Friday, December 18, 2015

Versailles - Jubilee -Method of Inheritance-

Versailles At Their Peak

It's been 3 years since Versailles went on hiatus. Despite Kamijo embarking on his solo project and Hizaki's gang forming Jupiter, fans still clamor for a reunion. Although I highly doubt Versailles will ever seriously reform as a band and make new music, there are no doubts in my mind about the high quality of the work they did when they were together. Not too long ago, I made a bold statement proclaiming that Jupiter had topped Versailles with their second album, The History of Genesis, but I'm really going to have to retract that. Not because I felt any sort of new dislike towards Jupiter, but simply because I managed to appreciate Versailles even more than I had before.

Despite being the band's debut on a major label, Jubilee follows in the footsteps of its beloved predecessor, Noble, in the onslaught of highly technical but catchy, high-speed power metal. Analogous to how the apprentice surpasses his master, Jubilee also shows significant refinement and improvement over its highly respectable predecessor, Noble. The follow up contains more intricate songwriting, better usage of harmony and counter melody, and more ambitious material overall. Jubilee actually opens up in an incredibly risky and bold way: with the album's longest epic. It's only natural to place these things at the end of albums for the grand finale, but for whatever reason, the band decided to put it right at the beginning. Being penned by Kamijo, God Palace is very similar in structure and style to the predecessor's opener, Aristocrat's Symphony. In the past, I haven't given God Palace the respect it truly deserves. It took a while for me to grasp the brilliance of the song, but now I can safely say it's probably the best thing Kamijo ever wrote. It's a bombastic, daring composition. Hell, it's even a tad on the progressive side. The song structure is long and complex. The instrumental work is dynamic and engaging. And there's even some time signature changes thrown in here. I don't know why it took me so long to warm up to God Palace, but now it's one of my favorites on this album.

And continuing on with a one-two punch, the next song Hizaki, Ascendead Master, is another one of the highlights on Jubilee. This short, catchy tune was already released beforehand as a single, and it fits just like a charm on the album. I'll be straight; this is easily one of Versailles best songs and demonstrates all of the praise I've been flinging at the album perfectly. Structurally speaking, the song is just the standard verse-chorus, but within it the band intelligently utilizes the tricks to great songwriting. My personal favorite section in the entire song is right at the first verse. Hizaki and Teru play this amazing dual lead with Jasmine You (RIP) harmonizing with an equally amazing counter melody. Kamijo is, of course, singing the verse on top of all this madness, but it all fits perfectly together both melodically and harmonically. That short little section right there is just brilliant composing. It's never actually repeated, but the rest of the song also has excellent riffs, melodies and usage of rhythmic variation to keep you engaged. I'll concede that Teru's solo rips off of Bach (I think it's Bach anyway), but I don't really care much because the whole song is just too awesome.

And although I spent a whole paragraph telling you how great one particular song was, the songwriting I described really applies to the whole album. There's just too many moments of amazing songwriting for me to not drown this album in the praise it rightfully deserves. There's this incredible attention to detail in the songwriting that very few other bands match. Kamijo will sing a great vocal line for a bit and then Hizaki and Teru will accentuate with a melody on the guitar line to bring more impact. While the guitars blaze away on a solo/lead section, you'll also find counter melody in the bass that foils the lead incredibly well. Yuki himself is also deserving of praise; his unique approach to the kit brings incredible variety and interesting patterns to the rhythm. I still stand by Zin being a better vocalist than Kamijo but do not deny his smooth, charismatic voice. Indeed, Kamijo brings his own talents to the table in Versailles, and I can understand why he has undying, loyal legions of fangirl thralls. In contrast to the flashy neoclassical-inspired instrumentalists, Kamijo's vocal delivery is comparatively restrained and low key but incredibly pleasing and charismatic. Throughout the whole album, you get this incredible sense of cohesion and chemistry among all the band members.

Stylistically, Versailles does mostly play in their own, unique style of power metal with tons of neoclassical soloing and some symphonic stuff to give the bombastic feel when appropriate. But there is plenty of variation to be found here. In particular, Amorphous is a beautiful half-ballad that makes excellent use of acoustic guitars, bass and has a heartfelt chorus and solo. Reminiscence is a cute and fluffy neoclassical-styled solo instrumental by Teru that has him playing variations over the main melody. Versailles is also capable of pulling off heavier moments. Princess and 月下香 feature some of the heaviest riffs on the album while keeping all of the elements that make Versailles great. The closing ballad, Serenade, is actually dedicated to Bassist Jasmine You who, as you might have guessed, tragically died during the recording of the album. In all honesty, it's probably one of the weaker tracks on the album (ballads are always iffy for me). But it's pretty heartfelt, well-done with the obligatory basslines and serves as an appropriate closer.

I may pick on obsessive fangirls a bit, but Versailles was genuinely something special. The flamboyant visual kei image may turn off some observers, but make no mistake: these guys are deadly serious about their music. The whole album clocks in at a whopping 1 hour and 5 minutes, but the time genuinely flies by due to the incredible songwriting. As said before, there is just an amazing amount of nuance to be found throughout the whole album. The music is full of great melodies while utilizing excellent harmony and rhythmic variation. While the album really isn't outwardly progressive, there is even some odd time signatures here and there in both God Palace and Princess. Although Noble is excellent and the album that rocketed them to fame, Jubilee is really the Versailles album I go back to the most. It's always such a treat to listen to.

Rating: 97/100

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