Friday, October 14, 2011

A Musical Review! (音楽の批評記事や!)

Not a Revue, because I'm sure that's just not what you're here for. Anyway.

Oftentimes, when thinking of what to write in this blog of mine, I become fearful that I have run out of topics--what else, I moan, can possibly be written? And, of course, after about five minutes of this kind of thinking, a blog post is almost fully formed in my head, ready to go.

Unfortunately, this usually happens when I'm in bed and the computer's off for the night, so I'm forced to cling to my ideas until the morning hours, hoping that something, anything, stays in my brain long enough to get down on the interwebs.

As my brain right before sleep is not in prime memory-making mode... well. We'll see how that goes.


To the delight of some, and to the ambivalence of many (I'm sure), I'm going to return to my musical phase today!

...although really I don't think I've ever done song commentary, and have mainly stuck with general band description plus songs as a necessary by-product thereof, but generally subservient to the greater plot of band informant...

But whatever.

Today, thanks to this post taking a long time coming, I have two singles to talk about:

DEATHGAZE's SILENCE/THE END (because when you can't choose the title, why not compromise?) and Dir en grey's DIFFERENT SENSE.

... I'll never understand why recent V-kei/J-Rock bands feel the need to ignore standard capitalization rules. I mean, it could be that they're shouting everything... oh, ok. Well. That makes sense, forget I asked.


Yes, that is the album cover. Not entirely black, there are some spots of white and grey in there if you look... maybe it's supposed to be deep space?

Really, though, when bands start doing this for covers, I have to wonder if it really is so much artistic as it is damn lazy on the part of their graphics guy... Although, in the case of Dir en grey's THE MARROW OF A BONE, it was actually a mistake, particularly in the American release, for some reason. What looked to be a black cover with only the title standing out should have, in fact, been a monochrome (... is it monochrome when it's all in shades of black, really?) picture that was actually quite detailed. I think there was a deal where Americans could send back their copy to get the proper cover. Pretty sure I stuck with the mistake cover, but would have to actually dig out my copy to confirm.

... ANYWAY. (These are really just self-cues to get my hiney back in gear at this point, pay no heed.)

As you may (or may not, if you're a brandy-new reader... hello, brandy-new reader!) know, I am a fan of DEATHGAZE. Seen them live twice, have most if not all of their stuff. They're great. Put on a good show, and produce consistently good music. Ai has a great voice, and he doesn't growl or scream too much--which, really, is extra nice, as he has one of the most distinctive voices I've ever heard. In a good way. In a good, deep, make-you-all-tingly way.

I'll stop.

Track 1- SILENCE

Like I said, they weren't very creative in naming this single. Guess what the next track's called.

Now, I like some hard rock. No one can say otherwise. I especially like hard rock with a melodic interlude, or, even better, a melodic chorus. While sometimes I admit that I do like to headband and scream with rage, most of the time, I'm just not in that sort of mood.

Er, right now anyway. No telling what tomorrow brings to my emotional state.

Regardless, I think loving BUCK-TICK has seriously affected my love for the harder stuff. Oh, well.

And anyway, Ai has too nice a voice to waste on nothing but screaming. Luckily, he didn't disappoint. He's a good kid.

(Yes, I promise. Press play, and get through the first... oh, thirty-nine seconds. It gets less angry. Not that there's anything wrong with angry, mind you. They're almost a metal band, depending on your definitions, so give them a break.)

These guys are just a very well put together band. Lately, the world of Visual Kei has produced naught but knock-offs and really awful music (I'm looking at you, GAZETTE.) When someone like this pops up? You can't help but do a little dance of joy.

lynch. is pretty good too, but DEATHGAZE is definitely my favorite new-age (in my terms, having started putting out music oh, say 2003 or later) V-kei band. (And don't bug me that DEATHGAZE might not fit into that classification--I'm not counting when Ai wasn't the vocalist, because honestly, I don't know if they would have worked as well without his voice. And hey man, the website says 2003, so back off. It also seems to suggest that Ai's gone blonde again... oh, well. Whatever floats his boat. Naoki is still adorable and tiny, so at least there's some consistency. Honestly, I could break the man in half... Woman at the goods booth tried to suggest that, hey, Naoki wears an M, so that should be ok for you, right? I gave her a look and said "Yea, no, L please." Maybe I should take it as a compliment, or that she really needed new glasses.)

Track 2- THE END

You guessed it. Hey, at least they let you know what you're getting in to.

Ah, they certainly never disappoint with percussion. Naoki may be tiny, but he's damn good.

This one is a bit angrier, despite a non-screaming start and some nice melodic bits, so I would recommend that those with tender sensibilities stick with the first track. That, in general, is a pretty good rule with these sorts of singles, unless you know for a fact that the first track is really hard. In that case, by all means, exert every effort to find a song on the single you prefer. No judgement here.

You know, it's interesting that I'm reviewing both DEATHGAZE and Dir en grey in this post. I mean, of course, it's because I like the both of them, but I've heard more than one person say that DEATHGAZE is a nothing more than a re-hash of Dir. And, while I disagree with this, I can see that they were very clearly influence by Dir, and that is ok. Dir is a very good band, despite my feelings towards their recent fashion sense--they are solid  musicians, with some of the best performances out there. Kyo, like Ai, has an amazing voice that can switch between angry scream-o and beautiful melody in a heartbeat. You can definitely say that they are similar sounds, which may be why I like them both.

What I mean to say is that, in this song, and a few others, you can definitely hear the Dir influence. If you listen to SORROW, you can't help but hear it--honestly, even I was a little dubious about how much they were listening to THE FINAL while writing that one. Nevertheless, I like both songs, and still think it's ok for a band to pay homage to and learn from one of the greatest in the genre.

So there, those of you who hate DEATHGAZE. You can just back right off and take your heads out from your behinds, thank you very much.


I don't care what they say their capitalization scheme is now, I grew up with 'Dir en grey', so I'm keeping 'Dir en grey'. And you guys with your shaved heads and feathery coats and your recent lack of melodic tunes can  bite me.

(It's sad when your first love falls out of favor.)


Now, as I mentioned, I prefer melodic tunes that use the vocalist's talents for beauty to songs that are just... growly. Sometimes, Dir caters to my preferences. The recent single LOTUS was, after all, quite nice. 激しさとこの胸の中で、絡み付いた灼熱の闇 (Hageshisa to kono mune no naka de, karamitsuita shakunetsu no yami) (... yea, way to make most of the chorus your title, guys) was more towards the screaming and growling end of the spectrum, but it still had a very nice echorus that demonstrated what Kyo can do with his voice.

While I was waiting for another beautiful, heart-wrenching song, like GLASS SKIN from UROBOROS (it was on of the singles, following a more angry one, so I think I was right in hoping, really), what I got was... kind of an angrier, growlier 激しさ.


Yes, darling, we all know that you can make some truly spectacular noises, particularly considering what a very small body you have to work with (hey, it's impressive, the man is 5'3".) But can't you impress us with your range, instead? You can go ridiculously high and beautiful considering your deep speaking voice. Let's hear that--it's far more impressive, especially considering that, hey: EVERYONE'S growling now!

Seriously. It's everywhere. You're no longer cutting edge with this stuff. Admittedly, you may be the best at it, but come on. If you're going for wild and crazy, in the present genre? Might want to go back and try for that haunting beauty angle again. Trust me, it works.

I mean, you do it a little here, and I really dig it. Particularly when you layer your singing (I've always loved that trick), juxtaposing the pained screams with the deep, melancholy singing. I love that. I also love the interludes of acoustic guitar and just the singing. Really. You have a beautiful voice.

... I just wish it was more than, oh, twenty percent of the song. Sigh. I plead in vain.

Track 2- 罪と規制 (つみときせい, Tsumi to Kisei, Crime and Regulation)

That's my translation, so back off.

I've gotta say, when I first saw this track name, I thought it would be some sort of remake of their very, very old song (off of GAUZE, which was, I believe, their first full-length, non-indies album) 罪と罰 (Tsumi to batsu, Crime and Punishment). As their style has changed quite a bit since then (as happens with most good artists), I thought it would work well, especially considering their recent theme of remakes, what with HYDRA-666- on the DOZING GREEN single, a really super growly version of 残 (Zan)  (also from GAUZE) and that really cool shot-in-one-take version of 蝕紅 (しょくべに?しょくこう?しょっこう?No idea. Possibly means "Crimson Meal," and is from VULGAR) on 激しさ, and the super-beautiful, better-than-the-original version of undecided on the GLASS SKIN single. I mean, hey. Remakes are cool, especially with Dir, as they always go all out in making it truly distinct from the original. Kind of like going back and editing an old paper--it was good, but damnit, now that you see it five years later, there's so much you want to fix. Or, you know, just change.

Anyway. Thought it was going to be a remake of 罪と罰. Particularly fitting, as the original was pretty damn repetitive and, in hindsight, a little boring, even compared to other songs from the same album (lookin' at you, アクロの丘 [Akuro no oka, Hill of the Bad Road] and MASK. Even 予感 [Yokan, Premonition]. I love 予感.)

And... honestly? For the first two minutes, it's hard to be sure whether it is or not. It's pretty goddamn growly.

And then, ah ha. There you are, my old friend.

Ok, so the original wasn't their best song. At the same time, I'm not sure how much of an improvement it is to GROWL the whole damn thing, dude.

I'll let you judge for yourself.

Honestly? I don't blame you if you don't hear it. I listened to this song a lot as a young, impressionable teen, so I'm going to hear it a lot quicker than most. And remember, it took even me the first two minutes to figure it out.

This is a loose, loose remake, people. I'll stick with the ones mentioned above to get my old-turned-new fix, thanks.

Track 3- RED SOIL [Live]

... I don't know, I have mixed thoughts about using live tracks to fill out your Single. I mean, sometimes they're really good--BUCK-TICK is always fun live. Even Dir is very good live--unless, of course, the three shows I saw were all flukes. Plus the DVDs. But hey.

The problem is... this isn't really a great live track. I mean, I do always like the audience bits--it helps you relive when you were there (in some cases) or just get a better feel as to what it's like actually being at a live show. AGITATED SCREAMS OF MAGGOTS from DOZING GREEN is pretty good on that front, especially if you remember the appropriate hand motions. Not to mention it has that nice, haunting intro that the album version just... doesn't.

But, yea. Nothing really makes this live version stand out from the song off of UROBOROS, aside from some minimal audience shouting. Not a bad choice, per se, but they could have made a better one, I feel. LOTUS had two remakes; 激しさ had two remakes (one of which was that kick-ass 蝕紅, like I said). Thus, with one remake and a live recording? I somehow feel cheated.

Admittedly, this version was apparently recorded in Osaka, which is always  good. It's nice when a lot of the band is from Kansai--they understand, man. Not to mention that, hey, it might have been recorded at the show I was at. Probably not, considering the time frame (a 2011 single pulling from a show at the end of December 2008? I guess it's possible...), but there's always that possibility! And that's a good thing.

Well, that's it for today's musical review time with Edo. I hope you learned something today. Admittedly, there's not a huge chance of that, looking back at more sporadic and highly subjective reviewing style... Oh, well. Be sure to pick up your coat on the way out.

Oh, and... don't ask about the little pictures on the music players. They're quite random and have nothing at all to do with the music. Sorry about that.

This is Edo, signing off with the sneaking suspicion that she'll never get a job with Rolling Stone.

PS- Oh... why not. Here's the kick-ass 蝕紅, too. Remember, it was shot in one take, which means this was all done without layering. Not to mention all in one go, without piecing the bits and pieces that worked out best together. That's kick ass, not to mention a sign of true talent.

(The best part is from 3:08 to 3:32. You don't even know, man. Just wait, you'll see.)

See, I do still love them.

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