Litchi☆Hikari Club - Eragabarusu no ☆ Yume (2011, Japan) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: 666, Haikyo no Teiou
This is an old request I received and I personally wanted to do this one as well. I think Hakuei has too many projects going on, but this is definitely an interesting one. "666" starts off with an aggressive rock sound, but then transforms into an aggressive electronic song. Yeah, this is no Penicillin or machine, but it's not bad. It's kinda danceable and grimy in places. The music has an interesting contrast to Hakuei's soft vocals and the rap part surprisingly doesn't sound too out of place. "Haikyo no Teiou" was one of the promotional tracks for this manga inspired project. This falls more into the usual Hakuei sound. Chaotic, aggressive, and alluring sounds that just put your mind into an unavoidable trance. "Toraware no Shirayuri" has a deep bass sound with a raspy male vocal backing. It has an interesting stray guitar sound in the background. This is more of a usual female vocal anime track, but a little less cutesy. Yeah, no Hakuei in this one, guys. "Chikashitsu no Hikari" has a haunting piano sound accompanied by dialogue and rolls of thunder. Hakuei returns with a desperate vocal range that lingers in the air. It does pick up a little later with drums and a deep bass for conflict. "Shikkoku no Bara" is a more upbeat, jazz club sound with wild saxophone and a more sensual vocal style by Hakuei. It's an interesting sound for him and this manga theme. I'm sure it fits somehow within the lyrics.
DIAURA - Dictator (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: 奈落の花, Dictator
"奈落の花" has a somewhat generic introduction. It starts with drums and guitar pulling us in, then another guitar is added in along with piano and Yo-ka's vocals. The song is quite beautiful and has a very powerful chorus to break out of the deep bass notes. "Dictator" brings that feel good sound that I miss in newer visual kei bands. It's very high energy and reminds me of something 12012 would do live. This is a good crowd pleaser for fans to chant along. It also has some interesting break downs in it, both vocally and musically. Also, I really love the chorus lead up. "Master" is a headbanging song and sometimes you need one of those on your rock mini-album. The vocals are distorted and one of the guitars goes a little crazy in the background. "インフィネイト" goes the opposite direction and borrows some airy elements from Phantasmagoria to set a more emotional sound without going too far in the ballad category. If you waited around for the 2nd pressing of this mini-album, then you have the pleasure of hearing a quite dramatic, speaker thumping introduction called "深(SE)". "SISTER" is also added to the mini-album and shows a more mature sound to the band. Using those same borrowed sophisticated elements, the song puts Yo-ka's vocals in the distance and highlights the powerful instrumentals for the first part. Then it brings the vocals to the forefront to a smooth chorus transition.
RAMPANT - GREEDY MONSTERS WANT ALL (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Quattro, Love Spell, Greedy Monsters Want All
"Quattro" is a purely instrumental introduction. It's very upbeat and fun to just bounce around to it. This is a good song to show off what the other members are working with without Hiroko's vocals. "Need You" keeps the energy high and has a good rhythm guitar going along with the drums and deep bass sounds. Hiroko's vocals immediately stand out and it can be a little distracting in the beginning, but it settles in a little more in the chorus. "Love Spell" starts off with a bass introduction and a nice subtle drum tapping before the guitars step in. This is a good song to sway your hips to and fall into Hiroko's sensual vocals. "New Born" carries a more aggressive sound than the previous tracks. There's a slight vocal distortion or perhaps poor audio in places with Hiroko, but the chorus is quite good. "Greedy Monsters Want All" eases in with one instrument at a time. Hiroko's vocals weave into the music skillfully and with the right amount of power in her delivery. "SILENCE (piano ver.)" shows a softer side to Hiroko's vocal abilities. It's not perfect, but it suits her and the mood of the song.
umbrella - Samidare (2011, Japan) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Gizagiza kairo
"Samidare" brings in a refreshing upbeat sound with a nice balance of piano, guitar, steady drums, a deep bassline, and airy vocals. I will admit that the vocals do sound a little strained on the high notes of the chorus, but the song isn't that bad. "Gizagiza kairo" enters the ring with an aggressive guitar and another guitar trailing behind in the background for added effect. The vocals seemed more relaxed, but confident as the music pushes it forward to the chorus. The chorus is a little less aggressive, but it's a welcomed bright sound to this harder track. "Haikei, ame hiyori." takes a safer route in the rock genre, but still brings a familiar and enjoyable sound to the table. For their first entry, this was a decent start for the band.
shiki∞project～志鬼陰謀～ - Kureha (2011, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Kyouen Ranbu, Utsushiyo, Zanki, Sakurasou
This might be a sensitive review for some, but this was requested during a time that this solo project was very much anticipated. This was also another request that I planned on doing for myself as well. "Jinju" introduces listeners to a heart pounding bass sound and a zen like aura with symphonic elements slowly intertwining itself. It's a very beautiful opener for an album. "Shiro no Kuro Kuro no Shiro" is a more upbeat sounding song that has all the musical elements associated with the late Isshi. It has a fun vocal composition, great bassline, and of course that signature Neo Japanesque sound. "Matsuri" delves into a old school electronic vibe that Yasutaka Nakata would be proud of. I'm a little weary with the robotic Isshi vocals, but it kinda works. "Kyouen Ranbu" incorporates orchestral strings, traditional Japanese elements, and a casual hard rock sound together. It's an interesting combination, but somehow it all works. "Kousa Uta" mixes traditional Japanese elements with a faint traveling circus sound. It's a slower song and features a softer vocal style from Isshi. "Utsushiyo" goes back to an electronic sound with a tiny bit of hip-hop elements. It's a different sound that I've never heard be utilized, especially in Japan. "Ai Santan" focuses more on the familiar Neo Japanesque rock that we're used to from Isshi. It's not boring whatsoever. It's quite an exciting song with clever ascensions and descends. "Zanki" is a beautiful acoustic track that shows off Isshi's range effortlessly. It's powerful, passionate, and soothing during the verses. "Kiran" is a little more aggressive than the previous tracks, but doesn't stray too far from Isshi's signature style. "Sakurasou" lightens up the mood with emphasized guitars, subtle traditional Japanese elements, and a beautiful piano balance in the right places. "Toki" is a lengthy track with a lot of beautiful elements including Isshi's passionate vocals. On type B, there are two other tracks not on the other version of this album. "Dokuhaku" mixes familiar fun rock sounds with a little accordion and Isshi's signature sound. It might cause you to dance a little with the melody. "Mourou" brings traditional Japanese sounds, turntable scratches, and very emphasized bassline. It's a very intriguing song and worth listening to at least once.
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