alice nine. - VANDALIZE

review - 13.01.2009 12:00

Vandalize means to destroy maliciously, but when what's left in place is something better, it's worth it.

It's been a little over a year since the release of alice nine.'s second album Alpha, and the band has evolved quite a bit. After experimenting with stringed instruments, piano and different ways to play guitar, alice nine. presents us with VANDALIZE, a short but comprehensive piece of work that is very satisfying.

The opening track is the beautiful name, which is a mid-tempo, steady ballad. Though a very pretty song, with delicate guitar picking and a grand orchestral sound at parts, it doesn't really show off alice nine.'s charm points. U2's influence is clearly heard, and the song comes off a little too fanciful and slightly boring; it's great for background music, but that's about it. However, things pick up with Hyakkaryouran. A darker rock track, it reminds of classic alice nine. songs such as Velvet, but it definitely has a twisted edge. Disconcerting whines are scattered into the song, there is a ripping guitar solo and Tora and Hiroto combine for excellent scaling arpeggios.

RAINBOWS follows to deliver a playful punch. The bass-laden track has a deep, swinging melody and freewheeling guitar playing, and anyone who has heard a live version of the song knows how much fun it is to belt out. After a turn at the disco, Kiss twice, Kiss me deadly takes you deep into Motown. It's a totally different style from what alice nine. has done before, and it works. The beat is heavy handed, matching the intense guitar solo and contrasting with the alluring whispers during the instrumental break. A female backup group chimes in with "kiss me, kiss me deadly" at all the appropriate times, and Shou is pitch perfect leading this fun and sexy number.

It's an awkward transition from Kiss twice to CROSS GAME. The loud, driving song takes away from the mischievous mood that had been set up, and it is also a bit of a harsh lead in to Subaru, the softest and most lyrical track on the album. Subaru opens with a rippling acoustic guitar and Shou singing gently, and it instantly sets up an ethereal, mystical universe. The vocals evoke a lonely, longing feeling while the cymbals cushion the song delicately. The only thing stopping Subaru from being the best ballad alice nine. has come out with is the overpowering line of "be as one" at the ending; it puts a damper on a great track.

The next two songs on the album bring out alice nine.'s headbanging rock side. www. drops in with a hard, bass-heavy opening. Dissonance is part of the charm here, with Shou's hollow chants paired to sharp, flickering guitar picking. Hiroto shows off his new talent of "scratching" on his guitar strings, and though the entire song seems slightly off-key, it pulls it off in chaotic fashion. Drella is more guitar-centric: Hiroto and Tora compete with machine gun drumming, and the return of scaling arpeggios gives the song a metal flavor. It's unfortunate Shou doesn't do any real growling or screaming to cover the strange English lyrics, but if you're listening just for the pleasure of noise, Drella won't disappoint.

MIRROR BALL [VANDALIZE EDITION] is a song that the band admitted to not matching up with the sound of VANDALIZE, so one has to wonder why they decided to stick it on the album. The song, a piano version of their previous single MIRROR BALL, is extremely pretty, and just extremely as out of place. It might have worked better as a bonus track instead of being stuck after Drella, and it'd probably sound better as a full instrumental track as well: the melody of MIRROR BALL is really nice, but Shou overpowers the piano, leaving us unable to fully appreciate the song.

After the little misstep, Innocence helps listeners regain their footing. The fast, cheerful song allows Nao to show off his skills - it's full of the sixteen beats he is so fond of, and there are some complicated drumming passes as well. The chorus is reminiscent of L’Arc~en~Ciel's READY STEADY GO without the heavy back beat, and Shou keeps it light from start to finish. Ending the album is Waterfall, a slower song that has an epic chorus. The vocals are soft and deep, and while the main melody is in minor key, the chorus gathers up strength in a sweeping major key. The strings are used to full effect, creating a lovely sound, and Shou crooning "I'll be with you" is sweet and uplifting. Waterfull is an excellent closer; it lingers and stays with you, making you want to play the album again.

Despite the rough transitions, alice nine.'s third album can be counted as a success. VANDALIZE is a mark of the band's growth and shows off everything they have learned up until now. Hopefully, the band will make this their new starting point and make their next release just as memorable.
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