Released in two versions, dubbed “Optical Impression” and “Auditory Impression”, I enjoyed the concept for Vortex a lot more than, well, most of their other covers for singles. The covers are clean, totally clutter-free, and artistic. They also bring in a sense of modernity with the use of a microphone and headphones, rather than some impaled skull or white people (not impaled) that would ring of typical metal-head album concept work. The splash of color on the bright white/chrome center-piece is a nice touch. I like the way it could be blood, paint, or even a liquidized, stylistic portrayal of fire. Very cool.
The Optical Impression version includes songs Vortex and Uncertain Sense, and making-of and music clip DVD. Auditory Impression version comes with 3 songs, Vortex, Uncertain Sense, and BREAK ME.
I’ll admit, I have been less than impressed by any of The GazettE‘s recent releases, leaving me more of a critic-in-passing than a dedicated fan. I’ll watch the MVs, prod their singles with a ten-foot-pole, as it were, but I have to say it, the thing that most interests me about the band these days is the adventures in outfitting Kai. He goes from catering-staff to feudal-era princess to gauntletted ninja, all in about 2 seasons. Whereas their music goes from Red to Red to oh, fancy that, I feel like I’m listening to Red again. Don’t know about you, but I’ve got my priorities straight.
That being said, after seeing their new look, and the cover of the single, I decided to give PSC’s sullen badboys another chance, and check out Vortex.
I must say, I really liked the song. The construction of the piece felt less and less hectic the more times I listened through, and I thought the verse was at least one note different from the rest of their increasingly more
redundant signature chord progressions, although it wouldn’t be a GazettE song if Ruki didn’t hit that one particular note. Come on, you all know the one.
The screaming wasn’t overbearing, And although I could almost lean toward having left it out entirely, in the end I decided that I’m glad they put it in there. A fast-paced song, Vortex is like running-through-a-daisy-filled-field-at-noon soundtrack music for angry Visualist types, and I felt like the screaming was….upbeat? And added a….put…a…smile…on your face kind of cheerful…..No, I can’t do this.
Some highlights of the song were the little bridge parts, one at about the 1:20 mark, and another about 20 seconds later right before the guitar solo, which turned out to be another highlight. Another great section was post-guitar-solo, which is the part where you’re meant to start headbanging. I liked how this transitioned smoothly back into the bridge and verses.
I’ve noticed quite a few complaints around the web in regards to the use of “autotune” in the song. He’s actually not really using autotune, and you will notice that he uses it only selectively throughout the song. I think what he’s using is more of a vocoder overlay effect. In any case, let’s talk about this.
Obviously the vocalist’s natural voice is what we want to hear, but I think you gotta realize that, like any other effects used to produce a song, autotune is just another tool available for the musicians to use. In the same way that a guitarist or bassist will use an effects pedal to alter the sound of his instrument, so will the vocalist (who is also a musician, simply one who uses his voice as his instrument) sometimes wish to alter his instrument by using vocoder.
In the (not-verbatim) words of Khatzumoto of the website AJATT (which I highly recommend to any and all Japanese language students), “…the decision to use or not to use [kanji] should be made out of stylistic preference, rather than ignorance.” I tend to feel the same about the use of autotune/vocoder in music. I find the occasional use of vocoder to be acceptable as long as the band is making the decision to use it out of a stylistic preference, rather than a way of covering up sloppy or lackluster vocals.
Since we all know Ruki has nothing to hide, I actually rather enjoyed the use of “autotune” in Vortex. They really didn’t over-do it, and the result was edgy and had a little “pop” to it. It jumped off the page a little more– and actually I enjoyed the way it took me by surprise.
Their music has been so b-average throughout so many consecutive releases that I think they can really risk trying some new things– and we all know they have a natural tendency toward random electronic effects and unnecessary gangsterness coughstackedrubbishcough. Being one of the few Visualists I know who has always enjoyed use of rap and electronica in Visual Kei, though, I am generally more accepting of these things.
By the way, he says “I don’t wanna become the fuckin’ garbage like you”, but I heard the lyrics as: “I want to become the funky garbage like you”. Made sure to look that up before I commended his creative compositional concepts…
Second song on the single, Uncertain Sense, has a slower BPM, heavier riff, and opens to a brilliant replica of the Cassis vocal melody. Just kidding. Kind of. The heavy, steady instrumental backing is really quite good, and I enjoyed the screamy vocals. The vocal melody was also good, except for the parts when it goes into GazettE Medley mode. Barely good 30 seconds shorter than the title track, Uncertain Sense somehow felt like it cropped kinda short, but I feel like short and sweet is better than a long meandering perambulation through snippets of their entire discography. Generally, I liked Uncertain Sense, although I do wish they would take notes on their keys and chord progressions to avoid too much recycling. There were sections in the song, especially in the beginning, that were particularly memorable, and altogether the song came together into a satisfying, heavy half-ballad. Approve.
I instinctively don’t trust songs that begin with the sound of clapping hands. BREAK ME begins with clapping hands, and works its way into faded out vocals– that kind of sultry drawl found often in GazettE‘s repertoire. The song is pretty solid, although I feel like how BREAK ME is repeated so frequently in the lyrics gets old…pet-peeve, I guess. All nit-picking aside, I thought BREAK ME was a decent close to the single, and ended up complementing the other songs and rounding the whole thing off nicely.
All in all, Vortex came out a surprisingly pleasant ray of sunshine after many singles-worth of rain. I actually made it through not only the title track, but also 2 whole B-sides, and am even inspired to keep the single on rotation, rather than open that secret trap-door behind my CD-case where the occasional reject single gets hidden away, lest someone should think I actually listen to it. Whether The GazettE are starting to step their game up and feel a little more inspired (keep workin’ at those vocal melodies, Ruki. I know you’ve got at least one more unique chord prog up your velour sleeve), or I’m just starting to take it all a little less seriously and just enjoy the music more, either way I think I can actually say I appreciated these tracks and even, gasp, recommend the single to both fans, and drop-out fans alike.