Sounds Like Gackt – Before All Caps

Let’s not even go into detail about this– let’s just jump right to the review, shall we? I don’t want to embarrass myself by explaining why it’s taken so long for this to get posted. In any case, GACKT’s latest, and 39th, single, July’s Episode .0, is one of those weird cover/collab things he releases spontaneously from time to time. This time around, the origins of this single show just how used to Japan I’ve become over the years: Episode .0 and Paranoid Doll are vocaloid covers….

I don’t really know that much about vocaloids, except they’re allowed to have concerts now, and people actually go to them. My closest encounter with them is all the multitudes of cute girls who cosplay as this Hatsune Miku creature and post pictures of themselves all over the internet and wander around conventions trailing blue hair.

The songs on the single were originally released for Kamui Gakupo (GACKT’s vocaloid character), a lanky bishounen samurai person with long blue/purple hair (pictured below).

The artwork for the single also depicted this character for the limited edition, and GACKT affected an imitation of what Gakupo might look like in real life for the regular edition of Episode.0.

Although GACKT didn’t actually compose the songs for his 39th, this fact doesn’t concern me in the slightest. Jrockers are incredible talents when it comes to covering songs or working with other composers. Just think about the Kamen Rider releases (which were mostly good) and his Gundam covers. Great performances of great songs. GACKT also produced the entire single, which definitely contributed to the retention of all the flavor of his work. Actually, on that note, this single sounds the most like “him” that I’ve heard in a long time, and I bloody well like to hear those nuances back in his music.

There’s no lag-time: when Episode.0 starts, it starts, and it grabs you from the opening chords. The sound is all around solid and incredibly fresh. A mid-tempo track, the pacing and organization of the song felt like his more recent work, but the production of the vocals was definitely original Gackt–before all caps.

The quality of the music for both tracks is digitized and eclectic, which I think is a cool homage to the vocaloid origins. Also appreciated the koto elements in Paranoid Doll. They brought the samurai thing full-circle and also reminded me of The End of Silence and ZAN, and seeing as I thought that was a brilliant single, it’s a good association.

Actually the thing I liked the best about the songs on Episode.0 was simply the quality of GACKT’s vocals. With vocals like that, the background music could be blips and bloops for all I would know or care (but for the sake of the review, I listened intently, I swear). GACKT was so so on-top of his game for this, so brilliantly produced, and just, well, quite awesome. I feel like it’s been a while since that falsetto was showcased, and it seems like he really implemented a lot of the ornamentation and stylistic twists that were prominent in his old work. That “sound” being something I’ve missed in his new stuff, it felt really amazing to be hearing it again. Don’t mind me while I gush a little bit.

All in all, this is a very solid single. The tracks were cohesive, yet completely distinctive. The actual compositions were brilliantly written, totally refreshing and yet they were completely well suited to GACKT’s style. The blend of nostalgia and energy captured in the 2 songs will definitely put Episode.0 among some of my favorites from hereon out.

If you haven’t picked up your copy of Episode.0 yet, I absolutely recommend doing so. Great compositions, great performances, and great production have come together to make a great single.


7 responses to “Sounds Like Gackt – Before All Caps

  1. I was surprised by this single. I thought that it would be lackluster considering it is vocaloid, but the songs are well written and Gackt just perfects them. I 100% agree about it being a throw back, or at least a vague reminder of “the old days” of Gackt. I’ll have to buy it eventually, I suppose! Maybe Gackt will update his international iTunes catalog too? xD

    • Oh dear lord, I am definitely not putting any money down in favor of iTunes updating their Jrock catalog — as much as I would like to see that happen. And even if they do update it, by the time GACKT’s stuff is listed, they’ll be up to $3 a track. I don’t have bitter feelings toward iTunes.

      I def hear you– my expectations for this single were not high, which is probably partly why it took so long for me to actually listen to it. I am pleased to express, again, how surprised I was to find an unexpected gem in these songs.

      • I think blame for lack of updates must go to the fact that Gackt’s music has changed hands so many times lately. It took a few months for his 2009 Dears released singles to become available and I’m guessing with Avex it’ll be a whole ‘nother ball park to get this recent music licensed internationally.

        The Japanese music industry is still extremely weird when it comes to digital music. You’d think they would be seriously pushing for the concept, but no – record labels still want you to buy the living-breathing CD.

  2. I think this comment sums up what I really like in a lot of japanese music: “With vocals like that, the background music could be blips and bloops for all I would know or care (but for the sake of the review, I listened intently, I swear).”

    The only thing I would wish for is just a slight toning back of the vibrato… other than that, fine vocals indeed. :)

    Has anyone heard the vocaloid version?

    • Actually, now that you mention it, I agree on the vibrato. GACKT does love some vibrato, and sometimes he loves a lot of vibrato, which his vocals are strong enough to do without. But honestly, there’s worse things in the world than too much vibrato, so I’ll let it slide.

      I’ve listened to the vocaloid version– and I’ll actually post it today as a follow up so anyone else who’s curious enough to do a comparison can check it out as well. Personally, the whole idea of vocaloid is a little weird to me, and I find something about the quality of the voices to be unnerving.

      • Yes, there are much worse things than too much vibrato. :) Some days I just long for his “simpler” style. :)

        I listened to the vocaloid version, and I disliked how the “enunciation” is so muddled. Gackt is usually very clear, and if it weren’t for the subtitles, I would have been mostly lost following the vocaloid version. :P However, if there were things you always wanted to hear Gackt say, I guess it may be a good substitute. :/

  3. Vocaloids are fascinating cyber creatures LOL

    I’m really not well verse in Gackt but he’s just entrancing to look at.

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