Posts Tagged ‘ Luna Sea ’

Album of the Week 01-2015: Luna Sea – A Will

Before their split in 2000, Luna Sea was one of Japan’s biggest bands and that wasn’t without reason; they were one of the best bands of the country. They had a unique sound that wasn’t quite standard J-Rock. Rather, it was a powerful combination of several types of western Rock music and sounds of the orient. Before their full-fledged reunion in 2010, the band did a handful of shows that proved that the band was still a tight-knit union musically and it showed on their first product after the reunion: the amazing, massive, 23-minute epic ‘The One -Crash To Create-‘.  ‘A Will’ followed a year and a half later and showed a more concise, but still inspired Luna Sea.

The biggest relief would be how ‘A Will’ shines with the joy of playing. And that is exactly why the break was necessary; while the final pre-breakup album ‘Lunacy’ contained a few good songs, it also sounded a little strained and perfunctory. Those words all don’t apply to ‘A Will’. The performance is spirited – drummer Shinya in particular outdoes himself here – and the songmaterial is as little concerned with what category it fits as it was on classic albums like ‘Image’, ‘Mother’ and ‘Style’.

Generally, the approach on ‘A Will’ is – dare I say – just a little more western than on the band’s classic work. However, being Luna Sea, the band still has a cleaner guitar sound than most Rock bands active today (even the Speed Metal riffs on ‘Metamorphosis’ are relatively clean by nature) and still has melodic sensibilities unheard of in the American charts. And so, the album moves back and forth between powerful rockers like ‘Thoughts’ and ‘Rouge’ on one side and well-written ballads that shy away from the typically Japanese layer of syrup such as ‘Maria’ and ‘Gin No Tsuki’ on the other side.

Highlights are hard to pick, because ‘A Will’ is a consistently strong album, but there are some stand-out moments. First of all, opening track ‘Anthem Of Light’ almost seems like some sort of mission statement with the relief and positivity the song emanates. It seems to tell the listener that Luna Sea is back and they’re glad they are. ‘Glowing’ also attracts attention due to its uncharacteristically bluesy lead guitar work throughout the song and ‘The End Of The Dream’ contains some of the best riff work as well as one of the band’s best choruses to date.

As far as comebacks go, ‘A Will’ is just about as good as they come. It may also be one of the better albums to start with if you’d like to hear what Luna Sea is all about, as it has the tendency to rock just a little harder than the band’s classic records and therefore may sound a little less alien to western ears. And even without all the history and backgrounds, ‘A Will’ is just a record full of strong Rock music that deserves to be heard by any fan of the genre.

Recommended tracks: ‘The End Of The Dream’, ‘Rouge’, ‘Glowing’


Album of the Week 25-2014: Luna Sea – Image

Nothing about reviewing Luna Sea is more difficult than describing their style. Sure, their music fits the Rock idiom, but their guitar sound is too clean to call them a Hard Rock band, the song structures are too progressive and their playing too technically demanding for Punk, Ryuichi’s vocals have an undeniable Japanese Pop flair and while the New Wave and Post Punk influences are apparent, the rhythms tend to rock a little too hard for that category as well. Whatever you choose to call this though, it is good music characterized by strong melodies and a wide range of moods and atmosphere.

What helps is that Luna Sea has three good songwriters with equal input in the band. Bassist J’s compositions are probably least alien to western ears due to his obvious fascination with the American alternative scene, while rhythm guitarist Inoran’s works often have a Balkan-like flavor due to his extensive use of accented chords on the afterbeat. Lead guitarist and violinist Sugizo has a somewhat more experimental approach, generally resulting in the more progressive songs of the quintet. These aren’t strict divisions though; ocassionally the approaches mix with great results.

More importantly, ‘Image’ is full of moments where the amazing songwriting and fantastic performances complement each other. Opening track ‘Déjàvu’, for instance, has quite a light Rock feel with breezy melodies, but they still get their power from the rhythm section, particlarly Shinya’s solid drumming. Not many bands succeed in marrying the melodic sensibilities of Pop with the brute force of Rock, but Luna Sea does just that seemingly effortlessly all throughout the album.

Highlighting the album is probably its fantastic title track. With the ideal merger of Inoran’s acoustic and Sugizo’s electric guitars, the fantastic bass parts courtesy of J and Ryuichi’s vocals mainly staying in their lower, soothing register, this song has something of a Japanese Billy Idol-vibe, although Idol’s rebellious vibe is traded for dreamy melancholy. It’s hard not to get carried away. Another masterpiece is the progressive ‘Search For Reason’, where heavier sections lead by an oddly timed Black Sabbath-ish riff alternate with calmer, haunting passages. Once again: brilliantly written, expertly executed. There’s a little something for everyone here though; ‘Moon’ is for the dreamers, ‘Symptom’ for the violent and ‘Wish’ for those who need to be cheered up.

All this, combined with its fantastic production, makes ‘Image’ a must for everyone who likes good Rock music. Also, with Luna Sea being a household name of Japan’s famed Visual Kei scene – though they later prove to take the musical side of it more seriously by ditching most of their visual attire – all of the artwork looks nothing short of fantastic. It’s the last piece to make this perfect as a total product. Luna Sea’s music may sound bit strange upon first listen, because it’s hard to categorize, but once it makes sense, mastepieces like ‘Image’ and 1994’s ‘Mother’ are likely to return to your music player on a regular basis.

Recommended tracks: ‘Image’, ‘Search For Reason’, ‘Déjàvu’, ‘Mechanical Dance’