MUCC's Shion UK Album Release

information - 30.10.2008 23:00

A detailed report following the UK album release of MUCC's Shion.

In 2008, MUCC has progressed unlike any other Japanese band so far. The group entered 2008 on a strong streak of three successful singles, Libra, Flight and FUZZ. These three singles made up the core of their 2008 album, Shion, which was recorded in early 2008, and released in March, while the band was touring with the large Taste of Chaos festival tour. Now, with MUCC expanding further yet, touring with the Taste of Chaos tour in the United Kingdom, the group will release their new album through Spinefarm Records UK. To commemorate their landmark first release in the United Kingdom, as well as their signing with Spinefarm Records, JaME will look back on the history and details of MUCC's eighth studio album, Shion.

Singles

In the year leading up to the release, MUCC made several large moves to promote their singles, as they developed the songs that would later be assembled on Shion. In 2007, the band released Libra, which was a heavy, dark, and slow tune with a starkly contrasting chorus. The single was part of their 10th anniversary release campaign, churning out a live album, two greatest hits albums, and then this single. The release charted at twenty-two on the Oricon charts. Immediately after the release of Libra, the band announced yet another single, Flight, for a May release which would go on to rank at fourteen on the Oricon charts. This single, creatively titled with a double entendre, which can be interpreted as both "flight" and "fright". The band recorded a music video for the title track during a live in France, performing the still yet-to-be-released single four times, to ensure every angle was covered, and the intense spirit of the audience was captured. This move showed MUCC's concern for their international fan base, as well as their meticulous and precise composition in all of their release media.

After a long gap in releases, but not in performance, MUCC released their last hit of 2007, FUZZ. The track was featured in the American movie, Cloverfield, and reached number fourteen on the Oricon rankings. After the release of FUZZ, the band finally announced the release of a new album, set for March of 2008.

Production

In late 2007, the group entered the studio to finally finish their masterpiece-in-progress, with production oversight mainly handled by Miya, with co-production being done by MASAJI ASAKAWA & Heigo Tani, Hajime Okano and NARASAKI (of COALTAR OF THE DEEPERS). The pair of producers, ASAKAWA and Tani collaboratively produced on the tracks Fukurou no yurikago, FUZZ and Anjelier. ASAKAWA had previously worked as a producer with m-flo as well as having experience in anime music, while Tani is part of several electronic music duos, including Co-Fusion. With Tani's experience in electronic music, the tracks produced by these two have strong roots in synthesized instrumentation.

Producer Hajime Okano who worked on two of the singles Flight and Libra is a notable producer in the Japanese music scene, with production credits with L'Arc~en~Ciel, POLYSICS, TRANSTIC NERVE amongst others. The chart-topping production delivered by him isn't a surprising choice for the band's singles, and the drive from Okano's production successfully helped MUCC's chart position.

The most recognizable name in the production line-up, however, is NARASAKI from shoegaze band, COALTAR OF THE DEEPERS. NARASAKI's involvement is limited only to the tenth track, Shion, but the heavy, dark influence of his style is felt strongly, and is a welcome addition to the album's dynamics.

Beyond production, external involvement came in the form of guest musicians. In the recording of Shion, five musicians are credited with contributing. First mentioned is Atsushi Koike, who assisted in sound manipulation for Chiisana Mado and Shiva; Koike's activity has been limited recently, but his work on the album shows a knowledgeable expertise. The second assistant musician is the highly recognized Sakura, from SONS OF ALL PUSSYS, who performed percussion on Nuritsubusunara enji and Chiisana mado. Though this isn't the first time MUCC and Sakura have collaborated, it was an aspect not present on the band's previous release, Gokusai.

While Sakura's work on Chiisana mado may be subtle, the strong elements of the song are the brilliant string performances, which are courtesy of Crusher Kimura Strings, who have been contracted by the likes of Ai Otsuka for their emotional performances. The arrangement of these performed string parts also go to a name frequently seen in pop-album credits, Jun Asahi.

Promotion

The band promoted heavily in support of the new album, with numerous interviews, commercials on television, and many interviews with rock magazines - both domestic and foreign, as well as overseas touring. The band described the album before the release as something between 2005's Houyoku, and 2006's Gokusai, with the emotional content from the former, and the sound tendencies from the latter. In an interview with Zy magazine, Miya revealed that the album was originally a double-EP. Drummer SATOchi says this helped with eliminating such a focus on balance. Without knowing, going into pre-production, that the tracks needed to all fit one concept, more variety was naturally introduced.

The album was advertised as having an "ethnic" sound, with multiple cultural facets. Some of the tracks included external percussionists, because they "really had a heat that drummers or guitarists don't have," as Miya mentioned. During production, some of the composition was done backwards to how one would expect, with melodies composed before the instrumentation was decided.

After the album was fully recorded, the band went on tour in the United States with the ROCKSTAR Taste of Chaos tour, alongside American bands such as Avenged Sevenfold, Atreyu and Bullet for My Valentine. MUCC was part of a small contingent of Japanese bands, along with D'espairsRay and the Underneath, who were representing the "Jrock Invasion". The band was able to showcase several of its new tracks to American audiences on this tour, perfecting the live atmosphere for many of the heavier tracks which would be included on the album.

Shion

Shion was ultimately released while MUCC was touring overseas, on March 26th. With this release, the band included professional English translations within the album's booklet, which was yet another nod to the internationally expanding fan community. This idea was a cooperative decision between the band and label. The album cover, featuring Tatsuro sitting in a chair is a simple grayscale design with an image of strings attached to Tatsuro's limbs. Printed on the cover are simply the name of the band, and the title, Shion, a name for the aster genus of flowers.

The overall musical style of this album is a synthesis of heavy metal, hard rock, dance and ethnic Asian music. Each song on the album seems to show several faces, sometimes between dark and light, happy and sad, or innocent and malicious. The entire disc shows soaring maturity from MUCC, and particularly highlights some development from each member, with several songs flaunting the abilities of certain members. Semishigure, Shiva and FUZZ show a fantastic dynamic from Tatsuro, while the drumming is accentuated in Shion and Nuritsubusunara enji courtesy of SATOchi. YUKKE's time to shine comes in the delightfully cheery Flight as well as the melancholy Chiisana Mado. The tracks on the album that showcase Miya's talent include Shiva, where his shredding is left unrivaled, while the guitar in Game are dramatic and persistent. Overall, tracks like Libra, Fukurou no yurikago and FUZZ do show the band as a whole can produce a finely woven blend of guitar, bass, drums and vocals. the album wraps itself together nicely, and insists that one track cannot exist without the others.

Following the release of Shion, the band toured both Japan and Europe. They played at the 2008 hide memorial summit alongside veteran Japanese bands including X JAPAN. Recorded for WOWOW broadcasting, MUCC was able to broadcast the spirit of Shion to the Japanese public and continued to perform live on their "Rainy Rave" and "REBORN" tours. In June, the band traveled to Sweden to play in the Sweden Rock Festival 2008, shortly after which, Shion was released in mainland Europe via Gan-Shin records. After more rigorous touring, the band announced they would be re-joining the Taste of Chaos crew for the European leg. This now brings MUCC to Europe for a few shows in central Europe, followed by their debut in the United Kingdom. Beginning on October 15th in London, Taste of Chaos will wind through the country, making stops all over, much to the pleasure of MUCC fans throughout the nation.

With this venture into new territory, Spinefarm Records is unleashing MUCC's 2008 epic to the public. The release features all new cover art: a risque portrait of YUKKE's lips smeared with glossy, crimson lipstick, alluding to the song Nuritsubusunara enji. The slip case with this provocative image slides off to reveal the standard album art work, found on the original album, packaged in a "super jewel case" (with a more rigid body and a clasp for closure). The disc itself is printed again in an inverted black and white coloring of the lip portrait; but the real bonus is what is on the disc, as it includes a live performance of the powerful single, Libra, recorded at a The Underworld, one of MUCC's London stops on the 18th of March 2007. Also included in the bonus material (in enhanced CD format), is the music video for FUZZ which adds even more visual depth to the the album. If you live in the United Kingdom, and are looking for a fresh cut of music, or if you are a true collector of JMusic merchandise, this album and its limited contents are a worthy purchase.
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