Album of the Week 46-2016: X – Vanishing Vision

For a band that would be all over the place stylistically, X Japan – still just X at the time – debuted with a surprisingly metal oriented effort. All the idiosyncrasies that would later make them one of Japan’s biggest bands are here – not in the last place their over-the-top image – but it’s easily their heaviest output yet. A poor sound that is especially unforgiving towards the guitars may soften its impact, but it’s a record full of excellent riffs, triumphant twin guitar leads, rolling drums and exciting songwriting. And a record that resonated with an audience; ‘Vanishing Vision’ outsold any indie record at the time.

Somewhat of a victim of circumstance, ‘Vanishing Vision’ has a few flaws that it couldn’t have helped at the time. As stated before, it would have benefited from a better sound, but the band wasn’t quite working with the budgets they’d have later. I disagree with the criticism on the production of ‘Blue Blood’, but the popular opinion is definitely the true one. Besides that, there are three excellent songs here that would eventually be reworked into something even better. The only thing they may have been able to prevent is the fact that the original A-side is notably stronger than its B-side.

Those who followed the band for a while may be surprised by the large number of contributions by bassist Taiji. Drummer and pianist Yoshiki is traditionally the man who carries the majority of the weight in the songwriting department, but both sides of the record kick off with an excellent Taiji composition; ‘Dear Loser’ is an excellent intro and moodsetter with a perfect build-up in tension and the slap-heavy instrumental ‘Give Me The Pleasure’, which he wrote with guitarist Hide, is the album’s most delightfully weird tune. ‘Phantom Of Guilt’ is classy, mid-tempo heavy metal with huge riffs and an interesting interaction between clean and distorted guitars.

Furthermore, there is excellent speed metal (‘Vanishing Love’, ‘I’ll Kill You’), Hide’s trademark sound on the border between hardrock and heavy metal (‘Sadistic Desire’) and epic power metal (‘Kurenai’). That’s also where the problem lies; ‘Kurenai’ is excellent, but if you have heard the cleaner, more bombastic version on ‘Blue Blood’, this one is a slight letdown. The same goes for the closing track ‘Un-Finished…’, which would ironically appear in its finished state on ‘Blue Blood’ and turn out to be X’s most profoundly sad, beautiful piano ballad.

A work in progress? Maybe. X would find its definitive form on the following record ‘Blue Blood’, but ‘Vanishing Vision’ is still a debut to be proud of. Its somewhat naive nature is one of its main merits; it influenced a certain reckless mindset when it comes to throwing all these styles together. Surprisingly, the result is more focused than ‘Jealousy’ would be three years later. The album is pretty much a highly entertaining listen all the way through – except for maybe ‘Alive’, which doesn’t have enough going for its eight minutes – and strongly recommended to fans of eighties power and speed metal.

Recommended tracks: ‘I’ll Kill You’, ‘Sadistic Desire’, ‘Vanishing Vision’

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