Originally published 3/6/2014
Released during Comiket 85, Sepia Recollections is by far the best doujin vocal metal album I’ve listened to thus far.
CROW’SCLAW is a 1 man group consisting of Taka. Taka composes, arranges, and plays touhou metal arrangements. In the past, he has done arrangements of other works as well and now recently, he has made some original compositions along with female vocals.
Each instrument, except for the drum set, was played by Taka himself, and the recording sounds excellent for this style of music. The solo guitar and vocals have presence and weight to their tone, without ever being drowned out by the supporting instruments. Likewise the background instruments have their place in the music but never feels overdone. Sepia Recollections sounds excellent whether through portable speakers or audiophile headphones.
The outstanding vocals in Sepia Recollections are done by Mei Ayakura, Nachi Sakaue, and Show Ikeda. Those who are familiar with Alstroemeria Records will know who Mei Ayakura and Nachi are. They are two of my favorite vocalists in the touhou doujin scene. In comparison to the vocals on Alstroemeria’s arrangements, I find that Nachi’s vocals are possibly more suited for metal than electronic music. Mei Ayakura’s vocals are lovely as always. I am less familiar with Show Ikeda’s vocals but she does a nice job in this album; Her more mature voice is a nice contrast between the younger voices of Ayakura and Nachi’s.
The introduction track, Introduction, is an instrumental track that sets the mood for the rest of the album. One can feel the mood and emotions of each song without understanding Japanese, through each vocalist’s voice, each strum of the guitars, and with each strike of the drums, high hats, and keyboard. This is how I interpret the story, based on the mood and track titles: The story begins with Show Ikeda singing the struggles of our hero, as she tries to find herself in Photostand and Requiem. As the narration is switched to Mei Ayakura in Hero of Justice, we find that our hero has found something that she can rely on and fight for. She tries her hardest to pursue that ideal but she realizes her struggle is not enough, as is emphasized by Nachi’s itsumademo’s in Unfinished Dream and the wailing guitars in Lost My Way. Having gone through pain and sorrow, our hero has an internal struggle as she figures out what is right and wrong in Black or White. By the time we get to the last track, Good-Bye, our hero has finally come to terms with herself after realizing that her efforts were in fact not in vain and can finally say goodbye to her world. Nachi Sakaue’s splendidly cheerful but wistful voice is just perfect for this track; her Sayonaras leaves the listener with a sense of finality, as our hero’s story comes to an end.
This album is worth listening to even if you’re not a fan of metal. It is hard to find any major faults with Sepia Recollections, and really deserves nothing less than a 4.5/5. Taka has always done a fantastic job with touhou metal arranges but in Sepia Recollections, he shows that he can not only arrange and play instruments, but also make his own original compositions and lyrics while weaving a story. For those reasons and for the amazing vocal work, this album gets a 5/5 from me.
Rating – 5/5 (+0/-.5)
(note: if anyone could actually translate the lyrics to each song, that would be awesome)
Further listening to similar circles – The other two vocal metal circles that I am familiar with are Shinigiwa Satellite and Foreground Eclipse. Unlike CROW’SCLAW, those two circles have a much harder metal style and the mastering/recording of those two circles are terrible. Their music sound like a wall of sound, with no volume difference between any of the instruments at all. The one thing that the two circles have is Meramipop, the vocalist. Her voice is very well suited for metal, but at the same time she can sing softly like in RD-Sound’s arrangement of the Grimoire of Alice. I would love to hear Meramipop’s vocals alongside Taka’s instrumentals. She has so much potential, but is hindered by the quality of Shinigiwa Satellite and Foreground Eclipse’s recordings. In the case that you don’t mind the recording quality and harder metal, then give Shinigiwa Satellite and Foreground Eclipse a try. Also, take a look at one of CROW’SCLAW’s previous EP, Four Resolutions. It is done in a similar style to Sepia Recollections but it only has 4 tracks and features just Mei Ayakura and Show Ikeda.