Thursday, May 31, 2012

Album Review: SADS - The Rose God Gave Me

Since we had an artist spotlight on the punk band The Stalin this week, courtesy of R.Y.O, I thought I'd do a review of one of my absolute favorite albums today. Though Sads are technically classified as visual kei, and Kiyoharu is one of the pioneers of the now-iconic 90s Nagoya-kei sound, most people who have heard this album thought it was pure punk from around 1985... Mind, these were some of the vets of the punk scene, not a musically oblivious 8th grader. The Rose God Gave Me is an artistic triumph, and brilliantly put together. From the CD cover to each page, to the themes of the tracks, Sads aim to tell a story with each album, but still to leave you wondering, what story was it that you heard.

 1. Hello - A strong start of the album, and an introduction. Strong, grating guitar riffs drag you into the music, kicking and screaming. "Hello, Loser's Brand New Day", Kiyoharu moans into your ear, and you are off for a wild ride. This is the beginning of the journey towards the elusive rose. The song travels between an ethereal dreaminess and the harsh shredding, but the two extremes aren't so far apart that it sounds disjointed - instead, it is harmonious.
2. Hate - "I wanna suicide, I wanna suicide, I want an easy suicide"... thus begins the second song of the album. Hello was about greeting freedom and the last day... well, we can only guess what the story is. A strong beat, and we're heading further down the rabbit's hole. This is punk at its headbanging, moshing finest. 

3. See A Pink Thin Cellophane - A loud, high note echoes through, waking us up and shocking us, before breaking down into a heavy rhythm. The two then blend together, before becoming silent to give room for Kiyoharu's orgasms singing. In between, when he is silent, come awesome, complicated guitar parts. Suddenly, after the 2nd verse, we fall into a psychedelic, hide-esque trance state, as if we've just been dunked into a puddle of LSD face-first. The contrast between this break and the harshness of the rest of the song is stark and shocking. Perhaps, it is meant to display the contrast between the harshness of everyday life and the calm one gains from one's chosen drug?

4. Third Eyes Trial - Heavy bass line in this one. "It's a violent night / What a violent night! / I hate the heaven / I only believe in me", croons Kiyoharu in his sweetly-twisted way. Though it sounds tame compared to the first three songs, the anger lurks behind the softness of the tone. The chorus comes in a powerful, echoing way, before being replaced by the evil softness once more. "I want an upset heaven.../Go ahead? I can have it" is the lines that always struck me in the whole song. There is anger and hate in this song, but directed at whom? Society? Well-meaning Meddling Individuals? God himself? Who knows? Kiyoharu, probably, but he ain't speaking.

5. Nancy - Funky funky bass line on this one, and we're back firmly in bang-your-head and mosh til you die territory. Kiyoharu's screams tear through, paired with equally rough guitars, layered over a kickin bass, and nice beat. Theme-wise, this song seems to be about meeting a girl - one wonders if Kiyoharu didn't borrow the name Nancy from the classic fools Sid and Nancy of the Sex Pistols. I've heard it's a very romantic story. The song closes with screams that I would describe as orgasmic, but painfully raw also works. 

6. Porno Star - Glamorous and stunning, sparkling and decadent, the whine of the guitar wraps around the hard pounding of the bass and drum, before making way for Kiyoharu's hissing softness. It's a very erotic, explicit song. The dirty whispers give way to the clear, powerful screams of the chorus. Listening to this song is like being dragged into a glittering sensuality, before being assaulted by the power of the guitar solo and Kiyoharu's screams. Oh god, the guitar solo. The corresponding page in the CD booklet doesn't fail to disappoint either - Kiyoharu is there, staring down at us, with the ubiquitous half-smoked cigarette in his hand. Actually, excuse me, I now need a cigarette.

7. Metal Fur - Woah, heavy heavy heavy beginning on this one, folks - hold on to your knickers. It then gives way to muted shredding, and Kiyoharu screaming. The first two lines out of the way, guitars then vie for attention with the screams, before giving way to the singer again. "The clock showed it was just 4:44am on Black Friday / If I will die, I want the highest dead line" ... well, I'm not sure if Kiyoharu knows if Black Friday is the day people go shopping in America (although getting trampled at the entrance of the store just before 4am sounds likely) but I always liked that line. We are then taken into the ethereal dreamy music that drifts through, with the screams replaced by the graceful moans, shocking and sensual. Kiyoharu is a very versatile singer, despite having a very distinct sound. Beware though! When the echoes of the solo die down... the song ain't over at all! Instead we get kicked back into the chorus one more time, in a shocking move that never fails to startle me - mind you, I must have heard this album a thousand times! The song then goes into the sensual drifting one more time, before ending with one more heavy solo.

8. Cry Out - This song transitions very smoothly from the previous song, but the moment Kiyoharu's singing comes, it's clear this is a hide tribute. Echoing chords drift around, contrasted by the occasional growling outburst of guitar. The extremes are shown off repeatedly, but not in a way that is TOO disjointed. The chorus is simple and catchy. After the first chorus, Kiyoharu heads into almost rapping, and then, with a scream, we hear a bridge that came straight from hide's solo debut track, Eyes Love You. One more verse, and a new, original guitar solo comes through, before going into the chorus. Kiyoharu then shows off his operatic ability, with soul-wrenching cries of pain. 

9. The Life Beyond Desperation - Dark and decadent, layers of guitar riffs echo through our ears. "What do I wanna do on my last day?" Kiyoharu hisses, through a heavy filter. "I wanna be bare naked and wear gorgeous lipstick..." The second verse continues in the same line for the first two lines, before the filter coming off, and the clearness of Kiyoharu's screams hitting the listener's face at 300mph. A high-pitched, distorted solo comes next, grinding and droning, before Kiyoharu begins singing again. He holds each note with pain and grace, despite the roughness. "What do I wanna do on my last day? / I wanna be bare naked and wear gorgeous roses" he hisses one more time through the heavy filters, carrying the theme of roses through, even here. The song fades out with the thrumming of the bass.

10. Spider - "Do you wanna have fun with me? I'm an evil spider," a woman says, before the pounding beat and rhythm wash over the listener. You immediately want to jump up and dance once more, as the song feels more upbeat and classic punk than the last three tracks. A break comes between the verses and the distorted roar of guitars, with the drone of a dark, clear riff. This is pure, classic punk, but with the graceful twist that Sads brings to its music. 

11. Rosario to Bara - A fairly simple riff drifts through the song, dark and lovely and slightly distorted, as Kiyoharu shows off his soft way of singing. The softness and tenderness of the main verses is contrasted by the rough screaming and distorted chords of the chorus. A whining, grinding solo rapes the mind of the listener, before suddenly transferring into another tender verse. The song then goes back to the rough chorus once more. "Yeah, yeah, Don't Run Away", the chorus goes, in stark contrast of Third Eyes Trial.
12. Darkness Is My Spiral Mind - Even the memory of this song is enough to raise the hairs on my body. An echoing whirlpool of dark and madness, it twists and turns, dragging you deeper, deeper into the tenebrious whirlpool. If there was a song that could be the hole Alice fell through... this is the song that you hear as you fall into the depths of hell. Three separate vocal tracks can be heard in the recording - the whole thing is a complex masterpiece. Between the sensual whispers, and the clear spoken words, and the crooning that tears apart the soul, lie heavy chorus parts, where the rough screams come together with the edgy, jagged stabbing of the shredding guitar, before the smooth, twisting riffs take you into the depths of madness once more. You will feel your eyes become blurrier, and as the second verse of the song comes, the carelessly cruel voice contrasting with the clear, pained, melodic notes... you forget what you were doing. You are listening to madness, the madness within the mind that spins and twists out of control. And then, too soon, it's over, and you find yourself wishing it wasn't... you just want more, more, more of that addicting, lovely darkness.
13. Because - Naturally, the final song is the 13th one, and, in the true Sads spirit, it is a high-spirited punk anthem, one that contrasts the thoughtful, enchanting nature of the previous song, shocking the listener out of their trance. "Because, I was, reborn / Because, I trust my rose" Kiyoharu snarls into the storm of chords, the journey of the album coming to an end. The last line of the song is, "I trust my rose... THE ROSE GOD GAVE ME".
This brings the album to an end, with the beginning coming to an end, and the themes coming around each other. I think, I have heard this album about a thousand times - sadly, a CD player can't tell you how many times you've listened to an album. That seems to be my main problem - most my favorites are on CD, and CD players can't be tied to (yet). With that said, I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing this album. It is a masterpiece, and one of my top favorites... I could listen to it twice, three times in one day, if no one stopped me. A decadent and glamorous album, and perfect listening for those days when everything falls apart.

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