Hai Fidelity D'espairsRay: Mirror
by Rachael Carothers, Jul 15th 2008
Click below for a clip of the song "Hollow"
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Despite being completely unrelated to the anime world, Japanese rock band D'espairsRay blew onto the United States anime convention scene in 2006, appearing at both AnimeNEXT in New Jersey and MegaCon in Florida. In 2007, the quartet performed at the JRock Revolution Festival in Los Angeles. However, it wasn't until 2008 that the band had the opportunity to perform for the rest of the U.S. with the Rockstar Taste of Chaos tour. This was also the year that their latest album, Mirror, debuted on American shores.
The first thirty seconds of the first track, “Damned,” sounds a lot like a band warming up for a concert. Once we hit the forty-five second mark though, all of the instruments start to come together but it doesn't really click until a full minute into the song. Luckily, the rest of the song is fully worth the wait. Between the hard-hitting instrumentals and the death-themed vocals, D'espairsRay is here to prove that true rock hasn't given way to pop.
This rock tempo keeps going in “TRICKSTeR.” A hard guitar line and growling vocals rule this track. It is a little rougher most songs that fall under the rock classification. However, that rough sound is what makes it different and interesting. After all, the lyrics themselves have fairly standard rock themes. It's how those lyrics are conveyed to us that makes the song good.
Picking up the pace slightly, the album's title track, “MIRROR” roars into existence. With heavy drums leading the way, parts of this song almost border on becoming death metal. Then the vocals turn their back on the harsher sound, showing the range of lead singer Hizumi. While I'm not usually a huge fan of death metal, I do like the transition between the two sounds here.
“SIXty∞NINe” may have slower parts but it is definitely not a slow song. It actually falls in between rock and pop. The instrumentals are still rocking away and there are still the almost-death metal growls in there. Yet the verses are quite catchy. They are really catchier than they should be - especially for a song with such dark lyrics.
Doing a complete change, “Kogoeru Yoru Ni Saita Hana” (“The Flower That Bloomed In The Frozen Night”) has the roots of a rock band but with a pop overlay. The drums don't stop for a minute, the bass thrums away deeply and the guitar brings it all together. Meanwhile there is a pop sound to the vocals. Those growls have disappeared completely. It almost makes Hizumi sound like Hyde from L'arc~en~Ciel.
While the tempo slows down a little on “SCREEN,” it is not slow enough to be classified as a ballad. I have the feeling that this is as close to a ballad as this band gets and that is OK. Not every band needs to have a song that will be played at a ninth grade dance. The song begins with a very soft sound in both the vocals and the instruments. Then the chorus blasts in, changing everything. That soft sound turns into something slightly harder highlighting the pain in the lyrics.
We get tossed right back into the rock ring with “Lost Scene.” Overall, the song gives off a strange feeling. Somehow, the bass and the lead guitar manage to mix together during the verses to give us the perception of vertigo, which makes a lot of sense considering the song is about waking from a terrible nightmare. Of course you would be freaked and a little bit out of it.
As we head toward the end of the album, “Hollow” gives us a perfect mix of the pop sound we heard earlier and the pseudo-death metal from the beginning of the album. None of the instruments hold anything back and the lead vocal gets angry in the chorus. However, that same angry chorus is offset by a happy ‘Lalalala’ starting it off. All of the pop sounds have a growling response and the result is just amazing.
“Closer to ideal” takes the sound from “Hollow” to the next level. The bored sounding slightly-pop overlays are almost eaten by the pounding drums and the harsh vocals. Luckily, these overlays only happen in the chorus so they are more like tiny treats instead of something being forced down your throat. It's a decent enough song but “Hollow” was much better.
As should be expected, “Angeldust” goes to the next step and completely skips the pop overlays. Fully back into the dark lyrics and hard-hitting sounds, this is the type of song that you'd listen to when you just want to get out some anger. There's even a couple of tiny parts that slow down enough for you to catch your breath before it ramps back up again. It even ends on the perfect ‘I got it all out now’ note.
Much like “SCREEN,” “ Squall” is a slightly slower song. The lyrics in the beginning are very sad, which you can hear in the vocals, but then it gets kind of hopeful at the end. This is quite possibly the best song on the album. After all, how many times can you really listen to the loud pounding songs before you get a mega-headache? It's these in-between tunes that shows how the band can really shine when they want to.
The final track is titled “Kaleidoscope,” another wonderfully un-slow rock song. While the song is filled with many different sounds and feelings, it's a fairly unremarkable song. It's almost like they were trying to get the song to feel the way a kaleidoscope looks but that is extremely difficult to pull off. As a result, everything ends up sort of mushed together without any one thing standing out.
As a whole, this isn't a terrible album. There are some really awesome songs but they get lost in the midst of the harshness of the rest of the songs. It feels like this is what L'arc~en~Ciel would sound like if they chose to go hard-rock instead of pop-rock. Perhaps if D'espairsRay lightened up a bit, something amazing could come together. The ability is there but are they willing to change their sound slightly?
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