Recommended Tracks: August
Hello again Monochromians! ORz are back with a new freshly baked batch of tunes for you to snack on. Summer may be nearing its end, but that's no reason for the party to stop! Special thanks to guest reviewer @Ada Suilen for joining us again this month!
Please, leave a comment below with songs you loved this month and let us know what you thought!
"お願いUFO (onegai UFO)" by クウチュウ戦 (koochewsen)
Koochewsen is officially on a roll. Their latest video game-tastic PV (the THIRD from this mini, btw) "インドのタクシー (indo no taxi)" was just edged out by this slice of musical heaven, which shows that the band still gets their prog juices flowing now and again. Slow, creeping verses build into mighty choruses that split the sky wide open just long enough for a UFO to zip down to our stratosphere and abduct us. And lawd, is it glorious. I could go on and on about how much I love Riyo's unique vocals, but why don't I just let the song speak for itself? As a cooldown, the track graces us with a killer organ breakdown and a face-melting guitar solo.
"THE STORY ( ACOUSTIC )" by coldrain
"THE STORY ( ACOUSTIC )" is off of coldrain's newest single VENA II which was released on the 17th of August. The single provided us with two acoustic versions from their last full-length VENA. Both prove to be great remakes and show another side of coldrain I haven't heard before. However, there's something special about the depth of "THE STORY". While the original wasn't one of my favorites from their album, the acoustic version may have changed my mind. Masato already has a very melodic vocal style but it surely shines in this track and he tends to elongate his words so they resonate in a different light. While the guitar work is beautiful on its own, the bass and drums are the real MVP of this song and offers some smooth jazz elements. I'm not even going to spoil the guitar solo for you. If you haven't heard it yet, you're missing out. I recommend this track for days.
"月光" (Gekkou) by DIAURA
Some tracks warrant a short story's worth of an explanation as to why they're so good, and others just escape words. "Gekkou" is the latter for this month; it's not so brilliant to leave me utterly gobsmacked, but so eerily beautiful in its simplicity that it just...clicks. Yo-ka's vocals are dazzling as he glides over the delicate, acoustic guitar-driven ballad, the emotional buildup leading to a fabulously Uruha-style restrained-yet-virtuoso guitar solo from Kei. If you're not a ballad fan, this isn't the track to convert you; but to those who enjoy them, you'd find the polite ebb and flow of "Gekkou" to be rewarding.
"「洗脳」" (Sennou) by 黒百合と影 (Kuroyuri to kage)
Spoiler alert: Kuroyuri have flown straight out of indie purgatory after losing two members and (possibly?) being dropped by Ains, coming to bash us all across the head. If "Gekkou" put you to sleep, "Sennou" will wake you the fuck up, as expected, given Kuroyuri's signature oldie alt-metal barrage. The song opens with some surprising djent-style breakdown riffage before leading into a standard old MUCC-style crawl. Note how the bass work from K is turned up to 11, compared to prior releases. It has a fabulously ploppy and dirty clack to it. Mei, as usual, is giving the freaky-kei stans all that they could possibly ever want, going from whispers to growls with the occasional whimper singing here and there. Rinse, repeat, cue a fabulously sugary chorus and a dubstep breakdown. Wait...did I actually just--oh my god. YES, Kuroyuri against all odds throw the most pathetic wub-wub during a breakdown midway; which is so charmingly ratchet and clangy that it works brilliantly in their favour. Kuroyuri to kage stay true to their sound but throw in a few details here and there to keep everyone on their feet. Is it enough to keep their sound fresh? It's your call to make, but I'd like to think this is a good sign of things to come.
"Merciless core" by メディーナ (Mediena)
Ah yes, Mediena. In case you've missed them before, they're a fairly young Indies band with a heavy mid-2000's influence...think a lot of Phantasmagoria+UCP and Vidoll: super melodic, very synthy with a fabulously operatic and nasal vocalist. They're also (allegedly) signed onto godly revival-kei label Ains. It's not a coincidence that every band featured by me this month is somehow linked to Ains, they're constantly killin' it. That said, Mediena is hitting the can soon, which is entirely exciting considering a similarly hyped old-school loving young indies band (I wonder who it is!) is also calling it quits this year. If some Ains super-band forms out of the ashes of Mediena, we only have @Peace Heavy mk II to blame. Conspiracy theories aside, Mediena are leaving us on a pretty good note with "Merciless core": intense string synths, gratuitous vibrato, kote screams, god-awful production, some headbang worthy riffage and great melodies. If this doesn't sound like an amazing time, you're in the wrong place.
@Original Saku's picks
"Alche(mist)" by the equal lights
My first pick this month is from a newer band that I just discovered, the equal lights. "Alche(mist)" from their first mini album LaLaLa-prima brings a blend of pop-rock and indie sounds that are a delight upon listening. Vocalist and guitarist Mishima Tetsuo does an excellent job of carrying the song forward with his soft vocal melodies that sound pleasant to the ear. Check these guys out sooner rather than later.
"よいよいまほろば (Yoi Yoi ma Horoba)" by 中山うり (Uri Nakayama)
Next we're taking a change of pace with the singer-songwriter Uri Nakayama and the song "Yoi Yoi ma Horoba" from her last album Mahoroba. Here we have a slow folk-y jazz number that starts off beautifully with Nakayama's warm 'miraculous' voice that she is known for and a variety of instruments make appearances throughout the song, including trumpet, accordion, and saxophone, among others. This is truly a track that gives you a soothing feeling and peace of mind. My recommendation doesn't do this song justice let alone the album, so if you love what you hear, please check out the full album if you so desire.
"EGO" by ARTIFACT OF INSTANT
Once again we are gonna flip the tables and switch to something a bit different from the previous recommendation. "EGO" is a catchy alternative rock song from newly discovered act ARTIFACT OF INSTANT and their 3rd mini album Recoil. What makes this track interesting is the great energy that it gives off. From start to finish, it's one wild ride that hardly lets up. The band employs bumping bass lines, vigorous guitar riffs and drumming to achieve a very aggressive sound that pleases greatly. There is also a use of dual male female vocals that adds a nice touch to some of the chorus. Overall, a great track for the more heavy inclined this month.
"Lux Fugio" by ノイズ (nowisee)
For a lot of people nowisee's (pronounced "noise") long awaited album Tenohira no Senso was the highlight of August, myself included. With the female-fronted group being largely shrouded in mystery and the monthly music video drops, the hype for this album has just been building and building all year. Although the album itself is made up of songs that most fans have heard by now through the youtube channel or app, I can tell you right now that the abridged versions don't do the full songs justice and to say that this album has no surprises for current fans would be the furthest from the truth. That brings us to one of the new songs that we have not heard before. "Lux Fugio" is a piano pop ballad that begins somber and then slowly builds into a masterpiece of a song that plateaus into a flurry of piano and vocal prowess a little half way through the track. Then, it begins to slowly cool off, and slips back into the darkness. This is the album of the month for me and has great potential for AOTY. The anticipation for this release was ridiculous and despite already having a good sample of the songs beforehand, the full versions were spectacular nonetheless.
"Fool's Gold" by Survive Said The Prophet
It's been a little touch-and-go for the five-piece outfit from Tokyo but in the last year the band has really gotten their feet under them. They even seemed to keep momentum whilst dealing with a recent member change, surprisingly. "Fool's Gold" is the first sample we get to hear from their upcoming full album FIXED. The song shows a more prominent post-hardcore side to the normally melodic, emo-tinged composition style the band has displayed in the past. Bassist Yudai's screams have been pushed even further to the forefront while Yosh's clean vocals hold down the catchy hooks (and perfect English lyrics). It's hard to tell if the change in musical pace for the band is due to new addition Tatsuya (ex. FAKE FACE) on guitar or was a natural evolution for the band, but either way, it's a step in the right direction.
"Savior" by NOTHING TO DECLARE
Surprise, surprise. I'm back again recommending another band you would never know were Japanese by only listening to them, this time with NOTHING TO DECLARE. "Savior" is a song that could easily fit in on major rock radio which leaves the band to be massively underrated in my humble opinion. This track has everything to dig its hooks deep into you. Chant-along gang vocals? Check. Big anthemic chorus? Check. Emotional, borderlining on spiritual outro? Check! I know these things are nothing original that haven't been done before but the band does a great job of keeping a fresh and genuine feeling about it that you don't find very often.
"ともに(tomoni)" by WANIMA
WANIMA keep the hits coming, and this summer is no different. "Tomoni" is that perfect, feel-good, summer jam that you can turn up loud and have zero regrets. Even though WANIMA's style does not change much from song to song, their message never seems to get old. The positivity and cheer this band spreads is infectious and has proved to have real staying power in the Japanese melodic punk scene. I mean, just attempt to watch their music videos without smiling. I dare you!
"Nothing" by FAKE FACE
Diving into a band who likes to get a little darker with their themes and music videos, FAKE FACE have been around for a few years but have yet to really hit their stride as far as a regular release schedule goes. However, they do manage to pump out a mini album or so every other year. Their latest single, Nothing, has paired them up with Tower Records for its release, which looks like things may be starting to happen for the group. I definitely think they're worth checking out for fans of post-hardcore and alternative rock bands like ONE OK ROCK and coldrain.
"パニックパニック！(Panic Panic!)" by Purple Stone
I've recommended Purple Stone previously for their song "Aoi Yami" not all that long ago. And just when I thought they couldn't improve on their already wonderful sound, the guys have really taken their music (and music videos) to the next level with "Panic Panic!". Electronic rock may be a bit of an overused trend for visual bands, but there's still something to be said for bands that know how to do it well, and Purple Stone are doing just that with synths, guitar riffs, and samples that are just as catchy as any of the vocals. It's the perfect storm to make this track an ear-creeper that will burrow its way into your brain and not let go.
"The Baptist" by Insanity Injection
I was really hoping that when I saw the cover art for this single that it was more focused on Chaos and I was not let down a single bit by this release. "The Baptist" takes a walk down a different path and is more on the melodic side of things from their previous releases. The opening is a messy storm of bass and wonderful chugging guitar that seems like it's going to be nothing special until the vocals kick in with a cacophony of awesome. The spoken parts show up again much like "Sense of Ash" but this time they erupt into what can only be explained as a psychotic rampage of a guitar solo that melt back into a smooth verse before a twister of screams carries the song to the end. Chaos and Kyouka's voices mingle so well together it's a treat, especially when the operatic vocals are backed up with insane demonic screams that just hit the right spot for me and anyone else who appreciates the music that this band creates.
"真昼間は別の顔 (Mappiruma wa Betsu no Kao)" by ペンタゴン (Pentagon)
Typically I'm not extremely blown away by what Pentagon has brought to the table but they do make some pretty nice tunes from time to time that I have a hard time getting out of my head. Zekkyou was a pretty alright release until I ran into "Mappiruma wa Bestu no Kao" and the song got stuck on repeat for a while by means I cannot explain entirely. The song definitely stands out from their typical styling with a strange tinkering fast-paced piano bit that comes up throughout the track. The energetic jazzy pace of track overall is extremely addicting and done so well instrumentally and vocally it's almost as if I found a box of my favorite candy on my desk after coming home from work. If Pentagon can explore and do more songs with as much energy as this song then they'll definitely earn a higher placing on my list of current enjoyable visual bands.
"セーラー服と夏休み (Sailor Fuku to Natsuyasumi)" by スタア区。(Starku)
Starku are definitely not playing around as they bring another amazing and solid release to the forefront with "Sailor Fuku to Natsuyasumi". After a few listens the lyrics were already ingrained in my mind and I could not stop hearing those beautiful guitar riffs that had me dancing right away. The pace changes that occur in this song are downright insane and it almost feels like a roller coaster ride of awesome for your ears from beginning to end. It's full of that wonderful super-positive charged punk rock style that Starku do so well and I definitely cannot get enough of. I find it nearly impossible to listen to their music and not find myself full of life whether it's from Reno's unique vocals or the bands overall downright talent. Starku are really coming into their own with every release and I hope the next song they put together is even better than this.
"Dystopia～断罪の聖堂～ (Dystopia～Danzai no Seidou～)" by forCroiX
If you are missing that late '00's visual style music with a lovely punch of 'gothic' synths and power metal then you have hit the jackpot. forCroiX's first and hopefully not only release Grimoire is something that should not be missed by anyone who enjoys visual kei. "Dystopia～Danzai no Seidou～" isn't a very long song but in that 3 minute and 12 second window there's a lot brought to the table for your enjoyment. The opening piano track bursts into a heavy mix of chugging instrumentals and powerful vocals that just don't seem to have any idea where the brakes are. The guitar solo is so maddeningly paced that I can't even think of a better way to describe than insanely good. I really hope that forCroiX gets a bit more attention for their first album and they return quickly from their hiatus and not disappear into the ether like many other visual bands.
@Ada Suilen's picks
"Presto" by Hizaki
One of the most prolific Japanese musicians of visual kei scene brings up a wonderful instrumental album, where there's something for everyone's taste; I enjoy the most virtuous works of the guitarist, this track suited me more than what I could expect: an incredibly fast rhythm, with Hizaki ready to bring glory and potency in a single hit (the homage to Vivaldi's "Summer" is simply gorgeous!), accompanied by a beautiful violin; a track that is pretty hard to forget.
"正義のヒーロー (Seigi no hero)" by R指定 (R-Shitei)
I have to admit that I don't dig this band so much (apart from few songs such as "Suicide Memories"), but with their 23rd single they caught my attention a little more, not much for the title song, but for the b-side; a real plot twist for me, where an unknown energy is unleashed in a piercing and adrenalinic rock sound. Mamo's interpretation is incredibly awesome even for himself, helped by good bass lines. If you aren't accustomed with energetic R-Shitei, this is your time!
That's all for this month!
Thanks for listening and if you would like to submit a guest blurb for next month please contact @doombox!