Sound — 10
In 1971 Flower Travellin' Band would make their first album that would consist of all original tracks and a distinct and somewhat dangerously apocalyptic with their own distinct sound. The group would keep their main lineup from their debut with Jun Kozuki on bass, Joji Wada on drums, Hideki Ishima on guitar along with Joe Yamanaka. The whole band is just highly explosive although Hideki Ishima and Joe Yamnaka are the ones that overpower the album the hard driven work of the other two members can be heard still with pounding pulsating rhythm and fuzzed out bass.
The album cover's art alone gives you the sense of the serious ominous tone here and eerie vibes you get when you listen to the opener with that strange tone beeping. This whole masterpiece delves into psychedelic rock like few have after the band had finally mastered their skills and were ready to make something that showed their elements they learned and gave a chance to really show the full potential, it's the band at their finest really and the album is distanced from the other previous two albums the group would do and it pushed them away from anything that sounded as an imitation of western music. The only thing that would really let you know this was somewhat inspired by western hard rock are small hints and the fact that it was as hard as any other group around at the time like the Stooges or Led Zeppelin. It really brings on it's own characteristics and gives people a chance to here a more elusive and mystical type of psychedelic kind of rock with raga drones and eastern flairs that take from the bands home country and other parts of Asia but particularly Indian type of raga drone influence.
This whole quality makes this effort something of a whole different variety and ultra new and unheard of because there still was psychedelia but most bands that were at one point psychedelic like Led Zeppelin or Jeff Beck Group and even The Stooges totally left that behind from their debuts if they even showed they had some of that side to them which they did. It respects the fact that psychedelic rock itself was one of the hardest forms of rock besides blues rock along with the merging of blues and psychedelia like Cream and that psychedelic rock could in fact be timeless and wasn't just something that would be forgotten even in the '70s and it's true that psychedelic rock ultimately is timeless as it's still been used even till this day and throughout all the decades. This album honors the fact that psychedelic rock could be just as big as the blues rock or punk monsters at the time that were dominating rock and the whole concept from the Buddhist album cover to the spiritually inspired lyrics and deeply zen tones that would appear throughout and honors the original eastern hard rock psych styles of groups like Tomorrow with guitarist Steve Howe.
Lyrics — 10
One of the best album openers I could think of is the beginning track "Satori Pt. 1" with the screech intro followed by discrete symbols that leave you in suspense and tense, reminiscent of King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King" which uses the same technique which most likely inspired the band to do this and they were fans of the group clearly as they did a cover of "21st Century Schizoid Man" on the debut "Anywhere." The whole silenced is shattered by Joe's breathtaking powerful banshee screams that lead the whole surge of power proto-metal rock riffs to kick in with chaotic fury of battle of brilliant riffs and solo work.
"Satori Pt. 2" is something else, not as energic as "Pt. 1," but this is the first track where Ishima's psychedelic guitar solos take center stage in a raga drone melody, mixed with an undeniable Japanese traditional influence with those jingling sleigh bells in sync with the bass rhythm drums, blending very well with Wada's repetitive drumming, Kobayashi's bouncy bass and Joe's sporadic vocals and introspective lyrics. The psychedelic looping guitar noodling on there is just astounding everything just plays out in perfection. "Satori Pt. 3" uses the same recipe as the opener with a slow, bass-driven beginning before getting into Satori's characteristical lush and intense guitar riffage and an added transcendental trance-like showing that the album isn't exactly standard hard rock, but a mixing of everything that was going on the heavier side of things in the Western Hemisphere (Blue Cheer, Sabbath and Can come quickly to mind), added to the band's Japanese heritage and turned up to 11, evolving into something that is the sum of it's influences but unique, very hard to replicate and even harder to describe.
"Satori Pt. 4" is the continuation of our previous revelation and comes with incredible uproar and tones down compared to previous tracks. There is a lot of blues foundation with a nice blues harp solo in more mellow pace then before Ishima unleashes his inner soloing demon and comes to the rescue in a great intertwining that last just until the last two minutes when Joe's vocals signal a comeback to the beginning of the song ending on the same note. The ending of the eponymous journey that takes hold, "Satori Pt. 5," is a great closer with the same ruminative moods of the album and opens with a speedy section downplayed by Joe Yamanaka's wailing, managing to express great angst and pain, afterwards going back to it's psychedelic and meditative ways, Ishima sounding more Japanese than ever in sagacious psychedelic sound but with the help of his trusty fuzz-driven instrument in the same melodic way as he always did. The track ends in the most epic dramatic feel ever for an album as some kind of ultimate war that had just raged on and ended abruptly with calm of silence afterwards, the themes and blending of a whole collage of different ideas done in the band's trenchant way is a great experience.
Overall Impression — 10
If you only ever hear one Flower Travellin' Band album in you life, you'd be best advised to make it "Satori," because this is the bands definitive vision. The entire album is one five part doom metal (Flower Travellin' Band, along with Black Sabbath and Pentagram helped form the genre) song that just kills. It is nothing less than Joe Yamanaka and Hideki Ishima's masterpiece. This would manage to be one of the most important proto-metal psych albums of all time and one of the best albums that would ever come out of Japan helping the country gain recognition in the contemporary music scene paving the way for future acts.
One cannot simply break this album down song for song as it all segues together into one whole harmony of cohesiveness with that enlightening feel of a new nature of music that wasn't made before and stands out as something quite solitary in rock music history. For someone looking to stray and wander from their normal listening pattern this album will not disappoint and will probably impress you showing that there is some great stuff out there from other countries and even groundbreaking music like this. Flower Travellin' Band would forever leave an imprint on the face of rock history with this marvelous album and also influence a number of artists throughout time even in recent years young bands have been discovering them and doing covers of these songs.