Monday, 24 November 2014

Review: The Black Swan - The Hopeless

About the BandThe Black Swan, founded by ex-NEGA frontman, Jin, officially started activities in March of 2014.  He is joined by guitarists Itsuki and Makoto, bassist Rena and drummer Len.  Their homepage describes them as a group that "...are sure to cause a sensation even in the scene where the true meaning of Visual Kei is dead."  With a dark look and violent sound that sets them apart from the crowd, I can't say they're wrong.  Released October 15, The Hopeless is their first single.

The Packaging:  The single came in two versions, "Cho" and "Shi."  I will be reviewing the "Shi" version, which came with a DVD containing the PV for The Hopeless.  The cover art is a blurry, double exposed goblet spattered with a dark liquid.  Inside the booklet is the lyrics for both tracks as well as a couple of pages of vertically-written prose.  Unfortunately, I can't read well enough to even give an idea of what it's about (if anyone can direct me to a translation, I will be eternally grateful), but it appears to be a story or diary of some kind.  The discs themselves are very minimalistic white with a pixalated version of the cover art and the titles in red block letters.

The Tracks:  I'm a big fan of Jin from his NEGA days and I told myself to come at this release with a clean ear and try not to compare it to his previous band, but I found it impossible.  This single sounds so much like a NEGA release, I had to keep making sure I hadn't fallen into the wrong playlist.  That is absolutely not a bad thing, but if you don't like NEGA, you won't like this.  Plain and simple.  But, if you do....

M1:  The Hopeless

This track is all about the 'loud-soft-loud.'  We start off with heavy riffs and a wild scream from Jin that immediately drops to make way for a light and active guitar line that sets the melodic theme for the track.  We are later joined by an organ, the sounds layering one upon the other only to drop out completely and leaving us with only a machine-gun blast of drums to fill the gaps.  Jin's dark, syrupy voice slips through the low points and punches through the highs, pushing us inch by inch toward a riotous climax where even the silences are loud.  The time drops somewhere in the middle, leading us into a grinding bridge that picks back up with a vengeance, the whole song finishing off abruptly like falling off a cliff.

M2:  Hate Yourself Until You Die

The second track picks up where the last left off, hardly giving you a chance to breathe before dragging you back into the fray.  They toy with time signatures again, giving the whole song a sort of lurching feel as we jump from a sprint to a slow crawl and back again.  The drums are the real star of this song, keeping a relentless pace that at times can leave you breathless.  As the title suggests, the whole thing is loaded with anger, Jin's screams and growls cutting to the bone.

The Hopeless is a high-powered, high-energy single that gives us a taste of what The Black Swan has to offer.  Complex compositions coupled with a heavy, dark sound make this a definite must for all you metal heads.  NEGA fans will rejoice at it's familiarity as well as discover something new as the group takes Jin's signature sound to new heights.  They already sound like they've been playing together for a decade and I can't wait to see how they develop from here.