Saturday, October 29, 2016

D - Tafel Anatomie

Take Two

Not too long before this album, the band would make its final lineup switch (Tsunehito on bass) and form its rock-solid base that persists today. The stability of D's lineup is pretty unusual for the industry, but the rapidity of their releases is not. D's second album is essentially the same stylistically as their previous material. As before, the band serves up their unique amalgamation of gothic rock, metal, and j-rock. There's the obligatory wandering bass lines, tricky drum rhythms, and flashy leads. And of course, Asagi's voice is splendid as usual.

And speaking of Asagi, I've got to point out how underrated this guy is. In fact, I probably didn't praise him enough in my review of their previous album. Now visual kei vocalists are often disparaged (in many cases for good reason), but Asagi is very far from a talentless hack. I'd even go as far as to say that he's become one of my favourite all time vocalists. His voice is instantly recognizable and highly unique. The man possesses a ridiculously large range and can go from a lower tenor up to falsettos. And as if that wasn't impressive enough, he can do a few tricks with some harsh vocals as well. I'm not sure how in the world a vocalist this talented ended up in visual kei, but I certainly won't complain.

Tafel Anatomie is essentially a continuation of the The Name of The Rose, but this is not at all a bad thing. The songs are all very catchy, there's plenty of flashy musicianship at play, and there's that welcome flavor of gothic-tinged borderline j-rock/metal. One slight difference from the debut album is that I feel this one is a bit more polished, and the different elements incorporated into D are mixed better. Phantom Pain is a rather humble number that mostly stays in the j-rock realm, but other tracks like 太陽を葬る日 show a significant amount of metal with some serious double bass and riffage.

The band is able to seamlessly blend the heavy moments with some J-rock oriented choruses to make a compelling product. A good example of this would be Leukocyte which starts of with a dark, brooding riff and some aggressive drumming. Then, the verse goes in a soft direction with some clean guitar and bass lines. And then the pre-chorus switches it up on you again with some gang shouts and more aggressive riffing. Finally, the song flows smoothly into a more catchy, slightly poppy chorus. The way D mixes together all of their various influences and elements into an awesome creation puts them in a class of their own.

Counterintuitively, D dropping their aggression actually isn't a bad thing at all. One major reason for this is because of the absolute monster behind the bass, Tsunehito. In Japan, it's pretty much mandatory that you don't have a crappy bassist, but Tsunehito is simply a cut above the rest. The guy is all over the place in the music and rarely follows the guitars. Although he doesn't do a technical freakout or anything (he is certainly capable of it though), this stuff isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world to play which makes him one of the biggest draws of the band for me. Even the more ballad-like numbers like Calling Me have him very active in the music often taking the lead.

Despite the strong gothic influence in D, guitarists Ruiza and Hide-Zou don't shy away from harmonizing with each other. In fact, there are even instances of some neoclassical-tinged solos and dual leads within the gothic backdrop. Those neoclassical vibes do contrast a bit, but the additional flair is quite welcome and adds to the experience. And while D never really goes full power metal, there's no doubt that their music sometimes shows some power metal elements in the riffs as well as the lead and solo department. It's just in a much darker context.

Perhaps due to Tafel Anatomie's slightly shorter run time or with the inclusion of Tsunehito in the band, I do find it a tad more compelling than The Name of the Rose. I think The Name of the Rose had some more standout songs (notably the hilariously long-titled song 闇より暗い慟哭のアカペラと薔薇より赤い情熱のアリア). However, Tafel Anatomie seems to gel together as a whole unit a bit better to me and also has some strong standouts of its own like the beautiful ballad, Glow in the sun, or the barn burner, 太陽を葬る日. Regardless, it's another great release from this highly talented group and after here they would branch out and develop their sound even more.

Rating: 90/100

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