Amaranthus / Hakkin no Yoake – Momoiro Clover Z – Nippon Month

Posted on March 16, 2016

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DSCF0986At the end of February last month the most popular of Japanese female idol groups, Momoiro Clover Z, released not one, but two new albums after 3 years since their last studio effort “5th Dimension” was released so naturally as a fan you get real excited and was willing to overpay a little to get them as soon as possible.
And since I knew I was going to do Nippon Month this year, I thought it could be very fitting to review both albums but it actually turned out to be more difficult than I originally thought..
Not that they were bad, but they were hard to get into so I decided to let them rest a little and come back to them later again, and that later is now because I’m tired of waiting and I really want to listen to these albums and give them a new chance.

As you may have guessed, the albums are called Amaranthus and Hakkin no Yoake, and one thing that were discussed among fans was if there were any special reason for releasing two full length albums on the same day, and as I have stated before.. my Japanese isn’t good at all, but I got information from certain people who do know the language better than me (thanks, you know who you are) who said that there could be some sort of concept/theme of “dreams while awake vs dreams while sleeping”.
And there have apparently stated something official about that so yeah.. allthough that may be pretty stupid, it doesn’t make much sense here since there are songs that were written for other purposes like the Sailor Moon theme song “Moon Pride”,  “Z” no Chikai” for a Dragon Ball Z movie and “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saite Mi na” wich actually’s written by Paul Stanley and performed by Kiss..

Yes, thee Paul Stanley and Kiss. I mean, just think about it..
The legendary Rock band Kiss has written music for and performed with a Japanese female idol group.
I’m not sure what the Kiss fans think about it, and even though I like their music I don’t consider myself a fan, but I think it’s both awesome and weird at the same time.
Worth mentioning is also that this isn’t the first time they did something similar, as they had previously recorded songs with former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman, which is just plain fucking awesome!
I like the fact that these groups and Momoiro in particular the last couple of years are showing more interest in REAL music and not just computer generated garbage like Trance and such crap. They even perform with live musicians and that’s a huge plus in my book, but let’s not forget the fact that they are mixing more Rock into their music.. just what I need :)19382182909_c861f8fd2b_o

They still do a lot of those Trance/Rap crap songs, and they are present on both Amaranthus and Hakkin no Yoake, and that’s the biggest minus these albums gets from me because I simply can’t stand that sort of music.
If you like it, that’s fine, but it’s just not for me.

So now when I’ve gotten some crap out of the way, let’s dig in a little deeper into both albums shall we?

AmaranthusDSCF0984

Amaranthus, the album that should be about dreams while you are awake.. sorry but I still think that concept sounds stupid, but on the other hand, I don’t understand a fucking word of what they are singing so in my mind they could be singing about whatever crazy stuff people can come up with.
It starts off with a small instrumental intro/prologue were we can hear heart beats, and we later get the song “We Are Born” so I can see if they were trying to do some concept about life in general and the afterlife. It could be an interesting and unusually deep topic for being J-Pop so cred to the writers for that.
The song itself is pretty okay, it’s a Rock tune that is very standard so I’ll let it pass.
“Monoclo Dessan” which is the third track is a very light hearted song that easily gets stuck in your head, and for all the right reasons. I could listen to this every day, it’s just so delightful and overall nice to it’s atmosphere with all the girls doing their parts great. It also features some nice harmonica at the end that gets me thinking of the great Donovan, which I doubt the writer had any influences to while creating this piece though.

“Gorilla Punch”, or “Gorira Punchi” has to be one of the best Momoiro songs there is and one of the closest of their songs to be classified as Metal I believe.
Momoka sings the lead part and her vocal performance is so unreal and beautiful and without taking anything away from the other members, but she really has with no doubt the best singing voice in all of J-Pop and it just seems like as if she always tries to deliver her best no matter what.
And here she certainly does, even though Kanako and Ayaka (or Arin) does a good job as well.
Unfortunately Shiori and Reni doesn’t get much space here, not at least what I can hear?

When I first listened to this album it kinda died for me after Gorira Punchi because it just sounded dull, and so was I feeling too having spend lots of money on this, and custom fees on top of that. Fucking ridicules that I have to pay huge fees to get stuff from Japan, customs are nothing else than common thieves.
Anyway, while giving this album another chance I have to say that it just got better and better for every time I heard it, and allthough most of the songs are good, they don’t stick out as much as Gorira Punchi and Monoclo Dessan.
“Buryōtōgen Nakayoshi Monogatari” has an interesting touch to it, but I don’t like the Rap/”Hip-Hop” stuff featured here and on other songs as well, but the album picks up with the following song “Katte ni Kimi ni” which is more artificial but an overall much better track.18946167944_37cb26b595_o
We also get the manditory ballad song in “Seishunfu” which of course is good, but it didn’t struck me very strong and is pretty bland in the end.
I’d rather prefer the other ballad, “仏桑花” which is beautiful and also features more harmonica (hello Donovan) and what sounds like a harp too?
Beautiful either way!
And by the way, the reason I’m only writing the Japanese title is because Wikipedia says it’s called Bussōge, but when translating the original title you get something completely different so I don’t know what to go for on this one.

But then we have crap like “Saboten to Ribbon” and man, I just can’t talk about this song.. horrible!
And the worse thing about it is that everyone seems to love it?
Well I guess it just comes down to different taste I suppose.
After that the album picks up a little and continues to stay strong till the end, and I have to add that I personally love that they included the single Naite mo Iin Da yo from 2014 because it has to be one of my all time favorite Momoclo songs. Fans didn’t really like that they included it but I think this song really deserves to be on an album, and not just a single floating around the internet and eventually becomes rare and forgotten. It is also one of those songs that has Metal influences and that’s always welcomed :)

This is a pretty good album that I’ll give a 7/10, because it has some flaws but most of the tracks here are either solid or great.
So if you are a fan, pick it up and if you’re not.. pick it up anyway ;)

7/10

Hakkin no YoakeDSCF0985

After my first listen to this album I got the exact same dull feeling that I got from listening to the previous album, but it also eventually grew more on me.
Hakkin no Yoake starts the same way as Amaranthus, with an instrumental/prologue spinning away on whatever concept this was suppose to be, but the first real song we get is “Tōgenkyō” which is pretty smooth and easy to listen to. It does contain some of the styles that I don’t like, but it’s a pretty harmless song that one can enjoy when it’s playing but later forget about it.
The title track on the other hand is much slower but more beautiful and memorable, and is actually one of the first songs I heard along with “Mahoro Bakēshon” before I even got this album in my hands.
Now that last one is a strange case, because I find myself liking it the one day, only to dislike it the other day and find it annoying.. but it does have some really nice parts and I can assure you that there are a lot worse tracks so I’ll take it.

And then we have the strange collaboration with Kiss, the song “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saite Mi na” is like I’ve stated before written by Paul Stanley and performed by Kiss, and even though it has some Kiss influences it could just as easily been written and performed by someone else.
It’s not a bad song but it’s no highlight either and falls somewhere in between, but luckily the album picks up right after with a pretty decent song in “Rock The Boat” and the beautiful ballad “Kibō no Mukō e”
What some fans might not like is that we also got the theme song for the anime Sailor Moon Crystal “Moon Pride”, along with the theme song for a Dragon Ball Z movie,”Z” no Chikai.. but I kinda like both songs really much and I’m very glad they included them :)7548963916_63b820858e_o
Moon Pride is one of those songs were Marty Friedman is playing, and did I say before that Momoiro were close to the Metal genre with their songs Gorira Punchi and Naite mo Iin Da yo?
Well I forgot about Moon pride while listning to Amaranthus and got reminded that this is even closer to Metal and I wished they would do more songs like this in the future, which the fortunately have done more in recent years :)
“Z” no Chikai does also contain some Metal elements but is more mixed with traditional Japanese instruments, or at least keyboards trying to sound like it..

Hakkin no Yoake seems to be the album that most fans sees to be the weakest of these two, but I think it’s as equally good or maybe even better. It for sure has some more Metalish songs that I prefer more, and has less weaker songs in my opinon so I’m actually kinda surprised when I read all the comments and finally listened to this album.
One more thing that I can complain about is that it seems that Reni and Shiori doesn’t get much space on either of these albums?
Instead, it’s Kanako, Momoka and Arin who steals the show and leaving Reni and Shiori in the shadows.
I do have to admit that I don’t always listen THAT much to who’s singing what part and all that, but when thinking about it during these albums it just feels like those two girls are sat aside for some reason. And that’s a real shame
Other than that, Hakkin is a very complete album with minor flaws so make sure to check it out if you are into this group :)

For me, it’s really fun to get two completely new albums with lots of new songs from Momoiro, it has been a long time since and I’m so sick of only singles being released all the time.
Let’s just hope that they can reach a more international level and tour more outside of Japan and Asia, because we need more ;)

8/10

Album photos: Robin Renmark

Photo 2 and 4: Dennis Amith

Photo 6: Dj Ph https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

 

 

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