Album Review: RAIJU Non Sequitur
Of all the different elements across the metal genre, vocals are easily the most divisive. An avid power metal listener certainly won't always be attracted to the vocal style of a deathcore act and vice versa. This can be an unfortunate issue as some bands may be incredible songwriters and musicians, but the vocalist's delivery may shift the listener's opinion of the music negatively instantly. For example, the music of Periphery or Rush is consistently mind-blowing and catchy, but the vocal style can be quite the turn-off.
Although their unique vocal delivery isn't Raiju's defining characteristic, it undoubtedly makes an impactful first impression. Similar to Coheed and Cambria, an emo or pop-punk aesthetic naturally arrives with this vocal approach. If you're a fan of the aforementioned band and genres, opening track "Ronkonkoma" along with "Road Trip Dragon Adventure" will be up your alley. And in the scenario that you're not too fond of such a style, many can admit that the concept of fusing emo/pop-punk with progressive tech-death instrumentals not only keeps the momentum flowing, but is rather original.
For those who empathize with the aforementioned distaste for high-ranged vocals in metal music like Periphery or Rush, rest assured that a large majority of the songs lean on a heavier and more appeasing side. Tracks including "How Far We Fall" or "Silk & Gold" were the most likable as they had a wild Sikth or Between the Buried and Me edge to them. The latter track even came off as a djent version of Circa Survive during some moments. While the falsetto vocals were present at parts, they remained melodic and tolerable, adding to the music instead of acting as the driving force. “Freak Show” was also a stand-out piece that held a theatrical and climactic quality, serving to be a fitting conclusion to the record.
Before wrapping up, it's crucial to shine a light on the extremely talented instrumentalists within this band. These musicians are able to transition between proggy, shreddy bits to more epic, grandiose sections with ease. There were compositional tidbits that were as provocative as the forward-thinking tendencies of King Crimson. Although many of these songs are written well, it is the details that make them so significantly provoking. For example, occasional bouncy synth and balladesque piano parts, the choral inclusion in the outro of "Away With Words," or the jazzy guitar solo in "The Hive" are all factors that keep the listener on their toes. Overall, the smooth unpredictability is absolutely impressive and on the expertise level of The Fall of Troy or Protest the Hero.
All things considered, Raiju's Non Sequitur showcases an extreme amount of musicianship and skill. Comparatively to their debut LP, this follow-up relies more on technical proficiency, experimental songwriting, and melody rather than heaviness. Although a bit more of the deathcore heavy moments that were shown in their previous Haunt LP potentially could have balanced out the dynamics on this release, the fact that Raiju chose to progress to a new musical identity is commendable. Lastly, one must acknowledge that this band and style strays outsides of the average metalhead comfort zone, but nonetheless should agree that Raiju are insanely talented and innovative musicians, able to concoct some of the most interesting compositions created in a long time.