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


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

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

萎んでく 僕の心は
開ききったまんまの 傷口を晒して

微かに打ち震える 頼りない鼓動が

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


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


 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.