12012 - 12012 (2012, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: ABUSE, SUIREN, JAZETSU, FORTITUDE
After departing from two labels, the band joined the ranks of Free-will and fans were a little shocked by the band's makeover after Yuusuke departure. "MADARA" is an eerie atmospheric introduction to the album. It sets up the curious tone you may be feeling about this album. "SUICIDE" was the promotional track used for this interesting comeback. With soft introduction and tribal-like drums, the guitars kick in and Wataru begins to scream like a mad man. Sadly, I have to agree that this is straight out of Dir en grey 101 guide book. Perhaps this marks the death of the soft 12012 from the previous label? "BAAL-ZEBUL" starts off a bit eerily and then Wataru screams to bring you back to reality. It's another heavy song, but it seems to have more structure to it than the previous track. "ABUSE" lightens up just a little bit and adds more speed and clumsiness to the drums. The musical arrangement is quite daring and I like it. There's a bit more vocal variation in this one, just to remind us that Wataru can still sing like before. "SUIREN" brings in the piano and some distant vocals. It's a nice break from the heavy sounds and screams. This track sounds like the 12012 from before...like "Just the Way You Are..." 12012. This is a beautiful song. It's not too soft and gives us a chance to let Wataru's vocals soothe our minds with a great musical arrangement. "JAZETSU" comes in with a subtle bass introduction and slowly eases into the song with a little bit a drums then guitar. This is another heavy track, but not as abusive to the ears. The music lurks and taunts during the verses as Wataru's voice echos, then there's a more harnessed screaming delivery in between the verses and chorus to tie in the old and new sounds. "EN" brings us in with a brief drum introduction and joined by distorted guitars luring you into the song. The track is a little more balanced out compared to most of the previous tracks and utilizes Wataru's voice to set the tone. You also get a little taste of Under Code 12012 in the bridge. "HESITATION" tugs back the metal elements the band has acquired along with aggressive vocals, screaming, and a few growls. It's more under control compared to the first couple full tracks. "FEROCIOUS" starts with an almost sensual, yet intimidating sound with strained vocals lingering beneath the music. When the verse kicks in, there's layers of distant screams and a growling delivery in the forefront. It's an odd sound and it might take some getting used to to accept that this is 12012. "HIDE & SEEK" breaks out wildly with heavy drums and a guttural delivery with some clumsy, fast pace verse delivery. "MADMAN" is a short track with more growling and fast paced instrumentation. Don't feel guilty if you skip this track. You're not missing anything. "FORTITUDE" softens things up and brings in the old 12012 from the previous label. More musical structure, emotion filled vocala, and something to latch into your mind. Quite beautiful. If you're lucky enough to receive the edition with the second disc, we have some remakes of older songs from the Under Code era. "「6」party -reprise-" keeps the foundation of the song, but lightens up the music compared to the original. The musical arrangement matches their new sound though and there's some growls here and there. This version pretty much sucks the fun out of the original. "Vomit -reprise-" was already a heavy song, but the instruments seem a little lighter than the original. There's some vocal variation from a mid-whisper, half screams, and distant singing. "My agony room -reprise-" tries to go a little more metal with it and takes away the dramatics of the vocal progression from the original. Unfortunately, 12012 is no Dir en grey and their remakes just cannot compare to their originals. Even though this is totally different from the softer material they've been releasing before this label, I think this band has something to work with to gather a more steady signature sound to calm the Diru fans.
Clazzi - INFANT (2012, South Korea) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Bad Girl, Love & Hate, 우리 변한거잖아, Can only feel
I feel like I'm late to the party for jumping on the Clazzi praise bandwagon when this album was released, but I suppose it's never too late? "Bad Girl" is a fun little retro tune that has some very quirky electronic elements and a sassy female vocals. It's slick and a great, fresh start to an album. "Love & Hate" is the second promotional track, I believe, for this album. It has a slightly dark club tone and mature male vocals to accompany the sound. You would think the rap input would throw off the smoothness of this track, but it compliments it just right. "Where's Dance" has a bit of a Daft Punk feel to the melody and some female vocals that remind me of something from the Europop scene. "40 nights" features a little more intense electronic sound that will.i.am would kill for. Despite the slight intensity to the music, it does have a subtle charm to it thanks to the guest vocals. "Star child" is definitely Europop influenced with some nice sleazy, confident male vocals. A very good club song to taunt and tease. "우리 변한거잖아" is the reason I was so intrigued and excited for this album. Who would've thought I would go for the guy from 2am with a slick electronic track. I love the arrangement. The melody knows when to pull out the punch and pull back to emphasis the vocals. "Can only feel" has a deeper electronic feel and brings back the memory of late night dance tracks on the radio from the 90s. It has a good progression, pause, and delivery with the flowing female vocals. "Loving you" is quite minimal compared to the previous tracks and has more of a crowd hype feeling to it. "Sexy doll" is a little less minimal and has this familiar current Europop sound to it. It has a fun, confident female vocals that counters the male lyrical response. "Crazy for love" has a progressive club sound to it and some auto-tune female vocals. It's a little odd and definitely experimental. The final track is a remix of "우리 변한거잖아". It's a little more subdued and experiments with some different electronic techniques to be a bit softer and a hint of funk.
miss A - Touch (2012, South Korea) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Touch, Lips, No Mercy, Touch (Newport Mix)
"Touch" was a bit surprising how sped up the introduction was compared to the teaser, but the pace evens out before the first verse. It has a mature, broken tone to the lyrics and the music has a classy, slick electro-pop sound that breaks out of the norm in the industry. "Lips" comes in with a confident, sexy sound and delivery. I really like the music transitions from the verse to bridge to chorus. It works really well with the vocal shifts. Hearing it now makes me think that 2NE1 could something like this if they really put the extra effort in the vocal area. "Rock N Rule" is a few steps back from the previous tracks. It has an upbeat tempo to it that makes an awkward transition from such mature tracks. This sounds too generic to follow after that. "No Mercy" experiments a little better than the previous track by having some quirky electronic and rock elements mix together. It has a sassy, playful tone to it and has a bit of retroness to it that doesn't overpower the modern sounds. "Over U" carries on the electronic and slight rock sounds on into this track, but has this weird vocal arrangement. It tries to be confident, but comes off as cheesy with all the distortions and borderline cutesy repetition. "Touch (Newport Mix)" surprisingly builds on and improves on the title track. It makes it more tortured and haunting, leaving an eerie and guilt filled impression in your mind. But it doesn't leave you down in the gutter, the sound lightens in the chorus just to bring you back into the dreary shadows in the next verse.
Angelo - RIP/Moment (2012, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: RIP, The Crime to Cradle
"RIP" takes a hold of its listeners and shakes them with intense guitar rifts and a nice underlining bass to soften the blow just a little. The vocal attacks are just as fierce, then both the vocals and music pull back just enough for you to settle into the track around the bridge and following into the chorus, until the next blow comes from the next verse. "MOMENT" summons an upbeat Pierrot sound and lifts us up from the darkened mood from the previous track. It could be a deceiving song like "Psychedelic Lover", but it's an interesting contrast. "The Crime to Cradle" takes a harder sound and allows Kirito's voice to intertwine with the melody in a false seduction. Once the bridge hits, the vocals turn into screams and reel back in for the chorus, letting the music stray off for a moment before bringing it back to a steady hard melody.
Black Gene For the Next Scene - DOOM, Thirsty (2012, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: DOOM, Thirsty
This was a request from a reader and I was excited to do something from Rame's new band. "DOOM" quickly jumps from fun dancy to potential heavy rock to a steady mixture of both. It's an interesting combination, but it works and Ice's vocals keep up with the quick pace. I really like the musical and vocal transition from the verses to the bridge. The chorus is very high energy and I can just imagine the drummer sweating after this one. "DistRhyme" continues the electro-rock route, but adds some vocal distortions. It almost sounds like a copy and paste of "DOOM" with some minor changes to the music arrangement. "Thirsty" brings the electronic sounds forth and lets the rock sound support it in a upbeat pace while Ice's voice growls just a bit until the verse. It's a subdued aggressive, confident delivery, then it switches to a lighter tone in the bridge and chorus before cleverly easing us back into the electronic phase of the track. "A-jest" brings back the bass line and almost the exact same melody from "DOOM" with some tweaks. It's not exactly the same. It's nice to hear Rame do a solo. It's been so long. Anyway, Ice's vocals flow quite nicely and has a soft, mature edge to it that's a bit alluring to the ears.
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