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TTMR 014: S.S.H. & Aether - Extend Ash ~ Person of Hourai [Rebuild]


Written by SU_Tempest
Tuesday, 26-Mar-24 03:22:04 UTC

Wow, it’s been over a month since the last review. I could say I’ve been busy with other projects elsewhere, but truth be told, I had writer’s block for a while. I really wanted to talk about Touhou metal, but couldn’t land on a subject. Until today.
Last time I spoke about S.S.H & Aether, it was for Cirno Day 2023, in September. I think it’s time to revisit this awesome circle.

Saitama’s Ultimate Weapon is on break

First, a quick reminder. “S.S.H & Aether” is a circle that’s really just two artists that like to collaborate often. The first is the titular 埼玉最終兵器 or Saitama Saisyuu Heiki, which roughly translates to Saitama’s Ultimate Weapon, and is often referred to as simply S.S.H. The other is Eru, leader of their own circle, Aether. When I refer to SSH & Aether, I refer to the pair they form when they collaborate on Touhou albums.

Recently, and what motivated me to finally break the writer’s block, I checked out SSH’s website at https://ssh.ne.jp/ , only to be greeted with depressing news - screencap pictured below alongside a transcript and translation.

A screencap of S.S.H.'s website as of March 26, 2024



In the summer of 2021, I was diagnosed with a severe depression and am still taking a break (December 2023).
I hope to return to some activity in 2024, and I am preparing to do so, albeit slowly.



The second part of that is translated as follows:

(Translation software is so advanced these days…)
I update and publish songs mainly on YouTube these days, although it is very rare.

I know there’s a next to zero chance S.S.H will see this, but…
頑張れ, S.S.H-san!!! Hang in there!!!

Depression is no joke. I was there, I was in the depths too. So I will open this post by wishing you to recover and they you (and Eru-san of course) will be okay.
More than hearing about a new album dropping, more than anything else, I want fellow artists and creators to be okay above anything else.

With unlimited inspiration, comes unlimited power.

Now for something more personal. It’s been over a year since I’ve started the long, arduous road of weight loss, regaining fitness, and being generally healthier. I won’t go over too many details; let’s just say I’ve not only regained, but surpassed all the endurance I’ve ever had in high school, and lost so much weight in a year (well over 80 lbs!) I am genuinely unrecognizable compared to 2023.

Now, what does all of that have to do with Touhou music?

Everything, really.

Every single time I go out, every single time I put on those shoes and start putting miles behind me, I have my phone, I have a pair of earbuds, and I have a part of my collection with me. As of late, S.S.H. albums have been incredible motivation. The intersection between the news about his health with, well, the fact his works have been an incredible part of the reason why I have regained my own has been a bit of a wake-up call.

What do I listen to all of this and collect all of this for, besides my own personal enjoyment and a duty of preservation? Well, there is something to be said about inspiration and betterment. Good music is, like any good art, something that is fundamentally designed to inspire you. It’s more than just hearing sounds that please the ear holes or get the ol’ body to move.

It’s about what you feel when you listen to something you think is really good. What emotions it conveys, what stories you remember - or maybe you prefer to let the imagination run overdrive, conjure scenarios and awesome scenes. That’s inspiration.

In a sense, I don’t write these reviews until I’m inspired to do it. That’s why sometimes it’s only 2 weeks between reviews and other times it’s over a month. I’m sorry, I can’t keep these to a schedule at all!! At the same time, I feel like that if I did, these reviews would be boring, and I wouldn’t be really putting a part of my own real feelings into them.

But music has also been part of the reason why I pushed further a little more, ran a little harder, went a little further, turned a day of running 6 miles into 7, and as of last week, I finally broke a distance record and went 8 miles without stopping, and only as much slowing down as city traffic forced me to.

8 miles! When I started running in March of 2023, I could barely do half a mile, out of breath by 3 miles … of walking. The awesome feeling that now gives me, only matched by the awesome feelings I get when I listen to a great album, or a really, really good track. So it got me thinking… Of the S.S.H. albums I own, which one sounds the most awesome?..

Flames of a Phoenix

Trick question. That’s subjective! This is all an excuse to talk about the song I used the most just to wring out a few more miles of running, but we’re going to define “most awesome” as exactly that; my own personal, recent definition of the awesome sensation.

Many, many, many tracks almost made it as my pick. I oscillated between the Crystallized Silver [Rebuild] remix from Forbidden Accelerator, Girls Secret Sealing Club [Ver. EE Rebuild] from Juicehead Joker, and the incredibly heavy Septette for the Dead Princess from Immortal Inferno and what is probably my favorite Eru arrange. I very nearly picked Reverse Ideology [Ver. BB] and its 160 BPM of pure Seija shredfest from Brutal Blast.

In all honestly, you should listen to all of these.

But you already know what song I picked if you read the post title.

In the end, I chose an epic. 160 BPM as well, but with a more traditional combination of heavy galloping drums and melodic progression. エクステンドアッシュ ~ 蓬莱人 [Rebuild], or simply Extend Ash ~ Person of Hourai [Rebuild].

Unlike many circles, it’s rare for an S.S.H & Aether album to have a track name that isn’t simply the name of the original song, sometimes with a suffix like a version code or an indicator it’s a redone version of an original.

Not that I mind, it makes writing titles easier for me. (lol)

This arrange is five unrelenting minutes and eight seconds long. No long-winded intro, no build up, straight into it.

In the ZUN original, the song famously starts with melancholic pianos before bringing in the backing drums and back-to-back crescendo-decrescendo synths, until the main melody comes in on these ZUN trumpets (ZUNpets) we all love.

S.S.H. takes the conventional approach. All of three seconds of warning with a reverse cymbal, then in comes his drums, his bass, and his synths. But oh, is it ever so effective. Galloping drums come in at 0:25, probably to emulate the synths making crescendos and decrescendos in the original, extending Extend Ash’s intro a little longer, until about 0:49.

A few seconds of connecting beats, and at 0:54, we hear the first verse and the main melody. The strings playing that melody seem almost muted; the guitars are the real main players of this song. The drums and the guitars drive the song far more than these strings. I have the feeling this is intentional.

At about 2:00, S.S.H. slows his roll down a bit, cutting the galloping drums and slowing the whole song down to let the strings take back some of the space and play the track’s second verse, but, ah, this is still an S.S.H. song, there is no truly slowing this track down! Almost sneakily, the drums return to their galloping pace at 2:13 while the strings repeat the second verse, concluding it at 2:34.

The song enters a transition at that point, and there it is. The main guitar, the S.S.H. sound, coming in with a shred at 2:45, followed by whines and then a sick guitar solo. This has all the subtlety of Marisa blasting in at top speed, both feet on her broom, hands on the guitar and I am all for it. But instead of continuing and playing the first verse with the lead guitar, S.S.H. gives it back to the strings at 3:21. It’s as if the main guitarist came solely to play that solo.

You can practically picture Marisa’s grin. Of all the Touhou girls in this ever-expending cast, if there’s someone who evokes awe, it’s still her…

S.S.H. replays the first and the second verse, using frantic drumming starting from 4:29 to transition the song and let it slide into the outro proper at 4:49. Then, two more hits on the drums, and the song ends like a photo finish, leaving us with four seconds of silence, maybe to catch our breaths.

Inspired to do awesome things

Not counting the ones in this sentence, I’ve used the words ‘awesome’ eight times. An editor might slap my wrist and tell me to stop overusing this word, to which I’d tell them, I’m doing it on purpose!

That’s the whole theme today. Music is everything and many things to me, it depends on the mood. I’ve been pushing myself to get healthier, run longer, become better physically and mentally. The music I put on when I get out there is simply the soundtrack to all of this hard work and sensations.

Whether you listen to music to make yourself feel better after a hard day, to pursue the audio equivalent of comfort food, to fill the air and not let it fall silent, or use it to chase sensations… There’s no wrong way to do this, as long as it’s meaningful to you.

For me, every track is a story. Even if there are no lyrics or vocalists, every note and every sound tells stories and carries emotions. Whatever S.S.H. and Eru felt, whatever inspired them to compose these albums and carry them into releasing them at events like Comiket or Reitaisai, I’m thankful they did. They might never know it, but they carried me too.
And I hope you, too, dear reader, feel something and get inspired, whatever it is that you are inspired to do.

Song details

Song title: エクステンドアッシュ ~ 蓬莱人 [Rebuild]
Artist: 埼玉最終兵器
Album: Brutal blast (Track 9)
Circle: 埼玉最終兵器 & Aether (also known as Saitama Saisyu Heiki or S.S.H.)
Release date: 2017/08/11 (Comiket 92)
Genre: Speed metal
Type: Instrumental

Touhou originals remixed:

  • エクステンドアッシュ ~ 蓬莱人 ; Extend Ash ~ Person of Hourai (Imperishable Night, Extra stage theme)

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