Review Summary: Envy at the Opera.
Despite the incredible power of the internet search engine, standard Wikipedia checks and MySpace music, Mutyumu
prove elusive even to the all encompassing grasp of Google. Type that album into Google and you’ll find more ways to illegally download Ilya
than actually legally purchase it. Getting my hands on a physical copy involved the colossal hassle of working my way through Amazon Japan (literally one of two places on the entire internet which will sell it to you) and a two week wait. With that out of the way I’ll tell you what I know. Mutyumu
are a Japanese six piece and their favourite artists stretch from Bach
; all of which can be traced to the sounds of this here album. Ilya is almost certainly their second album following on from 2006’s self titled, although there is a fair chance they have prior releases the internet simply doesn’t record. Much like compatriots Envy
(who the band also name drop on their MySpace) everything is sung in Japanese and with translations completely out of the question there’s no lyrical analysis to be had. The album cover hints at a Romeo and Juliet styled concept disc but who’s to say really?
Musically they are a band whose sound runs across genres one would assume were irreconcilable, but honestly who mixes obvious genres like metal and hardcore anymore? It’s all about opera meets post rock meets death metal. What perhaps makes them most distinct from the many other bands throwing every musical colour onto their sonic painting is how Mutyumu
’s music is not expansive and open it’s extremely claustrophobic and fast paced from the word go. Forget five minute ambient passages this is an intense listening experience capable of extreme brutality and angelic harmony in a matter of seconds rather minutes and it actually makes sense. There is no grinding halt to a crushing drop C guitar shred fest followed instantly by clean chords and clean singing, the whole disc flows impeccably and none of the experimentation into different textures sounds forced or tacked on. Never have I come across a band, whose sound is a mesh of so many contradicting genres, who’ve made an album so cohesive. Take for example ‘Die Ewige Widerkunft’, the song spends most of its length focused on spiralling pianos layered with staccato violins, but every so often it breaks into the most recognisable (dare I say catchy) vocal refrain before we are greeted with yet more tumbling keys and a wall of noise. Most unexpectedly (but in no way superimposed upon the track) there is about half a minute of pure metal towards the end. This is a taster for the next song ‘L’oeil est Dieu’ which contains more of the same with a much more clearly defined structure and a lot more heaviness and screamed vocals.
As a fan of less angular and abrasive music Mutyumu
are to me at their best when they explore the more serene and beautiful aspects of their sound such as on ‘Unforgiven’. It is perhaps the most post rock sounding material here and is a gloomy juggernaut of a track akin to the most intense and noisy Godspeed climax complimented beautifully by vocalist Hatis Noit
. Her voice floats and meanders across the highest registers of the human vocal range in a solemn and most haunting fashion. ‘Raison D’Etre’ follows it in a similar yet subtlety different manner by featuring a far more prominent role for the piano which is so often the drive behind their musical landscapes and despite the eeriest of build ups the track closes in the most simple way with a lone piano accompanying a spoken word (although it’s more whispers panned across both headphones) piece. The centrepiece of the album is the penultimate epic “Prayer” which runs the gamut of the entire Mutyumu sound. It opens with a mind blowing and gorgeous 90 seconds of Noit
showing her vocal prowess. I was absolutely blown away the first time I heard this. Having become very jaded with music in 2008 hearing her soprano cascade over those dissonant and traumatic layers of sound restored my faith in just how good music can be.
An issue I’ve not yet touched upon but that is well worthy of mention is how extremely technically proficient this band is. Those of you expecting guitar sweeps and double tapping may be disappointed but the standard of piano playing is phenomenal by absolutely any standards and is well worthy of representing the behemoths of classical music who have so distinctly influenced them. The strings too are masterfully used to accentuate, animate and occasionally instigate the direction of the album. Battling with the Piano as the ultimate manifestation of the bands talents is the vocal performance. The purpose of vocals in an album which could easily work instrumentally is twofold. On the one hands her vocals work as another instruments to add yet another layer to the music in much the same way as Sigur Ros use vocals but at the same time her voice is frequently used in the traditional way vocals are used in music; as an immediately identifiable and endearing element to the bands sound.
A lot of people it seems listen to music in seasons (the most clichéd example of which is pop punk in the summer and indie acoustic in the winter) but this isn’t something that I’ve ever really done. However I do listen to music by the time of day. Some albums just sound better at night for me. At this time of year in the UK it gets dark pretty early so when I leave University in the mid to late afternoon it’s perfect environment for listening to this kind of music. As I walk past the headlights of the cars in congestion something about this music makes perfect sense. It’s intensely violent yet calm and serene, it’s cold and yet it touches so many emotions and despite being that web of contradictions it is an extraordinary album.