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Vampillia: Rule the World + Deathtiny Land

img  Tobias Fischer

Japan’s Vampillia has anything but modest ambitions. Referring to themselves as “the brutal orchestra,” the band is comprised of three vocalists, three strings, piano, two guitars, bass, turntables and drums. Part late-romantic chamber music, part operatic goth rock, the music alternates sweet string interludes with slasher-film metal freakouts. Throaty screams are framed by vibrato-heavy operatic vocals. Chopinesque piano figures underpin horror-rock guitar distortion in songs that range from fifteen seconds to two minutes and have titles like “Huge ambition and indiscriminant mass murder.” The result is a strangely enjoyable, utterly ridiculous listen that leaves you wondering whether you should be laughing out loud or rocking back and forth terrified in the fetal position.

Clocking in at twenty-six minutes, the twenty-four songs on Rule the World + Deathtiny Land actually describe two narratives in succession, meaning that the entire album should be played twice in a row. The first time around (Rule the World), the music follows the exploits of a man who sets out to cheerfully to dominate the world. As he rises to power, however, he is overcome with dark ambition and commits mass murder until he is the only person left alive. The titles of the songs read together as prose telling the whole story, including episodes of hand-to-hand combat, death and rebirth into evil, and the detonation of an H-bomb.

The music is programmatic to a T. The album opens with regal chamber music, which over the course of just a few songs descends into squalls of guitar distortion and comic juxtapositions of Wagnerian opera and stifling goth rock.

The second time through the album (Deathtiny Land) describes the evil man, alone in the world, as he builds a theme park to entertain himself. Each song title is the name of a morbid ride: “alice in murderland,” “goofy’s acid house,” “it’s a small cruel world,” etc. Again, each track fits quite well with its corresponding title. The silly choral-music-meets-guitar-freakout that accompanied “Well, I have time to play around for fun” on the first listen (following the man’s acquisition of power, but preceding his descent into blood-thirsty madness) is an equally adept musical description of a demented theme park ride called “donald’s buzz” on the second listen.

Musically, Vampillia is clearly a top-notch group. Complex meter changes, unexpected chord progressions, and phrases that end mid-phrase make for a twisted carnival ride of a listen. There are touches of Gypsy punk, black metal, and Victorian parlor music…sometimes all in the same thirty seconds. Claustrophobically dense and miles beyond “tongue-in-cheek,” Rule the World + Deathtiny Land is so ambitious and extreme and absurd that it’s difficult not to enjoy.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Vampillia

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