Extreme Progressive Metal - Japan

Gonin-Ish Band

When musical cultures clash, it can easily descend into a jumble of disjointed parts or leave an insipid aftertaste like a stew concocted of ill fitting ingredients. With GONIN-ISH’s second album the careful balancing of apparently different styles and influences into a tonal masterpiece rather resembles the art of Japanese cuisine, which is highly valued by connoisseurs as being one of the most advanced worldwide. Spiced with rhythmical complexities and sharply heated over frying guitars “Naishikyo-Sekai”, the second full length of GONIN-ISH, opens as an audiophile feast with a fresh and crisp approach. Which each new song, another even more lavish course is offered to the intent listener. The aural palate is titillated by deft piano-movements, whirling drum-beats and restless guitars continuously shifting in acoustic and emotional colour.

The pièce de résistance is provided by singer Anoji’s exquisite employment of her vocal chords. What begins with honeyed sweetness soon follows twisted paths into maniac turbulences or razor-sharp fierceness as well as bitter melancholy. Light, darkness and shadow wheel around her voice sometimes in a light-footed dance at other moments in a relentless struggle on the very edge of sanity. All its makings of “Naishikyo-Sekai” have been carefully chosen for a specific purpose and are perfectly arranged to achieve harmony or contrast. With a seeming ease intricate Progressive Rock is added to Pop, harsh Death Metal equilibrated with Jazz and Fusion glazed with a fine layer of Art Rock. The Japanese amalgamate Western sound with Eastern feeling and achieve an unexpected wholeness. All those disparate elements are integrated into a perfect balance, which leaves the savourer with deep satisfaction, yet immediately longing for more.

The strife for perfection is reflected in all aspects of “Naishikyo-Sekai”: the very name “Gonin-Ish” means “to unite songs by five members” in Japanese. The band’s entire output is self-sufficient – songwriting, lyrics, artwork, layout, recording, distribution and mastering are all handled within this quintet and remain pure to their homeland and vision. Vocalist Anoji chooses ancient words from Japanese classic literature that aren’t widely used in the modern world and are difficult to decipher, even for the Japanese public. Embracing the ancient tradition does not mean neglecting today for GONIN-ISH as Anoji takes much inspiration for her lyrics from modern Manga – the Japanese art of graphic story-telling. Characteristically for their country’s attitude, the band pull from their country’s past as well as present and take this forgotten heritage to the future through their pure, progressive output.

The roots of GONIN-ISH reach back as far as the year 1995, when keyboarder Masashi Momota was a member of WWW, a Japanese Progressive Metal band, which disbanded already the next year after only one public performance. Masashi met up with guitarist Akiko “Anoji” Matsuoka, who played in the all female Thrash troupe OBLIVION and brought a taste for Death Metal into this union, which first resulted in a cover-band paying tribute to Swedish prog-legend Anekdoten, where Akiko took over the duties as bassist and singer. Soon their artistiv vision went beyond player cover-versions and in 1997 the project evolved into a band with new members joining. That same summer the appellation GONIN-ISH was found. Already at this early stage a specific way of working developed with Momota take the lead as main composer and Matsuoka deciding to express an ideal of chaos by writing all lyrics in her native tongue of Japanese.

When their self-titled debut came out in 2000, people described GONIN-ISH’s music as progressive rock, death metal, art rock, and fusion. Whatever the genre, the truth is the listen proved to be both extremely enjoyable and a colourful lesson of inheritance and innovation. “Gonin-Ish” debut immediately generated a massive surge of interest in their homeland leading to a host of shows including the famous Shibuya On Air West as well as touring with native bands and finally being the support act of Black Dahlia Murder in February 2004. After several changes the perfect line-up had meanwhile surfaced, when GONIN-ISH started recording their second album “Naishikyo-Sekai” in 2003, which was finished in 2004 and finally released in 2005 creating an even greater impact in Japan. Their success and recognition helped GONIN-ISH to have a dream came true, when they were invited in 2008 to play support for their heroes Anekdoten.

Now the band’s sophomore effort, “Naishikyo-Sekai” (meaning “your inner world”), finally gets its long awaited and deserved Western release. This highly original masterpiece is not bound by any genre but to true art, creation and expression. Welcome to a new chapter in music, a new chapter in Japanese culture and a new contender in the world of progressive metal: taste the most delicious musical creation from the Land of the Rising Sun!


  • Anoji Matsuoka : Guitar, vocals
  • Fumio 'Fu-Min' Takahashi : Guitar
  • Oyama Tetsuya : Bass
  • Gaku : Drums
  • Masashi Momota : Keyboards

This band is no longer active on Season of Mist.