dir en grey | sustain the untruth (2014)

It’s been a trek through the waste lands being a Deg fan these past six+ years, and time will tell if 2014 is merely an oasis or the life-giving sea, but one thing’s for sure, and that is that “Sustain” is the first Dir song in eons that hasn’t negatively affect my bowels or given my ears cancer.

There’s a hummable melody and actual songcraft!  Wherein decipherable NOTES and CHORDS and also humanlike BEATS are the main part of the song and not just addenda to the distorted wall of flatulent death that was Kyo’s “vocals” and Toshiya’s “bass” and Tweedle-Die and Tweedle-Kao’s “guitars” in that long ago of Dum Spiro Dummer.

I unbelievably made it through this whole single in one sitting without feeling the need to call a rape hotline or check if my soundcard was malfunctioning. One regrettable twinge of disappointment arose when Kyo did the gutturals in “Gaika (live)”, a song that rests on the tail end of my positive memories of this one fantastic and possible fantastic again band (and are those vocals true to the studio recording?)… but otherwise, a completely listenable set of songs. It’s disorienting.

Anyway, here’s to glasses of ice water in hell, let’s hope there’s more to come…

:/

Review: LUNA SEA | A WILL (2013)

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I admit, I was rather hesitant to listen to A WILL. After hearing the singles “Thoughts” and “Ran” and being underwhelmed, I had rather low expectations. It was clear that post-reunion LUNA SEA was not the same band as the one in my teenage memories, and I would have to judge the new album with a clear perspective, separating the past from the present. And so the month before, I kept LUNA SEA off my playlists and only listened to the radio previews once.

When A WILL was finally released, I was surprised to find how refreshing and enjoyable it was. In the midst of all the Dir en grey copycats, 80s disco dance, and K-pop, it was a breath of fresh air to hear LUNA SEA’s return to the rock scene. The dark, atmospheric songs of the past have been replaced with uplifting anthems of hope, love, and gratitude, focusing more on their romantic, dreamy side, presenting one of the strongest thematic albums they’ve released to date.

Throughout the album, there’s an invigorating sense of beginning anew fueled by the warmth and thanks the members have for all the SLAVES who waited for their return, as well as their newfound appreciation for each other and the music they create, which is especially evident in the lyrics of “Grace.” It’s clear that these songs were written with live performance in mind, and from the very beginning of “Anthem of Light,” I could see them on stage – J hopping back and forth, SUGIZO bending back and reaching for the sky, INORAN spinning ‘round, RYUICHI tightly clutching the mic stand with both hands while tapping his foot, Shinya’s hair flying with every beat. There’s songs for both old and new fans, with the radio friendly singles “The End of the Dream,” “Thoughts,” and “Ran” that are reminiscent of their 90s rock hits, while tracks like “absorb” and “Glowing” have hints of the member’s individual solo careers and show the new direction the band is heading towards. Taking a trip back to their indie days of speed metal, “Metamorphosis,” shows off the technical music skills of each member, especially that of Shinya, while “MARIA” has a strong sense of song structure, all while being based around a simple melody.

Although the vocal lines aren’t as strong and catchy as their previous work and make it difficult to compare to what’s offered on albums such as MOTHER and STYLE, with the current state of the declining music scene, it’s a strong rock album that stands out. It’s an album you’ll either love or hate, and some fans may dislike the positive vibe throughout, but like the contrast between IMAGE and EDEN or STYLE and SHINE, it should be no surprise that they’ve decided to move in a different direction again. They’ve evolved their simple, accessible style of rock that musicians of any level can and want to play into that of greater complexity and maturity, while still preserving the spirit of LUNA SEA and Japanese rock.

I bought the limited version type-A, which contains the album on HMCD and a Blu-ray with music videos of the three singles, as well as TV spots, all bundled within a digipak DVD package. The booklet is filled with black and white photos of the members shot in a warehouse-like setting, and like their recent releases, there are English translations printed next to the original Japanese lyrics. However, the fact that the back is glued to the case makes it difficult to flip through easily. As for the blu-ray, the videos for the singles on the album aren’t that memorable, save for “Thoughts,” which I found especially beautiful and cinematic to view in high quality. Overall, I would recommend this version only to hard-core fans that must have it all.

Rating – 4/5

Lastly, in response to Xio’s LUNA SEA list, here’s my album ranking with my favorite songs:

1. MOTHER – Face to Face, Genesis of Mind, Mother
2. STYLE – DESIRE, HURT, RA-SE-N
3. IMAGE – MECHANICAL DANCE, Image, SEARCH FOR REASON
3. EDEN – JESUS, ANUBIS
5. LUNA SEA – CHESS, BRANCH ROAD
6. THE ONE -CRASH TO CREATE-
7. A WILL – absorb, Metamorphosis
8. LUNACY – gravity, FEEL
9. SHINE – NO PAIN, Velvet

B-side – Ray, RAIN, Claustrophobia

God I’ve never regretted starting a multi-day blog post as I have with this Rolling Stone Top 20 Metal Albums of 2013 dreck. In my head I keep hearing Kyo happily shouting “LAST ONE! LAST ONE!!”

No wonder CD sales have plummeted and even legal downloads are starting to drop! 

3) windhand / soma
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcpBJgxV47Q
Still more 70s-sounding ploddy fuzz metal. What. The. Fuck. I’m trying to remember the last band on this list to have a song the beats-per-minute of which exceeded the resting heartbeat of an elderly humpback whale. :(

2) kvelertak / meir
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbrtS8E0kpY
Oh by Grabthar’s Hammer FINALLY some fucking ROCK! Riffs! Solos! Singalongable chorii! A disconcerting concentration of blond-haired youth!  :)

1) deafheaven / sunbather
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfbLWHT7vUU
I don’t see how this characterless white noise makes it onto anyone’s list of anything not related to a gitmo tortureroom playlist.  :(

                              ~

So:

I found a couple bands I’m gonna check out more of (Darkthrone, Clutch, Kvelertak).

I also discovered that full albums on youtube are waaaaay more popular than i had originally understood. 

Also that the state of metal this decade is an absolute HORROR.

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luna sea | a will (1994)

Okay, well, everyone at jrocknyc has been planning on reviewing one of our most sought-after release from a VK-associated Japanese band and after around 8 listens on 8 different days from 8 different weeks on 8 different sets of headphones(actually 3), I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t have much to say about A WILL. Most of it is just so boring and by-the-numbers for me that I can’t push myself to explore it in detail. It should be known that I seldom listen to anything from SHINE onward.

It’s because of this lack of enthusiasm that I will be ranking tracks and giving short blurbs on the tracks that matter to me instead of typing out a deep analysis full of justified opinions on every track … oh, and I added a little bonus at the end that might spark debate, I dunno.

the really enjoyable tracks that I’d go back to …

  • Metamorphosis
    As Cliff pointed out initially, the lead riffage on this song sounds so very NARASAKI that I wouldn’t be surprised if he contributed this tune to the band or came in as a guest guitarist. The vocal melodies on this track get pretty close to something they’d do on MOTHER, though, and it has a powerful, driving energy that pumps me up.

  • The End of the Dream
    A killer repeating lead riff and a few really memorable melodies that stick in my head after listening. This song feels like the closest they get to their STYLE charm on the whole album, while the majority feels more like a continuation of LUNACY.

    the not-bad-but-nothing-amazing tracks …

  • Rouge
    Fun surf riffs and a bouncy tempo. The verse is pretty boring and forgettable, but that chorus is worth the listen and this rank.

  • Thoughts
    Feels a bit like a Tourbillon song in that it really does nothing to get the blood pumping or stimulate the creative senses but you don’t hate it and you could imagine a Japanese dad playin’ it in for his kids while driving to or from a park or a family cook-out or something.

  • Anthem of Light
    Does a decent job of building up the album as an intro track with a sweeping chorus and has some nice SUGI noodles here and there.


  • Decent pop rock tune. The chorus almost sounds like BELIEVE’s bridge for a half second and that’s nice.

    the total throwaway garbahj …

  • Glowing
    Honestly, this should probably be in the middle-ground list above because it has a cool 45 second SUGISOLO, but the solo couldn’t carry the song on its own.

  • 銀ノ月
    snorepowerballadsnoooooooore

  • absorb
    Just didn’t absorb me, nor I it. I’m listening to it right now and I’m forgetting each second as it passes.

  • Grace
    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz

  • MARIA
    I’ve heard this song a thousand times by a thousand different artists.


NOW THAT THAT’S OVER, IT’S TIME FOR …

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  1. MOTHER
    Fav Track: FAKE
    Runner-Up: IN FUTURE

  2. EDEN
    Fav Track: ANUBIS
    Runner-Up: BELIEVE

  3. IMAGE
    Fav Track: MOON
    Runner-Up: IN MIND

  4. LUNA SEA
    Fav Track: SHADE
    Runner-Up: BRANCH ROAD

  5. STYLE
    Fav Tracks: WITH LOVE
    Runner-Up: 1999

  6. SHINE
    Fav Track: NO PAIN
    Runner-Up: STORM

  7. LUNACY
    Fav Track: Be Awake
    Runner-Up: TONIGHT

  8. A WILL
    Fav Track: Metamorphosis
    Runner-Up: The End of the Dream

The Rolling Stone Top 20 Metal Farts continues…

6) blood ceremony / the eldritch dark
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOYptfVSh0Y
Uck! So early 70s in its godawfulness! :(

5) gorguts / an ocean of wisdom
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cg6bWoH_aUU
One of many death metal bands with prog tendencies that fails to understand the need for dynamics, with even quiet passages that are too damn loud. :(

4) in solitude / sister
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4EiRvFHrCo
Not bad, actual notes and stuff, but again, very 70s. Does every metal album want to sound as old as the parents of the guys in the band now? :/

My superquick survey of Rolling Stone’s Top 20 Metal Albums of 2013 continues:

10) clutch / earth rocker
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrfZdv4PEXI
Musical, not awful, i’d probably nod along live. Like the texture of the vox. But a little to bluesy or southerny for me? (I already listen to Maylene, Band of Spice, Down, Karma to Burn, a couple others… but man, really like the singer’s voice.) :)


9) inter arma / sky burial
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mboxRZGSB8
Aww damn, thought we had another Pelican for a sec, than the crap low-mix’d vocals ruined everything. Also were the drums mic’d or did they just bleed over the amp mics!? D-i-s-t-a-n-t! You can tell they don’t want the vocals there anyway, they should been brave and totally nixed ‘em, there’s some coll instrumentaling here. :/



8) earthless / from the ages
More meandering, unremarkable bluesy jammy “we’re like the Sabs forty years ago” metal. And how many things on this guy’s Top 20 list are gonna have the word Earth in it? :(



7) the dillinger escape plan / one of us is the killer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-FKM3eZTO8
Less hardcore and more metalcore than I expected/recall… still don’t like ‘em. They seem unexceptional. Aren’t they supposed to be well-regarded? :/

Best ~Things~ of 2013 

  1. bluetooth headset - I listen to podcasts while walking to work and when watching the kids at the park. I like one ear free for SITUATIONAL AWARENESS. I like being able to replace earbuds without replacing the whole bluetooth unit. And I like to skip ads in podcasts. I use a Samsung HS3000 (no longer available) and a Sony MW600 to do all these things. They pair as effortlessly with my Note III as they did with my iPhone 4S. I clip ‘em to my shirt or coat pocket and don’t have to pull out my phone, or even take my eyes off the kids/traffic/etc, to skip ahead or pause or adjust the volume. I use these headsets everyday. I could not function without them.

  2. earbud - I use the “Far End Gear Short Buds Short Cord Single In-Ear Stereo-to-Mono Earbud” because they’re not all long and tangly (perfect for plugging in to a bluetooth headset clipped to a coat/shirt pocket!), they are sturdy and metal with a braided cable, they sound great, and crucially, they run stereo signals to mono, leaving one ear free for the aforementioned SITUATIONAL AWARENESS without losing the left channel like a cheapy mono earbud is wont to do. 

  3. headphones - Grados. SR-60s. Open (so your ears don’t get all sweaty like your BALLS, and so the music sounds livelier). Great for metal. Less than $100. Classic looks. Head-fi cred without being stupidly expensive.. And made right here in Brooklyn, less than a mile away.

  4. guitar mount - Swing String gee-tar hanger! Hang your pretty guitars on the wall like the art dat they is. 

  5. flashlight - When we go out at night, we carry these Ultrafires. Cars can see the kids crossing the street from A MILE AWAY, and if you’re attacked, you can use it to blind the attacker and then run, or bash at his skull a bit with the raised edges of the rim. (You’ll need to buy a separate charger, but we only need to charge once every 5 or 6 weeks.)