Cyclamen – Creatuneau Review
Whilst never really breaking through into the western mainstream, musically speaking, Japan has always been an integral part of heavy music. Its fans are amongst the most loyal and ravenous in the world, and it shows through the reams of limited bonus tracks added to records specifically for the Japanese market for years now. Bands like Children of Bodom found their first real success over there, and everyone from The Beatles to Dream Theater has some connection with the country and its culture. However, with budgets pushed to breaking point – less and less touring bands are able to visit Japan nowadays. Enter Hayato Imanishi, one of the nicest people you’re likely to meet, band leader of math/progressive rock outfit Cyclamen and notably, founder of Realising Media who, in recent months, have been responsible for bringing such acts as Protest the Hero and Sikth over to Japan for the first time.
Last year, Hayato’s aim was to provide a subscription service for fans of Cyclamen. It was a simple model – $100 for a host of perks spread over a year, including the very exciting prospect of an entire subscriber-specific record. Well, the time has come for Creatuneau, that very album, to be heard by people who took a risk on Hayato’s fresh model.
Immediately, album opener Apalition squashes any fears that money may have been unwisely invested. The song alternates beautifully between aggressive, winding riffs and softer passages with angelic clean vocals, bringing to mind the atmospherics of a band like Explosions in the Sky fused with the melodic edge of a Linkin Park or early Threat Signal. Of course, Sikth are a big influence here, too, as they have been since the inception of the band – but Hayato does an excellent job of putting his own spin on that tech mythology to create something both nostalgic and fresh-sounding.
That duality is definitely most apparent on the album’s second track Naryinn which has been doing rounds online lately and has divided opinion pretty strongly in the metal community. How dare someone bring back that ‘nu-metal’ thing?! I hear them say. Well, my argument is that when rapping is incorporated as tastefully as this and bolstered with killer songwriting, then why not. This track keeps me hammering the replay button more than any other in this collection, its Tesseract-esque off-kilter grooves get stuck in my head all day and the chorus vocal is extremely strong. Hayato’s clean vocals have come on leaps and bounds since Day 1, and I’d argue that they’re now his biggest strength.
Despite the excellent melodic choruses (see Dilurelm and Mewdek as other strong examples of clean singing), Cyclamen is, and likely will always be, a band dedicated to powerful progressive metal guitar work – and Creatuneau is no different, featuring jagged, groovy riffs at every turn. The wheel isn't being reinvented here, don’t get me wrong, but Cyclamen tie together a whole heap of influences into a package which deploys them all with expert skill. From mathcore, to post-rock, Hayato’s impressive array of guitar acrobatics continues to impress across all eight tracks on the record. And at only eight tracks (and roughly 25 minutes), the album never really has time to get old – instead rewarding replay value above all else.
Creatuneau is a thoroughly unpretentious journey full of love from its creator. If anything shines through the whole production, it’s that Hayato made an album which meant something to him without worrying too much about how people would receive it. I suppose that’s the beauty which came out of writing an album for a very select group of subscribers; there’s very little pressure because there are so few ears expecting to hear it. On the flipside, what came out of that exercise is Cyclamen’s best work to date – a heart-wrenching, deeply fulfilling quest through the present and past of progressive metal. I hope that one day, more people will be able to hear what will surely end up being one of the best albums of the year in its genre. Mission accomplished.
Words: Ben Armstrong