Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January Feature: Luna Sea




I once read a saying: “There are bands that feel your pain, and there are bands that play it for you.” (Yun, Josephine. Jrock, Ink.: A Concise Report on 40 of the Biggest Rock Acts in Japan . Stone Bridge Press, 2005. Print.)  LUNA SEA embodies both. Originally named Lunacy, the band was founded by Inoran (rhythm guitar) and J (ba.) in 1986. Three years later, in 1989, they became complete with the addition of three members Ryuichi (vo.), Sugizo (lead guitar), and Shinya (dr.) After selling out club after club, the band began to gain recognition, but most importantly the attention of hide. Shortly thereafter LUNA SEA signed to indie label Extasy Records, headed by Yoshiki of X Japan, which launched their career and the official change of their name.

With their stylized, iconic looks from their early years, LUNA SEA is considered one of the most influential bands in the visual kei scene. The magic behind the band’s music is difficult to describe. It feels like there is a sense of timelessness that resonates through each note. Their music transports listeners into a world where metal, punk, and gothic rock meet breathless ballads with a touch of dance worthy pop-tunes.

On their self-titled debut album, Luna Sea, which was released in 1991, the band began to show their versatility and grandiosity. As the album begins, the listener gets a first glimpse into the playful, pop-filled piece that is “Fate.”  Written by Ryuichi with music by Sugizo, this delightful, short-lived piece truly makes you want to just move and jump around. At the beginning of “Fate,” you hear Shinya’s awesome drum solo that starts off the piece before J’s smooth bassline takes over. Ryuichi’s mesmerizing and enchanting vocals float as they dance along with the playful style of the other instruments. Although this piece is short-lived (lasting only at 1:25), it is filled with such frenetic, creative, high energy that it is contagiously playful as it shows the popish side of this great band.

After “Fate” fades away, you start to feel  as if each song following takes you into shifting, alternating worlds where one is slightly different than the last. As “Time is Dead” starts, you immediately find yourself transported  into a restless whirlwind filled with the wallow of angst and sorrow. This whirlwind flows brilliantly through the relentless drums and heart-wrenching passion of Ryuichi’s vocals. The harmony that exists between both of the guitars and the bass  throughout the piece, only interrupted by the amazing guitar solo at from 2:13-2:52. The solo begins with Inoran and J playing  in unison then it slides into an explosive solo by Sugizo. The level of power in this piece truly makes it a classic.

The third piece on Luna Sea, “Sandy Time”, brings a calmer, ethereal world filled with deep longing. In this piece I felt a deep emotional pain resonating from Ryuichi’s voice as if he is reaching out for something that he cannot see. This feeling of longing consumes the entire piece, which strikes a powerful, emotional chord when listening to it. It’s truly beautiful.

Another piece that strikes a chord with me is “Branch Road,” the fourth song on the album. This piece has more of a gothic rock twist as you feel Ryuichi battle with his tortured heart. When he sings it feels like he is conflicted and at points, lost in thought. When listening to it, it feels as though you are part of his journey by watching him from afar. Overall, this piece shakes the listener as you experience the band's hard-hitting, electric harmony.

As “Shade” begins, you are invited into a world of despair and darkness with this relentless, explosive piece. From the beginning of the song, this there is a strong feeling of chaos and madness, which is only amplified by the relentless power spree of Shinya’s drums, J’s bass, and both guitars. This high-power energy dissipates only between 2:00-2:57 before leading into an even more explosive section of the piece to close it out. My favorite part of this piece is in-between all the chaos, the violin solo from 2:17-2:55. It creates a haunting feeling of sadness that only  adds to the atmosphere of despair of the piece.

Just as “Shade” is highly explosive and relentless, “Blue Transparency” is light, free-flowing and in some ways delicate. Even when the other instruments pick up, there is an almost gentleness that Ryuichi’s silky voice carries effortlessly. It feels like he is on a journey of self-discovery within himself throughout the piece. There is a softness and delicacy that resonated in the harmony between all the instruments in this song. This delicacy brings out a slightly uplifting melody in the background to balance out the moments of sadness created by Ryuichi's vocals in the piece.

Following the lightness of “Blue Transparency” is another unique piece of a more gothic and twisted nature called “The Slain”. When the song begins, it feels as though you are transported into a gothic cathedral as ticking of a clock hauntingly resonates throughout its halls. This feeling of gloom slowly consumes the piece as  you hear Ryuichi’s wailing as if crying in pain. His painful wailing only intensifies as the piece starts to crescendo at 2:30.  However, it is not until the 3:00 mark that you can actually coherently understand what he has been crying out. Though, it doesn’t matter because you can just feel it with every note. It is truly beautiful and emotional.

While “The Slain” provided a dark and emotional twist to one’s heart, “Chess” is a little more playful but not necessarily cheerful. Just like other pieces of this album, there is a dark edge and story to this piece. It speaks of a chess game played by the gods and goddesses with laughter and shrewdness, merely regarding humans as toys for their delight. There is a hollowness to Ryuichi’s voice that seems very fitting to the story while being surrounded by Shinya’s relentless drumming and J’s smooth baseline.  This combination makes it seem as though you are floating like a moving chess piece in the clouds. It captivates you until the end until the last move is made.

Unlike the rest of the album the last two pieces, “Moon” and “Precious”, feel the most intimate. It is as though both pieces are calling out to a lost loved one. In “Moon”, it seems as if this loved one is slowly drifting away in body as he constantly says “this song won’t reach you.”  There is such a deep sadness as if you can feel Ryuichi's soul  It almost feels too intimate, like a forbidden gate into someone’s life.

On the other hand, in “Precious,” it feels like Ryuichi is trapped in his own mind. He is trying to find something but can no longer find it after letting go of his lost love, his precious. Unlike “Moon,” where one could easily just get lost in Ryuichi’s vocals, “Precious” highlights each band member in its own subtle way. Although this piece is not filled with solos, nor is it fast-paced, it has it’s own strengths. You can feel each drum stroke, touch of the bass and movement of the guitars just as much as the vocals in this piece, unlike in "Moon".  My favorite part of “Precious” is from 3:36-4:09, where the energy builds up and you can hear the desperation in Ryuichi’s voice. At the same time, the intensity of all the instruments speeds up to match the wailing of his vocals. This song is the perfect way to end an introduction to an epic band and the entire album.

The first album was just a glimpse of the versatility that Luna Sea possesses. As they became more successful, the band went major in 1992. That same year they released their major debut Image. Following Image, the band continued their musical evolution as they began to release new music almost yearly (with the releases of Eden (1993), Mother (1994), and Style (1996). After the release of Style, the members went on a temporary hiatus to pursue solo activities only to reunite on December 17, 1997.

In 1998, the band’s overall sound had evolved into a something that would be described as more popish, coinciding with a visual makeover of the members. The year 1999 was a big year for the members as they celebrated their 10th anniversary in Tokyo. For the big event they had planned a massive concert, but unfortunately damage from a huge storm destroyed a large part of the stage. However, the band was determined to make it a success and didn’t let that stop them. They were helicoptered onto the stage, just like the Beatles, for the celebration before performing to 100,000 attendees.

On July 12, 2000, Luna Sea released their seventh studio album, Lunacy. Lunacy, titled after their original band name, provided a mixture of songs that violently shook your soul and spirit along with those that soothed and calmed you.

On November 8th of the same year, the band announced that they were disbanding and ceased activities. Although December 27th marked the official end of Luna Sea that year, the band reunited in 2007 for a Christmas Eve event. The following year, Luna Sea reunited once more for the hide Memorial Summit.

Then, in 2010, the announcement that all fans were waiting for came. The band announced in a press conference that they would be embarking on a new journey together. As mentioned before, in the visual kei scene, there are few musicians and bands known to be pioneers whose presence evolved and changed an entire generation of music. Without a doubt, Luna Sea is definitely one of those bands.


Find out more about the current activities of Luna Sea at the following links:


Luna Sea Official Site / Luna Sea Official Facebook / Luna Sea Official Twitter




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This  feature of Luna Sea was written by Rita Nokkaew (Ayva Trance) and edited by Kaitlin Maginnis (Rain)

Follow me on twitter at @AyvaTrance


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1 comment :

  1. I wonder if you read the translations of the songs as you were describing them, or perhaps went by feelings alone? Either way, a well written article about one of my favorite bands.


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