It’s not often that you hear the phrase “Korean Guitar Hero”, but that does actually sum up the work of Rhy Dongju as he continues the suite of soundscapes that form the Lions’den series; and we now have the latest to be released as he shares Lions’den III: Arium with the world. There is no clear label for this classical/rock/jazz hybrid, although McGloughlin inevitably springs to mind. On first listen with no preconceptions this is a startlingly good album of guitar playing that is illustrated perfectly with the jazzy and irresistible shuffle of opening track ‘Ricasso’. The backing is solid too as keys, bass, and drums are in perfect harmony as Rhy travels the fretboard in a magical way.
Sax joins in on ‘PP’ and horns bring the rock ‘n’ roll feel to the nicely named tune, ‘Elvis Remember’ although it has a ‘soundtrack’ feel to it too, a la Pink Panther. ‘Venue’ has a piano and upright bass intro that keeps the jazz mood as the horns join in and it becomes a sort of orchestral horny piece with the guitar well in the background. ‘Syren’ is progy jazz with complex guitar patterns playing around with a delightful melody. The two-part ‘Rachmaninoff Rhapsody’ shows how different genres can join together and it actually makes me think of some of Jon Lord’s work on the Windows album. The join between the two parts is poorly edited on my copy but, the melodies are strong enough to forgive that glitch.
This may be a little unusual for the pages of RAMzine but although it is jazz, there is much to be enjoyed in the flowing tunes. The guitar playing of this guy as well as the use of a horn section to expand or, on some tracks, lead the way.
OK, no metal but plenty to be gleaned if you feel like a palate-cleansing change of scene. It may not be something I seek out on a regular basis but I will damn well enjoy it when I do.
Korean Guitar Hero Rhy Dongju’s Lions’den III: Arium is out now via Lions’den Records.