FIFTH"FIFTH" (Album, 2016) !Recommended!

5S Records

A few years ago I came across Japanese art-rockers rhivs - an outfit who impressed with their unpredictability and creativity. Lead singer and, let's face it, powerhouse behind them was one YoshiS, who is back with a new project, FIFTH-NEWHEAVY, the style which the band describes as 'a new style of rock' (which isn't just marketing bluster BTW) and follows on from the foundations laid by his former band.

Following a series of four surrealistically eclectic EPs released during 2015 (including the superbly-named Plastico Human Nation!), this debut album, simply (and logically) entitled FIFTH, adds to those EPs, firmly throwing down a unique manifesto for the future of alt/industrial rock. They've taken the DIY ethos of punk but transmuted that, delivering the results with a slick, professional sheen.

The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted their contribution of In My Eyes to the third instalment of Armalyte Industries' compilation series Defcon Three: Dirty World - also released towards the end of last year. Their inclusion on that placing them in good and like-minded company.

All the songs on this album are sung in English. Presented in a sumptuous, superbly-designed DVD-sized digipack release, this is a 13-track journey into (for me at least) largely uncharted territory.

From opening track Beginning of the End, that slowly emerges from the ether, sounding like a pre-synths incarnation of Kraftwerk performing an outtake from Autobahn, but with tambourines and reversed percussion, having listened to too much Hari-Krishna chanting, you know you're listening to something that doesn't just ignore any rules on genre, but simply doesn't see them. 

Which can be both a major asset and a challenge, even for those who like to pride themselves on being challenged, particularly by rigid interpretations of genre boundaries.

Stand out tracks include the 'late night in an empty club' groove of Damn It!, where YoshiS' screaming voice competes with a screaming harmonica for the upper hand, with neither coming out the clear winner. It's anchored by a laid-back but very funky bass, a simple, stabbing piano (which opens the track) and some tasty shuffle drumming.

Suicide D opens with fantastically jittery drumming, sounding just like the sort of track DC and Warner Bros. should be including on their soundtracks to their darkest superhero movies when they're trying to give them edgy street cred. The four-piece look seriously cool too - so would look great doing press!

In My Eyes is a humongously bombastic track that probably sounds terrifying live. It's like a resonating wall of noise where none of the frequencies is in harmony with the listener, that only eases off for a few seconds during the chorus, before the pile-driving lead guitar wrestles back control. The Riddle opens in satisfyingly eclectic fashion, mixing Indian tabla with a fat bass guitar right out of the intro to The Beastie Boys' Sabotage. Whilst Bum is the least frantic track here but definitely.

Providing a nice sense of continuity, the album closes with End of the Beginning. It's a deliberate counterpoint to the opening Beginning of the End, in that it uses much the same elements but goes in the opposite direction structually by starting out loud and gradually fading into the distance. Conjuring up images of the white lines on a remote road flickering through the headlamps of an unidentified night-time driver.It leaves you fascinated to hear what will follow.

A lot of FIFTH sounds like what might emerge if a 'supergroup' of like-minded, musically proficient, members of separate legendary alt-rock bands got together in a country manor studio and just jammed for a month, then put out the results with the minimum of editing. It's hard to imagine that when writing, the band have any concern for a 'demographic' they might appeal to. But everyone from skate kids, through metal heads, grunge, crossover and industrial fans could all get something rewarding out of this. 8/10

Rob Dyer (May 2017)

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