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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

D'espairs Ray


Review by Rick Damigella

Being a long time fan of Japanese rock music, I was recently in attendance at the JRock Revolution festival in Los Angeles where I was introduced to the band D’espairsRay. While my favorite bands from the Land of the Rising Sun include Loudness, Shonen Knife and guitarist extraordinaire Tomoyasu Hotei, I have to say D’espairsRay have won me over as a fan of their unique metal style.

After being nearly crushed by the very enthusiastic audience after the show, I managed to make my way up to the lone souvenir booth and couldn’t quite decide which disc of which artist I would pick up. A very helpful young lady with shockingly colored and styled hair right out of a manga suggested Coll:set1 from D’espairsRay. To that unnamed girl who was so helpful that night in the midst of a crushing throng of fans, a sincere domo arigato for turning me on to this disc.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at

Track by Track Review
The album opens with traditional Asian percussion and stringed instruments in a trance-like way that could lull the uninitiated into thinking this isn’t a rock album. That changes when the guitars join in after a minute and the song takes off in a 21st century metal assault twenty seconds later. Singer Hizumi has a range that goes from smooth deep baritone notes to growly screams that remind one of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington.
The next number makes no pretenses and is rocking at full speed from the get go. The guitar lines are so refreshing to hear after years of next-gen sludgy American guitarists. The influences of early Metallica are evident. Hizumi belts out his vocals with strength and Tsukasa beats his drums into submission with inspired fills and odd signatures.
in vain
What is most refreshing about this band is not every song ends up sounding the same like many newer bands tend to these days. Light harmonic strings intro this number with an electronic percussion line following. The crunch of the guitar chords and distorted keyboards remind one of Nine Inch Nails. Hizumi is much more on the screamy side of things vocally, but doesn’t succumb to Cookie Monster vocal syndrome. Even when he does go guttural, he is still melodic and listenable.
What you will find in listening to this album is how well Karyu wields his axe. While there are nu-metal influences there to be sure, he manages to create all together unique phrasings in his chord progressions that are challenging to the ear to place them against any of his contemporaries.
Tsuki no Kioku - Fallen
Sorry gang, I’m merely a musical Nipponophile and am not graced with the ability to speak or read the Japanese language, so forgive me on some of the upcoming song titles as they are printed on the liner notes in Kanji and I can only go by the fan sites I have seen to know if the titles are accurate. The much quieter opening to this song is a refreshing change of pace from the previous one’s pounding lines. Indeed this is almost in a pop-oriented mode, with shimmering keys behind a much less dropped-D tuned guitar and vocals from Hizumi that are sung with passionate conviction. There is really no point in trying to tie this to an artist or song you have heard of as it feels completely original in its style.
If you have read the Sprawl Trilogy of novels by William Gibson then this song should feel right at home in your mind as something you might hear inside one of the underground clubs of Gibson’s dystopian future. If one were to apply a blind usage of the term “cyberpunk” to music this would fall squarely in that realm. Huge energy, unique, alien sounding yet familiar enough you will bang your head right along.
Abel To Cain
In keeping with the cyberpunk theme, this next number thumps through your head phones with groove-metal inspired guitar runs and plenty of synth fills. Bassist Zero keeps things tight and futuristically funked up as Hizumi sings in a slightly higher range throughout.
Fuyuu Shita Risou
I really should try to learn Japanese so I know what these song titles mean. Here the sound is decidedly thrashy, yet filled with melody thanks to the liberal usage of synths. I have always been a fan of metal guitar and synth playing off each other and this number is a great example of how effective that can be.
More excellent blending of metal and synth lines launch this next number which rocks out with a fast tempo grind and sung-through-a-tube effected vocals. As you listen to this album you will find yourself not caring that you can’t understand the lyrics as you rock right along with the band. This song wouldn’t feel out of place in a Japanese video game or anime film filled with impossibly big-haired heroes and seductive female aliens.
Hai to Ame
The melody of this next one is quite beautiful as played on a piano beneath the competing bass/guitar/drum/synth wail. What makes this album quite listenable are Hizumi’s vocals. Even if you can’t understand him, his mix of styles and delivery keep each song fresh in the listener’s ear. When he does go screamo it is for a reason and is never the full length of the song. This is just blind conjecture but the sound of this reminds me of a song of unrequited love as the protagonist pines for the girl who has shunned/left/rejected him. Or it could be about giant space monsters.
Tainted World
Really crunchy guitars kick things off in fine form and as the vocals come in, it becomes a drum, bass and synth affair. Karyu carves out some melodic high string action in the background as the rest of the band propels through the number.
The World In A Cage
Well, here is a sudden left turn on style. Ambient sounds, bells and deep, guttural synths warp together creating a decidedly dark and moody tone. Whispered vocals deep in the mix bubble up like slowly flowing lava. There are no guitars here.
Marry of the Blood (Bloody Minded Mix)
Ah yes, nothing like a remix of a metal song to conjure up images of dystopian cyberpunk futures. This slower paced song tramples through multiple layers of sound that should please fans of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson.
Born (White Stream Mix)
Similar in feel to the previous number, this one starts off with twisting layers of programmed synths and ghostly voices before the original song begins to show through the techno-industrial metal mix.
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