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Kehell is Shigekazu Kamaki on guitars, guitar-synth, and pedal-synth with Yasuyuki Hirose on bass and Toru Hamada on drums. This is Japanese prog fusion with smooth jazz fuzak and guitar rock yearnings. What do I mean? Well, Kamaki seems to want to be a jazz rock fusion composer/musician but many times he breaks out into Beck/Montrose/Satriani rock riffs and flurries of guitar-hero effects in the midst of moments that one might expect . . . ah, more fusion and less flash. Kamaki’s compositions and stylings flirt with fusion but exhibit genre-shizophrenia. Songs will flow Satriani rockin’ out then late 90’s fusionesque then Yellowjackets smooth jazzish and then back to Ronnie Montrose or Rick Derringer bombastic glitter. (That was just tracks 1 and 2.)
Things get more interesting on “Colony #2” where some swiftly executed Holdsworthian* chordal passages intro the song but . . . you guessed Kamaki is back in the straight up rock riffs, only to outro in a mirror of the intro. “Replica” is a tad Bill Connors in guitar voicings up front but quickly descends into pentatonic and do, re, mi . . . rock. I am sorry but the bland fuzak backgrounds for Kamaki’s rock riffs grate, oh so frequently. Yeah, there’s a strong melodic leaning but this has been done before by so many rock bands trying to be fusion groups. Kamaki’s Kehell is almost fusion, not really prog, sorta smooth jazz, flirts with rock and never lands squarely in any genre.
If you’re a guitar-head like myself you’ll find Kamaki a solid musician that is confident and poised for attack but I dunno, his style seems “automatic”, pristine, mechanical, precise, perfect but sterile and soul-less. The whole band is similarly tight and faultless in each song’s needs. I just found little happening in Galileo to make this reviewer say, “Wow, this is very cool”. On “Kaiper Belt” Kamaki does experiment with a variety of time signature mutations. Kamaki needs to decide whether he wants to play soul-fired jazz rock fusion or keep on pulling out predictable rock riffage buried in a sandwich of near-fusion. Musicianship is great but there’s an identity crisis in Kehell.
*Footnote: I was inspired to seek out Kehell due to some amateur reviewer’s comments posted many moons ago at www.Prog.net about them doing Holdsworthian jazz better than the awesome Scott McGill’s Hand Farm. NOT! McGill still reigns supreme in this regard. Kehell doesn’t even come close.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.