Various Arists - Tribute to SEIKIMA-II -Akuma to no Keiyakusho- (2010, Japan) | Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Rouningyou no Yakata, JACK THE RIPPER, ARCADIA
Around the time this album was released, I was very in engrossed with Seikima-II's music. Now, I haven't fallen off the bandwagon of thinking they're an amazing band, but I haven't been playing them as much as the beginning. With that aside, let's start with "FIRE AFTER FIRE" by the legendary SEX MACHINEGUNS. It begins with a similar and slightly rearranged guitar opening. The cover is pretty decent and follows the original pretty much. I'm not too fond of the vocals, but it's still enjoyable and keeps it's place. The metal female rockers SHOW-YA bring us into a haunting organ introduction of "Rouningyou no Yakata". It still keeps it's original concept, but has that special SHOW-YA twists that proves that these girls definitely hold their own. "EL DORADO" is one my favorite Seikima songs and I didn't know what to expect from Earthshaker. They have an interesting retro introduction, then bring on a solid rock sound with heavy drums. Honestly, I didn't like the cover that much. The music arrangement was okay, but the vocals were too out there for me. I'm not a big fan of Galneryus, but their rendition of "HOLY BLOOD ~Tatakai no kettou~" was very enjoyable. Surprised me for sure! "Adam no Ringo" is another one of my favorite songs and was covered by a band unfamiliar to me by the name of Zigoku Quartet. It's definitely more metal sounding than the original with fast pace drumming and growling vocals. With crying guitars, X.Y.Z.→A's "SAVE YOUR SOUL ~Utsukushiki CLICHE ni se wo mukete~" enters as the next track and manages to keep that inspirational feeling of the song like the original. THE KANMURI brought this freaky rock talk intro and then a familiar melody like the original. There's a pause and BAM! a slightly heavier version of "JACK THE RIPPER". I think I actually like this version better than the original. I'm pretty sure majority of Sadie fans have never heard of Seikima in their life, but I think they did a decent job representing for the new breed of visual kei on this album with "STAINLESS NIGHT". It brought on a softer side of Mao's voice and they easily made the song their own. TRiCK, another young visual kei band on the album, took over "Kaiki Shokubutsu". I'm not familiar with their work, but I believe they tried their best of keeping themselves in the song while maintaining the essence of Seikima. Grand Illusion's "1999 SECRET OBJECT" brings out that nostalgic feeling of 80's rock that we're familiar with in America. RX closes out the tribute with an emotional and passionate cover of "ARCADIA". An amazing way to end a well rounded tribute album of a great visual, iconic band.
BEAST/B2ST - Fiction and Fact (2011, South Korea) | Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: The Fact, Fiction, On Rainy Days, Lightless (Unplugged Ver.)
The group's first full length album starts off very mellow, complete with acoustic guitar work in "The Fact". A beautiful introduction to the album. Along with the first track as a teaser, "Fiction" was chosen to help promote the album. It has a fusion of electro-pop with R&B vocal harmonization that makes the song enjoyable and beautiful. "Back to You" has a strong opener with piano and slightly intense vocals. It keeps the pace of the previous track and then the tempo picks up to a dance beat. "You" is a very light track to please the fangirls with sweet nothings. "Freeze" delivers (DDR) electronic feel and is very upbeat, instant smile on your face type track. Unfortunately, I didn't like it that much. "Virus" goes back to that electro-pop/R&B fusion, but lacks the power of "Fiction". It's a decent track and has a couple impressive vocal moments. The next track is your typical almost ballad with piano that gives the boys a chance to show off their ranges. I believe the next track is called "On Rainy Days". It's a mellow, guitar song that I surprisingly enjoyed a lot compared to all the slow songs on the album. The grand finale is brought to us through newly arranged versions of "Lightless" and "Fiction". This version of "Lightless" is completely unplugged and the vocal arrangement was genius. It sticks to the original dancey version, but adds a little more complexity to this already great song. I was already crazy about "Fiction", but the orchestral version of this track proves that they deserve the name "BEAST". It has a gorgeous musical arrangement and there's even more of emotional flow within the lyrics. I didn't think B2ST could get any better, but it's wonderful see them grow. For once, I'm looking forward to the limited edition version to be released.
Yankie - Lost In Memories (2011, South Korea) | Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Zombie, 몽유병, Stabilizer, Runaway
During my ongoing journey of being in awe of Korean rap, I found the latest release by Yankie. I'm not a stranger to his name as I enjoyed TBNY alot and some songs he's been featured in. The hard hitting bass beats of "Zombie" immediately attack the speakers with a fierce flow and a memorable chorus. The next track fuses old school and new school elements into a unique flow that can either be hit or miss to listeners. "Love" had a more familiar sound to me that fits right in with what's going in the Korean pop world while still mixing a smooth R&B flavor. "Polar Bear" features a familiar beat that American hip-hop lovers should pick up pretty easily. It's a pretty simple sound and just has lyrical blows from Yankie and Unique One that hypnotizes you around the chorus. The next track fuses Latin hip-hop elements and introduces something slightly new to Korea that kinda reminds me of Leessang (maybe because Red Roc is apart of it). "Happy Birthday (Born-Day)" reminds me of something my brother would've put together. This is not an insult for those not familiar with his work. The beat is easy to get into and the chorus is pretty catchy. The next track following the interlude slows it down and gives a chilled out R&B sound with the beautiful vocals of Mellow to ease our minds. "Stabilizer" definitely steps out of the mold of krap. It features a dub step sound with expertly arranged lyrical flow. The next track reunites Yankie with former partner TopBob (and, of course, Bumkey!) to make a laid back and funky beat that's irresistible. I've been indulging myself in a lot of Dok2, so this next track goes hard! It has a throwback sound and a present time flow that suits both rappers with ease. Yankie closes the album with a smooth, bass driven R&B sound that could easily be used by Jill Scott and delivers his words smoothly in "Runaway".
Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns (2010, USA) | Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: When They Come For Me, Waiting For The End, Wretches and Kings, The Catalyst
After the release of Minutes to Midnight, Linkin Park's work has caused a massive divide within their fandom as well as a massive annoyance for me (and possibly others) with all the useless bickering. The latest album sadly adds fuel to the fire of fan division. "The Requiem" opens this album up quietly with a few piano notes and ambient musical elements to lure you in gradually with lines from "The Catalyst". "Burning In The Skies" is the first "real" track on the album. The vocals aren't that spectacular, but the song does have a nice, mellow dramatic arrangement. I appreciated it a little more live, but it still hasn't stuck to me very well. "When They Come For Me" is one of my absolute favorite tracks from this album. It features electronic elements with tribal drums and a whole lot of hip-hop attitude that I didn't expect from Mike. "Robot Boy" reverts back to piano and a dramatic melody that has a slightly uplifting sound. "Waiting For The End" took a while for me to get used to, but there's something about the chorus that hooked me eventually. It has semi-simple electronic sound bits and the right amount of empty musical space to highlight Chester's soft vocals. "Blackout" combines LP's new experimental sound with their slightly older aggressive vocal arrangement. It's an interesting combination that could be hit or miss with the slightly chaotic arrangement. Is it proper to say that "Wretches and Kings" goes hard? Well, it does! It has intense bass, the right electronic distorts, and Mike and Chester definitely deliver a one-two combo with their voices. "Iridescent" is a beautiful piano rock song that gives both vocalists a chance to sing out a sorrowful emotion. A whole new side to the guys that some may disapprove of. "The Catalyst" was the defining point of what to expect from this album. I thought it was a good choice to promote the album as it features a new side to this experimental phase in LP's musical journey. It has a dramatic sound and still holds onto their electronic rock fusion. Chester's emotional driven vocals accompanied by acoustic guitar closes out the album in "The Messenger". A Thousand Suns is consistent with LP's ever changing sound and keeping fans on their toes on what they're going to do next. This album combined world impacting quotes, emotional lyrics, and a soft electronic rock fusion to the core. It's not one of my favorite albums, but it has grown on me a little more since this year's tour.
Megamasso - Loveless, more Loveless (2011, Japan) | Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Loveless, more Loveless, Hakugin Shoujo, Hanabira, Until
"Sekai no Owari no Jellyfish" opens up this album on a slightly awkward high electro-guitar note. It's very low energy from the vocals and music and I didn't think it was a good choice to start off the album. "Loveless, more Loveless" picks up things a lot more. Inzargi's voice sounds better and the music shows off what Megamasso is good at: mixing upbeat melody and heavy guitar sounds while keeping a memorable chorus. "Hakugin Shoujo" opens up with a semi-Miyavi-like guitar intro and perhaps an old Ayabie sound. It picks up a very prominent bass guitar and Inzargi hits some decent low notes in this oddly arranged song. "Kagome Kagome in TOKYO Night" softens things off a bit by combining piano, strong bass, acoustic guitar, and traditional Japanese musical elements. "wonder_wall_sunset" shows off a new side of Megamasso while keeping their foundation in tact during the verses. It emphasises the bass and has a great chorus that makes the song a bit fun for the listener. "Tasukete" busts in immediately with a crying guitar and an unexciting presence of mystic sounds and lots of vocal breaks. Although "fate" sounds a bit generic visual kei, I somehow enjoyed the high energy and Inzargi's unique vocals make it stand out from the rest. "Pandemonium, Hakken." opens up dramatically and then a rush of drums and guitar come in with Inzargi's signature vocal wave that can sound a bit off in times, but somehow sounds right. "The Requiem" begins a bit oddly, but then picks up with a cheerful melody until it drops down once the first verse begins. It feels like a bit of a chase, but a fun one. "Shizukana Kuchidzuke de, Asa no Aisatsu wo." features dramatic drums and guitaring with bits of India influences. It has an interesting musical arrangement and dramatic vocals that expertly match the mood of the music. "Twilight Star" picks up the band's signature upbeat sound and manages to keep the song aside, but still familiar to fans. "Hanabira" was another featured promo song for the album that features a strong bassline, melodic guitar, and clever vocal layering and arrangement to make the song catchy and enjoyable. The great vocalist IZAM makes a guest appearance in the band's cover of "Sumire Septemeber Love". I think they did an amazing job putting their own twist to the song while still maintaining the original cheeriness of the song. "Until" concludes the album with a heavy sound that admire from Megamasso (and missed from Ayabie). It has a great arrangement and shows off Inzargi's vocal diversity.