Posts Tagged ‘ Hizaki ’

Album of the Week 14-2019: Jupiter – Zeus ~Legends Never Die~


Multiple times over the last few years, I had feared that Jupiter would disband. There have been several line-up changes and I thought the final nail in the coffin would be the reformation of Versailles, the hugely popular, but slightly inferior band that almost the entire original line-up came from. These developments alone would be enough reason to be happy with the release of their third album ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’. But it’s also really, really good. New kid and former Concerto Moon singer Atsushi Kuze fits the band amazingly well and the album is probably Jupiter’s most consistent to date.

Jupiter does not suddenly sound different on ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’. The music is still high octane symphonic power metal with prominent influences from progressive metal and melodic death metal, as well as plenty of room for the impressive dexterity of guitarists Hizaki and Teru. In fact, some might argue that the inclusion of two tracks from the spectacular single ‘Theory Of Evolution’ and two that were previously recorded with former singer Zin further diminishes the surprise impact of the album. Kuze’s somewhat husky hardrock voice further broadens the appeal of Jupiter outside of the visual kei scene, however, and the impact his voice had on Hizaki’s songwriting is significant.

Now, Hizaki has a way of making singers better. He managed to make Kamijo sound semi-acceptable in Versailles, Juka’s best vocal performance was on his ‘Dignity Of Crest’ album and he transformed Zin into one of the best singers in the visual kei scene. Anticipating what would happen if he worked with Kuze’s already impressive set of pipes was half the fun of waiting for ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’ to be released. And to be brief: the album contains Kuze’s best vocals to date. He does not do anything radically different from what he did in Concerto Moon and Screaming Symphony, but he’s like a fish in the water with the bombastic, theatrical material that Hizaki wrote for the album.

With Kuze being a hardrock singer first and foremost, it is notable that the songwriting plays to these strengths. ‘Drastic Night’ has a seventies hardrock vibe due to the simple, but brutally effective main riff and the inclusion of a Hammond organ, but manages to sound contemporary power metal enough to make perfect sense on the record. More dramatic tracks, like the highly dynamic ‘No Cry No More’ and the absolutely sensational ‘Straight Into The Fire’ could not have been written for any other singer. The most powerful choruses, such as the ones for ‘Theory Of Evolution’ and the long closing epic title track really profit from having a singer with significantly more power than the average visual kei frontman.

To those who were afraid that Zin’s departure would result in Jupiter shunning their melodic death metal songs: rest assured. In ‘Tempest’ and the previously released ‘Angel’s Wings’, the album contains two tracks that feature prominent melodeath influences. The former sounds a little like a mash-up of Galneryus’ neoclassical abandon and Jupiter’s own ‘Allegory Cave’, while the latter has a mind-blowing final chorus. Both rely heavily on aggressive, borderline thrash metal riffing. Kuze does not yet have the versatility in his growls that Zin had, but there is almost a hardcore-like quality to their blunt aggression. Something which also works surprisingly well on the last section of the lone Teru composition ‘Show Must Go On’, a powerful modern hardrock track.

Out of the songs that had already been recorded with Zin, ‘The Spirit Within Me’ really takes the cake. Not only does it have what is possibly the best riff of the album, the song fits Kuze’s voice so perfectly that it’s hard to imagine it had not orignally been written for him. It is kind of ironic that one works so well, as ‘Tears Of The Sun’ underwent a more significant change, being transposed to a different key. Relatively new drummer Daisuke played on the original versions of both of these tracks, but his contributions to ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’ should not be overlooked, as his playing is incredible. He has all the skills that his predecessor Yuki also had, but he appears to be a little more understated and serviceable, which does sound a little weird, given the fact that a track like ‘Theory Of Evolution’ is basically fifty percent blazing fills and ‘The Spirit Within Me’ has some of the most impressive double bass rolling I have heard in recent years.

As a whole, ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’ could be the start of a new era for Jupiter. People who liked their music before should have no issue with the record, but the inclusion of a singer with the type of voice that usually is not associated with visual kei really opens them up for people who generally stay away from the scene. In addition, every single song on the album is worth hearing. ‘Memories Of You’ goes on a bit long near the end, but the darker first half of the song is the best ballad-esque bit Hizaki has written to date. Everything else is a perfect blend of power metal, hardrock, progressive metal and melodeath. If that sounds right up your alley, you can’t go wrong with ‘Zeus ~Legends Never Die~’.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Spirit Within Me’, ‘Straight Into The Fire’, ‘No Cry No More’, ‘Theory Of Evolution’

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Interview: Versailles’ frontier defying spirit


B7 Klan offered me the opportunity to interview Versailles and of course I took that opportunity. What follows here is a translation of the article I have written in Dutch for The Sushi Times. If you can read Dutch, I would strongly recommend you to read the original article right here.

With their bombastic power metal sound and their almost fairytale-like appearance, Versailles grew to be one of the most important players in 21st century visual kei. In late 2012, the band took a break, but as of last year, the band is active again. After a few one-offs in Japan, the band’s first tour will follow and just like in their early days, it will remarkably take place in Europe. “The time was right for Versailles again“, says guitarist Hizaki.

In the intervening years, the band fully committed itself to other projects. Singer Kamijo went solo and all of the other members formed the excellent power metal band Jupiter, which will remain active alongside Versailles. “I compose imagining the person who will sing the song“, states Hizaki, who also released his instrumental solo album ‘Rosario’ earlier this year. “The melodies I write will always be a reflection of the singer’s personality. I do like the fact that I can now show in Versailles the skills that I have developed in my personal activities.
Kamijo also doesn’t rule out the opportunity that his solo adventure will get a sequal. “I’m sharing my feelings with different audiences“, he describes the differences. “In both cases, we are playing my melodies, but the reasons why I’m writing each project’s songs are different. In 2017, Versailles celebrates its tenth anniversary, so you can imagine that there will be some new projects.“”On February 14th, we will release our new album“, guitarist Teru already spills. As for the rest, the band still keeps their plans strictly secret, but bassist Masashi calls on the fans to keep an eye on their website and social media: “We have many projects planned.

Choreography
For a Japanese band, Versailles has always been surprisingly internationally oriented. Before the band even went on its first full tour through Japan, their first European tour with Matenrou Opera was already a fact. Later on, the band came back to Europe twice, so it’s not a complete surprise that the band once again aims for Europe after a couple of one-offs in Japan. “I can’t wait to come back to Europe“, Hizaki agrees. “Since we can’t meet our fans out there often, I want to enjoy them as much as possible. It seems to be even harder to bring our music overseas to America, but I would like to make it back there as well someday.“”I notice that European audiences want to show their power in a different way“, says Kamijo. “In some countries, they shout. In Japan, they synchronize their choreography.
It’s beautiful to see the different reactions in each country“, Masashi confirms. Teru agrees: “When I play overseas, I truly realize that the reaction in Japan is really original.
And yet, it’s remarkable that Versailles is one of the very few bands that tours Europe somewhat regularly. “I don’t know exactly how we did that“, says drummer Yuki. “But I am really proud of Versailles’ music. We only stick to our own convictions.
I guess some bands get too discouraged by certain details“, Teru thinks aloud. “It’s important to make music with a spirit that transcends frontiers and nationalities.
And the band rehearses for that with full determination. “As usual, I’m practicing by playing a lot“, Yuki says. “Besides that, I listen to good music and I imagine myself playing it, drum acting. And because I’m trying to be more familiar with the English language, I also watch some movies.
I record myself in ProTools and then check the results of my playing“, Teru shares. But, Hizaki emphasizes: “You who will be at our live shows must be ready too.

Dreams
Versailles’ music contains quite dense arrangements. Besides the five band members, a vast amount of choral and orchestral samples deliver a significant amount of bombast. However, the spectacular guitar work of Hizaki and Teru always remains prominent. “There is always an orchestra in my head“, the latter smiles. “It’s important to listen to all of the band members’ sounds. I always try to think of all the elements when I’m playing. Concerning my guitar sound, I try to reduce the gain and keep the peak in the middle and high frequencies.
When we practice the songs, we always make it“, Hizaki adds. “The synthesizer parts always tend to be gathering into midi arrangements, so I try to be attentive of those in terms of my phrasing.
An additional problem for many Japanese bands is that they can’t take all of their equipment with them to Europe. Amplifiers are rented, but every member at least takes his own instrument with him. “And I’m taking my sticks and pedals with me. And my love for Versailles“, Yuki states. “I’m considering taking a Fractal Audio system with me“, Hizaki thinks aloud.
When asked if they would ever like to play with an actual orchestra, everyone answers affirmatively. “Of course“, Yuki continues. “It’s one of my biggest dreams.” “Please organize it!“, Hizaki begs.

Connected
One can’t think of contemporary visual kei without thinking of Versailles. At least as much attention as they put into their music will also go into their flamboyant clothing, hairdos and album covers. “What do you like more?“, Kamijo asks. “A wonderful movie without images or a beautiful movie with images?
The music and the visual aspect are inseparably connected to each other“, agrees Teru, himself a graphic designer. “The artistic value of the music can be increased by this combination. I am proud of visual kei, but I don’t want to be too occupied with trying to fit that genre or category. I only go forward with what I like and what I think is beautiful.
And there’s another mission for Versailles: bringing the visual kei audiences and the metal audiences together. “There is a barrier between them higher than the highest frontier“, Kamijo states. “We are there to destroy this barrier.
The band is not interested in ever making music without the visual aspect. “Impossible“, they collectively say. “My spirit is always in heavy metal“, Hizaki continues. “But I can’t feel any attraction towards artists who neglect their appearance.
Only Yuki leaves the door slightly ajar. “I think we and our audience would still like our music“, he says. “Otherwise we would have never started doing this. But I do think that it adds an element with which you can tell the listener more than with just the music.
And how do the guys stay fresh and inspired after playing together for so long? “By stimulating each other to become better“, Kamijo resolutely says. Masashi agrees: “We all evolve together with the other members.” “It’s simply interesting to work with the music of other people than myself“, Hizaki concludes.

Versailles’ ‘Renaissance’ tour travels to the following venues in early 2017:

January 26th: Teatr Club, Moscow, Russia
January 27th: Gloria, Helsinki, Finland
January 29th: O2 Islingron Academy, London, England
February 1st: Zeche, Bochum, Germany
February 2nd: Hybrydy, Warszaw, Poland
February 4th: Salamandra 1, Madrid, Spain
February 5th: La Machine du Moulin Rouge, Paris, France

Album of the Week 02-2015: Jupiter – The History Of Genesis


Jupiter’s debut ‘Classical Element’ was responsible for making me fall in love with Power Metal all over again. Their intense riffs, keen ear for melody, guitar histrionics and amazingly written songs awakened a Power Metal euphoria I haven’t felt since my adolescent years. As a result, ‘The History Of Genesis’ was the first 2015 album I anticipated immensely. And not without reason; ‘The History Of Genesis’ is the definitive proof that Jupiter can stand on its own merits, regardless of the Versailles history of the majority of its band members. A strong album that combines the beauty of Jupiter’s melodies with the aggression of some of their riff work.

If ‘Classical Element’ showed a band finding its comfort zone, ‘The History Of Genesis’ has the band exploring and pushing their own boundaries. The opening salvo of the upbeat ‘The Birth Of Venus’ and the Power Metal supreme of ‘Last Moment’ may suggest we’re dealing with an album that follows the trend of its predecessor, but there have been some significant changes. The aggressive side of the band has gotten a little more room, most evidently in the vocal work of Zin, who is heard equipping his competent grunt and some rawer clean approaches more often this time, resulting in the awesome melodic Death Metal of ‘Darkness’ and bonus track ‘Sacred Altar’. The main focus is still his beautiful cleans though.

Also, the band seems to switch back and forth between these extremes within single songs a little more this time. Upon first listen, that may cause some of the songs to seem a little chaotic. If not downright messy, as with ‘B.L.A.S.T.’, which turns out to be a thoroughly enjoyable Speed Metal song with a catchy chorus in the end. Another example is the closing title track, which contains surprisingly little repetition for an epic Metal track. I would have loved to hear some of these goosebumps inducing riffs more often, but that may very well be what makes them so powerful in the first place.

When considering the ethereal instrumental ‘Church Candle’ the intermission of the album, I slightly prefer the second act, starting with the back-to-back highlights ‘Red Carnation’ and ‘Zetsubou Labyrinth’. The former is a Zin composition with an amazing chorus reminiscent of Rhapsody’s best work and the latter is just unbelievable. The amazing dramatic guitar intro makes way for an almost Thrashy verse, a more melodic chorus and a mindblowing guitar battle between Hizaki and Teru. It has to be heard to believed. Speaking of lead guitars, they’re all over the place. The awesome ‘Arcadia’ even has both men playing distinctly different solos simultaneously.

Even both ballads are amazing. With Jupiter being a guitar driven band first and foremost – the classical element (pun intended) is limited to coloring the songs and the occasional lead violin – they are a lot less sappy and dragging than what can be expected from a Visual Kei or J-Rock band. ‘The Moon’ may seem a bit weird because of its jazzy interplay between the piano, guitars and Masashi’s bass near the end, but is pretty good, while the somewhat progressive ‘Luminous’ is an amazing track likely to please people who loved ‘Nostalgie’ from the previous album (I’m looking at you, fellow blogger Arria Cross!). The more standard, upbeat J-Rock sound is represented by ‘Shining’ and the fantastic ‘Koori No Naka No Shoujo’. The latter seems less positive lyrically though.

Since ‘The History Of Genesis’ finds Jupiter branching out from their symphonic Power Metal roots a little, the results are a little less consistent than their debut, but the album once again makes my Power Metal heart beat a little faster. It’s beyond me why they didn’t choose to include the best song from the singles preceding this album (‘Azalea’), but then again, the album is packed with amazing material already. I’d be surprised if anyone releases a better Power Metal record this year, but if someone does, it will be a great year for the genre.

Recommended tracks: ‘Zetsubou Labyrinth’, ‘Red Carnation’, ‘Last Moment’

Album of the Week 32-2014: Versailles – Jubilee


‘Jubilee’ marked the end of a tempestuous period for Versailles, both positively and negatively. The band had just signed with a major label and the difference is immediately noticeable sonically, but on the other hand, there was the untimely death of their original bass player Jasmine You during the recordings, effectively making this Jasmine’s final appearance with the band. It’s also the band’s best effort to date and their last fantastic album. While its follow-ups would both contain a number of good songs, ‘Jubilee’ is the band’s apex in terms of songwriting, intensity, execution and overall consistency.

Versailles was part of the Japanese Visual Kei scene, as is fairly obvious straight away when you see of their band photos or hear Kamijo’s slightly too melodramatic vocal delivery. Musically, they were one of the most interesting bands of the movement, combining a fundament of highly symphonic Power Metal with overtones of Progmetal and J-Rock and a strong dose of theatrics. And where I feel the band lost a lot of their edge on the following records, ‘Jubilee’ still has the right amount of aggression – especially in the riffing department – and intensity to appeal to the headbanging crowd.

A lot of Japanese music is very vocal based. The production and mix on ‘Jubilee’ – or any other Versailles album for that matter – emphasizes that as well. However, for me, it’s the rest of the band that makes this record. Hizaki and Teru are geniuses in composing riffs as well as executing brilliant guitar solos, many of them neoclasically tinged, and Yuki is easily the best Japanese drummer I have heard so far due to his creative approach to Power Metal drumming. And the power he displays is just delightful. Just listen to how he gives the awesome riffs in ‘月下香‘ (‘Gekkakou’ when romanized) their last push into aggressive territories and you’ll get what I mean.

Though the album is best listened to in its entirity, there are definitely some standout moments. My favorite song on the album is probably ‘愛と哀しみのノクターン‘ (romanized: ‘Ai To Kanashimi No Nocturne’) due to its perfect blend of melody and aggresive guitar power. Yuki’s drumming is once again spectacular and the little twin guitar riffs between verses are guaranteed to bring me to Metal bliss. ‘Catharsis’, opening track ‘God Palace – Method Of Inheritance-‘, single ‘Ascendead Master’ and ‘Princess -Revival Of Church-‘ are fantastic epic Power Metal tracks, while the lighter ‘Amorphous’ highlights the band’s more Pop oriented side surprisingly well.

Every fan of Japanese music should give this album at least one spin, but due to their heavy reliance on European Power Metal influences, ‘Jubilee’ may also be very appealing to melodic Metal crowds that are traditionally less likely to turn to any band from the Visual Kei scene. The fact of the matter is that Versailles is one of the very few latter day bands of the movement that actually made the music come before the visuals, despite obviously putting quite some effort into them. Both in composition and in execution, this is some of the best Power Metal released in this century, only outdone later by Jupiter, which features three members who can be heard on this album.

Recommended tracks:愛と哀しみのノクターン‘, ‘Ascendead Master’, ‘Princess -Revival Of Church-‘, ‘月下香

Album of the Week 28-2014: Jupiter – Classical Element


Versailles was one of the most Metal – and arguably one of the best – bands of the latter day Visual Kei movement, but they lost most of their edge after the ‘Jubilee’ album. When the band split last year, singer Kamijo moved on to a solo carreer, while the rest of the band formed Jupiter with new singer Zin. The resulting debut album is already one to be pround of. Not only is it even better than all the material that Versailles ever released, ‘Classical Element’ is one of the very best Power Metal albums released in the 21st century.

Essentially, Jupiter is a continuation of Versailles’ sound – or at least the contributions that guitarists Hizaki and Teru did to Versailles’ compositions – albeit a bit less theatrical and therefore more guitar oriented. The songwriting is also more concise than on the average Versailles album. As the album title suggests, the neoclassical Power Metal sound is still intact, but ‘Classical Element’ is above all a guitar album, lending the album its powerful edge. Also, while facilitating somewhat similar melodies, Zin has a much clearer timbre than Kamijo, which I find much more pleasant to listen to.

Remarkably enough, Zin’s compositional contributions fit the band perfectly. His own composition ‘Heaven’s Atlas’ is fairly standard, but enjoyable Power Metal and ‘Rhythmos’, which he co-wrote with Hizaki, is a unique progressive Metal song and as such one of the highlights of the album. Other highlights include the classic Power Metal euphoria of ‘Scarlet’, the perfect combination of melodic sensibilities and aggressive riffing that is ‘Decadence’ and the somewhat more neoclassical masterpiece ‘Atmosphere’.

On many Visual Kei-related albums, the ballads have the tendency to severely disrupt the flow of the record. Surprisingly, one of the two ballads here is actually quite good. ‘Nostalgie’ maybe has somewhat of a more progressive build-up than the average ballad of the movement, but that is exactly what makes it above average. The title track shows Jupiter succeeding where Rhapsody usually fails; the 12 minute epic is full of surprising twists and remains engaging all throughout its length. ‘Allegory Cave’ sees Zin equipping a somewhat unnecessary, but proficient death grunt and features some of the most delightfully aggressive riffing on the album.

When focusing on individual performances, we can’t leave drummer Yuki unmentioned. The man is easily one of the most versatile and technically competent drummers in the contemporary Power Metal scene. And while Japan is full of fantastic musicians, Yuki is my favorite Japanese drummer due to his creative approach to his parts. With a guitar record such as ‘Classical Element’, a downright amazing guitar duo like Teru and Hizaki is mandatory. Both are extremely tight in the riff department and virtuosic in their leads, without sacrificing any catchiness in the melodic field. An impressive and much too rare achievement.

Earlier this year, Jupiter released the ‘Last Moment’ EP, which already hinted that the band – especially Zin – would be moving in even more impressive territory and I for one can’t wait to hear what the future will hold for these guys. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been this impressed by a symphonic Power Metal record. It’s not hard to hear why; Jupiter is one of the few bands that has both technical mastery and concise, catchy songwriting in high regard. And they succeed in both. Every Power Metal fan should hear and love this album. If only because that may bring them to Europe more often.

Recommended tracks: ‘Scarlet’, ‘Atmosphere’, ‘Decadence’, ‘Rhythmos’

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