VII-Sense - The Reminiscence of War (2011, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Be Sacrificed, Shattered Sky, Proudia
I was already pleased with the direction this band was going and I didn't realize they could get any better. "Be Sacrificed" opens up this mini-album very strongly with aggressive guitars and fast drums. Shaura's voice was a bit hit and miss in places, but I enjoyed it and the ending was very Dio-esque [namely this song]. "Shattered Sky" starts off a funky bass solo, then back into that heavy mode, but a little less dark than the first song. It proceeds to lighten up musically a little more into their usual sound. "Sexual Desire" was a pre-released song that has been added for those who missed out. It has a good melody and a couple layers of pretty good vocals with a catchy bass line. Longest track shall be called "Revelations" which opens up with a dramatic piano intro and leads back to heavy guitars and chaotic drumming, like the first track but less Dio-esque. This song mixes elegance and rock very well. "Proudia" ends this mini on a good note with a powerful bass line and amazing guitars coming from left and right. It's the most light song out of all the tracks and makes the listener smile.
Lycaon - Jouyoku no Porno (2011, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Jesus, Jouyoku no Porno, I love sex. I love drugs. I love rock'n'roll.
Let's proceed to another rockin' j-indies band I enjoy and have been pleased with along their musical journey. "Jouyoku no Porno" opens with dramatic sound effects and purely Yuuki's vocals leading you along further into the song. Once the music kicks in, it sounds like a whole new Lycaon is born and continues to you lure further in, especially with the dual vocal layering. "Jesus" is a more upbeat song that'll keep you bouncing all around the room. It has a bit of a generic visual kei sound, but you can tell that Yuuki still has his signature vocals that make the band stand out from the rest. The next track takes a more jazz rock sound similar to Nightmare in some ways. It still maintains a fun vibe and was a good experimental sound for them, although I wouldn't want them to stick to that forever. Bringing back those seductive tones with whispers and a strong bass line, we have "I love sex. I love drugs. I love rock'n'roll." This track is what makes this mini a winner. It has an amazing bassline, the guitar shines, and the arrangement is genius vocally and musically. A heart beats as it brings in the next track to this mini. I suppose the band hasn't done anything slowish, so this is it. I'm not particularly crazy about it, but it's alright to hear something different from them again on one CD. "Time Enough for Love" ends on a chaotic, high energy note, which is Lycaon's specialty.
Jui - XI (2011, Japan) | Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: Bang girl, -1
Before listening to this album, I was nervous as I was not completely pleased with Jui's debut PV. The good thing is...he'll never be Gackt, style wise, which is good. I like Gackt a lot, but Jui should do his own thing. Unfortunately, I wasn't very impressed with this album. It was very low tempo. Everything sounded like lounge pop, a weak Vidoll ballad, or horribly autotuned. Jui's lovely voice should never be tampered with! Overall, the album was alright, but I wish there was more. Honestly, most of the tracks could've been produced by Vidoll (perhaps Bastard era-ish). Maybe next time, Jui.
Narsha - Narsha (2010, Korea) | Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Fantastic, Bbi ri bba bba, Queen B
I believe this is Narsha's first solo release and the promotional video definitely made me curious. "Fantastic" is a real bass banger with a smooth dance beat that's easier on the ears (and hips). It sounds very familiar, if American listeners give it a try, and still maintains something fresh in some ways with the simple vocal arrangement. "Bbi ri bba bba" definitely has an unusual name, but it has a quirky sound and catchy chorus that you can't help but repeat yourself. This song gives you a good idea of Narsha's diverse vocal talent. "I'm in Love" slows it down with beautiful acoustic work and a gentle voice that kpop lovers are used to when it comes to lovey dovey ballads. "Queen B" bumps it up a notch with a little funk dance sound that really makes this mini eclectic. "Radio Star" has a little Latin pop flavor and sounds a tad bit generic, but still unique with Narsha's lovely voice. The mini-album ends with a preview of "Mamma Mia", which is an amazingly catchy fun song that Narsha/Brown Eyed Girls fans should check out, and also an instrumental of "Bbi ri bba bba".
Vanness Wu - V (2011, Japan) | Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Break Out!, Why, Soldier, Love Will Come
Vanness's second Japanese album opens with a grand electronic smooth beat that let's you ease into it. Definitely has a suitable title, "Break Out!". It's playful, but still fits his usual style and appeal to the Japanese music trend in some ways. "Mission" keeps the energy high and has a steady electro-pop sound (that's infecting everything lately). "Why" brings out that smooth R&B style that Vanness is good at. It's still fresh and follows both the trend and his original flair. "No More Tears" is a bit more dramatic and shows off Vanness's voice. It fits in very well with the usual upbeat jpop sound that male artists have been producing lately, but maintains his own sound still. "Soldier" has a hint of rock and suppose hip-hop and R&B. It has a catchy chorus, powerful music, and is different from Vanness's usual sound, but still enjoyable to the ears. "Better" slows it down a bit with acoustics and piano as his voice resonates throughout the song with simple, heart melting beauty. "Shine On (Plasmo Electric Mix)" is a transformation to a more club beat from it's original bassy pop sound. It's a decent remix, considering I wasn't a huge fan of the original. "Love Will Come" is very rockish, but upbeat and encouraging. It has some vocal distortion, but it doesn't take away from the effect of the song too much and ends the album on a good note.