Article written by Bob Makin, @ReporterBMakin
The Hsu-nami / “Hsu-nami” (http://www.hsu-nami.com/)
Now here is a very interesting band. Formed out of Ramapo College in 2005, the instrumental progressive metal of Hsu-Nami is led by Jack Hsu, who rocks on the erhu, a two-string Chinese violin.
Seven years in the making, The Hsu-nami’s all-star third release, a 10-song self-titled affair, augments original members Brent Bergholm on guitar, Derril Sellers on bass, John Manna on drums and longtime keyboardist Dana Goldberg with a variety of monster Asian players, including Sylvia Jiaju Shen of the New York Chinese Cultural Center. Shen’s pipa (a Chinese lute) mixes things up nicely on “The Great Race,” as does a snippet of the hard rock section of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Chelsea Symphony cellist Hwa-Chow Oliver Hsu is no relation to the band’s founder, but also is among the guests on several tracks, including the stirring “Black Tortoise,” the hauntingly epic “Dragon King of the North Sea” and “Reincarnation,” a bending beauty that also features violist Andy Lin of the New Asia Chamber Music Society. Hsu also enlisted the internationally renowned Japanese-American flutist-drummer Kaoru Watanabe, formerly of the drum ensemble Kodo. Watanabe plays the shakuhachi (bamboo flute) on the driving “White Tiger’s Tail,” as well as the Jethro Tull-meets-Marco Polo journey of “Ride the Open Seas.”
The only vocal on “Hsu-Nami” is the gorgeous, nonlyrical accompaniment on “Celestial Wolf” by none other than Sumie Kaneko, an acclaimed jazz singer-songwriter who also contributes the shamisen, a three-stringed Japanese lute, alongside Hsu’s blazing ehru and Bergholm’s rocking guitar.
Similar to Mannheim Steamroller, The Hsu-mani is even better, especially on this new release, because they rock harder, and with all the guests, are just as classical-oriented. “Hsu-Nami” also is less metal-minded than 2007’s “Entering the Mandala” debut and 2009’s “The Four Noble Truths.” Hopefully, this record will be supported by a tour or at least an all-star concert, but no plans have been made yet.