Blood Stain Child - Episilon (2011, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Sirius VI, Forever Free, Stargazer, Electricity
This is BSC's first album featuring their new vocalist Sophia. I was really curious how much their sound would change having a new vocalist, especially a female one, but the live satisfied my curiosity. Episilon opens up with a strong track, "Sirius VI", that features heavy rock elements and Sophia's melodic voice flowing softly like the wind accompanied by Ryo's screams occasionally. The sound stays consistent throughout the album with a "trance-metal" sound. "Forever Free" keeps the intensity and Ryo and Sophia bridge their old sound from MOSAIQ and this new beautiful, haunting vocals. It's uplifting lyrically, but keeps an intense emotion through the music. "Stargazer" is more upbeat in sound, but doesn't seem out of place in the album at all. It kinda sounds like an anime song. "S.O.P.H.I.A" keeps along the lines of that generic anime sound, but still keeps true the bands sound by adding aggressive guitars and screams here and there. "Unlimited Alchemist" goes back to the slight fast pace that is represented in their first track and the vocals go back and forth to in your face yells and comforting mystical singing. "Electricity" is a highly addicting song that has a fun musical sound and still strikes a nerve around the bridge. "Eternal" starts off like a dramatic DDR song and instantly catches your interest when Sophia begins talking. "Moon Light Wave" goes back to a lighthearted sound and a strong bassline. "Dedicated to Violator" really reminds of this DDR song I'm not particularly fond of. This song puts the rock element on the back burner and purely focuses on the electronic elements more. The album continues to get a little more distant from the heavy sounds in the beginning and keeps it soft yet still beautiful with "Merry-Go-Round". After going through the album, the songs kinda blend a little when you get to intense tracks like "La+". It's still a great song, but it definitely goes back to the fast pace aggression. "Sai-ka-no" is the softest track on the whole album. It uses soft echoes, acoustic guitars, and combines it with fantasy-like electronic sounds. "Void dmn-str. remix" closes off the album and touches base with the bands metal side. Overall the album is a great piece of work and still keeps true to the original sound of the band before Sophia joined. I think overseas fans that already enjoy this genre could easily get pulled into this band (as long as they ignore that Ryu likes wearing lolita).
Dir en grey - DIFFERENT SENSE (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: DIFFERENT SENSE
While anticipating the new album, Diru released a new single (and a photobook that featured 2 songs) and I must say that this was a good sample of what was to come of DUM SPIRO SPERO. "DIFFERENT SENSE" is a very aggressive sounding song at first with Kyo's signature screams and growling singing style. The drums are very pace and the guitars lag just enough to keep the songs interesting, then when the chorus comes around the vocals are layered to Kyo's matured vocals and his painful screams. Yes, Kyo still sings...please stop saying he doesn't. While listening to "Tsuki to Kisei", I was bothered by the fact that the song sounded so familiar yet I couldn't place why, then I looked it up and was reminded it's a "loose" remake of their older classic "Tsumi to Batsu". The song confuses me on how I feel about it. I suppose it's okay. I could do without the muffled vocals, but I love the dramatic musical arrangement. To close out the single, it's a generic solution...adding a live track. This time it's "Red Soil". Yeah, I'm not gonna waste my time reviewing a live track. XP Deal with it!
2PM - Hands Up (2011, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Hands Up, Electricity, Don't Stop Can't Stop
First of all, I'm gonna partially apologize to 2PM fans because...I just don't like these guys. So, why in the hell am I reviewing their album? Well, 1. there's one song that drew me in to listen to the rest of the tracks...give them a third chance and 2. it's my blog and I can do whatever the hell I want. XP Anyway...onto the album. "Hands Up" is your generic high energy, club song that you can't resist liking...even if you dislike the group. Sadly, this is the main reason I have this album on my external drive. It's like a Ke$ha song, you don't wanna like it, but it sticks. "Electricity" kinda stuck to me as well. It has a strong bass and hints of R&B and hip-hop to the arrangement. "Give It to Me" is a total generic lovey R&B track that I guess is suppose to make the ladies swoon or whatever, but I'm not having it. The music is alright, but it's nothing I would listen to all the time like the previous two tracks. "영화처럼" is a pure ballad track and "모르니" sounds like some retro kpop track that H.O.T would make but worse. "Hot" brings back that heavy bass in the intro and goes back to that generic electronic dance sound. It's okay on a good day, but doesn't stick as much as "Hands Up". "Without" has beautiful piano, but this overall sound is the reason why 2pm completely turns me off. "I'll Be Back" sticks with that bland sound and "I Can't" is another lovey dovey ballad with nice acoustic guitar. For some reason, there's remixes of "Hands Up" and "Electricity"...and not very impressive ones either. Although, "Electricity (220v Remix)" is the better of the two. "Thank You" brings the tempo down to another slow song that's suppose to show off their vocal "talent". I believe "Don't Stop Can't Stop" was previously released on something, but I really don't know nor care. Nonetheless, for some reason I ended up liking it. Maybe because I wasn't watching them heartlessly performing it live, but it has a nice beat and the singing's not bad. As you can see, 2pm hasn't won me over and you 2pm readers will just have to deal with.
Kim Hyun Joong - Break Down (2011, South Korea) Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: Break Down
Now I'm not a SS501 fan at all [been there, done that], but the title track was the reason for listening. Grand organ opening surprised me in "Intro (Let Me Go)". It was intriguing and dramatic enough to bring you into this single. "Break Down" is bass heavy, powerful yet smooth kpop track that I'm still to this day blasting when I can. The song is catchy, but clearly has thought put into the song. Having Double K be apart of it makes it extra enjoyable. "Please" brings us in with a basic piano intro and basically cues some pretty impressive vocals. It's not a song I would listen to all the time, but it is nice. "Kiss Kiss" combines Spanish acoustics with bass driven dance beats. It's pretty simple and nothing to go crazy over. "Yes I Will" is a pure dance track and I'm not particularly a fan of this nasally autotune vocals featured in it. It has a simple catchy musical arrangement, but it's very generic. The single closes with an instrumental track of "Break Down".
Zwei - Kaze no Senritsu (2011, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Kaze no Senritsu, Sora no Shizuku
It's been a while since these two released anything, even it was just an anime release...it's something. This is pretty much the same, but more impressive. "Kaze no Senritsu", I believe, was used for an anime opening or something. The song is pretty upbeat and fun, but you can hear Ayumu's impressive vocals and Megu's prominent basslines. "Sora no Shizuku" is probably the best track between the two. It starts off pretty low and makes you curious what will happen next. It's pretty powerful sounding song and I can listen to it over and over again. It has a dramatic arrangement and it sticks to their original sound with growth. The remaining two tracks are instrumentals. I really hope the girls will put an album and/or PV soon, because it kills me when they go silent between releases.