Review: Hotei – 'Strangers'

I was not too sure I was the right person to be doing a review on this album, as I am as far flung from a guitar virtuoso lover as you can get. I am the one you see heading for the bar the moment a guitar (or drum) solo starts at a gig. Don’t get me wrong I love my guitars, but I just cannot get into the vibe of 15 minutes of twiddly widdly action…so Mr H what do you have for me?
 
The album opens with “Medusa”, and this did not help alleviate my initial concern, as it is an instrumental, but to be fair, it has its moments, and has ‘soundtrack’ written all over it. Now “How The Cookie Crumbles” is an altogether different animal. This may have something to do with the fact Iggy Pop handles the vocals, and to be fair, the man could have written this song himself. It must have been written with him in mind, as it has his sleazy, dirty fingerprints all over it. It has that punk/industrial sound and I am now sat firmly upright in my seat.
 
“Move It” is next with another impressive guest in Rammstein guitarist Richard Z Kruse… on vocals, no less. This has an amazing hook in it. My ears heard Lenny Kravitz through a cement mixer. It is a real mix of sounds. The classic guitar sound, spliced with industrial drums and echoing vocals. An excellent experiment, and it put a massive smile on my face. “Barrel Of My Gun” starts like a spaghetti western with some Bob Marley kicking it in the back of the cinema with a big fat one. It is so laid back, it is horizontal, but the guitar work comes through lovely on here. It is more to the forefront but without the ego.
 
Now with “Kill To Love You” I did a massive double take. Is that?… No, it can’t be… yes it is… Matt Tuck from Bullet For My Valentine, as you will never have heard him before. It is sultry, sexy, and may even have got me a bit horny. This should have been the soundtrack for the movie “Spectre”, it has Bond written all over it. It even has the space for a car chase and everything. This is a phenomenal track. The title track is a raved up little tart of a track. We go back to the distorted ’70s guitar sound with a drum machine. It almost has too glitzy a production but it has a real funk feel about it… and I actually didn’t even think until it was finished that it was an instrumental… now that is one hell of a job there, sir.
“Walking Through The Night” brings back the Iggy feel, strung out with a punk/dance/rock and electro backbone. It will have you wondering what is going on. It is like staggering home drunk past numerous clubs and pubs, with all the sounds coming from the open doorways melding in your alcohol-rotted brain. It is a song that just should not work, and how he pulls this off I have no idea, but he does… he just does.
“Texas Groove” does as it says on the tin. This is a song full to the brim of soul, beautiful dusky vocals, and a guitar riff that has no right being on a blues song, but yet again the man pulls this off with bells on. At this point my hat is doffed, and I am seriously impressed at this offering.
“Into The Light” has an almost Ultravox feel. The drum machine is back and complimented by keyboards. Once again, the guitar almost takes a back seat, but it is there throughout just to let you know who the boss is.
 
“Departure” is what it is, as far away as you can get from the man’s roots. 30 years in a Japanese rock band did not make for this track. It does have a Japanese feel, but it sounds more like Gong or Utopia tripping on some serious stuff. The final track, “Battle Without Honor Or Humanity” should need no introduction. The premier movie director of this generation Tarantino chose this track for “Kill Bill”. It will be instantly recognisable, and tells you all you need to know about this guitarist and composer.
 
This was the icing on the cake for what is an outstanding album. It is crammed to bursting with surprises and sheer downright talent. Hotei you managed to keep me hooked till the end, and not only that, you made me think I maybe need to start paying more attention to guitarists again. Well done, sir. You have released an intriguing and highly original slab of guitar driven innovation.
Review Ritchie birnie
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