Sometimes, the dream is enough.
Most young people have dreams of the life that awaits them in the future. Many of us carry those dreams well into old age, even though many of the dreams are replaced with knowledge and experience. When we of age encounter young people with dreams, we want to impart all the wisdom we can, not to extinguish the dream, but to take part in it and live it through them.
ASTERISM is a youthful trio consisting of drummer Mio, bassist Miyu, and guitarist HAL-CA (pronounced HA-ru-ka) whose relative ages are 19, 16, and 15 (at the time of this writing). On their first two mini-albums, they smashed through amazing covers of time honoured songs like Bark at the Moon, Ace of Spades, and YYZ. They also presented a few original songs. These demonstrated their rapidly growing songwriting talent with songs like 155 and Rising Moon. Their technical ability with their instruments is incredible and in the two, short CDs they proved they have what it takes to become one of the best power trios of a new generation. The question now is; will they leave their dream hanging on two small recordings of cover songs and a healthy YouTube following?
The answer is IGNITION, the ASTERISM’s first full-length CD. As a spark lights the flame, IGNITION might be the album to set the world on fire. It is nine tracks of original music and two covers of rock and roll giants DIO and The Beatles. In Japan, the record is on shelves since 22 August 2018, but to a band whose dreams are as big as the legends they cover, Japan isn’t enough. The label explained to them how the music industry works and how hard it is to sell music in the west and elsewhere. They launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of 50 CDs and ¥150,000 (€1,182) in overseas funds to prove to their label that they can sell outside Japan. They smashed that goal, proving that their ambition is more than an empty dream.
To further prove their point, they were joined on this album by music legends Bootsy Collins and Buckethead. Two songs on the album, Blaze and Warning were produced by Collins and both he (on an additional bass) and Buckethead performed on the album. Bootsy Collins played bass for James Brown and Buckethead, as many a metalhead knows, played for Guns ‘n Roses for a while. Their contribution is palpable as they endorse this trio of talented youngsters. If these two giants of the American music industry aren’t enough to convince you to sit up and take notice of ASTERISM, then you might be in need of an education. IGNITION is a great place to begin your learning.
BLAZE: The first of two songs featuring Bootsy Collins and Buckethead features Bootsy’s voodoo vocals over massively huge riffs. Soul meets metal as Buckethead and HAL-CA battle for shredder supremacy in this fiery track.
Midnight Hunter: This song clocks in at a mere 1:41 in length, but it packs as much music into that time as any full-length track. It is easily the hottest song on the album. The main riff is a melodic set of palm-muted scales that blaze ahead of the thrash style bass and drums. By the time you realize why you are smiling, the song is over.
DAWN: The longest song on the CD is an incredible musical journey. As the name promises, the music is mostly darker sounding, but brightens up toward the end as you visualize the rising sun. Even though it is 9:39 long, there is so much nuance that you find yourself wanting to start it over as soon as it ends. Each time you hear it, you will discover something new.
Up the Horns: The members of ASTERISM claim that this song was influenced by the supergroup Mr. Big, but they do admit that it sounds a lot like Van Halen. All the elements of your favourite 80’s rockers are there; swinging drums, galloping bass, and guitar riffs take you straight to Panama.
Stand up and Shout: One of two cover songs on IGNITION, Stand up and Shout pays tribute to another monster band of the 80’s, DIO. The main guitar riff is a low tuned buzz saw of sound, while the solo work can make even the most discriminating shred-head sit up and take notice.
OVERDRIVE: On this song, we finally get to really hear what Miyu can do with a bass guitar, and even hear some isolated drumming from Mio. What he does is make heads explode, but this isn’t at all a bass festival. This well-written track features all three musicians showing off what they can do, but while still sounding like a proper song. The ending is perfectly synchronized set of stops and starts that demonstrate that they are more than just three mind-blowing musicians, but that they are one hell of a band.
Disperse: The ending track is a slower, thoughtful song and is a bittersweet goodbye. HAL-CA uses her guitar to guide the listener through passages that are sorrowful yet uplifting. By creating the perfect ending to their first full-length CD, you realize that these 11 songs are not for mixing into your playlist, but are to be heard in order, from beginning to end.
In the history of recorded music, there are few perfect albums. IGNITION isn’t one of them, but it is pretty close. Many of the songs feel over-produced as the many layers of guitar tracks which were recorded over each other often buries Miyu’s amazing work on the bass guitar. The end result is that for most of the songs, they sound like a much larger band, which ruins the perfection of the trio. Whether this was the decision of the band, or their producer, it feels like someone with too much experience became involved, obscuring the youthful ambition that defines ASTERISM. The adults just need to get out of the way, because it is obvious that the kids know what they are doing.
However, it would be impossible to listen to IGNITION and be disappointed, as it is one of the greatest instrumental masterpieces you will hear this year. It’s more than just great musicianship, it is the sound of the dreams many of us have forgotten over the years.
02. Light In The Darkness
03. Midnight Hunter
06. Up The Horns
07. Stand Up And Shout (DIO cover)
08. Helter Skelter (Beatles cover)
10. God Speed You