review - 12.24.2018 19:01

SUGIZO marked the 20th anniversary of his solo career with some of the kings of visual kei.

Of the four members of LUNA SEA who continued their solo careers beyond their 2000 disbandment, SUGIZO’s seems to be the least distinguished. This may be down to his eclectic tastes, preferring experiments with electronica to conventional rock, or the irregularity of releases; he’s produced about half the number of albums his bandmates have in the same period. Nevertheless, last year, the guitarist saw fit to mark the 20th anniversary of his 1997 debut TRUTH? with ONENESS M, featuring a star-studded cast of guest vocalists.

ONENESS M provides some unique opportunities to hear some of the singers outside their natural habitat. Daniela may be the first time [ALEXANDROS]’s Yoohei Kawakami has recorded a song devoid of Britpop influences. Similarly, PHOENIX ~HINOTORI~ gives SUGIZO’s X JAPAN colleague ToshI a rare chance to use his polished English on something that isn’t one of YOSHIKI’s symphonic rock ballads.

The songs with Kyo, Kiyoharu and GLAY’s TERU hold no such surprises. What’s more, the album’s closing track, an acoustic ballad entitled Hikari no Hate, could easily pass as a MORRIE solo single that just so happens to feature SUGIZO on violin. The same can’t be said of opening track Eien, if only because Ryuichi Kawamura doesn’t usually deal in slow-burning eight-minute epics.

Alongside the more accessible tracks, there’s also a scattering of more out-there compositions that see SUGIZO making curious use of his guests’ talents. For instance, despite the presence of J-hop veteran K DUB SHINE, ZAMZA vocalist Tsuji Hitonari ironically gets to do more rapping, albeit in tandem with a trumpet. Elsewhere, BRAHMAN’s TOSHI-LOW isn’t called on to sing at all, instead speaking over bubbling synths.

It’d be hard, if not outright impossible, to compare ONENESS M against SUGIZO’s other solo work as he’s never used vocals so consistently the way he has here. To put this in perspective, the only voice to be heard on his 2011 albums TREE OF LIFE and FLOWER OF LIFE was the late Origa’s. Still, it’s a worthy addition to his repertoire, and while some songs might not be everything the featured vocalists’ fans hoped they would be, listeners are bound to hear something they like, whether they know the singer or not.

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