album review – Kyuutai (MUCC)

Kyuutai-TypeA  

It’s Maundy Thursday and I find myself listening to MUCC’s latest release Kyuutai. Quite odd considering that visual kei is not exactly what one should listen to during Holy Week. However,  Kyuutai turns out to be a soul-wrenching and reflective album. Proof of which is the haunting gem of a song Sanbika – reminiscent of good old-fashioned “pasyon” with even the “Ave Marias” and “Santa Marias” thrown in. When I heard that one, I literally got goosebumps all over.

The album as a whole is quite a good mix of ballads and heavier rock songs. The dark, pulsating visual kei sound is still present but is tempered by laid-back guitar strumming and soft-spoken vocals. In fact, guitar work pretty much dominates majority of the songs.  But what is so striking about Kyuutai is how much it differs from MUCC’s previous release, the techno-infused Shion. Then again, variety, I believe, is one of this band’s strengths.

Truth to tell, I have only listened to 3 of the many albums MUCC has released – Kuchiki no Tou, Shion and of course, Kyuutai. And the said albums are as similar as apples are to oranges. Kuchiki no Tou is definitely the darker of the 3 with its soaring vocals and dramatic solos. For example, the title track Kuchiki no Tou (the last song in the album, not to be confused with the instrumental intro) brings rock opera to mind.

Shion, on the other hand, veers away from all the angst of Kuchiki no Tou and has brought with it a refreshing and energizing vibe. A listen to FUZZ and Anjelier is sure to boost one’s spirit up. Given that one is listened to after the other, Shion provides the cathartic release from all the pent up emotions Kuchiki no Tou has exposed.

Then comes Kyuutai. The heavier songs like Ageha and Sora to Ito provides the expected turbulence. But the biggest draw of Kyuutai for me are songs that allow for quiet moments of reflection – Sanbika, hanabi, Aoi Tori and to some extent, even Youen. These are not necessarily ballads but they do brim up with emotions and Tatsurou’s voice really shines through. The fancy guitar work among the songs is also something to behold.

Hands down though, Sanbika alone is enough reason not to ignore this album. Yes, the intro is somehow akin to Hotel California for some weird reason but Sanbika – in all of its 7 minutes and 33 seconds glory – can definitely hold its own. Tatsurou’s falsettos are spine-tingling but come third verse, the effect turns to haunting. This is made more effective with the soprano vocals in the background. By the time the song reached its second “Santa Maria”, Sanbika has earned its place as one of the eeriest songs I have ever heard.

Overall, MUCC’s Kyuutai is a good listen. It has its own hits and misses but then, it also testifies to the band’s maturity as an artist. It also makes one anticipate the next worthy addition to this band’s growing repertoire.

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