A few of Gackt’s favorite anime are well known: Hokuto no Ken [Fist of the North Star], Mobile Suit Gundam, etc. In the past few years, he’s been able to work with these anime in re-makes and so on, providing the theme songs, and at least in the case of Hokuto no Ken, some voice-acting.
This year, his theme-song work has spread out to Kamen Rider Decade. KRD is a children’s television show somewhat like Power Rangers. Although I haven’t watched much myself, it looks like a young guy who gets to morph into cool red power-suit mode. Remember how much Gackt loves mechs (Gundam).
I wasn’t very impressed by the use of Gackt’s earlier tracks Oasis and Lu:Na in the Shin Hokuto no Ken flick. Phenomenal songs in their own right, I thought that they were sort of at-odds with the visuals, which created an experience of incongruity that lacked the expected satisfaction.
Part of it is just that Oasis and Lu:Na were not written for a show, they were written just as normal songs. Journey on the other hand, is specifically for the show. And they got everything right with Journey.
Gackt’s 30th single was released on 3/25/09. Journey through the Decade was a Gackt and Decade collaboration piece. The lyrics were written by Fujibayashi Shoko, the music by “Ryo”, and the arrangement done by Nakagawa Kotaro and Ryo. Gackt provided the vocals, but Gacktjob did not participate on the track.
The single opens with the highlight song: Journey through the Decade. Yeah…I know what you’re thinking! “But Gackt didn’t write the song!” Nope, you’re right. He didn’t. Lucky for you he sang it, though. And I would recommend you shelf any biases you may have– because you would be missing out. Journey is a hard-rock piece that skips the metal shredding of Jesus and the electronica voice-altering experimentalism of Ghost to stick to some good old straight up rock’n’roll. Although most certainly nothing to listen to at bed-time, Journey encases a sense of the melancholy wistfulness we’ve come to know and love in Gackt’s solo work, along with that get-me-pumped-to-rock music track. It reminds me of the first time I heard Redemption, and despite the heavy rocking out that was going on, the first thing that struck me was the inherent beauty of the song in itself. Journey hits you the same way– it has multiple layers of emotion built into it, so you come away from it not sure how to feel. Did I just get seriously pumped? Am I about to weep into my bangs? Am I going to go buy the box-set of this kid’s show the moment it’s released?
Along with the refreshing flute trilling in the background, the sick bass-line, and techy sound-effects you might hearken back to Cloud breaking out his Buster sword, the thing I liked best about Journey was the use it made of Gackt’s vocals. Despite what you might think at first, Journey really does highlight and bring forward Gackt’s skills as a vocalist, and he utilizes that voice he’s got like damn, it’s whipped cream and brandy melted down into sound.
That being said, I notice a difference in the composition of the music from how it would be done were Gackt in control of the project. Not to say that the actual music aspect of Gackt’s work is at all understated, it’s designed to suit Gackt’s style, and highlights Gackt’s vocals by somehow holding back a little. With Journey, I noticed that there was no holding back happening in the actual music itself. The song is just as powerful with the vocals as it is without. If you often find instrumental versions somewhat just, well, too voiceless, you will find Journey refreshing in its versatility.
The follow-up songs include J.t.D. Re-Mix RIDE “Distort”, an instrumental version of the song with more of a techy/heavy sound. It’s undoubtedly a good song, and the guitarist can really wail. So after the OP plays, then we get to morph into our card-wielding red-mechaed alter-ego and whoop some serious bad-guy ass to this soundtrack.
And then our best-friend character or someone dies, and that’s the cue for the third song, J.t.D. Re-Mix RIDE “Symphony”. Yup, it’s the same song, only it’s the version that brings you down to your knees in a hysteric fit of impassioned weeping over the nostalgic, misfortune-laden, heart-breaking past you never had. The guitar-wailing and techy effects are cut down to a piano/orchestral medium to better wring and rend your heart to pieces.
Oh, and of course we finish it all off with the voiceless version of the song so you can get up, wipe your tears, and start some serious rock-out to Journey through the Decade, Gackt-style.
The PV: personally, I think Gackt’s PVs keep getting better as the years go by. Returner~ Yami no Shuuen and Jesus were both decidedly awesome. Journey‘s PV takes Kamen Rider stuff and sort of inserts Gackt in like a ghost (he’s often a ghost-character in his PVs). I found the slow-mo of the movements slightly off, like they didn’t match the music very well. Oh well, can’t have everything. Gackt, as usual, looks way too cool for anyone’s good…It makes me a little depressed. I like all of his moves, and the scene where the glass door reassembles around him is pretty cool. Excellent outfit, and what was with the little light sphere he threw at the end?
While, again, you may find the track-listing somewhat lacking in the things you would originally come to a Gackt single for, the songs themselves are great pieces of work. It may not be a smashing new best to add to his singles collection, but as a stand-alone project, Journey is an excellent song, and all in all an excellent single.
The track listing leaves a little Gackt to be desired, with only one song hosting his liquid-gold baritone. If you’re just an ‘in-passing’ fan of Gackt, you may prefer to pass this single up, but for through’n’through fans, it’s worth every penny.
Kamen Rider Decade official site (Japanese)
*Very* short trailer for the show (Japanese)
Gackt’s Official ‘Journey’ page (Japanese)
Gackt official website (Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese)