album review – Redeemer (D’espairsRay)

Redeemer is one great album from D’espairsRay. If Coll:set and Mirror did not exist that is.

After 2 years, the boys are back sporting less of their gothic outfits and now brandishing a contract from a Delicious Deli, a division of Universal Music Japan. D’espairsRay has definitely gone major. And with it comes a seeming departure from their old sound.

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The singles released between the second album Mirror and the current Redeemer are indications that D’espairsRay is evolving. Naturally, the reactions are varied. But the most prevalent criticism is D’espairsRay seems to be veering into pop territory. BRILLIANT, KAMIKAZE and HORIZON are good singles. However, they are a far cry from the hauntingly beautiful and provocative releases of old-school D’espairsRay. The last single to be released before the album and the title track as well, REDEEMER, brought the band back to its gothic and industrial metal roots and gave fans renewed hope for the album. Still, the question remains. Will the new album actually redeem D’espairsRay?

Opening the album is Lizard, a menacing song that had Hizumi singing about “God, saw, death, lie, sorrow, rob, lost” – a great choice for an opener and undoubtedly one of the best songs in the album. Next is BRILLIANT. BRILLIANT has an infectious beat and a commendable guitar solo but is just too positive sounding. The succeeding track, on the other hand, is the powerful REDEEMER. There is something eerie about the whole song but perhaps this can be traced to the song’s even creepier Hostel-meets-Saw pv.

The album afterwards shifts gears with the ballad Kohaku. The song is poignant and Hizumi’s voice is simply mesmerizing. A superb song, Kohaku though makes it sound as if a L’Arc~en~Ciel song has crept its way into a D’espairsRay album. KAMIKAZE then picks up the pace with its highly-energetic rifts that is continued in Lost in re:birth. Lost in re:birth could actually buoy the whole album as it is a sure throwback into familiar D’espairsRay territory. A commanding song with a kick-ass ending, to hear it live is something worth looking forward to.

redeemer

Somewhat breaking the mood set by Lost in re:birth is R.E.M. Fuyuu no Genchou, a song that has “power ballad” written over it. HORIZON follows suit, best known as the single that has turned most fans off. The song is unabashedly pop and it’s a little weird hearing Hizumi declaring “Can you feel the new world?”. The rap part is interesting though. MASQUERADE is another noteworthy track from the album.  Unfortunately, it cannot distract from the utmost horror that is Yozora. Yozara very much sounds like Dir en Grey’s Jessica but the latter is slightly better. To think Jessica is one of Dir en Grey’s maligned songs.

Offering a reprieve is the hypnotic PARADOX 5. D’espairsRay is again out of character in this song but the effect is astounding. An experimental track with a Hinduism vibe, PARADOX 5 at first listen strikes as something one could expect hearing from a spa, of all places. Then again, PARADOX 5 with its solemn chants and mesmerizing sound is in a class of its own, an unexpected but welcomed treat from a rock album. Finally, concluding the album is yet another infectious and pop-sounding song, HEAVEN’S COLOR. Surprisingly, HEAVEN’S COLOR actually works. Its placing in the album is appropriate as well. The song in lieu of an actual ending instead fades off, leaving the listener wanting. And fans are indeed left wanting with the album Redeemer, wanting the old D’espairsRay back, wanting to hear what’s next for this band.

Going back though to the original question on whether the current album will redeeem D’espairsRay. The answer is yes, to some extent. Again, Redeemer is a great album. However, it lacks the intensity and coherence of its predecessors. In addition, the album is not a good introduction to D’espairsRay. It might lure in new fans but those who are unfamiliar with their previous releases might be scared off by their heavier songs. Still, Redeemer cannot be dismissed as a total disappointment. It would be similarly disheartening to hear the band churning out the same sound over and over again. With Redeemer, they are able to strike a balance between their previous sound and the fresher beats of songs like BRILLIANT, KAMIKAZE and HEAVEN’S COLOR. Without a doubt, Redeemer is in a whole new league from Coll:set and Mirror. But one thing remains constant though: D’espairsRay delivers.

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