An unlikely fusion of heavy metal and modern jazz strikes all the right chords on NHORHM’s fourth album New Heritage Of Real Heavy Metal -Extra Edition-, released in 2019 in Japan.

While jazz musicians have traditionally interpreted popular music and Broadway musicals for inspiration, NHORHM harvests heavy metal for a surprisingly fitting and rich source of material.

Pianist Hitomi Nishiyama expertly rearranges heavy metal songs for piano jazz trio arrangements, imbuing the music with her characteristic elegance, darkness, intelligence, and fun. The intricate harmonic lines that Nishiyama excels at playing fit well with the dense heaviness of her carefully curated metal choices, complemented marvelously by the dexterous energy of Ryoji Orihara’s fretless bass and the rhythmically clever dynamics of Manabu Hashimoto. Far from benign cocktail jazz, the resulting music has a smart sharpness inspired by the volume and roughness of the metal spirit. While not distorted or aggressive, it is both light and heavy, and definitely rocks in its own way.

NHORHM is described as a heavy metal cover jazz band, but this is not just a mimicking of the original metal material. Rather, the music is heightened by the reformatting of the material through intricate arrangements, creative time signatures, harmonic changes, and skillful performances by the members honoring the music with fondness; they are having fun with the recital of music they genuinely appreciate.

Similar to how the first three NHORHM albums covered music from major metal bands (Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Pantera, Megadeth, AC/DC, Dream Theater, Extreme, and many others), this Extra Edition release features songs from the bands Stratovarius (“Galaxies”), Deep Purple (a delicate and fantastic “Highway Star”), Metallica (an unexpectedly funky “Enter Sandman”), Slayer (a straightforward and interestingly arranged “South of Heaven”), and Yngwie Malmsteen (“Don’t Let It End” and “The Seventh Sign”, both seriously lovely, melodically moving). As with previous albums, this album also contains an original number from Nishiyama.

While a background familiarity with the original heavy metal songs is not necessary, for some listeners it is quite satisfying to experience how distorted guitars and heavy metal aggression can be transformed and handled by a jazz trio such as NHORHM. Not just a gimmick, this is talent on display and a successful experiment for a modern jazz trio, and the end result, the music, is heavily satisfying.

About the name: Perhaps an unwieldy moniker at first, NHORHM - New Heritage Of Real Heavy Metal - is an affectionate nod to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) of the 1970’s and 80’s which included many great heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Motörhead, and Iron Maiden, and many more. Incidentally, the name NHORHM also nicely serves as an acronym for the three musicians read in Japanese name order: Nishiyama Hitomi, Orihara Ryoji, Hashimoto Manabu.

New Heritage of Real Heavy Metal -Extra Edition- by NHORHM

Released in 2019 on Apollo Sounds as APLS1905.

Japanese Names: Hitomi Nishiyama 西山瞳 Ryoji Orihara 織原良次 Manabu Hashimoto 橋本学

Audio and Video

Other links: Excerpt from "Galaxies (Stratovarius)", the first track on this album:

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Jan 7, 2020