s not as chaotic as fellow Japanese act  Imperial Dead Circus Decadence, as it’s far more structured and melodic. And when listening to early, epic, and energetic tracks like “Gekokujo”, “Dragon, Fly Free”, “Raijin & Fujin”, I’m smiling pretty hard.

The album’s second half is broken up with a couple of ballads in “The Rainbow Song” and “Saigo No Soshi” (there is also an English version as a bonus featuring Heafy to end the album), though they are broken up by more fun numbers like “Kunnecup” (feat. Mukai Wataru of the Kansai Philharmonic orchestra on cello) and frenetic “Scream of the Dragon”.

“Gekrin” gave me Hans Zimmer/Pirates of the Caribbean theme vibes with its nautical sway while the closing title track delivers almost 8 minutes of epic, shreddy majesty before the aforementioned bonus tracks (the Heafy sung Attack on Titan cover and Heafy version of “Saigo No Soshi” round out this fun as hell album that is possibly going to be the third year in a row a Japanese band will be on my year-end list.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
January 1st, 2024

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