I hope you all packed your toothbrushes, because it’s time to hit the road (courtesy of abingdon boys school‘s second full-length album), and I’m telling you now, by the time you reach the last track, you won’t wanna go home. (Also, I’m afraid my review became so detailed that it may require an overnight.)
Yes. It’s that good.
[Note: For disambiguation’s sake, I just wanted to say that when I say abingdon boys school in this review, I am referring to the 2007 album, and not the band. When I refer to the band, I will say a.b.s…Enjoy!]
I’ve been reading a few reviews since the album was released on January 27th ’10, and to be honest, I find them kind of amusing. Half of the tracks on the album were previously released on singles/compilations, and half of the tracks were written or completed after the boys finished their destructive European debut tour in late ’09.
What amuses me about the reviews that I’ve read, is that people actually find fault with this release. I mean honestly…who are you people, god? Secondly, I find it entertaining how half the fans spent the whole time leading up to the release complaining about all the songs that were already released, and now all they’re doing is complaining about all the new songs on the album. Oh children, children…
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. Generally people at large and their oh-so-holy expectations really entertain me. But, I guess, that’s not really what irritates me. What bothers me, is how people can take something that is actually perfect, and try and tear it apart. Well, they can have their opinions…and keep them, too! Hah!
Released a whole three years after their first full-length album, Abingdon Road has a completely different feel, not only sound-wise, but energetically as well. Although being nearly as heavy as abingdon boys school [’07 album], and having a pretty dense sound-quality to a majority of the songs, Abingdon Road almost has a lighter feel. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of slower, rock-ballads such as From Dusk Till Dawn, and I love…, and (although this is stretching it a bit, I know) Kimi no Uta. Although a lot of people seemed worried that the boys are going a bit soft lately, I have to disagree, and add that I think a totally new feel is absolutely refreshing. When I want to listen to abingdon boys school, I will listen to that, won’t I? There’s no need for two of the same one.
STRENGTH. is a totally macho opener for the album, and perfectly chosen. This is classic a.b.s metal, with lots of power-thrashing, a melancholy piano overlay, and a surprisingly gorgeous melody. STRENGTH. is also the perfect opener, in that it was the opening song on their Europe tour set-list, so we have some double-play going on. Not only is STRENGTH. a super powerful song to kick off with, it bridges the gap between their older works and their new stuff flawlessly, and over all has a very “just getting started, so wait for us to blow your mind” feel. They’re getting heavy right off the get-go, and getting you completely pumped for the rest of the album. The very first time I listened through Abingdon Road, I seriously had to laugh out loud halfway through this first song, it just seemed way too perfect.
Although you aren’t allowed to put my soul through purgatory by making me choose a favorite new composition…it would be tough not to immediately chirp up Pineapple Army! Kishi gets a chance to play around a lot, and Nishikawa uses voice-distortion for the first time, for an awesome effect. The weirdness, flawless composition, funky sound effects, and faintly mind-boggling name all come together to make this pure bad-ass fun. One of the coolest parts is the very untypical-a.b.s sound of the melody and lyrics. Plus, I mean, the subtle death-vocals, shredder guitar solo, and acoustic break? Kill me before it’s too late?! Fruit just doesn’t get fresher than this.
The third track, bass-heavy intro and head-bang-able ballad and I love… is another brand-new track, and another major spot-light. Somehow Nishikawa’s vocals and the elegance of SUNAO and Shibasaki’s guitar work make even this hard-rock ballad mellow and relaxing. For one of their first forays into balladry, they really killed it with this one. Something about the way that epic wail carries the lyrics is heart-wrenching, and his ‘and I love‘s are, frankly, pretty priceless.
Skipping right over JAP, which everybody already knows and loves, we’ve already gotten to the fifth song. Oh…a.b.s and their collaborations with rappers. It’s truly controversy at its best. They first tried this with remastering one of their all-time best songs, LOST REASON into a hip-hop collab with HOME MADE KAZOKU‘s Micro. Despite this collaboration resulting in an astoundingly epic piece of incredible coolness (not to mention a rock band pulling off rap for pretty much the first time ever), many people who obviously are of little understanding whatsoever, despised the song. Well, then, those people will hate SOUEN, track 5 on Abingdon Road.
Personally? It’s one of my absolute favorite pieces. First of all, the fact that they can use the same compositional medium (rapper + Nishikawa vocals, rapper raps in Japanese, N sings in English, with power-chords on guitars and a strong, driven guitar solo) and yet create two perfectly unique tracks, is pretty phenom. Secondly, well, this song is unbeatable awesomeness. That’s the only way I can put it. The instrumental melody is phenomenal, sending shivers up your spine and goosebumps down your arms. Plus, Nishikawa’s “uh uh oh oh”ing is somehow extremely satisfying, although it’s hard to say why. The vocal melody and lyrics are both amazing, and the way the rapping is used as subtle backing (more like an instrument unto itself, rather than a duet — the collab. with Micro was done as a duet). If you’re looking to draw upon your true fighting-spirit, all you need is this song. Nishikawa’s belting out the “I’ll never leave you, coz I’m a part of you…. under the pressure, makes me grow stronger….“, is not only enough to get you pumped out of your mind, but it’s also strangely inspirational.
Next is perfect, happy, rambling, easy-going From Dusk Till Dawn, which has all of the charm of a beautiful sunrise, the gentleness of everything sweet and simple in the world, an unrivaled openness in every way, and a true, innocent beauty that I haven’t heard in ages. Possibly ever. This song is so sweet, even its perfect wonderfulness can’t cause emotional trauma (yeah, it’s an ongoing problem for me), and even though you get this pressing, painful feeling of “If I listen to it anymore I’ll probably break down in tears”, you just can’t control yourself. Give in– hit repeat.
With some mellower stuff like and I love…, SOUEN, and From Dusk Till Dawn, 7th track Siren is a nice break for some dark heaviness. Driven hard-rock with all-English lyrics, and some dark mixing by Kishi, this is a great new addition to their thrasher repertoire. The breaks and solo are really intense and driven, with a high pressure edginess, and some experimental compositional aspects. These sections build up so much tension that the tempo of the chorus is kind of one of release, and a strangely bright guitar solo all help balance out the intensity of the piece.
Siren is followed by 2007’s BLADE CHORD (and the only song on AR composed by SUNAO), and Summer ’09’s Kimi no Uta. These are both really great pieces, wicked-heavy and jazzy, respectively. (Note: Kimi no Uta is also one of my favorite PVs of theirs)…
Next is another awesome track, Sweetest Coma Again, the slightly controversial cover of Luna Sea‘s song. Having only ever heard this track once, I have a lasting impression of being, well, unimpressed. However, hearing it on Abingdon Road has made a convertee out of me, and I’m now a huge fan of this piece. The vocal melody is great, and the guitar work/composition is truly awesome. This has some of the coolest guitar work I’ve heard in a while….Oh, and don’t get me started on the chorus. Truly spectacular. Nishikawa really has a knack for covering songs and making them just as good as the originals. I bet, in some way, the original artists kind of hate him.
The album finishes off with Valkyrie~Loleia Mix~, the remastered b-side off the JAP single, which is technolicious, showcasing some of the awesome skills of Kishi. Valkyrie is also stuck right between two sick instrumental pieces completely performed by Kishi (all composition and instruments). I’m really into the gun-holstering, spur-jingling, futuristic speeding-car sounds he chose to emphasize Valkyrie. Although not one of my favorite songs, I really enjoy the remixed version– it has a sci-fi action-movie kind of feel to it which makes it super modern and funky.
Final track is the gentle instrumental piece by Kishi, aptly titled Nocturne. Definitely some evening music, this is simply more of the awesomeness we experienced on abingdon boys school with the finisher, Rebirth Reverse. Somehow it seems like the saddest of all their pieces so far, mostly because for me, personally, it has that “what-plays-at-the-end-of-a-concert” kind of feeling, which, when I think about it, makes me plummet into despair. Thanks for that, a.b.s.
My overall impression? Yet another flawless addition to the a.b.s discography. Every song is a great aural pleasure, with nothing to skip over. It’s true, they’ve gone for a (slightly) lighter, more varied mix of content, but at no cost– only gain. If I ever had a complaint about this band, it is simply that I’ve often wished they had some lighter music for when you don’t feel like smashing your furniture or going flying through your living-room picture window while getting carried away rocking out to Via Dolorosa and Innocent Sorrow. To wrap things up here, I will summarize the album (currently my second most prized possession) in 2 words: unfairly awesome.