Review Summary: Yoshu Fukushu is fun, catchy, heavy, and diverse. Highly recommended.
On a hot August afternoon in 2015, I was in the international district of Seattle, Washington. I purchased lunch in the food court of Japanese supermarket Uwajimaya, where I then consumed it, enjoying the transplanted foreign atmosphere of my surroundings. It was there, as I sat unceremoniously shoveling noodles and tofu into my mouth, that I pondered the question: What does metal from Japan sound like?
I realized I had never encountered music of my favorite genre from the country…but then again, I’d never thought to seek it out before, so why would I have? Later in the evening of that same day, I decided to pursue this question via the internet, that glorious tool that actually grants one the ability to discover music from the other side of the planet in mere handful of clicks.
I don’t remember what site I went to or how long it took me to stumble across Maximum The Hormone, but eventually I found “A・L・I・E・N,” a song off of Yoshu Fukushu. Amidst my enthrallment with the track’s music video--which contains mosh pit karate, the band members spouting additional heads and limbs, and at one point, the guitarist’s head superimposed on the body of a child holding a balloon--I realized that the song really kicked ass. It was frantic and unpredictable. The vocals were diverse, and the instrumentation was fantastic. Despite how much I loved it, however, it was another couple months before I began to explore the rest of Maximum The Hormone’s discography. I showed “A・L・I・E・N” to a friend, which reminded me just how great the song was, and I was inspired to look up more of their music. The next song I found was the title track of Yoshu Fukushu. It blew me away.
These two songs were my introduction to Maximum The Hormone’s fifth album, and their music in general. Since then, Yoshu Fukushu has become one of my favorite albums--if not my favorite--due to the sheer number of standout tracks and it’s impeccable, always engaging instrumentation and vocals. Maximum The Hormone’s Yoshu Fukushu is fun, catchy, heavy, and diverse. The aforementioned title track is a perfect example of these qualities. It begins with soft guitar and drummer Nao singing, and from there it builds in intensity until suddenly breaking into melodious gang vocals from the entire band. But then it goes back to the heavy, hitting you with an absolutely killer breakdown, and then it goes back to the gang vocals before closing out with Nao, much like how it started. The whole song is extremely well done. It also, according to a potentially inaccurate translation of the lyrics, contains a line about threatening to shove acorns and confetti into someone’s urethra, which is such a bizarrely specific punishment that I burst out laughing the first time I read it.
Not every song on Yoshu Fukushu is as unconventional as the opening track, and while that’s certainly not a bad thing, I find Maximum The Hormone are at their best when they break free of more traditional structures. Further examples of this would be “A・L・I・E・N” and the song named after the band itself. Even the tracks that end up being in standard verse-chorus format have so much activity going on in them that it never feels uninspired or formulaic. Take “Tsume Tsume Tsume” for example: AABA, but the verses have so many different facets that it hardly feels like it. In the second verse, it jumps from growls by Daisuke, to Ryo’s cleans and some of the most entertaining guitar work on the album, to Nao’s singing, to Ryo bursting into some rapping-esque vocals. In fact, many of the verses present on the album are like this: lengthy and jumping between several different parts, instead of hitting you with the same melody repeated a few times and then breaking into the chorus.
Yet another thing this album does an excellent job with is allowing every member of the band to stand out. Ue-Chan’s bass does not get overwhelmed by the rest of the music and has plenty of moments to shine (like in “A・L・I・E・N” and “maximum the hormone,” the latter of which features a great undulating bassline). Nao’s drumming is reliably solid and frequently impressive, just like Ryo’s guitar work. Adding to this is the fact that everyone sings (with Ue-Chan only giving backup vocals). The vocal diversity is one of the best aspects of this record; Nao adds a great female counterpoint to Daisuke’s shrieks and growls and Ryo’s enjoyable clean singing. Every member of the band feels important. The cohesiveness of the musicianship gives one the sense that these guys are like family (which is literally true in the case of sister/brother Nao and Ryo) and genuinely love what they do.
There are some arguably weak moments on the album, of course--the two shortest full songs (#8 and #12) kind of end up coming-and-going. This could also be said of a couple others (“Chu2 The Beam” and “Benjo Sandal Dance”), but these tracks aren’t so much dips in quality as they are just incredibly overshadowed by the better songs surrounding them.
All in all, Maximum The Hormone’s fifth studio album is quite a remarkable offering, one that which I believe deserves a 5/5. Some albums are “classics” to me more out of nostalgia than the actual impressiveness of the content. Yoshu Fukushu, on the other hand, is a personal classic of mine because of the sheer volume of ass it kicks. The worst part about this album is that I don’t speak Japanese, so in order to sing along I’m probably butchering the language and just making nonsense noises.
1. Yoshu Fukushu
3. Utsukushiki Hitobito no Uta
7. Tsume Tsume Tsume
11. my girl
14. maximum the hormone