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Since their formation in 2007, Kiryu ("My Dragon") have consistently been one of the most original and interesting bands on the visual kei scene. Since the demise of the much-beloved Kagrra, they have probably been the highest-profile exponents of a style some have dubbed "neo-Japonesque," which fuses elements of Japanese traditional music, costume, and custom with modern-day culture and technology. Like Kagrra, there's the same sense of hauteur and even pretension in the use of archaic, literary kanji which even most Japanese people can't read. Unlike Kagrra, however, whose style was smooth, melodic, and chart-friendly, Kiryu have stuck resolutely to raw kote-kei ("old-school") musical aesthetics. Their mind-bending fusion of Japanese traditional music, heavy metal theatricality, breakneck punk rock rhythms, and overwrought, operatic vocals is certainly not going to be for everyone, but there can be no doubt that it is unique. Over the course of their career, Kiryu have developed this individualistic style, becoming progressively more polished and proficient, and this, their fourth album, sees them at the top of their game, pulling out all the stops to deliver their most accessible and melodic set to date. To be honest, it's hard to be sure just how seriously Kiryu have ever taken themselves, but on this album there's certainly a more obvious sense of playfulness and fun at work than ever before. The title track ("Mirror Flower, Water Moon") is one of the jolliest, most upbeat tunes they have ever done, and its tongue-in-cheek video sees them performing at their own funeral while a crowd of young women, all clad in traditional mourning garb, sway before the stage. There's a carnival house of horrors atmosphere to some of these tracks, with spooky piano rolls, organ-grinder melodies, weird noises, screams, and creepy vocal effects that obliquely recall fellow visual act the Candy Spooky Theater. Elsewhere there are blastbeats, grinding riffage, and melodrama aplenty. Their Japonesque sound is well-represented, notably by the catchy single "Etsu to Utsu" ("Rejoicing and Melancholy"), where a koto plucks out a haunting melody as a shakuhachi whistles mournfully in the background. And the mournful semi-acoustic ballad "Tsukubai" ("Cowering") starts out as what may be their most subdued moment to date, before bursting into gruesome life about two-thirds of the way through. This album is not for the fainthearted, but may appeal to aficionados of more extreme punk styles, those interested in exploring the old-school visual kei sound, and fans of the way-out-there.

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