Album Review: Japan Suicide – Ki

A year and a half after the release of their magnificent album ‘Sante Sangré’, Italy’s goth maestros Japan Suicide are back with ‘Ki’, a masterful and complex album that further evolves Japan Suicide’s glorious oeuvre.

Single ‘Mishima’ is inspired by the Japanese writer’s second novel ‘Confessions of a Mask’. According to the band, “The book was useful to try to understand something of Mishima because it is considered a sort of biography, but even also a novel. So this kind of ambiguity is also interesting for us, also for his life and the aspects more difficult to understand or accept. We have tried to overturn the vision of Mishima and his suicide with a song that we feel vitalistic, almost happy. The lyric “Life and melting” for this reason. His life was an encounter and a confrontation with life itself, while the first thing that someone could think about him is the manner in how he died.”

This song has all the hallmarks of the Japan Suicide sound: velvety soft rhythm guitars, a sharp precise rhythm section with a melodic bass, shards of arctic lead guitar riffs skipping over the top and the expressive, passionate vocals.

‘One Day, The Black Will Swallow the Red’ is a gorgeous anthemic and chiming song that cannot help recall Killing Joke with its insistent, driving bass that punches melodically through the song:

The song is inspired by Mark Rothko’s quote about his art: “There is only one thing I fear in life, my friend… One day the black will swallow the red.”

Elsewhere on the album, the opening song ‘Empire’ is a squalling rambling wall of sound, enigmatic and elegant.’Fancy Mate’ a restrained yearning melody.

A throbbing ominous rumbling synth line runs through ‘Dance For You’ with distant synths representing quite a change in direction for the band – the closest Japan Suicide gets to a romantic yearning love song despite the lines ‘I’m going to make you happy’ sounding more like a threat. Later track Kanagawa-oki Nami-ura, an instrumental, continues this synth-based approach with its orchestral, cathedral sound.

‘Ki’ is simply magnificent. It has a dark gothic undertone leavened with an intelligent lyrical curiosity and creative exploration of sound. Japan are not afraid of experimentation or utilising challenging themes, with songs like ‘The Devil They Know’, referencing the novel Satantango by Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai

I’m gonna hate him, falling away from me, falling away
I’m gonna taste it, falling away from me, falling away
I’m gonna meet him, falling away from me, falling away
I’m gonna kill him, falling away from me, falling away
They walk like a desperate, missing and beaten army

Japan Suicide are an intelligent and unique band that explores dark literary, artistic themes without pretension and within a contrastingly glorious, muscular sound. The album is available now through the link below and from all the usual digital platforms:

‘Ki’ was recorded by Matt Peel (known for producing Kaiser Chiefs and Eagulls) at The Nave Studios in Leeds, UK. It follows Santa Sangre (2018) and We Die In Such A Place (2015). Artwork by Maruko Fukusujiku.

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