alice nine - Zekkeishoku

review - 02.06.2007 07:00

alice nine's first full length album.

alice nine’s first, and much anticipated, full-length album is full of fresh sounds, driving instruments, and upbeat tunes. A mix of hard rock and softer songs that almost border on pop, Zekkeishoku has something for both new and old fans alike.

The album opens with Corona, featuring a steady guitar and bass riff. The drums come in a bit later, coupled with Shou’s voice which soars over Saga's deep bass line. While not the most stand-out song on the album, Corona provides a good opening and shows what kind of range Shou possesses as he sings lower in the beginning and hits some pretty high notes as the song progresses. A bass break pushes the song to a driving end as all the instruments come together for a pleasant ending to this first track.

A rolling drum beat and bright guitar melody opens Velvet, a harder rock song with an edge that isn't too rough. Shou’s voice isn’t showcased as finely in this song, but still satisfies. A strong bridge with more of that rolling drum beat keeps the song going with layers of melodies and more subtle sounds making for an interesting piece of music. The sound of Saga’s bass is a pronounced amongst it all and the combination with Tora and Hiroto’s guitar riffs is impressive.

Fantasy, a song that appeared previously on their single of the same name, is refreshing with the soft, almost subtle, sound of the instruments backing Shou’s voice. Saga’s steady bass rhythm is the driving force behind this track, which picks up with some more complex sounds courtesy of Nao's drumming. The guitars cuts in nicely toward the middle of the song as an instrumental break begins. The tune maintains a faster pace through to the end, where Shou’s vocals are showcased as the instruments fade out.

The next track, 3.2.1.REAL -SE-, is an odd instrumental with a deep bass line, sharp guitar riffs, and a mix of synthesized sounds. This track seems a bit unnecessary as it doesn’t really keep with the overall sound of the album, but is still an interesting listen. Haru, Sakura no Koro begins with a beautiful, bright, and clear guitar melody with strong bass lines in the back. Shou’s voice sounds strong and almost endearing in this song. It's an optimistic, upbeat tune with a short, but sweet, guitar solo, and a mix of both heavy and soft playing that shows just what these guys are capable of.

One of the harder songs on the album, DEAD SCHOOL SCREAMING, provides the clashing drum and heavy bass that rock fans will love. A catchy guitar melody, followed by an outstanding solo, push this song toward a drum-driven, thumping break with Shou’s voice providing a raw, almost sexual sound to the middle of this track. Saga’s bass is subtle, but noticeable as the pace quickens to an end with Shou screaming the last lines, a recorded applause track closing it.

The next track, Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-, is a soft piece and almost dream-like in quality with a slightly filtered sound and crisp guitar notes. These tracks, though feeling somewhat out of place, are interesting breaks before diving back into the rest of the album.

Jelly fish opens with crisp, high guitar notes, and a light bass line. Shou’s voice is powerful, showing an emotion that is well-suited for this track. Jelly fish has a slight sound of longing without being too sorrowful of a song and a short guitar solo by Tora adds a pleasant flourish to this mellower track.

With a strong guitar opening, WORLD END ANTHOLOGY, combines pleasant melodies and subtle drumming with intense vocals. While not the best on the album, this song is a nice in-between track before Q, a heavy rock song with additional vocals provided by Saga. The play between the two vocal styles is an interesting listen; while Shou’s is strong and full of emotion, Saga’s is smooth and even. More filtered vocals followed by some harder guitar during the instrumental closing make this short track an outstanding one.

A hard, thumping opening for Kowloon -NINE HEADS RODEO SHOW-, a previously released single, makes it another heavier rock song on this multifaceted album. Some complex bass work stands out amongst lots of cymbal clashing and a chanted bridge, providing a darker sound. This song has more to offer than just bass, however, as it also gives the listener an amazing drum solo, well-placed screaming, filtered vocals, and cutting guitar riffs. With so many layers, there's much here for the ears to revel in.

The final track, Armor Ring, has an almost unexpected sound despite some of the previous soft tracks. A heartfelt ballad with beautiful guitar work and gentle bass makes this song really special. Shou doesn’t need to do anything complex with his voice to make this song amazing as it soars over the perfectly played melody. Saga’s bass gives off the kind of sound that can be actually felt at the right volume, which adds even more to this great closing track. An instrumental break about half-way through showcases a lovely guitar solo that sends the listener right back to Shou’s vocals as the track finishes. This emotion-filled, feel-good ballad is a solid ending to this album.

For those who are looking for something a little different, Zekkeishoku, might be just the CD to pick up. alice nine shows their ability to combine songs that're both emotional, soft melodies, and harder rock tunes. While Shou definitely has the ability to scream and growl, his voice has an emotional depth to it that is rare in the music scene. With strong bass and drums from Saga and Nao, and amazing guitar work by Tora and Hiroto, Zekkeishoku is impressive for this fairly young band’s first full-length album.
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