Monday, April 20, 2015

愛狂います。 - 心臓。

Experimental Oshare Kei?

It's something like that anyway. 愛狂います。(also commonly shorthanded as Aicle), were a fairly short-lived yet fascinating j-rock band. For those who may not know, oshare kei is the branch of visual kei with the super-colorful, happy-looking clothing and hair. Bands under this label typically play poppy j-rock and for the most part, aren't terribly interesting to me. However, Aicle differentiated themselves from their peers by being extremely weird. Now don't be deceived, Aicle's sound is definitely rooted in poppy, happy j-rock. The big difference is that the band also throws in a lot of dissonance, angular melodies, screams, growls, and just flat out strange things.

While they certainly aren't a full-on prog or technical band, every band member is quite talented at their respective instruments. Both guitarists, Keita and Rubi play really cool guitar leads and riffs off of each other. Rubi, the lead guitarist, really can shred some short and effective solos here and there. Saran's bass is very high and easily heard in the mix (not unusual for jrock), and he plays interesting counterpoints to both of the guitar parts while getting some leads in himself. Leon does a solid job in the back and gets some cool drum fills in and is adept at rapidly switching up his drumming style to fit whatever crazy thing the rest of the band is doing. Emiru's singing voice is very comfortably in the high-pitched, effeminate male range so the make or break for the band will probably be here. The guy is actually very capable of making a lot of weird noises and does some distorted screams and growls, and makes a really weird vocal delivery.

Aicle's literal translation of their name, crazy love, is not too far off of what the music feels like. Genre-wise, the album is more or less impossible to really peg down, but it mostly falls under the "poppy j-rock on crack" category. While a couple of the tracks here are mostly straightfoward, everything else sounds pretty schizophrenic. You can expect to hear some highly metallic riffing that will suddenly switch to a poppy-happy chorus. Or perhaps a really sudden tempo shift to Emiru going absolutely nuts on the vocals. Hell, there's even a pig snorting in here at one point.

Most of the music here is not very straightforward at all. As I've said before, the band is rooted in poppy j-rock which is most evident in their chorus (but it isn't a rule of thumb). The verses can (and do) go completely nuts, and the tone of the song can rapidly change. For example, オカルト・キラー (one of the heavier tracks) is very metallic and perfectly headbangable at times featuring Emiru doing these crazy-sounding screams and noises. But then the chorus is very melodic, and the following guitar solo is pleasant and follows suit before rapidly switching to heavy riffing and bass slaps.

What's particularly remarkable is how diverse the atmosphere of the songs here can be. There's dark-sounding, foreboding moments, sections that sound fresh from the crazy ward, and happy-go-lucky pop rock that just feels like lollipops and rainbows. Japan is known for weird things, and Aicle cleanly falls under that category. Unfortunately, the band latter dropped what made them unique and reverted to pop rock in the last couple of years of their existence before disbanding. However, their early material is extremely unique, hard to describe and a hidden gem among the thousands of j-rock bands that rapidly pop into and out of existence.

The only real dud on the album is the closer, a normal, pop rock song. Otherwise, everything else has quite a bit of depth in it and is stellar to my ears. Of course, this music isn't accessible at all. It literally took me years to like this album enough to really get into it and hunt down a physical copy (this is coming from a guy whose introduction to metal was Unexpect). If you're open-minded and give this one time to sink in and pick out the details, I think it's a very rewarding experience. Certainly, there's no other band out there I'm aware of that even remotely sounds like Aicle did when they were in their prime. There's no doubt that be coming back to this album very often.

Rating: 95/100

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