All of Koenjihyakkei’s songs are sung in a private language. Some have argued that they’re just strings of nonsense syllables. I, however, after consulting sunken Atlantean tomes and my Dungeon Master’s Guide, have parsed the secret code. Thus I can tell you that, translated, “Koenjihyakkei” means “deadly keyboard assault by frothing Viking elves.” Or possibly “Freddie Mercury and Ornette Coleman have been clubbed and kidnapped by Alban Berg and forced to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
In any case, Koenjihyakkei’s third album, Nivraym—released in 2001 and recently reissued by Skin Graft—is intense prog weirdness from Japan, where they know how to do their prog weirdness right. The band is helmed by drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, most famously of the Ruins. Where the Ruins turned their prog jones into a brutal pummeling reminiscent of metal, however, Koenjihyakkei uses a fruitier, squigglier attack. “Mederro Passquir,” for example, starts with a repetitive, irritatingly catchy carnival hook and then gives way to a protracted battle between a Leonard Bernstein chorus and a whole barrel of amphetamines. (The amphetamines win.) “Axall Hasck” opens in full-out fury before slipping halfway through towards something that sounds suspiciously like funk. The monumental nine-minute “Gassttrumm” is a thudding, jerking processional for a seven-legged space tyrant, with occasional interruptions by his hyperactive, heavily-armed jester. And what does the jester say? Near as I can tell, he declaims, “Lu, dimi ta monasi, tigol t’me tahundai.” And, you know, I couldn’t agree more.