Monday, March 2, 2015

Jupiter - The History of Genesis

Heavier Than Before

I was really excited for this album back when release date was around the corner. All of the singles released beforehand were top-notch stuff, and the band seemed to be headed in a new exciting direction. Thankfully, my expectations were more than met, and I can pretty confidently say that Jupiter's second release will be among the best power metal releases this year.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the Jupiter guys decided that they wanted play heavier and harder on this album, and the result is fantastic. Classical Element is a wonderful album, but I felt that it lacked a little oomph to firmly put it on par with my two favourite Versailles albums: Jubilee and Holy Grail. However, this new release tops both of aforementioned albums. The music here is definitely still rooted in the Versailles-style of power metal that you know and love, but now we see the heaviness being kicked up a huge notch.

The album kicks off with The Birth of Venus followed by Last Moment. Both tracks are pretty standard fare for the band, but that's not at all a bad thing. They are absolutely wonderful power metal pieces that have Hizaki's patented writing style, and the guys' individual performances shining brightly. But then we arrive at the ominously-titled Darkness. It starts off with a spooky-sounding intro, but soon kicks off into some of the heaviest riffing these guys have ever done. Indeed, we have some straight-up melodeath riffs and blast beats with Zin growling over it. Yes, Zin did do some harsh vocals on Allegory Cave from the previous album, but they were pretty standard visual kei nu-metal vocals and not terribly remarkable. Fortunately, Zin took some time to practice because the guy can now do some seriously awesome growls. Darkness is a serious headbanger while retaining the usual musical complexity from the band and is among the best songs Hizaki has ever written.

On Classical Element, Zin showed that, despite not having Kamijo's characteristic voice, he was a good enough vocalist to complement the music while being more technically talented. However, he did not leave a significant impression on me other than being “a good vocalist.” On this album, Zin seriously steps up his game and shows that he's a huge cut above the rest. Not only did his harsh vocals become awesome, you can hear Zin employ a wide variety of singing styles. There's very wide, epic-sounding vibratos, falsettos, gritty singing, low opera-like notes and even a dose of what I like to call “generic visual kei voice.” Here, Zin proves that he's an indispensable member of the group, and gives Jupiter a solid identity other than “Versailles with a different vocalist.”

As for everyone else, their individual performances are exactly what you'd expect. Hizaki and Teru are possibly the most dynamic guitar duo in all of power metal. Both play crazy riffs and solos off of each other like it's absolutely nothing. Masashi's basslines have that nice wandering, meandering feel to them and often deviate from the rhythm guitar. Yuki is perhaps the most underrated drummer I know, and he seriously deserves to have his name among the great, well-respected metal drummers. The guy has an incredibly unique and distinct approach to the kit that results in a bunch of insane fills and creative drum patterns. He's basically the polar opposite of all of those boring power metal bands that just spam the double bass and snare drum. The band members could effortlessly play circles the vast majority of their European power metal peers.

This album is definitely much more diverse than previous efforts, and almost every track has an identity worth mentioning. B.L.A.S.T is a good nu-metally sounding track a little in the vein of Dir En Grey that features more Zin growls. The Moon is actually an interesting ballad where Masashi's bass gets to shine and there's even some jazzier moments sprinkled in. Church Candle is a really interesting instrumental track that features a choir and violin backing to a long and slow, soulful guitar solo (I'm not actually sure who is doing the solos). The song gradually builds in intensity until you reach near the end where it ends on a rather grand and soulful note. It's really quite an emotional piece and easily one of the highlights of the album.

Zin has writing credits for Red Carnation which features some female vocals that add a nice contrast. The music also has a subtly different feel than the usual stuff from Hizaki, so it's a nice bonus. 絶望ラビリンス has the band exploring the extreme metal side again with some more of Zin's growling and heavy music from the other guys. Arcadia sounds sort of like everything thrown into a blender. It kicks off with really fast, thrashy riffs, but then goes into the usual power metal fare and later has a brief piano break, short orchestral break and some other stuff. Fortunately, all of this works really well together and makes it into one hell of a track. Zin's vibrato wail after the first verse is also really awesome.

If you were smart enough to pick up the regular edition, the album closes off with Sacred Altar which is probably the heaviest track on the album other than Darkness and my personal favourite. It starts off with a cheesy intro about how pissing off god will cause you to suffer, but then guitars come in playing a cool intro section with nice leads. The song is a little unusual in that the chorus has Zin doing some gritty singing with a choir backup with midpaced riffs, but the verses are definitely death metal. Quite frankly, Zin's vocals during some parts are downright brutal, an adjective I really don't use to describe power metal bands. He reaches some really low pitches, belts out some screams and sings right after all that. Zin's vocal performance is incredible on the whole album, but he really shines here. Of course, the instruments are all top-notch and memorable. It's just a really powerful closer.

There are some minor flaws that should be addressed. Luminous is an okay ballad that may not interest listeners much. Zin does have some nice high notes in it, but it's not that interesting. Also, Shining is pretty much a cheesy 90s visual kei buttrock song with a lot of guitar wankery. I personally think it's a lot of fun, but it definitely might be off-putting. The self-titled track is not bad, but for an 8 minute song, it could be a little more interesting. Production-wise, I think the album is great, but Masashi's bass seems too low in the mix than I'd like. You can still hear him well, but there are some interesting basslines that sound like they should be louder.

The biggest issue with the previous album was that the songs often blended together and there didn't seem to be enough standout moments. Fortunately, The History of Genesis does not have this problem at all. There's tons of memorable stuff here from every band member. Despite clocking in at well over an hour, the album goes by without any serious problems thanks to the large variety in the songwriting. There may be a bump at Luminous or Shining for some, but it's a fantastic ride otherwise. I'm mainly wondering how they'll top this one and what direction the band will take in the future. It's a good time to be into Japanese power metal.

Rating: 95/100

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