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Thursday, May 15, 2014

KUROYUME - KURO TO KAGE




Debuting in 1994, KUROYUME is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. They started 2014 off right by releasing a brand new album, 黒と影 (Kuro to Kage), on January 29th. Surely a memorable date for KUROYUME fans, considering that January 29th, 1999 was when the band suspended their actives, and it was January 29th, 2009 when they held the last live before their official disbandment.  After reforming in 2010, their first new single, "Misery", was to be released on January 29th, 2011, though unfortunately the release was pushed back by almost two weeks.

Coinciding with the release of 黒と影 (Kuro to Kage) was a live performance at Budokan where they stated that they would cast away the shadows associated with January 29th, and that KUROYUME would be returning to zero, breaking away from their past to create Rock'N'Roll again.

This thirteen track album beings with the very appropriately titled ZERO, and intriguing intro song with a bass-led opening that holds an equal balance of danger and mystery. The drums enter, soon followed by guitar, the tune is simple overall with a rhythm that’s easy to fall into.  Towards the latter end of this two and half minute track, the harmony of a female choir add to the intrigue and a growing feeling of suspense, the momentum and the complexity gradually building before it suddenly evaporates into nothingness.

The second track, ROCK’N’ROLL GOD STAIR begins with a spry drum-roll before breaking into a fun, groovy rhythm. To my ears, this song was far more lively than I had anticipated on the heels of the intro track, ZERO. One of my top five favorites from this album, the unexpectedly playful quality makes it stand out and gets you moving. Kiyoharu’s vocals holding a husky tone at times, and the chorus is fun to sing along with. There’s intensity to the song’s climaxing note that set you up for the next song perfectly.

I HATE YOUR POPSTAR LIFE is a brilliant song and feels sharp, intense and daring. I was already very taken with this song after watching the MV on AVEX’s YouTube channel. I HATE YOUR POPSTAR LIFE is a song that I'm sure will be spectacular when experienced live. The energy is kicked up even further with CLARITY, a fast-paced track that would surely send any crowd into a frenzy. Kiyoharu’s vocals are delivered assertively but Hitoki is the hero of this track for me. His solid work on bass is the outstanding winner in this song. Mid-way through the song, a bass solo will lead you into an excellent instrumental section that will have you head-banging immediately.

Easing down from that high, A LULL IN THE RAIN does indeed bring a pleasant lull with its slower tempo, but rest assured that it’s not too slow;  your foot will be tapping and your body swaying with its catchy melody. Kiyoharu is all charisma, a pitch in his voice that calls out to you during the chorus.  The easy groove A LULL IN THE RAIN is replaced with the playful energy FREE LOVE, FREE SEX, FREE SPEECH. Among the shorter tracks, coming in at just under three minutes, it somehow feels longer than it truly is. There is a great ebb and flow between the energy you feel from the instruments by themselves, and the cheeky melody it transitions to when Kiyoharu’s vocals join in. The overall lighthearted and effortless feeling about this song that makes it very pleasant to the ear.

The aptly named MAD FLAVOR definitely brings mad flavor with its deep groove and fervor, a strong contrast to the playful zest of FREE LOVE, FREE SEX, FREE SPEECH. Kiyoharu’s echoing notes in the chorus and Hitoki’s hot bass rhythm come together with the delicious intensity of both guitar and drum. This harder edge feels great, an excellent transition as you officially move into the latter half of the album.

You're hit with another surprise with the next track, ゲルニカ (GUERNICA), also has a strong contrast from the energy of the previous track. It is without a doubt one of my favorites on this album; the first notes of the intro catching me immediately.  ゲルニカ (GUERNICA) possesses a weight to it that is tranquil and at times a bit haunting, so captivating that you continually find yourself wanting to dive in deeper. Kiyoharu’s vocals are softer; almost like a lullaby at times when compared to rest of the album. With its beautiful chorus and classical strings adding a layer of drama, this song is on another level.

Also in my top five is SOLITUDE, which enters with a skillfully subdued feeling. Starting with the smooth bass, followed by sharp drums, then soft, relaxed vocals enter accompanied by soothing guitar. This gentle rhythm presents each element of the song with clarity, giving you the opportunity to appreciate their presence. During the chorus, you can feel a slight intensity, and vocals grab you with unexpected emotion. After the satisfying calmness of SOLITUDE, the tenth track, BLACK HOLIDAY, picks things right back up and has you on your feet. With a lively energy that’s possessive but not overpowering, with great contrasting elements, I'm fond of this track with the sexy bass rhythm delivered by Hitoki, and more of a rough vocal delivery from Kiyoharu. The ending dwindles, the beat slowing and dying off while vocals take on a slight growling finish. CALLING keeps up the hyped energy, cranking it to the next level with some incredible guitar work throughout. While guitar was definitely the star of this track, rest assured at each instrument played its part in giving CALLING an intensity that will have you ready to rock. In contrast, there’s a laid-back quality to the vocals which compliments the songs very well.

Next, comes the album’s title track 黒と影 (Kuro to Kage), and another of my favorites. Slower, a feeling of intent in the vocals that makes you take pause and absorb it for all that it’s worth. The tension in this song, building and releasing fluidly makes it delectable and powerful, it truly leaves a strong impression. It’s a song that I expected to be longer, but finishing at little over four minutes it leaves you wanting more, its melody lingering in your mind. This song is simply glorious.

Bringing this album to an end is KINGDOM, which is among my top five tracks for this album. Smooth and a bit sensuous with its heavy melody and the captivatingly raw quality to the vocals working in harmony it was an impressive way to end this journey. Choir vocals bring the song to a close and I’m all too eager to play the album over again.

The highlights of this album were truly sky high; I give this album a 10/10. 黒と影 (Kuro to Kage) is yet another solid album from KUROYUME, I would eagerly recommend that you pick up a copy. The regular edition includes a bonus track titled "LEAP" while the limited edition included a DVD with five different music videos, as well as a very special hour-long movie called 『THE BLACK FILM』 which contains interviews with a number of musicians who hold respect for KUROYUME. Artists include SUGIZO and INORAN (LUNA SEA), MORRIE (DEAD END), T.M.Revolution, RUKI (the GazettE), Akinori and Hazuki of lynch.), HYDE (L'Arc~en~Ciel), MIYAVI, Ryutaro Arimura (Plastic Tree), Katsuma and Masato (coldrain), Tetsu Takano (ZIGZO).

[su_youtube url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJOzud5z4OY"]




KUROYUME OHP




Kuroyume 黒と影 (Kuro to Kage) (Limited Edition)

DISK 1

  1. ZERO

  2. ROCK'N'ROLL GOD STAIR

  3. I HATE YOUR POPSTAR LIFE

  4. CLARITY

  5. A LULL IN THE RAIN

  6. FREE LOVE, FREE SEX, FREE SPEECH

  7. MAD FLAVOR

  8. ゲルニカ

  9. SOLITUDE

  10. BLACK HOLIDAY

  11. CALLING

  12. 黒と影

  13. KINGDOM

DISK 2

  1. 『THE BLACK FILM』

  2. I HATE YOUR POPSTAR LIFE (MV)

  3. ゲルニカ (MV -Album ver.-)

  4. 黒と影 (MV)

  5. KINGDOM (MV)

  6. LOVE ME DO (MV)


This review was written by Alicia R. Thomas (arthomas), and edited by CMT.

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