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.

“潮騒” Lyrics

Here are the lyrics for Shiosai. Although I didn’t immediately warm to this song when I first got Abingdon Road, it’s steadily starting to grow on me. Especially since translating it, getting a better feel for the lyrics and the emotional context and content of the piece, my appreciation of it has grown. As usual, I cannot get over his use of nature metaphors! I really like the way the whole song is about covering things up, fading away, being washed away, withering away, disappearing into the sea roar.

Song: 潮騒 [Shiosai] (Sea Roar)

Artist: abingdon boys school

Album: Abingdon Road (’10)

Lyrics by Nishikawa Takanori, music by Kishi Toshiyuki

KANJI

胸を剌す痛みと絞り出す涙で   
今僕を 洗い流して
さようなら の代わりに伏せた君の瞳が
 最後の言葉を 探していた

俯く君の横顔に 情けない  かじかんだ手を そっと押し当てて
伝えきれないコトノハが遠い潮騒と 吹き抜ける風に 掻き消されてく

不意に見せる その笑顔に 身動き出来ないまま
やけに強く抱きたいのは 別れを近くに感じていたから

胸を剌す痛みと絞り出す涙で   
今僕を 洗い流して
さようなら の代わりに伏せた君の瞳が
 最後の言葉を 探していた

どんなに声を嗄したって どんなに腕を伸ばしてみたって もう届かなくて
水面を漂を小舟みたいに ふたつに割れた 命の破片が 沖へ沖へと

何もかもを 欲しがってた 過ぎ去った作日さえも
あの日交わした約束 どれひとつ まだ果たせずにいるけど

重なり合う度に離れてゆく程に
萎んでく 僕の心は
開ききったまんまの 傷口を晒して
滴る赤い血を拭えずにいた


微かに打ち震える 頼りない鼓動が
寄せては返す波の様で
 

胸を剌す痛みと絞り出す涙も 
また君を 思い出すけど
さようならの代わりに くちずけを
見矢(うしな)うばかりの 僕の瞳は
違う応えを 探していた

ROMAJI

Mune wo sasu itami to shibaridasu namida de
ima boku wo arainagashite
sayounara no kawari ni fuseta kimi no hitomi ga
saigo no kotoba wo sagashiteita

Utsumuku kimi no yokokao ni nasakenaikurai kajikan da te wo sotto oshiatete
tsutaekirenai KOTO NO HA ga tooi shiosai to fukinukeru kaze ni kakikesareteku

fuini miseru sono egao ni muugoki dekinai mama 
yakeni tsuyoku daitai no ha wakare wo chikaku ni kanji teita kara

Mune wo sasu itami to shibaridasu namida de
ima boku wo arainagashite
sayounara no kawari ni fuseta kimi no hitomi ga
saigo no kotoba wo sagashiteita

Donnani koe wo karashitatte donnani ude wo nobashitemitatte mou todokanakute
minomuwo tadayou wo kobune mitaini futatsuni wakareta inochi no hahen ga oki he oki he to

Nani mo ka mo wo hoshigatteta sugisatta kinou saemo
ano hi kawashita yakusoku dore hitotsu mada hatasezuni irukedo

Nasanariautabi ni hanareteyuku hodo ni
shibandeku boku no kokoro wa
hirakikitta manma no kizuguchi wo sarashite
shitataru akai chi wo muguezu ni ita
  
Kasuka ni uchi furueru tayorinai kodou ga
yosetewakaesu nami no you de

Mune wo sasu itami to shibaridasu namida mo
mata kimi wo omoidasukedo
sayounara no kawari ni kuchizuke wo
ushinaubakari no boku no hitomi ha
chigau kotae wo sagashite ita

ENGLISH

 The pain that stabs my heart,
Now, with the tears that are wrung out, I am washing it away
The eyes of you who covered up your goodbye
were always searching for the final words.

The profile of you who hang your head in shame is miserable,
you softly pressed my numb hand, but the words which are too many to relate
are being swallowed up by the roar of the distant sea, and the wind that blows through me

Suddenly you showed me your smiling face, and although I was unable to do anything
I felt that we were going to part soon, and I desperately wanted to hold you tightly

The pain that stabs my heart,
Now, with the tears being wrung out, I am washing it away
The eyes of you who covered up your goodbyes
were searching for the final words.

To what extent did I scream myself hoarse? To what extent did I reach out to you? I can’t reach you anymore
Like a little boat floating on the water’s surface, the fragments of two separated lives, moving out to sea, to the sea…

Everything that I wanted has faded away, even yesterday is gone
Not a single promise we exchanged that day is still upheld

Everytime our bodies overlap, my heart withers away
to the point that we’re completely separated
I pulled away the bandages and revealed the afflicting wound,   
wiping away the trickle of red blood 
  

The unreliable heartbeat that is faintly trembling,
Like waves breaking against the shore…

The pain that pierces my chest, and the tears that are wrung out
Remind me of you again, but
The kisses exchanged for goodbyes,
The eyes of me, always left behind,
Were searching for a different answer…

 

Abingdon Blog School

As most of you probably have figured out already, I’ve been studying Japanese for a few years now, and am a…diligent, devoted student who does nothing but fill my time with eye-sight-ruining, nose-to-the-page study….Okay, that was a fictional misrepresentation of the truth (AKA: B.S). But that’s how I would like it to be!

In any case, abingdon boys school has just hit the road with their second Japan tour, and consequently, various members of the staff are posting messages on a tour blog, BOY’S ON THE ROAD. I haven’t found any translations of this floating around on the net, so I thought I would help share the messages, as well as encourage my own study of Japanese, by blogging translations of the staff blog.

Translating is hard work, and it takes time and energy, so please don’t re-use these translations without my permission.

Well, I’ll do my best, as a student-translator, to present accurate translations of the staff’s messages. I hope you enjoy…and please comment!

D’espairsRay Showers Us With Optimism this Spring with LOVE IS DEAD

New D’espairsRay single, LOVE IS DEAD, to be released April 14th. The single will feature, apparently, a “danceable electro” track (which sounds unbearably sketchy coming from a leading Vis Kei band, except…) which is produced by turn-table genius Kishi Toshiyuki of abingdon boys school and TKO solo renown.  This will be Kishi’s second collaboration with the band, following their FINAL CALL single in late ’09.

Hit the Road with a.b.s’ Second Album

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!

Abingdon Public House

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.

Abingdon Public House, take 2

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.

"Hey, guys! I have this great idea for a song title!!"

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.

abingdon boys school profile

a.b.s Official Website

Buy Abingdon Road

Message From Kishi Toshiyuki

Abingdon Road message from Kishi Toshiyuki, programmer/keyboardist of abingdon boys school. If I can find time/energy/Japanese-side-of-the-brain enough, I’ll try and get at least a rough translation of this up for anyone interested. In the meantime, even without understanding anything he’s saying, it’s still awesome to finally hear the mysterious Kishi Toshiyuki talking.

Video Credit: KeyboardMagJP