album review – MONSTERS (D’espairsRay)

Great news: Despite the title and the standard set by the preceding singles, D’espairsRay’s latest album is not an atrocity. Far from being one, in fact. MONSTERS is a definite killer. When the band proclaimed that this album is really good, they most certainly were telling the truth.

Kickstarting the album is the lavish Human-clad Monster. Whoever was the sound engineer for this song deserves a pat on the back. Human-clad Monster is one grand production with a lot of elements involved but it was very coherent. I think I can understand now why when asked for one song to represent D’espairsRay, Human-clad Monster was almost unanimously chosen by the members themselves. The track, with its shifting mood and intricacies, seems to chronicle the band’s growth as an artist so far. What’s holding this song back though from becoming truly outstanding is its lackluster chorus. For such a multi-faceted track, the chorus part functions more like a downer rather than as a highlight.

la-la-la love this monster

DEATH POINT follows next and as anyone who had seen the pv would attest, the track is an hyperactive romp crafted in mosh pit heaven. But stripped of the notoriety fostered by its kick-ass pv, DEATH POINT’s beat is a bit repetitive and moves into the chorus too fast. Still, it’s the perfect segue to the epically glorious 13–Thirteen. The song has personality and a ferocious one at that. Apocryphal in attitude and overly mesmerizing, 13-Thirteen- no doubt has to capacity to lure even the most reluctant into D’espairsRay’s “brand new world”.

Now comes LOVE IS DEAD. Love it or hate it, the song clings to you like lint on freshly ironed clothes.  Besides, could anyone actually claim that they can resist singing along to “la-la-la Love is dead”? Anyway, the moment I learned LOVE IS DEAD is included in the album, I wondered its position in the track list. I have hoped against an album full of upbeat songs (or bright songs as the band would call them) so I imagined that the danceable track would be placed at the end.  But no, in its current position (sandwiched between the best songs in the album, in fact), LOVE IS DEAD stands out like the sore thumb it really is. A bold choice indeed but at least it succeeded in highlighting the novelty of the song.

DEVIL’S PARADE rivals 13-Thirteen- in superiority. The track is both playful and menacing at the same time. My only beef against it is that I almost always expect to hear girls chanting “Be obscene, be be obscene. Be obscene, baby”  somewhere along. It could only be just me but DEVIL’S PARADE just reminds me so much of Marilyn Manson’s Mobscene. Then again Marilyn Manson has never released a song as intriguing as dope (superbly titled too!). dope has the seductive vibe going on and it’s regrettable that a pv is not available. HIZUMI’s current style seems to veering towards pimp daddy-ish and dope is right along that alley.

The intro of FALLING, on the other hand, sounds eerily similar to Maximum the Hormone’s Buiiki Kaesu! That aside and with exception of the moderately intense duel between Karyu and TSUKASA from 2:38 to 3:00, there’s really nothing much to say about the track. Same goes for PROGRESS. Maybe I just need to listen to both songs more but currently I’m more likely to skip these two rather than endure them. FINAL CALL follows and up to now I’m still baffled as to why this song was chosen as the single to commemorate D’espairsRay’s 10th anniversary. It’s a few shades away from being as pop-py as HORIZON. Nevertheless, HIZUMI’s pronunciation of the English lyrics is much, much better here than say, the all English DEATH POINT. 

Wrapping everything up is abyss which is interestingly, the only slow song in the album. abyss, in its simplicity, is easy on the ears but not on the heart. abyss hits a bulls-eye for being emotionally cathartic. It starts off on a somber mood then eventually becomes hopeful to finally triumphant. It’s such a beautiful song and I concede than it’s the perfect ending for such a powerful album.

And as for the conclusion of this write-up, there’s really nothing more to say but “well done D’espairsRay!”

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Comments on the Purple SKY interview with D’espairsRay

Purple SKY released a very interesting interview with D’espairsRay last week. I found it fascinating because it featured questions that I would have asked the band myself, given the chance.

D'espairsRay with their pimped out vuvuzela

First up, it addressed the issue regarding LOVE IS DEAD. When the single first came out, hard-core music fans were quick to point out how it sounded eerily similar to Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round. To this, the band had the following to say:

Purple SKY: Your single “Love is Dead” has some similarities to the song “You Spin Me Round” by Dead or Alive. Is it homage or a coincidence?

Karyu: We went to a few dance clubs in Europe after our shows, and really liked the atmosphere the music created. I wanted to use that in one of our songs, and it’s possible I heard Dead or Alive’s song at some of the clubs.  I didn’t even know the name of it until we finished “Love Is Dead” and someone pointed out that it sounded similar.

Purple SKY: So it’s not that song directly?

Karyu: No, we just wanted to make a dance-style song like one you would hear at a club!

Sorry Karyu but that excuse sounds flimsy. But whole thing could indeed be just a mere coincidence. I wouldn’t dare accuse the boys of being plagiarists. ”Inspired” might be a more apt term 🙂 . And truth be told, this is not the first time a D’espairsRay song brings to mind another artist’s song. Their earlier style was reminiscent of Marilyn Manson’s: D’espairsRay’s Tatoeba kimi ga shindara vs. Marilyn Manson’s Angel with scabbed wings and D’espairsRay’s SIXTY-NINE vs. Marilyn Manson’s The Beautiful People.

And speaking of music style, the interview also focused on the band outgrowing their dark image.  To say that D’espairsRay has changed a lot is an understatement. Those who were already familiar with the band since their indie days (Kumo, Sexual Beast, Terrors, etc) wouldn’t even dare imagine that someday D’espairsRay would release a “dance” track. There was simply no indication. Ok so Kogoeru Yoru ni Saita Hana was a bit danceable but even the remixes of their songs were more ambient rather than upbeat. Anyway, here’s band’s take on that matter:

Purple SKY: Recently you’ve put a little bit of a dance beat in your music. Do you think you’re growing out of this dark image?

Karyu: A lot of people are saying that. We want to make a variety of songs, even if that might upset what people expect.
HIZUMI: Lately we’ve been putting in a few brighter songs. So at lives, the brighter songs help the darker songs stand out. That’s why we’re doing more with brighter songs.
TSUKASA: We just want to do a variety of songs.

Brighter songs? I wholly understand the need for evolution of sound and diversity. Plus it’s great that the band gets to experiment both in sound and in lyrics. Still, part of me wishes that D’espairsRay would revisit their gothic roots and again release songs that reach out to our respective dark, not to mention perverse, sides. Given the choice between say, in vain and FINAL CALL, I’d definitely pick in vain without even blinking. FINAL CALL was an ok song but its lines like “Can you feel a new world? We must make it to the end” involves more tolerance than in vain’s “Sex might be the only thing I can fuck you with. What the fuck. Fuck it… motherfucker die” 🙂

Going back to the interview itself, Karyu seemed to the most vocal of the four. TSUKASA and ZERO hardly register. But it was HIZUMI that got to put in the most punchlines. Too bad there was no video to accompany the interview’s transcript. I want to see the reactions as HIZUMI cracks a witty reply one after the other. Of all that he unleashed, I find the following as the most endearing:

Purple SKY: What if you woke up one day and you were a completely different style? Say you were suddenly bald or something else that would ruin your look.

HIZUMI: What should I do? I’d go back to bed.

Nice one, HIZUMI. Karubi must be so proud.

Finally, to cap off this post, here is a mini-picspam of D’espairsRay’s new look (eons more better than what they were sporting in FINAL CALL):

Karyu

HIZUMI

ZERO

TSUKASA

In all of their photo shoots, TSUKASA always ended up as the prettiest but the above is just WAY TOO MUCH.

(all pictures are courtesy of Purple SKY)

maxi-single review – Tsuki ni murakamo hana ni ame (kagrra,)

tsuki_ni_murakumo_hana_ni_ame_cover

Kagrra,’s latest release 月に斑雲 紫陽花に雨 (Tsuki ni murakamo hana ni ame) highlights the band’s advantage over the large crop of visual kei bands out there – Isshi’s unique voice, beats that are very easy on the ears and the excellent blend of pop-rock with traditional Japanese music.

The title track is a very soothing yet energetic number that could have anyone tapping their feet along with the beat. However there is nothing much in Tsuki ni… to distinguish it from what Kagrra, has done before. It gave off the impression that the band was playing safe. Far from being a disappointment, Tsuki ni… could still use some more tweaking given that after all, it is the title track.

The second track, 戯曲 華一匁 (Gikyoku Hanaichimonme) has the oomph that was missing in Tsuki ni… Boisterous and still suave at the same time, Gikyoku Hanaichimonme gives off a big band vibe. The piano beats are a welcome addition too. Gikyoku is enjoyable to listen to and is no doubt much more deserving of repeated listening than the other 2 tracks in this maxi-single.

Capping off the tracklist is 日ノ本 (Hinomoto). Hinomoto sounds like Tsuki ni… but strangely enough, I like it better than the latter. Maybe because it’s more upbeat. Kagrra,’s Neo-Japanese sound is also more prominent in this one. The flow is concrete and the band sounds like they are really enjoying what they’re playing.

As mentioned in the intro, 月に斑雲 紫陽花に雨 plays on Kagrra,’s strengths. But for their succeeding releases, I do hope the band would considering experimenting a bit more. Kagrra, is still on a league of its own but a little more innovation would not hurt. This is because in the long run, even uniqueness becomes stale.

single review – The farthest (DELUHI)

Cacophonous.

If there’s one word to describe DELUHI’s latest single The farthest then it could only be cacophonous. Listening to the lone track just gave me the impression that the band didn’t know what to do with it – should we go fast? slow? how about mixing it all up? The farthest do have its shining moments but overall it lacks harmony. Whoever did the arrangement for this track should be replaced before the band records their next single, Departure.

the farthest

As for Juri’s vocals, I couldn’t decide if there’s any improvement at all from the disaster he wrecked in Frontier. I still think he should tone down the growling a bit and just focus on enhancing his normal voice. Must give him props though for having good articulation! His Japanese accent did not overpower his pronunciation of the English lyrics, especially in the chorus.

Nevertheless, as with Frontier, the track owes it worth to Leda. His guitar solo by the third minute was impeccable. Leda did not disappoint. He displayed solid performance all throughout the track but the solo was his moment in every sense of the word. It was also to his credit the The farthest has a rousing ending. The song’s final minutes is a definite gem whose shine was much more highlighted by the fact that one must endure first The farthest’s murk before reaching it.

pv review – DEATH POINT (D’espairsRay)

Sound the alarms: bad-ass D’espairsRay is back with a vengeance.

After a string of seemingly average pv’s (HORIZON, Final Call and yes, even LOVE IS DEAD), D’espairsRay amps up the attitude a number of notches higher with their latest release DEATH POINT.

DEATH POINT pv is basically a performance video but the inclusion of the “breaking the fourth wall” concept gave it the edge and much-needed coolness boost. While hardly original, blurring the lines between reel and real effectively illustrates the devil-may-care feel of the song.

Similar to LOVE IS DEAD pv, Hizumi pretty much hogged the screen time. But I’m not the one to complain given that it led to numerous epic moments: the entire segment starting from Hizumi slowly raising his head then rising from his couch to walk to the microphone to finally releasing a bloodcurdling growl, Hizumi tossing the microphone to a PA then proceeds to shake the camera (and James makes his pv debut!), Hizumi drinking from a bottled water before splashing its contents and the best part of it all, the PA handing the microphone back to Hizumi. Kidding on the last part. Seriously, the most striking moment for me was when Hizumi kicked the camera then the angle of the shot shifted to reflect what the fallen camera was supposed to be capturing. The poor camera makes another appearance on the last few frames of the pv where it was mercilessly stomped on by Hizumi. The act made the pv reach full circle given that it started with Zero (or was it Karyu?) revving up what I’d like to assume as the amplifier (sorry, not yet well versed with those gadgets) with his foot.

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pv review – MY FIRST LAST (VAMPS)

Ok, so I know I made it clear in my BEAST that I have misgivings regarding MY FIRST LAST. But had I’ve seen this pv first, I would certainly be squealing like a hyperventilating fangirl in praise of the song. The pv just fuckin’ nailed it.

Truth to tell, the pv is very basic. No fancy shots whatsoever but rather just plain visuals of extreme close-ups of hyde, a bonfire, the night sky, and the occasional glimpse of K.A.Z. But taken together, they were able to bring out the raw sensuality of the song. And yes, they were moving enough to take attention away from hyde’s faulty vocals during the song’s first verse. The pv, in its simplicity, was so sensual it was almost primal.

But perhaps the best accolade I could give the pv is the fact that now at 1AM in the morning, instead of being blissfully asleep, I am writing this post with ROENTGEN playing in the background and thinking that maybe it’s not quite the time to give up on VAMPS just yet.