D’s ‘in the name of justice’ Goes All Chivalry And Noblesse Oblige

After announcing their international debut, it seemed fitting to follow up with some thoughts on D‘s recent work. Although D‘s In the name of justice was one of those singles that I didn’t hesitate to acquire as soon as the post-office could deliver it, it’s testament to my monkey-mind lifestyle that it’s taken this many months to get a review up, as obviously it was no fault of the single’s.

In the name of justice takes a slightly different turn from D‘s earlier stuff.  The characteristically long-winded, 5+ minute-long shredder sagas, blood-drenched ballads and meandering melodramas are nowhere to be found on the 4-track [note that tracklists vary per version of release] hustle to slay the dragon and save the world.

Industrial, ultra-thick and heavy, the titular track opens with a rolling thunder of drums and bass, and some grungy, aggro guitar work shoves you right into the chorus. The chorus blends the upbeat cheeriness of their sub-silly tracks such as Day By Day with their standard D lilting gloom. The verse is built on the mysterious, sultry progressions everyone knows and respects ASAGI for, and it’s the verse and guitar solo that are the heart of the song. Although I’m not blown away by the chorus, the general disarray of the song and the hearty emphasis on the drums, bass, and vocals made the track a refreshing break from the overdone eight-guitars-ultra- complex-riffs-guitar-hero stuff that has been so prevalent lately.

As with all of their work, the true joy of the title track lies in its details. The finale vocal break and guitar solo were both great. The energy of the piece is phenomenal…and not just in regards to quality. The quality was good, yes, but the amount of power and life that they packed into the brief 3 minutes and 44 seconds made the track like a tornado that tears through quickly, leaving a trail of mass destruction. I enjoyed this aspect of it a lot. Through the entire piece it’s as if you’re emotionally/energetically charging through the dark woods of a Grimm’s grim fairytale on a white stallion, rapier in one hand, microphone in the other, belting it out in Japanese.

By the time the whirlwind of In the name of justice ends, you feel like you accomplished a lot — I hardly did anything today, and after listening to just the first song I feel like I conquered a kingdom, saved the damsel in distress, killed a couple of dragons and discovered my lost twin sister who was raised in the neighboring kingdom to protect our inheritance. And I might almost need to pitch camp before charging right into Nightly Knights, but… somehow I think I can handle the badassness.

The ambient mood-setting opening for Nightly Knights didn’t need to be complicated or shredder-heavy to win me over. The echo effects, again with the focus on rhythm and interesting tribal stuff set up a dungeony stage for ASAGI’s hoarse growl, rollicking drums and intense bass work. Again with easing off the guitars and actually thinking through emphasis in the instrumentation, a move that lead to general interest throughout the piece. The effects and ornamentation were also quite cool and interesting. I particularly enjoyed the vocal layering on the bridge, and the vocals were generally great throughout, breaking from some of the more standard D fare. The chorus was fine, but definitely not my favorite part, as seems to be the case with much of D‘s recent work. That’s probably just me, though. Generally satisfying, and creditably different, the chorus passes the b-grade at least, which is enough to keep D easily in my good books.
The instrumental break and downplayed solo really messed with my head in the best way possible, and again with the way they eased back into the verses with grumpy growls and ethereal layering. The chunky instrumentation behind the deep, focused, serious vocals was pretty hardcore. Contrast to the preceding track, which felt like flailing along on some wild rollercoaster, Nightly Knights felt very knightly and focused indeed.

Moving along at a decent canter, Grand Master follows Nightly Knights without pausing for breath. Another strong opening, with a funky, rockin’ rhythm and a racing tempo to match its predecessors. In contrast to everything I said about their choruses above, Grand Master has a striking, heavy, powerful chorus. The only reason it doesn’t stand out more is because the song has virtually zero, nada, not a single perceptible instrumental change. There are no bridges, no breaks; just hectic, powerful, raw racing forward with reckless abandon.

The PV

Wolf howls, thunder and lightning, candlelight and a swollen heartbeat…what more can possibly be said for the PV? Except that whoever choreographed it didn’t, I guess, realize that in chess you technically only have two players, and although we might accept him as our one true king and uphold King Asagi and the Knights of the Round Table, Ruiza will never be able to stomach wearing a pair of pants long enough to ever pass for a Lancelot. That being said, the ridiculously, almost parody-like lack in quality and dimension of their PVs has been my only real issue with D of late. It really has felt like their PVS are getting steadily worse and increasingly more ’90s (and that’s enough of that, needless to say). However, I am glad to see a complete turn-around with In the name of justice. The PV is excellent quality, properly produced, and is so blatantly and unabashedly melodramatically Visual Kei in all its gothicy, neo-historicalness that you can’t help but get psyched over the sheer wonder of the feeling of something utterly stereotypical of that which you worship.

Overall the single is extremely cohesive. It flies by, and feels like each song is about one minute long…The context of the pieces is congruous, which makes it seem almost like varying chapters to one story, rather than just three independent songs put together. The hecticness of the entire thing is raw, fresh, and very new. The message of this single is definitely live fast, die young, and claim the throne. Here’s a white charger, Visualists, now go.

D New PV: Bouquet of Hizaki’s Evil

New PV out for D‘s brand new album’s title song, 7th Rose. The title is also claimed by the nationwide tour the band just embarked on, starting a few days ago, to promote the album, and also new single Kaze ga Mekuru PAGE.

To be honest, I feel a little disappointed by the PV. Another haunted-looking Western mansion interior setting, with unflattering, ghostly shots of the band members, a fair dosage of boy’s love, and some suspiciously gangster-esque hand gestures from Asagi during his screen time. It feels low budget, and not in a grunge-cool way. Also, I heave sighs of deepest ennui to see Asagi jumping the devil-Hizaki bandwagon with the big red dress. Back before their major label asked them to become mainstream, the D boys pulled off drag in a really cool, covert way by donning corsets and Gothica with midriff baring boleros studded with buckles and general evilness, platform boots, and frilly skirts that could have passed as man-skirts were they not worn by super-bishi commando Ruiza.

 That’s not to say that I hate the PV– I don’t. I just find it disappointing that even these guys are jumping the bandwagon. And they were so cool and edgy…

Kaze Ga Mekuru Page Covers

D’s new single Kaze ga Mekuru PAGE covers released. Single out March 10th.

Regular Type

These guys always look super cool dressed up in traditional clothing. Interesting to see them out of drag this time….They looked amazing in gothy kimono, don’t get me wrong, but the hakama suit them, and they manage to look passably manly and intimidating. Ossya! (Samurai war-cry)

Limited Type

For more information about this single: click

The Name of the Rose

I know, I don’t usually endorse other websites actively, especially forums. But my philosophy is based around constructing a sturdy “fandation” (yes…that’s a super horribly tacky made-up word using “fan” and “foundation”. Just remember, I’m studying kanji right now and, in Japanese, you can do that sort of thing!) outside of Japan. Yeah yeah, I know, Visual Kei has hit a niche market here– The GazettE, Versailles PQ, girugamesh, and Dir En Grey all have their fanbases here, thanks to pro-active international touring and promoting. But what about all the other awesome, up-and-coming bands that don’t tour outside of Japan? Maybe people don’t know about them very well because they haven’t toured outside of Japan much (if at all), and then, maybe they haven’t toured outside of Japan much (if at all) because they don’t know they have a fanbase?

That’s where, I believe, fan-sites and blogs can be so helpful. If enough people talk about it, create enough momentum around these artists, then that will encourage a much wider scope of VK fandom, as well as encouraging Visual Kei bands to spread their wings a little and visit other countries. Just on a side note– I have zero sympathy for the Europeans and Californians, somebody other than Dir En Grey come to New York!

Well, speaking of Visualist-to-Visualist formatting (I know we weren’t, but I always am), and up-and-coming bands nobody seems to know about, it was recently recommended by moderator/founder Harumi, that I check out her brand new forum centered entirely around Gothic phenom VK band D.

To be honest, I really never visit forums– but I’m glad I checked this one out. Not just a random “VK” forum packed with too much information about too many bands, The Name of the Rose is a veritable den of D. The moderators and users all seem really focused about making this mysterious Japanese information (as well as, generally, this mysterious Japanese band) available to D fans, and also make a great place for people to share what bits and pieces they’ve been able to cull themselves.

The Name of the Rose delivers all the necessary bits and pieces any decent forum should have– fan-art, random discussion, personal-media corner devoted entirely to one’s shameless self-promotion, news, scans, media, lyrics, and a thoughtfully added “language corner” to help those of us enslaved to the endless study of Japanese. There’s also a very useful and promising section specifically for translations, and I noticed that a few translated blog entries are already available.

Thanks to Harumi for suggesting this website. It’s great to see this level of dedication to promoting and discussing this band. They deserve it. Although still a new site, it looks like something that will definitely catch on fast, and be super fun and useful.

Despite being a new bud on the branch of the net, forum The Name of the Rose is ready to bloom. Head over there and check things out– if you found the forum through my site, send me a private message or friend request and let’s talk D. You know who to look for.

The Name of the Rose D Forum

Don’t know who D is? read the artist-profile and go to the forum to learn more!

Final Fantasy… D

Recently we had a bit of a tete-a-tete about one of the god-father bands in Visual Kei, Malice Mizer— and then elaborated more on how they helped to shape and develop Visual Kei and the various aesthetic compounds that affect the genre as a whole. After Malice Mizer disbanded, Mana went on to form his solo project, Moi Dix Mois, which was also a highly influential 2nd Generation VK group. Unlike MM, however, which sculpted the youshikibi and historical aesthetics of the genre, MDM was all-out Gothica, and set about pioneering the Gothic avenues of VK and Jrock.

This time around let’s get real macabre and have a chat about one of the rising stars of that genre, who have filled out the genre and taken Goth to a new level– not in regards to extremism, but rather in regards to how they have worked to shape their own style and niche, breaking from the Gothic-norm. (Honestly I never thought I would pair those two words. This stuff is becoming way too every-day for me…)



So tonight let’s light some purple candles and paint our talons black for D. Short name. Big deal.

My ‘hajimemashite’ (how do you do) from D was their PV for the song Sleeper, off the album The Name of the Rose, D‘s first full-length album (’05).  One of the reasons I like them so much is because they are pure, unadulterated, stereotypical Visual Kei– there’s no wishy-washiness, no genre surfing, no complications in describing their aesthetic. It’s straightforward, and yet awesome at the same time. They can be the poster-child for this whole topic….the god-children of Malice Mizer! (Hey, it could happen).

Visual Kei bands these days…well, the band members get around a lot. If you look at their histories, each one has been in about 7 different bands by the time they get to the current band. And many bands form bands out of old band-members, so sometimes it’s like “Mir:ageX@” #2 I don’t have a problem with this, but it does, certainly, leave a slightly muddy genre. After you listen to a handful of bands, say, on the radio, and you go “huh…that sounded familiar.” And then you realize that it was familiar because the guitar player and vocalist are the same as the ones from the last band.

D vocalist ASAGI and guitarist Ruiza were both in the 2nd generation VK band Syndrome, together with guitarist SIN. When Syndrome crashed and burned (in a manner of speaking), the three members set out to form Syndrome 2–aka D. However, shortly after the release of their debut mini-album, NEW BLOOD, SIN decided to leave the band, and was replaced by Hide-Zou.

The year…was 2003.

Along with their steady export of music, D has also put out their own magazine publication since 2005, The Mad Tea Party Magazine.  Occasionally typeset as “T.M.T.P.Ma”, D‘s tea-party is a regular Visual Kei publication, which usually has them on the front cover, but features mega-names such as Kagrra, Moi Dix Mois, lynch., and jealkb. As of October 13th 2009, 11 issues have been released.

In 2007 they officially launched their fan-club, Ultimate Lover.

Mad Tea Party, 11th Issue (10.13.09)

D released singles and several full-length albums under an indie label until 2008, when they signed with Avex Trax and went major. They held a final indies tour called Follow Me, which struck their final minor chord and elevated them to D-major scales. They debuted with Avex Trax via the release of the single “BIRTH” in May, 2008. They later released the Yami no Kuni no ALICE/Hamon single, which was used as the theme song to the Japanese horror movie Twilight Syndrome: Dead Go Round, as well as the soundtrack to the video game of the same title. They started 2009 off with the release of cool ballad Snow White, and their first major album, Genetic World.

The band has a great sound, even if it is pretty set. They don’t play around a whole lot, which is one downside in my opinion. However, ASAGI has an amazing, and very unique voice. Perfectly suited to this type of drums and bass-heavy music, ASAGI has one of the deepest, smoothest, most liquid-evil voices I’ve ever heard. It works excellently both with the heavier Gothic shredding, as well as the elegant, aloof ballads such as Snow White.

The way the melodies are written, he sings them straight long enough that when he reaches the grace-notes or vibrato, it sends shivers down your spine. They can be hard to catch on the first listen-through, but I particularly like the little ornamentations he does in a piece from Syndrome [see below]….listen closely for it… Some kind of melodic warble. If you miss it the first time, he does it again around the high notes in the chorus. 

Their image is really quite stereotypical. The costumes, hair, and makeup are theatrical and tasteful– this is a hard-core Gothic band, so buckles, black, bondage are all in order, all the time. They enjoy wearing taffeta skirts, midriff-baring cropped jackets, and those shorts with buckles that attach to leg-warmers that don’t look warm. However, despite being pretty standard Gothic fare, they pull it off with sincerity of attitude that keeps them hardcore. These guys are the perfect juncture of where Gothic aesthetics meet Visual Kei beauty-ideals.

D‘s look really embodies the androgyny and aesthetic of VK, and in a way that can’t possibly be argued. Come on, admit it, admit it– you’ve never seen anything like them before. They are pure, unadulterated VK hot off Malice Mizer’s family tree. Unlike a lot of VK groups, D intertwines historical/Gothic with fantasy elements. Their look from Birth reminds me of something out of Final Fantasy X or something. It’s very cool.

By the way, I was once asked how you tell if they are men or women– my answer was, ‘easy, they’re all guys.’ You’ll believe it when you hear it, at least.

They do, however, look BEAUTIFUL in kimono

They do, however, look very elegant in kimono

Final Fantasy....D?

Final Fantasy....D?

Their songs are really long. This observation is drawn from the assumption that most songs average at about 3.30 minutes, with a long one at around 5-6 minutes. Most of D‘s songs average at about 5-5.45 minutes. This saves you the trouble of having to press the Replay button every 3.30 minutes (instead we just end up pressing it every 5.45 minutes). They have a steady streak of gloomy ballads, but balance it neatly with a some really mind-boggling pieces, and a good amount of heavy stuff.

Jrock bands tend to be musical chameleons. When you listen to Gackt, his style changes with almost any song– (I have about fifteen playlists on my iPod just of Gackt) Anyone who has tried to introduce me to new music will know well that I like to change bands as infrequently as possible, so when bands have like a million genre-bending things going on, I like it. But D…is very steady. They know their style, and they stick with it. Even their ‘happy’ songs stick close to their signature style. So, unlike with other artists where you have to test each album to make sure their latest style is something you’ll be into– with D, you know what you’re getting, and you know it’s going to be good.

Since the band went major in ’08, things have really been picking up for them. They released several singles in ’09, songs off of which were used for various anime and, strangely, a cell-phone dating-sims game. In early 2010 the band will do a 7th Anniversary tour (7th Rose) across Japan. They have scheduled for release a DVD of PVs, and a new full-length album, both set to hit shelves in March.

Official Website (Japanese)

Note: For anyone interested in the fan-club, Ultimate Lover, it is currently still only available in Japan.

++Associated Acts++

Syndrome(ASAGI, Ruiza, former D member SIN)

Night of the Children (ASAGI and Hide-Zou)

ASAGI (solo)