I remember hearing Bo Ningen’s debut single, ‘Koroshitai Kimochi’, and it firebombing my 14-year old brain. There were weird rhythms, screeched Japanese lyrics, and androgynous death knells. They were one of those bands that seemed so radically different from anything else I’d heard at that point, and their eponymous debut album almost lived up to that, although none of the other songs really lived up to that initial wild intensity. Their second album, Line the Wall, went down more of a shoegazey path that, unfortunately, started to actually sound like quite a few others out there. It was still a decent album, but wasn’t as exciting as they’d been before.
However, with III, they’ve managed to cherry-pick the good stuff from that album and meld it with the more wild sound of the first, with spectacular results. This is evident from the mountainously discordant first few seconds and continues throughout. Bo Ningen have picked up a lot from the British noise scene, and their influence from Black Sabbath and similar bands shows through a bit more.
There is more of a metal vibe on tracks such as ‘Inu’ and ‘CC’, the latter features Savages’ Jehnny Beth performing the clean vocals to lead singer Taigen’s wild shrieks to emulate that classical metal trope. At just over three minutes, it’s one of the shorter tracks on the album, and is followed by the nine minute ‘Mukaeni Ikenai’, which has the softer, extended pseudo-prog sound of Explosions in the Sky or Jesu. The prog influence on the harder, noisier side is also evident on tracks like ‘Psychedelic Misemono Goya (reprise)’.
One of the more left field London influences is on ‘Slider’, which features the British-Trinidadian performance poet Roger Robinson. It is in fact one of the best tracks on the album, partly thanks to Robinson’s backing vocals, which, alongside the outright bizarre guitar wails in the background, make for a track that is both very melodious while still harkening to the noisy drone this band do best.
‘Mitsune’ is one of the tracks that shows this best, and we get the wall of sound and ultra-precision drumming they’ve always had with that massive shoegaze sound on top of it. The album closes with another long one, ‘Kaifuku’, at seven minutes, a track which showcases their increasing mastery of the slow build, with almost soothing (not a word you’d traditionally associate with acid punk) contrapuntal guitars getting louder under occasional ethereal vocal stretches.
This album is a return to form for Bo Ningen that manages to take the best influences from a disappointing departure from their original sound to improve them both. It’s also their first album to feature English vocals, which never really feel quite at home and they seem like they’d be better suited to J-rock, rather than the pleasingly impenetrability of Bo Ningen’s giant fortress of noise.
Despite this, and some other minor issues, it’s simply a very good, very loud album that begs to be heard live, channelling in parts ‘80s weird post-punk such as The Birthday Party and the modern extended instrumental drone of Mogwai.