Monday, May 22, 2006
Archive 27/5/06 - Norifumi Shima (Concerto Moon/Double Dealer) Profile
Japanese guitarist Norifumi Shima is a player firmly rooted in the neo-classical mold of Yngwie Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore. Being the leading member of 'Concerto Moon' and the Japanese super-group 'Double Dealer', Norifumi Shima is building a strong cult following with those interested in this style. With a prolific output - 6 studio albums in 7 years - Shima shows that he is a talented songwriter as well as a top class player.
Concerto Moon play superb neo-classical metal combining the best elements of 80s-era Malmsteen and Rainbow. There is a lot of melody, powerful intricate riffs, extended solo sections, exciting keyboard and guitar duels to be found in their music. The only slight note of caution could be thrown at the Japanese vocals on the bands early albums. By their third album Rain Forest, the band had started to write almost exclusively in English as they recognised the need to reach a wider audience. This led to a much more ear pleasing album to fans outside the land of the rising sun. Luckily it also featured the bands strongest collection of songs to date.
However, the bands two earlier albums all contain exciting dynamic neo-classical metal tracks, the choruses on the majority of songs are in English so there is something for the virgin listener to grasp onto until they become accustomed to the vocals. Run To The Sky from their debut Fragments Of The Moon is an absolute corker of a track from start to finish!
Live the band are a truly exciting act as captured on the live album and video The End Of The Beginning. This live set is a collection of the majority of the bands best material (sadly omitting Run To The Sky). The video is available as a bonus disc (mpeg) with European versions of the CD. I however splashed out $45 on the DVD which was worth it for the extra tracks that were not on the CD and Shima's solo spot. This album would be the best starting point for anyone interested in checking out the band.
The bands fourth studio album Gate Of Triumph saw a change of vocalist. Out went Takao Ozaki to be replaced by Takashi Inoue. The impact of change in vocalist was hard to ascertain as Gate Of Triumph was mostly instrumentals and re-recorded versions of earlier classics. Inoue's vocals do sound more confident than Ozaki's when singing in English and the impact of the change was evident on 2003's Life On The Wire and in particularly 2005's After The Double Cross. These 2 releases really saw Shima come into his own and his style is now easily identifiable - not quite so neo-classical in the rhythm department but overall stronger for it.
Alongside Concerto Moon, Shima also handles guitar duties in the band Double Dealer. The band are essentially a Japanese super group made up of members of Concerto Moon (guitars, keyboards, bass) and Sabre Tiger (vocals, drums). The direction of Double Dealer is similar to Concerto Moon in guitar/keyboard duels, but the music is more straightforward metal in approach. The vocals are also more metal-esque and fans of bands like Accept should feel at home with the gruff vocal aproach of Takenori Shimoyama. Some of the translations from Japanese to English do get a little confused at times e.g. "My straight shout squeezed my soul" but overall the band are another worth checking out with their third and latest album 'Fate & Destiny' being essential listening.
Shima's guitar sound falls between that of Malmsteen and Blackmore. Shima uses Strat style guitars loaded with Duncan Quarter Pounder single coil pickups. Schecter make a signature Shima model for the Japanese market. Shima uses both vintage and modern Marshalls and newer Engl amps (upto Rainforest). His sound is the distinctive distorted single coil tone as favoured by the majority of players in the neo-classical mold.
Shima's effect use is very sparse. You'll hear the occasional octave divider on solos, or a wah pedal, otherwise, its a very pure sound that has a lot of bite and definition.
Technique wise Shima is certainly no slouch. He posseses a superb speed picking technique, is adept at swept arpeggios and his vibrato is also very well executed. He is not quite as clean as Malmsteen but he's not far behind. Shima also seems to be developing his own voice since Concerto Moon's debut album which was very 'Malmsteen'.
Shima also knows the importance of when to play slow. Several Concerto Moon instrumentals are based around slow, classically influenced melodic and harmonic minor scales, these show that Shima has developed more of the classical sound beyond those players that just ape Malmsteen etc. The title track from 'Rain Forest' is particularly noteworthy.
Overall if you are a fan of Blackmore/Malmsteen/Uli Roth etc then you should enjoy Shima's work immensely and you may even come away thinking he is a stronger songwriter.
Scheter Signature Strats
Marshall 4x12" cabs