abingdon boys school
by Rachael Carothers,
Almost a full year after the announcement of their official debut, abingdon boys school finally released their first full-length album. The band, fronted by Takanori Nishikawa (better known as T.M. Revolution), had released three singles and performed at Makuhari Messe in Tokyo for Live Earth in between the September 3, 2006 announcement and the October 17, 2007 release. While their first two singles were used as the theme songs for the D.Gray-Man and Darker Than BLACK anime series, the third and a recently released fourth single were featured in the PlayStation 3 games FolksSoul and Devil Kings.
This self-titled album starts off with a bang. “As One,” a beautiful rock love song, is the first of three songs with completely English lyrics. Somehow the strong bass line manages to perfectly mix with the guitar and Nishikawa's powerful vocals. The drums are still very evident here but they back off just enough to keep the beat while allowing the bass to handle the deeper sounds.
As the opening theme song for a series titled Darker Than BLACK, “HOWLING –Inch Up-“ seems to completely fit the mystical tone of the show. Beginning with a female voice talking about a lost soul, the bass and the drums take off to give the song a slightly gothic feeling. Despite the fairly depressing lyrics, the vocals still manage to leave you with a shred of hope. A singer with less talent would have an extremely difficult time pulling this song off without sounding like they are trying too hard.
A piano is added to make “Via Dolorosa” sound a bit more desperate than the other songs on the album. However, by the time you reach the chorus, the piano ends up lost in the heavy guitar line. The song still comes out on the epic side but only because you can just barely hear the piano under the rest of the instruments. There are a few parts where the piano gets to shine, though those seem more like a break in the middle of the craziness.
The first opening song for D.Gray-Man, “INNOCENT SORROW,” comes up next. With another hard rocking song, you really start to wonder if these guys ever slow down. Even though the lyrics are, once again, depressing, the music still gives it a rather upbeat feeling. Combine that with the catchy lyrics and the album scratches, you have the perfect anime theme song.
“DOWN TO YOU” is a mostly English song but not completely. For some reason, when he was writing the lyrics, Nishikawa decided to put in a total of eight Japanese lines. At this point in the album, all of the songs are starting to sound the same. “DOWN” has a bit more keyboard than the other songs, which differentiates it a bit but not nearly enough.
Finally! A song that sounds almost entirely different from every other track on the album! “Athena” relies a lot more on the drum set, especially the hi-hat. Sadly, they have also added in some strings, which transforms the song into a rock version of The Love Boat theme. However, this doesn't actually detract from the pleasantly pop sound we are left with.
Heading into the second fully English language track, “stay away” sounds like it wants to be the theme to a James Bond movie. The electric guitar is what stands out here and it gives the song a dangerous feel. You can almost envision a sort of sexy spy opening to go along with the verses while the “Hey you, stay away!” part of the chorus would go perfectly with the Bond girl of the minute.
“Nephilim,” the opening theme for the PlayStation 3 FolksSoul video game, is exactly what this disc needed. The verses are dominated by Nishikawa's vocals while the chorus is still rocking. As a result, the song ends up with a laid back feeling but it's not boring. After all, everyone needs a little bit of rest after all this rock.
MICRO, an MC from Home Made Kazoku, joins the group for “Lost Reason.” Mixing rock and hip-hop, this is another track that not only stands out but is also mostly in English. If this track was sold as a single in the United States, it's doubtful that anyone would realize that this is a Japanese song without looking at the credits. It's quite likely that “Lost Reason” could get some radio play in the US if the band really wanted to break into the market here.
As the last song on the disc with lyrics written by Nishikawa, “Desire” has some rather uninspired rhymes. The chorus matches “desire” with “fire,” “liar,” “inspire” and “wire” with a “higher” tossed in for good measure. Meanwhile the verses are very circular, meaning that it's a lot of “goin’ round and round and round and round” then “goin’ down and down and down and down.” After all that, the song is downright boring.
A cover of Buck-Tick's “Dress” finishes the lyrical part of the album. Where the original version of the song was very vocal heavy, a.b.s. turned that around and made it focus a bit more on the background music. Instead of the darker sound, this new version sounds a lot happier. I'm sure that a lot of Buck-Tick fans aren't happy with the new song.
The album ends with the instrumental “ReBirth + ReVerse.” ReBirth is a very soothing, piano-focused piece that you could probably use in one of those white noise machines to replace Sounds of the Rainforest. After a small break, the track switches over to ReVerse. This mixes a simple techno beat with the piano, which is completely different from any other song on the album. That alone makes this my favorite track.
Individually, these songs aren't bad. They are actually quite enjoyable. However, when you lump them all together into an album, it is extremely repetitious. It would be nice if they would mix it up a little bit more. These are professional musicians. They have to know more than we are shown here. Throw in a ballad or two. Anything to give us a break from the constant heavy sound.
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