The Empire of Necromancers

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The year this live album was recorded, 1975, is an early time for Japanese progressive rock, which would make Ring one of the country's first groups in that vein. The project remained short-lived and, judging from The Empire of Necromancers, it is understandable. The music here is severely derivative, lacking any personal traits. Listening to the five-movement title piece feels like running down a list of half-digested influences. For instance, "Prologue" has a deliberate King Crimson-esque riff appearing at the seven-minute mark (almost a variation on "Pictures of a City"), while "The White Sybil" begins with an unmistakable pastiche of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Take a Pebble." And the list goes on. Still, there are a number of good moments throughout the suite, mostly in instrumental passages, as Takashi Kokubo's vocals (in Japanese) are mediocre at best. But "Prologue" and "Magic Lady" feature good guitar solos and strong group playing. In short, The Empire of Necromancers is a very average '70s Japanese prog rock record that will be of interest to collectors only. Or it would be if Musea/Poseidon had not added two bonus tracks to the 2006 reissue that are worth the price of admission. Both were recorded by Kokubo in 1977-1978 (with drums added in February 2006). Ring's ex-singer and drummer is here featured on synthesizers, along with keyboardist Kayo Matsumoto and guitarist Haruhiko Tsuda. The two entirely instrumental tracks are much more personal than Ring's material. There are similarities with Jean Michel Jarre's early works (although the music is less cold) and Rick Wakeman's non-orchestral compositions. "In Memory of Charnades the Pan" delivers the best 12 minutes of the whole album, a powerful synth-prog piece with all the bells and whistles necessary to capture the attention.

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