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