Risingfall – Rise or Fall Review

Losing a friend sucks. Whether human or animal, sudden or expected, chronic or acute, death comes as part of life and rarely does it arrive when we most need it. Unfortunately, shortly before the release of Risingfallߵs debut album, Rise or Fall, one of their founding members, Yoshiki, gave way to a chronic illness. However, Risingfall knew they couldn’t let this hold them down—this throwback act hailing from Japan knows there’s only one way to celebrate death: heavy metal. Life or death, rain or shine, Rise or Fall, this young act carries on to bring you hot licks, rollicking kicks, and sticky melodies. Let’s get to it.

Now, some of you may recall an album from last year by a band whose name does not ring trivial: Significant Point. On this imminently directed outing, we all experienced the equally consequential vocal statements of the George Itoh, who, for the sake of the Risingfall aesthetic, goes by G.Itoh here.1 And much like quintessentially directed Significant Point, Risingfall harbors zero tongue-in-cheek that other Japanese acts like Sex Machineguns might—Rise or Fall is a love letter to the bands that each member holds so dearly. And though Risingfall wears their influences on their sleeves, pieces like “Kamikaze” and “English Motor Biker” are the kind of numbers that only acts in this derivatively devious style can pull off, and I am absolutely here for it.

Without a doubt, G.Itoh provides a considerable crux against which we can place equal amounts of love and hate. G.Itoh has nothing but his all to give on every song, belting warbling but energetic performances on the ESL-Priest “English Motor Biker” and the Anthem aping “Risingfall.” On “Never Surrender” he even finds a tameness in his voice, with some nice band backing croons, that shows a little effort can turn his recklessly untrained voice into a weapon of heavy metal destruction. Yet no matter which way you slice your feelings for his frequently falsetto assault, I don’t see a way to forgive the Scorpions-slathered, atonal balladry featured on “Arise in the Ashes,” a song which features not one but two editing blips where they had to cut his voice (awkwardly) for a new, but not better, take.2 Repeat doses of that one hurt.

It’s a real shame too because the guitar work, rarely flashy and always driving, lives wild with the 80s flair that Risingfall embodies. Even though Risingfall doesn’t ever make it around to complete shred, neoclassical influences leak into the licks that power “Kamikaze” and “Master of the Metal,” the latter of which approaches a Galneryus level of histrionic guitar wailing before diving right back into G.Itoh screeches and a relentless gallop. I didn’t initially fall prey to many of the hooks that the Yoshiki-Kono duo lay down, but their dry, bluesy tones hits power chords with a loudness that’s hard to ignore. It doesn’t hurt either that the pair lay down a few blazing pentatonic solos, particularly the battles that rage through “Dancing in the Fire” and “Risingfall,” which are reason enough to return to those moments.

Making traditional heavy metal interesting in 2022 requires powerful performance and powerful persistence. Risingfall isn’t quite there. The jury’s out on whether G.Itoh is part of the problem, but on schmaltz-loaded bops “Rock Fantasy” and “Arise in the Ashes,” he’s not the solution—both require a subtlety that he simply cannot give. That’s not what Risingfall needs to succeed anyway. This debut shows a young, hungry, and hopeful band succeeding to varying degrees with up-tempo, classically-minded licks, and enough abandon to be convincing. Yoshiki may not be around to be part of their future success, but he’s helped set a solid foundation on which this band may rise to future greatness. But, Risingfall, please think twice before including a ballad on the next one—I want to rock just like you.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dying Victims Productions
Websites: risingfall.tokyo | bandcamp.com/Risingfall | facebook.com/risingfall
Releases Worldwide: November 18th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. It’s a very Japanese thing for musical artists to go by one name, in case you didn’t know.
  2. Maybe there’s something else going on here? At ~3:46 and 4:05, you decide
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