Rachel Mother Goose – Synra Basho Review

Yes, Rachel Mother Goose is an odd name and no, I don’t know why they chose to call themselves that. Given that RMG is a Japanese band and given many of the curious lyric choices (all in English), I imagine something was lost in translation. I had never heard of this band before Steel Druhm handed it off, but the mention of Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen as primary influences had me intrigued. How would a band of young Japanese shredders update the bloated neoclassical metal genre? Would it be full “Speed King” ahead with epic Blackmorean riffs? Or a neoclassical wank fest of Rising Forced arpeggios? Turns out the band Rachel Mother Goose sounds most like is Dream Theater, especially mid-nineties Awake Dream Theater. Even the album cover screams it. Synra Bansho is Rachel Mother Goose’s sixth album and it’s keyboard-heavy for a guitar-based project. Is it their 1984? I have no idea. I couldn’t find any tracks from their previous releases or even info about the band beyond the short bio in their press release. This review will have to be a goose island of its own.1

I don’t mind keyboards, but this album leaves me with a huge Casio hangover. Instead of augmenting the solid songwriting and guitar riffs, the keyboards drown everything out. Where Richie Blackmore and Jon Lord had their own musical back and forth, Ueki and keyboardist Takumi Matsubara remain locked in a screaming match that saturates every corner of the mix. In songs like “Kotodamaist,” the keyboards dilute what might have otherwise been a solid guitar breakdown. In guitar-heavy tunes like “Why So Serious” the keyboards are like a 12-year-old refrigerator humming in the background.

The guitar playing itself is solid. Thirty years ago, Hideshi Ueki could have been a household name. Today he stands shoulder to shoulder with a thousand other guitar players who skipped prom to rewatch Steve Vai DVDs. His riffs borrow much from Brazilian power metallers like Angra or Shaman and symphonic bands like Epica. There’s plenty of galloping swagger and high gain barre chords to sharpen your sword to. Unfortunately, much of it is drowned out by the aforementioned sea of electronic orchestration. RMG seems to only play at two tempos: full charge ahead or cringey elevator new age jazz. Songs like “My Ascending Day” start fierce but descend into adult contemporary breakdowns that leave you wondering if your mom changed the radio station. “Tomorrow is Another Day” is the most heartfelt track but suffers from distracting keyboard bleeps between lines. It does however feature Ueki’s best guitar work where his solo takes its time to say something rather than cram another diminished scale in between bars.

The formidable vocals on Synra Bansho are a ripping blend of James LaBrie and Kai Hansen. Singer Sunghoon Kim shifts effortlessly from tender acoustic verses to bombastic choruses. The fact that he’s South Korean makes his contribution even more impressive. I don’t know how Sunghoon adapted to a Japanese band that only sings in English, but this guy delivers. He’s able to rise above the dense musical mix with consistently strong delivery. If you ever wondered what it would sound like if Helloween wrote Dream Theater’s choruses, this might be the closest you’ll come. While I have a lot of admiration for Kim’s delivery, the one-dimensional songs don’t give him a lot to work with. Slower songs like “Clock is Tickin’” offer the opportunity to show his sensitive side but it never seems to go anywhere. The rhythm section of bassist Kaz Nakamura and drummer Hiroki Hori is solid to a fault. They can probably play any Rush cover you throw at them, but they haven’t developed their own personality.

Rachel Mother Goose is clearly a band of talented musicians, but the collective sum is not as strong as its individual parts. Writing and performing this style of progressive metal takes a lot of discipline. Many great bands have updated the genre since 7/8 time signatures first crept into heavy music, but Rachel Mother Goose is coasting through 1995 here. My biggest gripe about Synra Bansho is that – except for “Amatsu” with its quirky Beach Boys good vibrations – nothing seems to stand out. Mother Goose is full of the same tired rhymes.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Pride & Joy Music
Website: facebook.com/rachelmothergoose
Releases Worldwide: December 3rd, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. BOO-urns! – Steel
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