Friday, June 2, 2017

LET THEM EAT METAL #16: Blue Blood by X Japan

In the days of yore, when pop music meant something, it was filled with nourishing musical ideas and showed the tides of progress.  But then something happened, the ability for it to fill our soul has nearly vanished, and the masses are starved on good music.  There’s the occasional quality track that stays good after multiple spins, but it has gotten to the moment where even good pop music gets stale.  We live in a white-bread world in mainstream music.  However, there’s salvation from the drek that the masses need to know about.  In the words of Marie Antoinette, or more accurately The Rods quoting her: “LET THEM EAT METAL!”

Hello degenerates, heathens, weirdos, and deviants.  I am the Rock Otaku, and I’m here to show you worlds such as hard rock, metal, punk, alternative rock, movies, TV, anime, video games, and anything that makes us scream, shout, and forget hate and sadness.

This series is dedicated to the best that heavy metal can offer.  As you will read, I will take you on a journey though the annals of heavy metal’s storied history from its beginning in early 70s, its crystallization in the late 70s and early 80s, its breakthrough into mainstream conscience in the early to mid-80s, its maturation in the late 80s and 90s, its dominance (sort of) in the 2000s and even today, and the rare moments that very few talk about unless in the company of like-minded fans.  Not in that order, but I’ll be looking at the footnotes of metal history in the order I desire.  In short, this series is about metal, plain and simple.

And today, I talk about a movement so wild, so weird, and so Japanese that it had to be inspired by western heavy metal: visual kei.  What I mean by inspired by heavy metal from the west is the whole idea of the movement existing in the first place with the barrage of influences that are prevalent in the more famous acts of the genre.  Alongside that is the, from what I know, strong use of heavy guitars, shredding solos, and overall melancholy that’s also present in metal.  But for a quick definition of what it is, visual kei is a movement in Japan that mostly based in the music industry there, with bands playing a barrage of styles while having striking, over-the-top, and eye-catching imagery, costuming, and hairstyles.  The main roots of the movement, due to its image and early ethos, would be considered metal, glam rock, and punk rock, with clear influences from the Los Angeles glam metal movement that was happening in the 80s, plus some thrash, hardcore punk, alternative rock, and NWOBHM influences.  Some of the earliest bands to gain notoriety in the movement include Luna Sea, Buck-Tick, Color, D’erlanger, Dead End, Glay, and today’s band X Japan.
Yeah, this is one of those bands.
Beginning their path to dominance in the early 80s, this band of metal brothers from Chiba was started by childhood friends Yoshiki Hayashi and Toshimitsu “Toshi” Deyama as X, and their style was focused on speed metal, power metal, and glam metal inspired by the heavy sounds of the west.  The first two clearly describe their early sound while the last one can easily describe the influence on their image in the 80s.  After releasing two separate singles, they brought in bassist Taiji Sawada, guitarist Tomoaki “Pata” Ishizuka and former Saver Tiger guitar maestro Hideto “hide” Matsumoto, the last one probably becoming one of the more popular members of the band due to his image choices, musicianship, and personality.  Then in 1988, on their self-owned label Extasy Records, they released their debut Vanishing Vision, went on tour, and it was so successful that they started getting press coverage and signed a deal with CBS/Sony (now Sony Music) to release todays album Blue Blood.  Then they released Jealousy two years later, then signed with Atlantic Records after Taiji was replaced by Hiroshi “Heath” Morie in an attempt to crack into the west (during the time grunge was a thing), and only released two albums that showed a shift from power metal to symphonic progressive metal with Art of Life (which is an entire song) and Dahlia (which is mostly ballads and pop tunes by standards of mainstream Japanese music).  Then issues rang up with the band as a cult took Toshi’s attention away, hide died in a freak accident, and Yoshiki was focused on producing and writing classical music.  They later reformed with Luna Sea guitarist and violinist Yune “Sugizo” Sugihara taking the deceased hide’s place physically (notice how they consider hide a member of the band after his death), and Heath took up bass full time after attempts by Taiji to rejoin were halted by his death in 2011 (notice also how they consider Taiji a member of the band after his death like hide).  And now they’re starting to get a much larger western fanbase thanks to the internet, Rock Band 2, various movie projects the band members were involved with, and releasing new material.

When fans cosplay as a band, you know they are icons.
But that doesn’t speak of how X Japan are an institution in Japan.  Most rock and metal bands from Nippon take cues from them ranging from image to their incorporation of pop, ballad, and classical influences into their sound, with X’s influences going into more punk, pop, hard rock, alternative rock, extreme metal, experimental rock, and even indie rock bands from there.  Plus, if you ever go to Japan, there’s a strong likelihood of running into someone who owns anything done by the band, Yoshiki, or even hide, and also a strong likelihood of running into musicians inspired to pick up western rock instruments due to how X Japan did it.  Hell, if it wasn’t for X, Marty Friedman wouldn’t have become a Japanese pop star to make up for the changes in Western metal and their thoughts on shred guitar in the late 90s and early 2000s (when nu metal reigned supreme).  And finally, if it wasn’t for X Japan, think about this, the image of rock globally would have been saturated by the manly façade that was perpetuated by sleazy, money-grubbing labels and, probably because the more famous bands were led by straight white men ultimately, the massive success of grunge.  They kept the sexual ambiguity and gender bending of glam rock practically alive during the 90s, even when they, except for hide, dropped the over-the-top image of their 80s work.  As a result, it’s not hard to find a lot of female, LGBT, sexually curious, and progressive fans of visual kei around the world, not just at anime conventions but in normal life.

As for me, I can easily call myself a male visual kei fan who’s there for the music, the star-power, and some weird aspects of my personality that attract me to it.  I’m not sure why, but I can woo any girl with the right words, but I feel that I have a kinship with the bands and the fans due to my overall mentality.  If you already figured out certain things, good.  If not, then some of this may shock you.  But in general, I can easily call myself an X Japan fan without any worries of embarrassment or humiliation.  Overall, I am a fan of J-rock as well.  Easily that could be due to my anime fandom, but you can also use what I’ve stated about what I find appealing musically to make a claim that it’s easy for me to like J-rock.  J-metal, even more so.  A big part of why I like this band in particular is probably due to the awesome guitar work from hide and Pata, the intensity of the music at its heaviest, and how emotionally charged the ballads are.  Toshi’s more of an acquired taste, but once you get past heavily accented Japanese singers, it’s easy for the music to sweep you off your feet.  What’s weird is that recently I can’t get into country music without thinking that the music would not fit with the singer’s heavy southern accent and vice versa, whereas I’m okay with rock bands with Japanese singers who have the accent, even when singing in English.  It may be due to me streaming Vanishing Vision somewhere and getting hooked, starting with the striking album cover and staying for the badass music, but I somehow think that this album is their opus.  And that’s saying something considering Art of Life.  But enough with the rambling, let’s get to the metal.

1.         Prologue (~ World Anthem):

Apparently, this is based on a Mahogany Rush tune, which explains why on the album, the song’s music is credited to Canadian guitarist Frank Marino.  I’m sure that you can get that from Wikipedia, so I shouldn’t be too worried about this for now.  These aren’t entirely done quickly.  However, for this track, this is one great way to start the album.  With the opening guitar notes and pounding bass and drums, you get this sense of power growing within as the song goes on.  Included in this are some great guitar melodies that exude confidence, power, pomp, and circumstance.  And throughout, you get this uplifting feeling throughout the track.  Plus you also get some great use of horns, making this feel outright regal.  If there’s a flaw here, it’s that the vocals at the end, while based around some sort of optimistic feeling, are done in a guttural manner, similar to the band’s “Give Me the Pleasure” from Vanishing Vision, which makes them a lot creepier and more disturbing than what the song wants to do.  Despite that, this is a great intro to the album, and one that’ll have us inspired to continue forward.

2.         Blue Blood:

And now for X Japan’s original forte in the realm of heavy metal: speed metal.  With the increase in speed from the previous track, the band makes its claim for metal glory with this title track of awesomeness, even if the lyrics are pretty dark and disturbing (like most metal, mind you).  Starting that are some catchy, but brutal riffs that pound you into the ground while also having some sort of great melodic concept that allows you to enjoy you existence being pummeled.  Adding to that in the opening, and for the rest of the song, is the earth-shattering bass from Taiji, a sound that, rest assured, won’t cause nuclear meltdowns or tsunamis but does feel like Gojira is making his approach to Tokyo, and the breathtakingly brutal drum work from composer Yoshiki Hayashi.  Yes, Yoshiki’s the main composer here, and he’s the one delivering the powerful drum performance.  And you also get the powerful vocals from Toshi, showing that, despite his clear accent, limited English, and tendency to, in the early days, sound better singing in his native tongue, he is one of Japan’s best metal vocalists based on power, feel, and intensity alone.  And that’s before the melodic chorus which is preceded by a pounding pre-chorus and a great melodic guitar line, and then it leads to more guitar pyrotechnics, with hide and Pata delivering a shredding solo.  And the song itself is dark and melancholic, but is beautiful and enjoyable.  Is there anything wrong with it?  Is a Seinfeld episode about anything important?  Nope, and that’s how I like it.

Though seriously, blue blood?  And I thought pink blood in Danganronpa was unsettling.

3.         Week End:

The opening guitar arpeggio is a sign that this song will be melodic melancholy at its best.  Adding to that is later some powerful power chords and bass parts that later segue into the drums kicking in and the song going forward.  After that opening is a great riff that includes a melodic lick and supplementation from the bass and drums, leading to Toshi’s emotional vocals.  For the song, I get the sense that this is dealing with suicidal depression due to some of the English used and the overall tone of the tune, which makes this sound a lot more depressing than it actually does.  Adding to that is the melancholic instrumentation, with a hook that’s equal parts catchy as it is saddening.  But to keep things in check, Yoshiki plays catchy and accessible drum beats, but somehow makes them interesting and adds variation in the drums throughout.  Oh, and there’s an amazing guitar solo from hide and Pata that shreds your face off then segues into a melodic riff that leads to a few lines that add to the melodic section that both lifts and crushes your spirit.  I don’t know how else to describe this song sonically except having the same level of emotional intensity as anime.  This song really feels like it could exist in an anime series (from action to romance) and the vibes it delivers would mesh with the tone.  Is that a bad thing?  It depends on the listener, but for me, it’s great.  But due to the tendencies for a lot of anime to emphasize the emotions of the characters and the scenarios they go through, it can come off as melodramatic, but a lot of Japanese media relies on extreme emotion, including its pop, rock, and especially heavy metal.  That and be more experimental.  All of this may make you not enjoy it as much, but since I’m technically an otaku (check the name and references for proof), this is quality to my ears.

4.         Easy Fight Rambling:
If you felt that the last few songs were a little too melancholic, sad, and, well, emo, then this song is definitely for you.  First off, this song is a rather rowdy tune based around being rowdy and possibly being in bar brawls in Tokyo.  Hell, the song is called “Easy Fight Rambling,” and the song embodies a fist fight in concept, even if the title alludes to being more talk.  And how easy it is.  But considering that this more of a glam metal tune, and a great one at that, the title ultimately makes sense.  Speaking of glam metal, the guitars kick ass, the bass and drums lead to some wild, rowdy rhythms, and the vocals are confident and full of energy.  Plus that solo is kick ass.  But like any glam metal tune, the hook is catchy and awesome, even if it is in Japanese.  However, while this song is awesome, I’d recommend that this song may inspire actual violence rather than, well, easy fight rambling.  Great song, though.
What you'd want to do here.
What you'd likely end up doing.
5.         X:
But the band is known for starting as a speed metal band, so speed metal is their original forte, especially during the time period this album came out.  So, obviously, the guitars are played in a high-octane manner, with intense riffs that are melodic and aggressive.  That and there’s a bunch of great guitar moments in general, including the licks and a solo.  The bass itself is thick and meaty, but in the way that makes sense melodically.  There’s also the powerful vocals from Toshi that embodies the intensity, power, and strength that a song like this is known for.  Well, being an anthem with the same name as the band (before the punk band from Los Angeles of the same name threatened to sue them).  And it feels like a slightly better version of “You Wanted the Best” by KISS, both in tone and focus.  Adding to that are the intense, pounding drums from Yoshiki that ensure that the beat is powerful, intense, and strong, something that is needed for this kind of song.  But that doesn’t mean the extra stuff is unnecessary.  In reality, it adds to the song, such as the gang vocals from fellow Extasy Records members before the band signed to a major label for this album.  And they work on this track overall.  Also, this song is ultimately the kind that makes you feel like a badass when you listen to the song.  What I mean is that this song is so fast, aggressive, intense, and badass that you end up enjoying the musical ride and show interest in building your muscle.  That and it will inspire you to wear makeup and play speed metal, like what happened with Salems Lott with their song “S.S. (Sonic Shock).”

However, this song is two X’s away from being in the adult's only section.

6.         Endless Rain:
But if there’s a factor that makes X Japan, particularly Yoshiki Hayashi, memorable as well as accessible to the masses, including the Japanese mainstream, it’s their incorporation of ballads into their sound.  That and classical music, which was a major influence for drummer/composer Yoshiki.  And since he started with the piano, it’s arguable that his strengths lie with the ivories rather than beating animal skins (though he’s great at both).  For this ballad, the opening starts with a soft piano line that may cause western listeners to draw comparisons to Guns N’ Roses, but it gets to Toshi faster than the classic “November Rain” gets to Axl (seriously, it’s as if even that song was hesitant with its singer, but this one is comfortable with its singer).  Speaking of, the vocals here are emotional, powerful, but start off soft and wistful before getting to the big emotions in the chorus.  Oh, and the bass in the background adds to the atmosphere to this track.  Seriously, Taiji is an underrated bassist, and this tune is prove of how good he is.  As for the song itself, the theme is more about sadness and despair, trying to move on from what’s troubling us and making us sad, even when the pain is so powerful that it’s hard not to cry about it.  It’s a really powerful tune in general, and it works in the placement on this album as a breather after the necksnapper that was “X.”  Also, it’s notable that this is one of the few ballads that guitarist hide liked playing on, and the solo is emblematic proof of that, being one of the best things about this tune outside of everything else.  Even the use of orchestra, which adds to the grandiose nature of the tune as well as the emotional focus is great.  In short, this is X Japan’s “November Rain,” and it’s arguably better.

But that’s just Rolling Stone magazine saying how this tune is “’November Rain’, minus the bulls**t.”  Something that I disagree on as a GNR fan as well.

7.         Kurenai:
Let me guess, this is the introduction to X Japan for most of you that didn’t involve Clamp (“Rusty Nail” and “Forever Love”), Saw IV, or Rock Band (“I.V.” for the last two).  Either way, this is one of the songs, if not THE song, that defined X’s sound, with its ballad beginning, orchestral flourishes, speed metal riffs, melancholic melodies, lightning fast rhythm section, shredding solos, and wailing vocals that go from crooning to belting depending on the part of the song.  This is their style, and it would be one that, in my mind, would inspire the overall sonic structure of j-rock and j-pop as we know it while also being an influence on anison (anime music for the non-otaku) and global power metal.

About that…
To review this song in full would require me to discuss every single one of the parts to it.  First is the opening, with a symphonic section where the orchestra plays the main melody of the song in its moody, melancholic splendor.  Then the clean guitars come in to begin the power ballad section of the song.  Here, Toshi croons in English about dealing with the struggles of life and love that are tearing him apart with some accompaniment from the other musicians.  After that, Yoshiki does a cymbal roll that has the song segue from rock ballad to speed metal with the distortion guitars and bass kicking in with a melodic line that serves as the musical backbone for the rest of the song in its thematic tone.  And during this, it hits you.  Hide and Pata are great metal guitarists, capable of going from soft and delicate to hard and heavy with the right transition, heavy riffs and soaring licks included.  Also included are Taiji’s heavy bass performance and, of course, Yoshiki’s wild and crazy drum work, which defies description and needs to be heard to be believed, especially with his speed here.  And finally, it can’t be X Japan without Toshi, who sings with the right amount of emotion throughout the song, from the verses to the two choruses to the song, with the first acting a little like a pre-chorus without a chorus, but the main chorus is a work of beauty.  Catchy as hell, will get in your head, and rightfully memorable, even if you don’t know Japanese, you WILL be humming the melody of it.  Oh, and there’s an amazing guitar solo from hide with sections where Pata joins in, and it’s arguably one of the best guitar solos to come from the visual kei movement in general.  But back to the language use, I feel that this song is better sung in Japanese due to Toshi’s limited English at the time (he may be able to now, but I don’t trust him to sing this not in his native language) and the fact that it helps with his emotional pull.  If there’s one problem with this, it isn’t as raw and dangerous as the Vanishing Vision version, but it never needed to be raw, and I’d rather take better production backed by a major label over heavily accented English.

8.         Xclamation:
If there’s a way to start a song, I would not usually recommend to have heavy metal bands use middle-eastern percussion in the intro of a song if their sound is distinctly based in Southern Rock or Country Music (imagine how poor little Kansas would react, but then again, I don’t see them as a market for metal).  Adding to that is the chord progression played on clean guitars matching together with the exotic instrumentation and feel like a glove.  Said feel is also punctuated by the use of more overdriven/distorted lead guitar work playing an oriental line while the sounds of the jungle (which may be Tokyo after work hours) in the background.  And after a while, the beat changes when the bass starts playing a funky line that has me thinking “Give Me The Pleasure” from Vanishing Vision due to the notes as well as the 16th-note beat playing after this.  Adding to that is the clean guitar line that leads into a heavy riff, matched with pounding drums that feel progressive as they do amazing.  All of that anchoring shredding and spiraling guitars, all of them played extremely well.  This song doesn’t need vocals whatsoever, but it is interesting to have a straight instrumental somewhere in the middle of the album that feels like its own song rather than something that fits with another.  But considering what came before and what’s after, a tune with the atmospheric opening and ending this one does is surprisingly cathartic.  In short, this is great.

9.         Orgasm:
Now for a song that, like “I’ll Kill You” from their previous album, was written and recorded as a single prior to their major label debut, and… I am surprised that Sony Japan gave the okay to Toshi, Yoshiki, hide, Pata, and Taiji to have this song on the able.  But for the stuff that I can definitely recommend about it, it’s fast, it’s furious, it’s energetic, it’s short, and the instrumentation is on point.  The guitars are played with aggression but accessibility, the bass is thick and meaty (considering the title, eesh), the drums are pounding (okay, why am I thinking euphemisms here?), and the solos shred shirts, bras, and underwear with skill and tact (hopefully no one gets any weird ideas about me here).  That and there are some awesome gang vocals, one of the greatest forms of harmonies in heavy rock, and the kind that will allow for you to have a healthy supply of melons and peaches while keeping your perceived manliness intact (even if you’re outfits are even more out there and androgynous than those of POISON!).  But this song has problems that may lead to this not aging well as well as giving the band a bad reputation with progressive but wimpy Western culture critics.  Specifically, this song in practice is a lot more violent due to the sound, tempo, and method of the band playing their instruments, as well as how the chorus is done.  While I can argue that this is more about the experience of sexual pleasure and letting it out rather than the foreplay beforehand, and hopefully I am not part of the generation that blacklisted private happy time, making me understand this song’s intent, it’s sonically the equivalent of more violent sexual activities, ranging from BDSM, kinky torture, and even a quick rub to pure rape, and that is something that I feel can be a little too off.  Also, Toshi does NOT sound smooth here, and while I can defend that with the quick point I made, I really can’t defend what that entails.  He sounds like a perverted maniac than the classy perverts of the Rat Pack era.  Sorry, but this is a dud in comparison to the rest of the album.  Not an unsalvageable song, though.
"Unsalvageable?  We wouldn't let Haruhi near X!  Versailles, maybe."
But seriously, B-Hop would hate this.
"Trust me, I know he would.  Also, are you using Spotify for this entry?  I mean, I would if Sony handled music I was reviewing, but I'm not as competent as you in HTML.  Or music reviewing for that matter."
Wade, what are you doing here?

"Just to mess with you.  Also, loving the hair.  How do you get blue hair like that?"
From getting screwed over in understanding women by an immortal vampire, that's how.  Moving on.

10.       Celebration:
So there’s this weird sound effect that starts and ends this album that sounds like cowboy boots walking across a floor to a party.  I’m sure that’s just me, but that could actually be the song itself.  No seriously, listen to it.  But after the first time, you get a bluesy guitar line that leads to another great guitar riff that, while having some bluesy elements to it, carries from glam metal like with “Easy Fight Rambling.”  But instead of fighting and screwing, this is about partying like an animal all night.  And it’s arguably the closest thing the band did in spirit to “Rock And Roll All Nite” by KISS.  What I mean is that the guitar riff has a 70s hard rock swagger that fueled Guns N’ Roses’ audial debauchery while also having the showmanship in the guitars, bass (which kicks ass here, by the way), and drums, which are more conventional and simple by Yoshiki’s standards but still having some great moments and fills, that made Van Halen, Def Leppard, and Mötley Crüe international superstars.  But even then, this has a lot in common with what Aerosmith did that I tend to compare this to some of more rowdy, up-tempo work of the Bad Boys of Boston.  Another factor behind all of that is Toshi’s rockstar performance, including the belting he’s great at as well as his crooning.  Also, you get a shredding solo (though it might be more in that pre-Eddie Van Halen guitar wailing style that peppered the work of Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Blue Öyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Budgie, Rush, The Who, Boston, Foreigner, and especially Queen) that showcases the talents of hide and Pata on the guitars.  But if there’s a reason this song rocks, it’s that it’s upbeat and not ashamed of that fact whatsoever.  I mean, with the band singing about being rock stars before the final two tracks and living life to the fullest, this could easily be the most uplifting and positive song the band ever wrote.  Even then, there’s still that Japanese weirdness as there’s some vocals directly after the solo that are clearly sped up like a chipmunk.  I mean, if this song ever got shifted to have the singer sound like Alvin, the squeak there would be unbearable.  But even then, this song kicks ass.

11.       Rose of Pain:
Yeah, if you noticed, I praised the positivity in the last track because this one is not the happy-go-lucky, Carpe Diem kind of song.  Based on the title, this one is more of a tear jerker.  But from the beginning, the song starts with a melancholic, classical-inspired orchestral movement on an organ that has shades of Bach, with the guitars taking cues from “Fugue in G minor.”  After that, we get a mix of heavy power chords and orchestral strings matched with the heavy bass and drums ushering in the power ballad part of the song.  How much of a power ballad?  Well, it’s over 9000.  The emotional aspects of it are definitely strong, with the use of clean guitars playing sad arpeggios matching with Toshi’s emotional vocals, matching the melancholy of the main overall song and sounding as if he’s crying.  Then the first main chorus hits, and the use of power chords and orchestras anchors the continued emotional assault from Toshi on your heartstrings.  Then of course, you get some powerful guitar melodies and solos afterwards that embody this song’s musical sadness and include some of hide’s best work on the axe.  Plus there’s also the heavier verses and chorus that hits like a rock that’s the part I’d call the heavy ballad part.  And that’s where the amazing guitar lines come from.  Also brilliant was the aforementioned orchestral parts, and the moments when Yoshiki jumps on the piano and plays some amazing solos.  Overall, the song has a classical feel to it that showcases the influences from the genre on these Japanese rockers. 
But then it turns into a speed/thrash metal song at the halfway point.  No joke, this is probably the longest song I’ve ever recorded on this series at nearly 12 minutes.  Here, the guitars go from sad to aggressive with much more bite, and Toshi’s vocal performance goes into heavy metal rage.  Plus the drums enter the frenzy that Yoshiki is known for outside of his classical piano playing.  Oh, and Taiji’s bass get some bite with some notable notes.  And the structure somehow reminds me of anison, from the chord structure in the pre-chorus to the key change in the chorus versus the verses.  Seriously, if there was a tragic shoujo anime out there, this could easily be the ending theme based on the thrash section alone.  But just because the song is faster and angrier doesn’t mean the classical influences haven’t been exorcised.  They are still around, with the guitar playing a classical-inspired line after the chorus that takes influences from the aforementioned “Fugue in G minor.”  And due to the length, the band takes the key of the chorus and plays sections from the first parts (the power and heavy ballad parts) and in the way they played those notes there in that key.  And then they deliver a pounding ending that’s loaded with the emotion of the rest of the song.  Pardon the length, which may be an issue for you readers with ADHD, but this song is nothing short of brilliant, and I can easily listen to this song due to everything going on in the emotional onslaught and not ever check how much left there is to the song.  But that’s me, and even I admit this may be a little too melodramatic for some of you.  Regardless, this song is a gem, and my anime fandom is an aspect where I can attest to liking this and recommending it.  But even then, this could have been the album closer, but there’s more sadness on the way.
"Really, more sadness?  You need more kittens in your life, you sad, strange, long blue-haired man.  Like me."
I'm more of a dog person, and stop wondering about the hair!

12.       Unfinished:
From the opening vocals, the concept of sadness is not just familiar to X, but it’s one of the things that drives them artistically.  How so, the song’s themes deal with a nasty breakup initiated by the protagonist, and the aftermath of that, with him as depressed about it as the girl he broke up with and longing for a reunion, but he knows that’s impossible, possibly because he can’t even treat her right in general.  The sad part, he knows that, despite their strong love, they are just incompatible.  That’s the sad part, and for the instrumentation, which is the first thing that hits you, the first notes played are on piano, and it sounds as if Cheers suddenly became a very, very tragic drama, as if you’re at the bar not to socialize but to drink away a bad day, where you lost your job due to crappy management, lost your car in an accident and it was totaled, lost your girlfriend to your own vanity, lost your parents in a freak accident, lost your brother in a mugging, and you just saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  However, the swirl of emotions is enough for you to completely break down, crying profusely, it looks so bad that someone can’t look at you without sobbing, and the tears and snot are getting into your beer, which somehow causes it to taste like regret, sadness, and depression, which is noticeable since it’s some mass-marketed cheap bear that tastes like water (or moose urine on a good day) usually.  
Something like this emotionally.
That’s how depressing this song’s piano performance is and the kind of mental images generated from it.  Even worse is that it’s blatant about the singer’s and his girlfriend’s sadness from this.  You can say that their love, as a result of this decision, is, well, unfinished.  And the melancholy is perfect here, with the sad-sounding piano, guitars, bass, and subdued drum performance.  Oh, and the piano solos here are beautiful, even if they get a little noodly towards the end, but then, they represent the emotional swirl I was discussing.  Oh, and Toshi does NOT sound happy here, he sound’s depressed, and the harmonized vocals are strong here, and it helps that he sings in English, which adds to the universality of the song.  And while the title may sound weird, it’s that this song is a tune from Vanishing Vision that they literally finished for this album.  Oh, and it’s the end of the album, just like how Aerosmith ended some of their albums with the big ballad (see Toys in the Attic and Rocks for great examples of this).  But if we can agree on something happy, this makes Simple Plan sound like fresh dog turds in the front lawn even more than they already did.

No seriously, can we just replace that damn “How can this happen to me?” song with this one and just leave it at that?
Thanks, Han.
Well, this got long, but even then, it’s paramount to discuss just how great this album is.  It’s a lightning-fast blitzkrieg of thrashing, high-speed, power metal with dark, messed up, and empowering themes at one point then a tender set of romantic power ballads dealing with love, loss, and depression the next.  Then there’s also the hard rock swagger between then.  It has everything: heavy, crunching, melodic, and shredding guitars, thick, powerful, and rumbling bass, pounding, fast, and intense drums, dramatic, emotional, visceral vocals, and piano, organ, and orchestral swells that add to the songs they’re used in.  If you want a near-perfect Japanese heavy metal record that showcases the skill, talents, and abilities of the best and most influential the country has to offer in rock, than X Japan, and this album in particular, is it.  If there are a few flaws, this album does get very melodramatic at points, but that’s the result of most likely cultural norms and what sells in the country.  But considering it’s time and framing, the idea of mixing metal with Japanese pop styles was somehow revolutionary and gave Japan a metal scene that they can definitely call theirs (until the American visual kei movement kicks into full gear).  And even then, it’s worth listening for the wow factor of the musicality of the band in general.  Plus the song’s don’t entirely abide by the verse-chorus-verse formula, which may be a turnoff for some of you, but it’s interesting to think about musically, as when the hooks come, they hit hard and are memorable.  In short, this album is a classic for Japanese metal, a great major-label debut for the band, and a shining example of what happens when a band takes the ultimate chance and lands with gusto.

Final Score: 9/10 (Brilliant, beautiful, and ear-opening Japanese metal, among the best in the genre)

Somehow, if I am depressed, I feel that this is also a great way to cope with that.  But that's me, and I'm dealing with some crap right now.

If you agree or disagree, feel free to leave a comment below telling me what you think.  Also, make sure to like my Facebook page here:  Be sure to follow me on Twitter here:, my Instagram page is here:, and my Tumblr is at this link:  That and be sure to follow my blog.  The way to do so is to the right of this page.

Next Time on Let Them Eat Metal: Due to the way they promoted their latest work, a certain band’s breakthrough will be discussed.

Until next time, this is the Rock Otaku.  Live Loud, Play Hard, and Eat Metal.

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