X JAPAN - Vanishing Vision

review - 09.19.2006 08:00

The one that started it all.

With new great J-Rock releases coming out on a regular basis, people have a tendancy to completly neglect some older albums that are regarded as classics. It's with that in mind that we offer "classic album reviews". Their purpose: reacquaint fans with the music of yesteryear and releases that might have slipped through their fingers. Sure, the definition of what makes an album "classic" is a pretty vague one and can be fought over for hours, but for the sake of these reviews, we'll just stick to "an older release that is well-respected by fans".

Now, for a quick history lesson: this is the album that introduced the world to TOSHI's wailing, HIDE's shredding, PATA's drinking, TAIJI's boyish good-looks and YOSHIKI's insane pounding. It's the release that defined a genre and introduced the world to classics such as Vanishing Love, Sadistic Desire and the everlasting Kurenai, a song that was performed at every single one of the band's live performances, even during their famous Last Live. Mostly comprised of a mix between early 80's thrash/power metal and late 80's melodic rock elements, the near-flawless album hit home with many young people at the time, most of whom revered anything with a guitar in it. The rest of the public, on the other hand, would have to wait for the band's sophomore effort to find tracks they could relate with. However, for the headbangers, the debut offered a little something for everyone. The same holds true today.

For the hard rockers, there is Phantom of Guilt and Sadistic Desire, the latter being an older track that HIDE had written back in his Saber Tiger days (although it was originally entitled Sadistic Emotion). While Phantom of Guilt is usually regarded as the album's "weak" song, which is true when compared to the others, it still has a riff that manages to pull you back for a few repeat listens. Sadistic Desire, however, is a fan favorite that offers listeners a great hook from the get-go and a solo that wavers between different playing styles and tempos. I personally think it’s the best solo of HIDE’s X career, the raw sound and innocent playfulness unmatched in their later endeavors.

Metalheads can find solace in Vanishing Love, Kurenai and the oldest song in the X repertoire, I'll Kill You. All of these feature some of the most technically challenging guitar licks in the boys' history, let alone YOSHIKI's frantic, almost destructive drumming. All three will get your blood flowing, guaranteed. Oh, and keep an ear open for I'll Kill You's solo: it's brief, but does it ever pack a punch!

Finally, for the odd man out who happens to enjoy slow songs, there is Alive, a song that is clearly inspired by (if not borrowed from) Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and Un-Finished, which just so happens to be unfinished (Blue Blood features the full song). Think of it as an episode of TV's 24: it's beautiful, it's amazing and just as you’re getting used to it and can't wait to find out what happens next, the rug is pulled out from under you. As for Alive, recognized for its atmospheric piano and beautiful dual guitar melodies: it has stood the test of time to remain one of the best, if not the best, X ballads. Definitely another one of this album’s strong points.

While Blue Blood, the band's second album, sold more and sounded better thanks to professional production values, the raw sound behind Vanishing Vision demonstrates what the band was all about back near the beginning of their career: playing as best they could, no matter what stood in their way and getting their message through, which they obviously succeeded in doing. Sure, it took awhile before they were recognized as an important musical influence, but their hairstyles, clothing and makeup started a new trend amongst the youth of Japan that carried into the new century and paved the way for future visual bands.

If you have yet to experience this album, or the band in general, consider this review a wakeup call. Shame on you! Now get out there and listen in on musical history. Feel what so many people have felt over the last two decades. You won't regret it.
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