ALBUM REVIEW: Ryujin – Ryujin

The new year is off to a good start because Ryujin’s shining new self-titled album Ryujin (Napalm Records) is about to be released. 

The Japanese band recently changed their name from Gyze to the title of their country’s dragon god. The new branding fits this recent release with its uniquely powerful genre combinations, mighty melodies, and epic scale arrangements. 

Just as the dragon unleashes dangerous tsunamis, this trio from Hokkaido lets loose particularly grandiose intensity. Their new label debut is produced by Trivium’s Matt Heafy who plays a key role in elevating this album to exceptional heights. 

It all starts with “Hajimari”, a short enticing piece that leads right into the banger, “Gekokujo”. The second number unfurls into cultivated chaos with hard-hitting rambunctiousness and high levels of severity. There is an eagerness and venom in the playing that showcases how ravenous these guys are. 

The searing, otherworldly screams from frontman Ryoji Shinomoto smolders the senses. His high-pitched fury cuts through the pandemonium and captures the listener’s attention. The mix of heavy with traditional Japanese instruments is reminiscent of what Fleshgod Apocalypse does with metal and classical. 

To gracefully merge such varied genres is a masterful feat. The title track, “Dragon, Fly Free”, and “Gekirin” use Japanese instruments such as the dragon flute, Erhu, and Taiko which highlight a poignant folk element in their writing. They use their own language and English to express their lyrics celebrating Japan’s traditions. Flouncy flutes and rough riffs make for a one-of-a-kind combo. 

This powerhouse dynamically expresses themselves with their country’s music, plus they toss in some smooth sensual guitar solos and big choruses that range from Power Metal to Melodic Death Metal. 

Children of Bodom is an obvious influence in some of the speedier numbers like “Kunnecup” and “Scream of the Dragon”. The gears are constantly shifting from epic, wall-of-sound-type songs to more ballad-esque serenades like “Saigo No Hoshi”. 

A notable number is the band’s take on the Attack On Titan theme song, “Guren No Yumiya”. Heafy lends his vocals to support the inventive, mirthful, and energetic pump-up piece. The colorful variety and uncommon mixes show the big heart of this band. The love of their country’s stories is expressed in strong emotional ways to aggressively ominous ones.  

There are a lot of great sing along moments providing an enduring feeling. The technical guitar work from Shinomoto shows off how quick and proficient these musicians are at their craft. Samurai Metal is potently passionate, ballsy, and explosive. Let’s hope there will be a lot more to come.

Buy the album here:

7 / 10