Where Is My Vuvuzela Hidden Track?

There is an elitist collection of albums out there that invoke a sensation in the listener of utter and total badassness. That really make you feel like a monster. That, if there’s a Visualist in you, will lure it out of hiding and inject it into your veins, giving you crazy swagger and that gloomy aura of a Jrocker. D’espairsRay‘s 2010 release, the album MONSTERS, is one of these albums.

First of all, the artwork is quite awesome. The textures and colors are cool, I approve of the unusual and striking font, and I totally dig the main image. The ‘human-clad monster’ with her skeletal claw, zippered back, and sub-Aztec enigmatic tattoo that looks like something Dan Brown would write another controversial book about all combine into graphics that are neither too simplistic, nor too cluttered. The alternate cover is also cool, just the Dan Brown symbol on a taupe papyrus-like background.

After Final Call and LOVE IS DEAD were so-so (the latter raising all kinds of panic due to the fact that it sounded suspiciously like a certain song we don’t mention anymore, and because we don’t need all Visual Kei vet bands to suddenly go soft and start doing the disco on stage under a strobe-light while their newest, plagiarized techno song blares from an iPhone), I, at least, wasn’t sure what to expect from D’espairs with their latest collaboration with mixing genius producer Kishi Toshiyuki.

However, after the PV for their MONSTERS track Death Point was released last month, I think the VK community started relaxing a bit. Here was not the spandexy mush and glitter-dusted House music we lived in fear of. This was Visual Kei – sleek, stylish, grungy as a dark intercity alleyway at midnight, and rampagingly badass. Death Point was, after months of laconically losing hope for the lethargic Visual Kei world at large, an electric surge. It at least blew a bit of the collected dust off the VK industry, and set high hopes for the rest of the mysterious MONSTERS.

I approve of the vuvuzela.

Human-Clad Monsters opens the album with some really legit layering courtesy of Kishi. The guitar-work is worthy of expletives, and the vocal line felt very true to D’espairs, and that familiarity paired with the fresh-feeling synth sounds and instrumentation came together for one smasher of an opener. The production of the song is flawless. Really.

Next up, the Promoted Video, their, according to them, super-ultra-mega-incredible-over-9,000 aggressive song of, uh, ever. Death Point is a masterpiece of throaty petulance, prevented from being obnoxious by its overall air of devil may care debonair and cranky majesty. Here I’ll branch off into a slight aside, inspired by the devilish and repeated chanting of des point des point des point in my ear. One of the things I appreciate most about D’espairs is how they use screaming and death vocals. They use them often, but they have a terrific sense of when and how to utilize this ornamentation– they realize that it is ornamentation, and not something that should occupy 90% of vocal time. There’s just enough that when HIZUMI does his thing you want him to scream his brains out, and just the right amount that you never get to the point of ‘okay, now shut up’.

Assuming you don’t need a break already to rest your ears and get a throat-lozenge after growling yourself hoarse chanting des point des point des point along with the second track, we move right along to track three, aptly named…13-Thirteen-. Something went wrong in that equation, just not sure where yet. I would like it if this song could play every time I walk into a building…or just whenever I walk anywhere, period. The marching rhythm, monochrome instrumentation, and interesting vocals make this easily one of my favorite tracks on the whole album. Although it’s one of the less busy songs, I find it to actually be one of the more striking.

Okay, here we are, the moment of truth… I disliked Love Is Dead very much less than I did when it first came out. I’ve been wavering back and forth with this one for a while. At first I thought it was kind of…you know. And then I thought it was like….yeah. And now I think I’ve been able to suck it up, get over it…and admit that, even though it sounds like that song, it actually sounds way better on the album, cushioned by the phenomenal other tracks, than it did as a standalone. Despite its many fundamental faults (stylistically), the song is still powerful, and the crescendo vocal bridge is actually really cool- frankly, a surprisingly brilliant moment. There, I said it.

Devil’s Parade is another great piece with a lot of character. The lilting vocals and funky lyrics are the highlight, with a good, well-detailed scream part, and some interesting compositional moments.

Sixth track is Dope. No, that was not a ghetto moment. It’s called Dope. Although it was a tough call between this one and track three, 13-Thirteen-, I think Dope is my favorite MONSTERS track. First of all, the steady, standard heavy metal instrumentation is excellent. Secondly, the vocal melody is one of the most interesting I’ve heard in a while. Thirdly, the lyrics were extremely well penned; I respect any Visual Kei artist who can sing the days of the week and still sound like a demon from the 6th level of hell. The sing-song of the melody made an incredibly badass moment of the album also funky. Oh, and those sound effects mixed in the middle of the song that strike a chord of Arabian Nights, The Mysterious Orient, and sultry Asiana were totally unexpected, and highly appreciated.

Falling was a good break in the theme of the album so far. A good blend of mellow and heavy, it’s another of those impeccable D’espairs songs that confuses you as to whether it’s a ballad or a thrasher. The soaring vocals are great, and the thick, strummy bass-line layered beneath them gave a nice grainy dimension to the elements of the song.

Progress had a lot of cool parts, such as the whispery vocal opening, and the sometimes-raspy and continuously- deep-diving chord-progressions.

Final Call is still never going to be my favorite song by them, but then, once I realize that the possibility didn’t even exist to begin with, I can appreciate it for what it is– another great piece of music. However, I somehow can’t get used to hearing HIZUMI sing the word “baby”. I doubt he would ever call anyone “baby”. In fact, let’s stop talking about it before I become disturbed.

And then we’re…already at the end? The finale, Abyss, was, in my personal opinion, not worthy of its position on the album. The tracklist so far has been so brilliant that it really needs to ‘go out with a bang’. Well, that doesn’t really happen. They take a slightly different tack. Instead of finishing off by just scooping out our brains and eating them while we watch, this slow-ish, sub-happy rock’n’rolly-poly piece comes on. Don’t get me wrong, I like it as well as the others. The opening is cool, and it really sounds like the track that would play as the band takes its final bow and exits the stage one by one, leaving a pack of drained Visualists straggling towards merch stand and refreshing night air, having just had the time of their lives.

And really, if I had to describe the experience of hearing MONSTERS in one line, that would be it.

This isn’t a nice album. It’s grungy, it’s gloomy, it’s rebellious, and it’s rough and ready. Seriously wicked, and madly headbang-able, it’s a well-balanced collection of awesome tracks, each of which are striking, individual, and of incredibly good stock. I think I can safely say this from a completely unbiased place; I was surprised and impressed by the entire production, from composition to mixing to compilation, and frankly, this album totally rocks. This has renewed my faith in Visual Kei, and I am highly anticipating seeing D’espairs tear off their human skin and go MONSTERS on us next weekend. Thank you, D’espairsRay, for what is, I believe, one of the best albums of the year.


15 responses to “Where Is My Vuvuzela Hidden Track?

  1. Oh yes a review~ I really loved this album as much as you did! But, my favourite track was Abyss, cos I have this attraction to sad and emo songs all of a sudden… Anyway, this album leaves me wanting for more D’Ray kick-ass action! This would definitely be one of the top treasures I have hit for this year.

    (Is it me or something? I find that Final Call sounds like a L’Arc~en~Ciel song, only spiced up.
    And… Death Point, after listening to it for a couple of times, it sounded like an evil VK bunny, hungry for carrots; dez boing, dez boing, dez boing… Nvm, I guess you’d get all sorts of nonsensical intepretation after listening that for a couple of times.)

    • It’s not just you – and actually I’m glad you mention this, because I thought it was just me. FINAL CALL does sound like a L’arc~En~Ciel song. There were some definite Hyde moments in the vocals especially.

      Ah yes, Death Point is a curious compositional specimen. I find it amusing because it’s totally in English, but…you can’t really tell what language HIZUMI is singing in. I forgot that it was supposed to be their amazing new international piece and all that, and honestly, when you reminded me the other day that it was all in English, I thought, “…oh? This is it?”

      • Which is why I said the Engrish bugs me… I got a copy of the lyrics, but the singing overwhelms it, and I have no idea why. Usually, if I got hold of an ABGD Engrish music lyric, it sinks into me quite easily, and soon it doesn’t bug me. Maybe its because DP is a much heavier piece than ABGD’s Engrish music.

        It may take some time before the lyrics sink into my head… Other than that, DP is a rather meaningful piece.

        (P.S. : Good review! Hope to see more! :) )

      • Honestly though, I think you have to keep in mind how varied the level of comprehension will be based on the vocalist. Nishikawa Takanori obviously speaks English quite well, and as a result, the English lyrics are quite easily understood and remembered. Hyde’s lyrics are the same way, and GACKT’s have improved tremendously over the years. However, these people are also known to speak great English. In many other situations, though, this isn’t the case. Just throwing some English lines in a song, it could be that the artist (not pointing fingers at HIZUMI, just saying in general) has a strong accent, or even that they choose to sing the English words with one to make it easier for Japanese listeners to understand.
        In any case, I respect their efforts to move into new territory and branch out into new styles. It’s cool to see them experimenting while at the same time continuing to release quality stuff that’s true to who they are as a band.

        Thank you. I would certainly like to start doing more reviews again…especially as new reviews usually mean new CDs! Take it easy.

      • Anyway, the album is excellent on the whole… I’m glad Kishi redeemed DRay. He should go save the underperforming Girugamesh next, where his turntables could be of a real use.

      • I would actually seriously recommend Kishi doing that if they keep underperforming. For now I would take it as giru is at their musical experimental stage like any other bands had, and they just had a bad experiment.

        (P.S. You may be right for the english singing thing, I listened to TMR’s Naked Arms English Ver, and it was clearer than HIZUMI, but not totally comprehensible.)

  2. I agree with you that this album was phenomenal. I enjoyed the attitude and mood of the whole thing. Plus I agree that Dope was, for lack of a better word, dope. After Love is Dead and Final Call, I didn’t have very high hopes for the band, but this album redeemed them for me tenfold.

    By the way, nice reference to our VK talk show inside jokes. Sometimes you make me even more proud to be a visualist. :)

    • Ah…your comment, I tell you. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this album as much as I did! I didn’t have high hopes either, but even if I did, I think they still would have bowled me over with this. It completely re-inspired me as a Visualist.

      All I can say is…where’s my vuvuzela track, yo?

  3. What a kick-ass review! With the exception of Abyss, think we have the same opinion on the tracks. Totally with you though in thinking that this is probably one of the best albums to come out this year.

    • Thank you. You run SOLILOQUY , correct? I checked out your site for the first time this week, and although I haven’t been able to take a proper look at your posts, I definitely intend to. I did glance over your review of MONSTERS, and was glad to see we seem to share many of the same opinions about the album…Also, just for the record, the more I listen to Abyss, the less issues I have with it. The song itself is pretty strong, and I’m starting to appreciate the moody crawl of the verses paired with the contrast of the uppity chorus.
      Thanks for your comment. I think you can expect one from me as soon as I get over there and check out your scene. Take it easy, and thanks for reading.

      • Yep, SOLILOQUY is my hodgepodge of a site. But the notion of you checking it out gave me the jitters. But thanks a lot for the interest!

        Regarding songs that grow on you, I can say the same for Falling. Not too fond of it at first but repeated listening has allowed me to appreciate its nuances. It’s very fluid and the instrumental mid-part is astounding.

      • If I may ask, why did that thought give you the jitters?
        Yes, I feel similarly about FALLING as well. The first time I heard it, I really enjoyed it. The second time I heard it…not so much. However, now that the album has been on repeat for a week, all of the songs have become more defined and individualized, so I’m finding my appreciation of each track also becoming heightened.

      • Oh it’s nothing. Just a random bursts of shyness, I suppose :) You are very much welcome to scour my page. In addition, I’ll link yours to mine, alright?

      • Ah.. thanks! Since I’m back in the blogsphere again, the lurking is def about to begin, and your blog is still at the top of my to-read list. Although, reading that line a second time, it sounds a bit creeperish. It wasn’t meant that way. Awesome, I’ll add you to my links page as well. Thank you for listing me.

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