Review Summary: A fun, energetic nod at various anime musical tropes yields enjoyable results yet again for joyful progressive metaller Sithu Aye.
It's worth mucking about once in a while. Glasgow-based instrumental artist Sithu Aye, as a means of trying out his new toy in a Mayones Regius 7, decided to write a track based on typical anime opening sequences and had no real intention in releasing anything other than a 90 second clip of said track onto Youtube (entitled 'Senpai, Please Notice Me! AMV'). However, as so frequently happens with these things he claims to have been slowly convinced that making an EP of similar ideas was the right thing to do, and so the slightly facetious, unquestionably fun 'Senpai EP' was completed just over 5 months later.
If the album art, title and underlying concept have not already gifted a slight clue, it's best not to go into 'Senpai' expecting a metal release in the standard, or indeed serious sense. There is practically nothing here which can be construed as aggressive even by Sithu Aye's typically happier-than-most standards (with a notable exception being a fragment of the final track), and the usage of bouncing synth and piano lines alongside gleeful solo guitar is probably the album's most defining characteristic. Opener 'Oh ***, I'm Late For School!' may possibly be one of the most uplifting tracks put to record this year; an overwhelmingly poppy number with cheery, slightly saccharine keyboards and equally characterised guitar, it all comes neatly wrapped up with the pretence of a classic anime trope, in this case being that of running to school with a piece of toast hanging out of the character's mouth. Slightly more of a guitar-led sound is prominent on the following two tracks, in particular on the aforementioned but now extended 'Senpai, Please Notice Me!', which allows him further to show off his technical proficiency as a solo artist. Arguably the best writing on the EP however is found on closer 'The Power of Love and Friendship!', featuring a perfect mixture of the musically impressive and the irresistibly catchy.
The album's greatest dividing point (not including those that dislike the music itself) is undoubtedly the concept. It would not be entirely unfair to say that one of the main points of enjoyment here for some, being a jocular poke at musical tropes in popular anime, will slightly alienate detractors and those unfamiliar with the cartoon style; while the music itself may prove gratifying, the feeling of missing out on an in-joke usually proves to be a slightly disappointing downer, and 'Senpai' would be no exception. For fans of anime however there is plenty to pick up on, from the introductory beeping alarm to the fading-in of of key sections normally significant of an opening theme, and there is undoubtedly enough that is musically sound here to satisfy fans of Sithu Aye's brand of progressive metal regardless. All in all, 'Senpai' is a fun little EP with its tongue firmly wedged in its cheek, that just so happens to also be really rather good – just remember to leave your cynicisms at the door and let yourself enjoy it.