(note: this review is based on the downloable version available on iTunes Japan. The physical copy of the album will still be available on July 28).
While the first album, imaginatively titled as VAMPS, exuded a rowdy feel and was bursting with tracks tailored fit for live performances, BEAST seemed to be a lot tamer in comparison. The songs were generally slower and did not exhibit the same helter-skelter vibe that made the first album er, messy.
The instrumental track PLUG IN kicks off the album and it’s basically the sound of a machine booting up. I’ve already shared my thoughts on the first and second tracks, DEVIL SIDE and ANGEL TRIP respectively, on a previous post so I’ll just jump in to track 3, MEMORIES. The song is unapologetically pop-rock with the now familiar KAZ trademark sound permeating all throughout. The beat is actually repetitive but quite catchy and it builds to a nice chorus.
What follows is one of my favorite tracks in the album, EUPHORIA. The song actually reminded me of 侵食~lose control with its disjointed sound, shifting from light to heavy on some parts. Hyde’s voice is likewise on a rollercoaster ride on this track as he effortlessly hit the high notes while delivering some impressive growls in a few verses. I particularly like how the song ended with Hyde reciting some seemingly nonsensical lines: “Thanks for coming (note: I couldn’t make out the next 2 lines) If you can’t take it, please leave right now. Sleep with mommy. Thank you. Good night.”
The next track is the rather forgettable VAMP ADDICTION. While there was a rather kick-ass guitar solo by the second minute, the whole song felt like an outtake from EUPHORIA, should there ever be such a thing. This is quite unfortunate given that VAMP ADDICTION segues to probably one of the most quirky songs to ever come out of Hyde’s repertoire, REVOLUTION. REVOLUTION starts with a bang but kinda loses steam by the chorus part. Still, should I ever get the chance to watch VAMPS live, I know where I’ll be when this song is played: right in the moshpits with my feet stomping, fist in the air while shouting “BANG ON. STOMP EVERYBODY!”
The intro of the succeeding track, THE PAST, got me thinking of BOOM BOOM SATELLITES. Such a shame the techno vibe was not sustained as the track degenerated to a bouncy yet uninspired beat. That said, THE PAST joins VAMP ADDICTION as the weakest tracks in the album. In PIANO DUET, on the other hand, VAMPS channels its inner Coldplay and Radiohead but only in the first few seconds. The song is very poignant and definitely deserves to rank among the band’s noteworthy ballads.
The album amps the atmosphere again with RUMBLE. A jazz infused rock and roll number, the track effectively showcases KAZ’s skills as a guitarist. In fact, it can even be said that KAZ overshadows Hyde on this song with every scene-stealing rift. Hyde regains the spotlight however via the next track, GET UP. The song had Hyde once again hitting the high notes with hardly a snag and delivering smooth falsettos. It matches the song’s perky nature very much leading to an enjoyably uplifting listening experience.
With a title like SAMSARA, there’s no doubt the second to the last track is ambient. And indeed it is, only it is of the generic kind. SAMSARA has ‘album filler’ written all over it and obviously only existed to set the mood for the album’s finale, MY FIRST LAST. I had high expectations for the song given that it was to first to pique my interest when I initially saw the track list. But to my dismay the song itself turns out to be a dud. Its biggest flaw is without a doubt Hyde’s vocals. While I note the vast improvement in his articulation of the English lyrics, he sounded as if he was eating some of the words especially during the first verse. Truth to tell, Hyde sounded like he was nursing a cold while recording the song. Thankfully, MY FIRST LAST redeems itself thru its lyrics which if I’m to trust my hearing are very poetic. Hyde has always been gifted with the ability to paint wonderful imagery thru words and in MY FIRST LAST, he was able to demonstrate this in a way deserving of great acclaim. Still, I believe that choosing MY FIRST LAST to cap the album was a bad decision. It would have been much, much better if a song with far more attitude is used like say, REVOLUTION.
Honestly, I still couldn’t decide whether BEAST is actually an improvement from VAMPS. I had mixed feelings for the first album and even more for the latest. To some degree, VAMPS had the advantage over BEAST because it was able to establish the band’s sound which is in Hyde’s own words, “old-school rock and roll”. With BEAST, VAMPS seemed to have embraced a more pop-rock sound and this is where the ambivalence stems from. Why? Because BEAST reminds me so much of L’Arc~en~Ciel. And in my book, L’Arc~en~Ciel trumps VAMPS anytime.