G’s Faraway Makes Me Long for Oblivion…

 One of his more aptly titled songs of, well, ever, Faraway~Hoshi ni Negai wo~ is just that– faraway from ever being one of his more memorable pieces. Not only that, but the sub-title, Hoshi ni Negai wo is one of those particularly annoying song/album titles that gets used by pretty much every single band ever founded.

 The “2nd Heaven” of his ten year anniversary countdown campaign, Faraway follows suit with the outrageous album cover of 1st Heaven Koakuma Heaven, which showed a crowd of host-girls, one of which is a dragster GACKT. Faraway’s two album covers depict a blonde woman (most likely a CGed GACKT) tossing her bra, and the second is also pretty self-explanatory:

 Jrock bands must really be struggling to get their albums noticed, now that such vast multitudes of bands are flooding Tower Records’ Jpop section. I remember Flumpool used a similar tactic on one of their album covers not long ago. The fan-service covers aside,

 Faraway is another one of those generally un-memorable but sweet upbeat pop songs such as Marmalade and Road that GACKT is not renowned for. Although it has some really precious moments, like the growly vocals, the opening verse, and the bridge to chorus which, although not inspired in its melody, is charming with the clapping hands and everything. This song is basically a feel-good pop-rock song, annoying and charming in equal measure. It has a super upbeat, summery feel, and could be passably cool to blare while driving along in high summer.

 That being said, where Faraway missed the mark, its shortcomings are completely and totally made up for by dutiful B-side Oblivious~Kao no Nai Tenshi (Angel Without a Face). This song is an absolute gem. It feels straight out of the MARS era, and falls into the category of those songs which, although not well known, are all treasures in their own right, such as Birdcage, Emu~For my Dear, and Leeca. Slow and steady, with acoustic effects, and that perfect blend of melancholy and resignation mixed with the perfect feeling of empowerment and downloading the strength to carry on, despite anything and everything–that we originally felt in melancholica-best-ever Leeca. This song is absolutely worth the entire single, and, in my personal opinion, should have been the A-side. Except that then the 2 sad songs + 2 happy songs recipe of the campaign would have been obsolete.

 Although, yeah, it has that slightly understated B-side affectation, this song is in every way glorious. Yeah, it’s not the hit of the century, but it has real feeling, that and the older-era feel (back when lower-case letters were still honorable enough to spell out Gackt). This is seriously one of my favorite songs of 2009, and is one of those rare pieces you can just repeat over and over again without ever tiring of.

 In conclusion, the shallow superficiality of Faraway is totally overwhelmed by, and excused by, the sincereity of feeling and pure empowering qualities of its perfect B-side, Oblivious.

 

 

Hitting the First Pain-Barrier of ’10…?

Today we are officially two weeks into the new year! How are everyone’s resolutions holding out?

Although I decided not to make “resolutions” this year, because I never seem to remember them past the first two days of the new year, I did make some decisions as to what was going to be different this year. I think I’ve been holding to them well so far…

Remember, it has been scientifically proven that it takes about 30 days for the human brain to fully reprogram itself, so if you started on the first, you’re probably hitting the major pain-barrier right now…I know I am! The other day I had my first moment of doubt, and thought I would sleep in a little. But I didn’t give in! I’ve been busy with some different things than usual for a few days, but now I’m fully ready to jump back in.

mou sukoshi ganbatte kudasai! (Please just keep it up a little longer!).  Here’s some motivation, presented by abingdon boys school in honor of their long-awaiting 2nd album’s release date being nearly here!: Freedom

Gloomy news is hittin’ the headlines
So depressin’, not a surprise
Public places, there are no boundaries
Supervised like we can’t be wise
Who’s in control of the disaster?
Who’s in control of your life?

Now it’s the time to break out of your cell
Unchain yourself, don’t hesitate
Pressures like these, unnecessary
You are here to emancipate
Just let go of what is inside you
Show what you got! Go ahead and do your thing!

I’m goin’ out there
I’m gonna meet you there
Stand up and get a kick out of life!
I wanna be free yeah!

I’m gettin’ up there
I’m gonna take you there
It’s the beginning of the renaissance
In the name of freedom!

Bumpin’ into gossips, they bore me
No interest to join the game
Suffocatin’, so ordinary
Every moment is not the same
Just let go of what is inside you
Show what you got! Go ahead and be yourself!

I'm going out there...


Hankies Out for giru gang

That’s right, get your hankies out– then again, perhaps an umbrella might be a more appropriate tool with which to arm oneself when approaching October ’09s release from the girugamesh gang: Crying Rain.

Although I may be a little late in the game reviewing this 3 months after its release on October 7th, I would say that it is never too late to sing the praises of girugamesh’s latest single. Following high-powered singles Border and Alive, it hardly came as a surprise to me to find out that their final single for 2009 would be a straight up ballad.

Crying Rain is a compact single with only two songs on the limited edition, and 3 on the regular edition (the regular ed. extra song is called Nitro ’09). Strangely enough, neither editions include instrumental tracks, so there will be no impassioned, air-guitar-wielding, head-banging giru karaoke-ing of this one. — A bit of a disappointment, considering both title-song and b-side are extremely catchy.

The single opens with the title song, moody ballad Crying Rain. The vocal melody is strong from the very beginning, laid over some lightly strummed guitar, faint hints of turn-table mixing, a vaguely hip-hopish rhythm, and–yup, got it– a softly spoken rap piece put into the first verse. The immediate effect is soft, mellow, and quite polished. Satoshi’s vocals are a bit high and strained for emotional effect, which he carries across with panache, up until the chorus breaks out and the dimensions of his voice round out again. The melody picks up into a very catchy chorus, and Satoshi’s voice cascades pretty tamely along with the tinny strumming and rock drums. A little more mixing is thrown in to keep things, uh, mixed up, and then we’re back into the verses, only the second time around they’ve filled out the capacity of the whole song, so the spacious airiness of the opening verse has turned into a slightly more up-tempo, driven rhythm. Suddenly our sorrow has purpose!

The chorus and final peak are full-bodied, elegant, and emotional. Hollow -hearted and torn-up, black-suited and walking down gloomy, rainy streets? I’m there.

The only weakness I could find in the song, and it’s a very petty sort of complaint, is that its compositional grammar is absolutely spotless. In my own personal experience of the band, earlier girugamesh had a kind of rough, constructive edge to it, which, apparently as the band is getting a little older and wiser (never a brilliant idea), is getting smoothed out. They played around a bit with innovation by adding the mixing, rap, and effects (a.b.s. and their killer turn-table-spinning Toshiyuki Kishi haven’t become popular lately, have they?), but they were so totally tasteful and subtle with it that it’s just that– tasteful and subtle.

Ryo, drummer and composer

Politics aside, the piece gets my full seal of approval.

But don’t go anywhere yet! A single would really be lonely

without its loyal b-side, and in the case of S.T.F.U., this isn’t one to be left behind. In fact, I have to say that S.T.F.U. is one of the best b-sides that I’ve heard in a while. At 2:33 long, it’s short and sweet– almost too short for just how sweet it is. Incredibly catchy, with concise, purposeful lyrics, S.T.F.U. is boy-band Visual Kei at its finest, and giru really rise to the occasion to pull off the perfect blend of rough-and-ready swearing Visual rockers and the pop-rock garage-band members we all have deep in our hearts.

crying rain / girugamesh

The Pillow Book of Gackt Shonagon

Our friend GACKT has been by far the busiest Jrocker this year. Perhaps, contrary to popular belief, he’s only just now getting a second-wind in his sails. At least that’s how I see it, because damn, if this guy isn’t sailing, who is?

His latest single, released December 9th, ’09, was very aptly named. 雪月花 ~ The End of Silence may just look like a jumble of pretty words to you now, but let me demystify. One of his more poetically-titled singles, Setsugekka means “Snow, Moon, Flowers” — all things which usually inspire more of a sense of silence and tranquility, as opposed to how GACKT has labelled them: The End of Silence.

All you have to do is put in the CD to understand how exactly this all works.

The title song opens with some GACKT-ish, airy piano notes, which move into a strings arrangement that floats around ethereally for a few seconds, before steadily escalating and ascending into the peak of the intro, opening for– typical GACKT guitar riffs and another Lost Angels? Think again. The strings and piano intro soar right into a totally unexpected arrangement of traditional, elegant shakuhachi (bamboo flute), taiko (drums), some Asiany strings, and some subtle other effects that scoop up the tender, melancholy piano’s tinkly high-notes. Musically, this is almost a poetic polarity of the traditional/metal arrangement he did for 2007’s Returner. The effect of this opening phrase is really striking and refreshing. Get your tissues out, Jrockers, and prepare for a nosebleed– let Gacktpause tell you why!

The intense opening piece (that actually could make anyone believe that GACKT was born in the 16th century) gives way for a soft, very subtle backing layer that is barely perceptible, but serves as a kind of ethereal palette for the tinkly piano to continue on its own– well, until GACKT sings the opening line: Mikazuki wo daita, kimi ni tsubuyaita and then the stars fall out of the sky.

三日月を抱いた君に呟いた

“… Mikazuki wo daita, kimi ni tsubuyaita…”

The poetic, flowing lyrics fly on through the opening verse and into the chorus, where everything picks up. The elegant verse soars perfectly into full-on-rock-band, with a back-layer of Asiany plucking that, paired with GACKT’s beyond-perfect vocals, keep us rooted beneath the snow-veiled, crescent moon– right where he wants us.

The next verse is more concentrated than the opening, with some dominant bass, acoustic guitar, and violin where the piano was before.

The lyrics and vocal melody are some of the most innovative of GACKT’s releases this year. The ethereal high notes, which dip right into gravelly, growling half-screams are exquisite, and keep everything as fresh and unpredictable as freshly falling snow.

The traditional accompaniments keep everything from getting too rocky, and the rock-band keep the traditional elements from getting too Genji, while a soaring violin binds us into more tension than you would have initially imagined on hearing the first notes.

Keeping us caught in confusion between whether we should head-bang until we have migraines, or weep openly into our kimono sleeves, Setsugekka ~ The End of Silence is a refreshing, innovative masterpiece. Neither ballad nor metal crescendo, this is truly some of his best work since Returner.

But it’s not over yet. Let’s not get all caught up in GACKT’s poignant, howling crescent moons and snow falls blooming like sakura– the masterpiece doesn’t end with the title song. B-side 斬 ~Zan~ (the kanji is actually read as Zan, so Zan is not really a sub-title, but a translation.) picks up where its predecessor left off– but let me warn you, better put your maccha bowl aside, because you’re going to need all available limbs in order to rock out hard-core enough for this one.

Shamisen (not like the kind that the Yoshida Kyoudai play, but like the kind you usually hear before a kitsune possesses you, or a kappa eats you) and traditional sound-effects (like the kind that happen right before a bad-ass decked out in Kabuki get-up starts shouting samurai war-cries)  open for this a-class b-side. But nobody is messing around anymore– Genji is all geared up and ready to go, and isn’t prepared to wait around for geta-ed girls. Zan kicks off almost instantly– barely giving the intro enough time to decently be called an intro. We’re right into the thick of things– and by things I mean hardcore, thrasher riff-ridden, katana-wielding hard-rock the way we like it. Heavy, melodic, and uncontrollably cool. (Tissues cue. Just in case your nose fountains worse than a decapitated head.)

Traditional instruments and effects are still readily at hand in this metal melange– shakuhachi galore (courtesy of Kominato Akihisa– and you said it wasn’t a hard-rock instrument? Tch…) keeps everything beautiful– in sort of a ninja-battle-about-to-break-out kind of way. But alas, or thank goodness, nobody can control themselves, and Gacktjob lets loose, complete with shouts of what sound like (but could merely be mistaken for) Die!

The vocal melody, and lyrics, are quite a bit more intense than Setsugekka. GACKT has his semi-evil thing going at first (you can just see his bestial glare), in the bridge it smooths out slightly, but right back into full-on-intensity for the chorus and return to evil war-lord for the verse.

Zan is a bit more “fun” than Setsugekka, in a grim, hardcore bad-ass way. The arrangement messes with your head a bit– like, you never expected the high, ethereal vocals right there in the middle. Just at the point where YOU finished his rough, wild metal-style rap session. GACKT uses a lot of compositional versatility, playing around with different musical styles and bringing in plenty of variation to keep you on your toes.

Just make sure that if you’re listening to this single, keep your katana packed tightly away. I know that mine somehow found me while I was listening, and by the time the instrumental versions started playing, my living-room curtains were mere shreds of ribbon. x

In the PV, you may notice a few unfamiliar faces. GACKT has recruited (god only knows why or for what purpose) some new friends to accompany him for the sake of the PV. Credits go to:

VOCAL/ GACKT (some how he still made the lineup. How unfair is that?)

GUITAR/ YOU, Shun (Duel Jewel)

BASS/Ni~ya (Nightmare)

DRUMS/TSUKASA (D’espairsRay)

VIOLIN/ Naramura Mika

So if you were wondering why he had separate credits for a super-secret “music clip”, that’s what that means.

Get umbrellas out for girugamesh, Oct 7th

For goth-metal band girugamesh, the sky is weeping…hopefully over the amazingness of their new single, crying rain.

crying rain / girugameshThe single will be available tomorrow! the 7th of October, ’09. It will be available for JPY 1890 [USD$20.00]. The limited edition comes with an external bonus of a mini-mirror. The single is slim, but hopefully killing regardless, with only 2 tracks: CRYING RAIN and S.T.F.U.

Girugamesh_wallpaper_2_by_murdoc192000

Dim Sum for some, Dim Scene for VK scene

At this rate, after all, Dim Sum or Dim Scene is a choice some of us will inevitably have to make. Yes, Visualists, time to crack open your piggy-banks yet again. It is something of a exquisite purgatory that really will never end…But they sure haven’t been going easy on us this summer/fall! Winter is proving to be just as monetarily fatal– or perhaps even more so, given the release of several must-have live DVDs. This time, we tremble in our boots anticipating the December 16th 2009 release of Tour 09- Dim Scene- Final at Saitama Super Arena.

Wow, Saitama Super Arena has really been the place to be. And now, thanks to the graces of technology, you can witness the things that go on there for a “mere fraction” of the price it would cost you to fly to Tokyo on a whim and bribe a Japanese friend to get you a ticket. Here it is, GazettE fans rejoice–
Live DVD Tour 09 - Dim Scene - Final At Saitama Super Arena / the GazettE

The DVD is 3 discs (region 2 encoded: Japan, Middle East, Europe, So. Africa–N. Americans, I suffer with you.), no subtitles, limited edition available now for pre-order, comes with poster extra. JPY9300 (USD$104.45–again, I suffer with you). Regular edition also available for any who have a cadaverous malnourished piggy-bank like Gacktpause: Regular ed. JPY5800 (USD$64.52)– 2 discs, all the aforementioned handcuff-like vice of encoding and limiting, includes poster extra.

the+GazettE

If you simply can’t wait until the snowy days, October delivers a feed for the fix with new single Before I Decay. Available 10/7, JPY1000 (USD$11.12-we now have a wussy currency), limited edition available, B2 sized poster extra.

Getting personal with ‘Kimi no Uta’- “your song”

11129-620x-kiminouta



Kimi no Uta, abingdon boys school‘s latest single, hit shelves 8/26/09– an aural bite of candy not only for longstanding abs fans, but also for fans of the new anime series Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, which began airing in Japan in July, host to Kimi no Uta as OP.  This is always a good sign, because in Japan, anime is advertising.

Kimi no Uta / abingdon boys school

Only a band like abs could trust such a petite single to be audacious enough to cause this kind of tremor in the music scene. This summer was a minefield of incredible releases, many of which upped the expected song-count for the now oxymoronic ‘single’s. Although 2 tracks can hardly be considered skimpy, the B-side to Kimi no Uta isn’t an original song– the follow up track is an English version of the recent hit JAP. While this may please on a fan-service level, independently (and in Japanese) JAP was such an unbelievable song, listening to it debauched by English lyrics seems potentially like a meander down a dark path. It could be, but honestly it’s difficult enough to understand the Engrish lyrics that you hardly notice them anyway. As much as I believe in the sheer force of abs‘ power, IMPO Kimi no Uta would have suffered going solo.

The B-side, well, on the side where it belongs, Kimi no Uta itself is deserving of taking the single’s title slot. It opens abruptly, without any kind of intro to ease us into it– by now, however, our nerves are strong enough to take this level of awesomeness on the fly. Nishikawa starts singing the second the music begins, and the melody (both vocal and instrumental) is…a bit odd? Not sure how to articulate my first impression of Kimi no Uta, but when I first heard it, I wasn’t that impressed. The melody seemed somehow slightly flat, and Nishikawa’s vocals were oddly reminiscent of his Revolution gig.

However, about 30 seconds in, my opinion erupted from its moody cocoon and beat new wings. Contrary to my initial response as Kimi no Uta, all OP charm and no meat, this new realization was that Kimi no Uta was a revelation. A revolution! Where a lot of abs fare has been heavy and heavier, Kimi no Uta takes a break from that swing, taking it easy on the turn-table mixing and hardcore guitars to deal us a hand of a mellower mix. They utilize the duo-guitar super-team of SUNAO and Shibasaki Hiroshi by playing one heavy guitar-lick and one tinkly, wiry, finger-picking strain on the other, to create a double-layer of sound, giving the whole thing a ton of subtle but powerful oomph in all the right places.

What really steals you, though, is the guitar solo/instrumental break. This is the point where you expect everything to get bumped up a notch– but they tease you, and satisfy perfectly at the same time– a delicate and beautiful thing. The break is perfectly jazzy, downplayed, and then pouring us right on into hard-rock the way we like it– but how we’ve never heard it before. Not lately, anyway. These guys are killing it, playing on their skills and beefing up their originality and creativity.

In short, the song is an excellent peak of talent, subtlety, and playing on strengths. They’ve downplayed the hard-rock thing to work with some different mediums, bringing in that OP feel, a little of Nishikawa’s T.M. poppiness, and yet dishing out core abs.

Kimi no Uta is an excellent addition to abingdon boys schools‘ repertoire, and I highly recommend that any and all snag a copy to add to their shelves–listen and let the coolness astound you.