Scheherazade – All for One

“Scheherazade” is a Japanese heavy/symphonic prog band which started its career in 1977, but soon after they replaced drummer & bassist and changed name to “Novela” (under this moniker they became one of the most successful rock band in their country). However in early 90s “Scheherazade” was re-created and finally they managed to produce they first, self-titled album in 1992…only to disband again soon after.
They debut was a really fantastic effort which I truly enjoyed, so I was very happy when I found out that “Scheherazade” decided to give it one more try and band was resurrected again (with their classic line-up!) in 2010. These guys not only started new concert tour but also prepared completely new CD called “All for One”.
I have to say that this “new-born kid” of “Scheherazade” is a really spectacular effort, which can be easily compared with band’s debut. Toshio Egawa’s keyboards skills are astonishing as ever, Terutsugu Hirayama plays mind-blowing guitar riffs & solos, Jutaro Ohkubo’s bass sounds deep, Hideaki Indou’s drums are always there to provide great rhythm patterns and Hisakatsu Igarashi’s voice is even…goofier than before, but this is an important factor of their music’s charm so I don’t complaint at all!
I’m especially fond of Toshio Egawa, who also recorded another album (“Ring of Eternity”) with his own band “Gerard” the very same year, so he must be a real titan of work because he sounds really fresh & inspiring on both disks. It’s a good news that he still likes to use so much Hammond organ too, what makes “Scheherazade’s” music deeply rooted in 70s prog-rock and hard rock tradition.

Let’s check all 9 tracks included on this album one by one:

1. “Prologue” – short introduction filled with very symphonic-sounding floating synthesizers’ melodies. Egawa successfully emulates strings-like, orchestral arrangements. Very nice beginning.

2. “鏡” – it’s so good to hear these 5 musicians playin’ together again after 18 years break! “鏡” is a powerful, almost heavy-metal song led by thundering guitar riffs & crunchy organ rides. Igarashi manages to keep his voice in-key and in general I like his vocal performance in this song. Very aggressive & cocky, but not so much over-the-top. By the way, Egawa’s Hammond solo is devastating! Goddammit I love this fragment, really reminds me of Jon Lord’s or Vincent Crane’s style.

3. “Castrato” – as the name suggests we can expect some totally freaky vocals here…and Hisakatsu definitely won’t disappoint you! I’m sure that it has the most atrocious singin’ fragments I’ve ever heart in my life. Vocalist is just squeaking, screaming & squealing as a total madman! I can image how many people will be turned off while listening to this staff, but this is “Scheherazade” after all! Nobody can expect that Hisakatsu will suddenly start to sing like Andrea Bocelli :-P . It’s just part of the fun. Anyway “Castrato” is a really good track, less guitar-oriented and slightly lighter in tone, but still pretty energetic & lively. Hammond organ soloing is even better than on “鏡”, Toshio really shines during this spectacular emersonian ride! He also delivers frenetic synthesizer solo and Hirayama has his metallic guitar moments.

4. “誘惑の街へ” – the most mainstream sounding track with catchy rhythm and pop-rock refrain. Indou’s drum work is a bit too monotonous here, but guitar/organ leads are decent. Not bad at all but I still think it’s the weakest song on “All for One”. Similar to more radio-friendly “Novela’s” material or 80s “Rainbow”.

5. “人形賛歌” – fantastic heavy-prog composition in the vain of “Deep Purple” and “Uriah Heep” (especially their latest material). Organ floods sound very deep & dark here and main guitar riff is extremely groovy. Igarashi’s crazy-ass vocals also suit perfectly here. Definitely recommended!

6. “悪魔が泳ぐ夢の国へ” – the only epic of the album lasts only for 10 and half minute, but musicians managed to create truly wonderful symphonic piece of art. Composition begins very sober & mellow with melancholic singin’ (yes, this vocalist sometimes can do it!) and soaring synthesizers “landscapes”. But the real fun starts off about 3rd minute when tempo significantly rises up and Egawa switches to his trusty organ to play some Ken Hensley-inspired passages. Another good moment is Hirayama’s fiery guitar solo, which would wake up even a dead man. In general his performance in this epic is rather spectacular, but maybe a bit too noisy for this kind of compositions. Anyway it’s another highlight on the album, but definitely can’t be even compared with beautiful “Suite ‘Lights Are Burning’ 77-92″ from their debut LP.

7. “明日の影” – very energetic rock’n'roller driven by speedy guitar & roaring organ leads. Vocalist’s voice is surprisingly restrained and he won’t bother even melodic-vocals purists. Song is quite short but Egawa still found a space to fill it with explosive Hammond & analog-sounding synthesizer solos.

8. “Rhapsody” – another very heavy & groovy track filled with crunchy riffs and odd vocal histrionics. While the second part of it is almost completely devoted to endless guitar/synthesizers/organ solos, which are always very speedy and fully entertaining.

9. “All For One” – title track is more in neo-prog vain. Egawa is mainly using modern keyboards here and guitarist prefers more restrained style. Quite similar to early “Gerard”, but somehow less enjoyable. But it also includes some more “brutal” fragments, I especially like that frenetic synthesizer madness in the middle.

Summarize: I’m almost fully satisfied with this album’s content and I can have only minor complaints (for example, it’s a pity that they didn’t include any really long suite and softer ballads which could give us a break between all those headbanging rockers). It’s a really good news for Japanese rock fans that those 5 guys met again. I hope they will keep up that way and record even more albums in the future.

I especially recommend this band to people who also dig such heavy-prog formations like “Novela”, “Deep Purple”, “Uriah Heep”, “Birth Control”, “Rainbow”, “Vienna” and even more neo-symph “Gerard”(early years).

BTW it was really refreshing to hear Toshio Egawa playing together with guitarist again. It seems that his last studio album recorded with guitar player was Gerard’s “Save Knight by the Night” CD from 1994!

Best tracks: “人形賛歌”, “鏡” & “悪魔が泳ぐ夢の国へ”

Track Listing:

1. Prologue (1:19)
2. 鏡 (4:27)
3. Castrato (5:19)
4. 誘惑の街へ (4:48)
5. 人形賛歌 (4:28)
6. 悪魔が泳ぐ夢の国へ (10:32)
7. 明日の影  (3:22)
8. Rhapsody (6:45)
9. All For One (7:03)


*Terutsugu Hirayama / guitars
*Hisakatsu Igarashi / vocals
*Jutaro Ohkubo / bass
*Toshio Egawa / keyboards
*Hideaki Indou / drums


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