MAN WITH A MISSION - When My Devil Rises EP

review - 14.07.2014 10:01

Americans get another taste of what makes this wolf pack surprisingly approachable.

It seems that these days, everyone who likes Japanese music has at least heard of MAN WITH A MISSION. Primarily known as "that band with the wolf masks", MWAM has actually managed to carve out a surprisingly successful career in only four short years via just as many albums and even a compilation. The masks are just the tip of the iceberg, however, when it comes to distinguishing the band from the rest of the crowd. MWAM is musically unique in that they're a band with both a rapper and a DJ, but use these elements to create an accessible, mainstream sound. It’s with this sound in mind that the band has once again headed across the Pacific to America.

MAN WITH A MISSION has actually had America in its sights since the beginning, playing a small American tour in their debut year. Most of their lyrics are even in surprisingly good English, making it clear that conquering the West has definitely been on the band's mind this whole time. Their new American EP, When My Devil Rises, is solid proof that they know exactly how to capture the attention of listeners abroad.

The album opener and title track, When My Devil Rises, wastes no time in reminding the world what MAN WITH A MISSION is all about. It's high-energy, in-your-face, and the chorus will linger long after the song has ended. Guitarist Jean-Ken Johnny really gets to shine, providing strong rapping and equally-powerful, driving guitar riffs that ensure the album opens on a high note.

HASTA LA VISTA keeps the energy level high despite a low-key sitar opening. It's got a bouncy, aggressive sound that would play very well live, and it's easy to imagine the song setting an entire audience jumping. Jean-Ken's rapping makes another spirited and very welcome appearance, providing just the right edge that keeps the track as catchy and impressive as the last.

The next track, Mash UP the DJ! lets DJ Santa Monica have some time in the spotlight. His vaguely spacey, electronic beeps and wobbles add an interesting twist to a competent, self-assured song. It would not be a stretch to call Mash UP the DJ! a bit of a fight song, and it's virtually guaranteed to make an appearance at a wild party or two somewhere in the world. MWAM is a band with a great deal of raucous vitality, and it's on this track that the band's "feel" is really driven home.

Finally, the release ends with DON'T LOSE YOURSELF. Though not as aggressive as the rest of the tracks, the song keeps everything fresh and allows listeners a bit of breathing room. The chorus is once again a highlight -- catchy and easy to sing along with, without becoming stale. With this last track, listeners come full circle, having experienced an effective overview of all that the band does best.

Though not their first U.S. release, When My Devil Rises is yet another great introduction to an intriguing, successful band. Since most of the lyrics are in English, there's virtually no language barrier. On top of that, MWAM has cultivated a sound that's just a bit different, but not so alien that it proves impenetrable to new listeners. The band is smart to try and expand stateside, as they're one of the few Japanese acts that could see mainstream success in America. Many Westerners expect Japanese music to be "weird", and MWAM provides the weirdness in spades with their wolf masks. Once foreign listeners give the music a try, however, they'll find approachable, somewhat familiar, and very competent rock with just a few hints of the unusual. A wolf's sense of smell is more powerful than a human's, so it's no wonder MAN WITH A MISSION is pursuing immense American success. They're so close, they can smell it.
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