Eccentric, heavy, chaotic, avant-garde… skilful. Whereas Ruins, another proponent of Japanese chaos, often just sound like they’ve thrown a drum kit down the stairs and shouted about it, Happy Family’s brand of carnage sounds pretty well choreographed. Particularly interesting to me on a number of tracks is the style on the keyboard – at times if you listen to it in isolation, you could imagine it being used on a soundtrack to that era’s latest Sega or Nintendo offering. But then all of a sudden drums and guitars take over (maybe it’s the boss level?). The biggest challenge, although perhaps it’s a bit unnecessary, is pinning this down to a ‘genre’. Rock & Young, and Shige et Osanna are two examples of this eccentric and chaotic metal soundtracks to battles with Dr Robotnik. The first time you really think of Zeuhl influences is the intro of Partei, which is certainly a Zeuhl influenced Jazz fusion track with a really crunchy bass guitar that to me at least is a classic metal hallmark too. Rolling the Law Court though is more avant-jazz than metal (maybe it’s the Frank Zappa brass instruments?), before Kaiten Ningen Gyorai is back to the Zeuhl inspired metal like Partei. Naked King – the 19 minute thumper – Zeuhl, RIO, elements of King Crimson, and still sounding like a Sega boss battle. It’s a slow burner with some seriously sludgey bass, but unfortunately being this long its actually the first time I’d pass on listening to a track again. The almost standstill pace increases quickly to a chaotic crescendo after 15 minutes, and the drumming in particular is pretty stellar. I wish they’d have ended the album here but instead we’re given a minute and a half of piano plinking and squeaky toy noises (drums whisper spacy a very misleading title). With two tracks to go I was on the verge of giving this a really high rating, in the context of Zeuhl style albums, but less impressed by most of the last 20 minutes. Still, a low 4 stars, and a must listen for anyone exploring a niche genre, and who wants a way in via something slightly closer to metal in some of its style.