At track three, “dot“, Sukekiyo decides to show us just how weird this mini-album is going to get.
Much like Dir en Grey and the first Sukekiyo album, Vitium had to grow on me. There is always an uncomfortable quality to both band’s albums. However, once you push through that uneasy feeling, you find yourself sinking into lush and complex song writing and vocals. Vitium, the first mini-album from the experimental rock supergroup, is no different. Coming only a mere ten months after their debut, Vitium shows us that Sukekiyo are starting to find their stance but have still a ways to go.
Beginning with one of their more heavy songs, “leather field“, a strong percussion starts before lead singer Kyo (京) bursts in and takes the listener through all his talents. The first two tracks Kyo bounces from high screeches, to low growls, unsettling gurgles, and gorgeous clean vocals.
Sukekiyo needs to decide, is this all about Kyo, or is this a single, cohesive unit.
At track three, “dot“, Sukekiyo decides to show us just how weird this mini-album is going to get. At just over a minute in length, this interlude layers calming atmospheric sounds and keyboards over distorted anguished cries of children. The piece is mood-setting and it tells the listener that this is not pleasant music.
For the remainder of the album, Sukekiyo has moments of brilliance. However, much of the album feels like the band it playing tug-of-war between Kyo’s powerful vocals and the instruments of each talented musician. Sukekiyo needs to decide, is this all about Kyo, or is this a single, cohesive band. Right now, they are competing for attention. Guitarists Takumi (匠) and Uta lay down gorgeous melodies, such as the almost 80’s rock inspired entrance on “foster mother” and the Spanish inspired guitar on tracks “focus” and “celeste“. I have to admit a slight bias towards bassist Yuchi as the bass is strong on all tracks, even as Yuchi switches from an traditional electric bass to an electric upright. Drummer, Mika, finally gets to show off more of his talent than he did in Immortalis, showing he is just as strong as the remainder of the band.
“Focus” is by far the album’s strongest track, with Takumi’s guitar work the highlight of the song and Kyo’s vocals feeling the most mature and a departure from his style in Dir en Grey.
This album is distinctly less commercial than their debut. There is only one clear single on the album in “focus“, however, a music video for “ameagari no yuushi” was also released but the latter song lacks the listenability necessary of a single. “Focus” is by far the album’s strongest track, with Takumi’s guitar work the highlight of the song and Kyo’s vocals feeling the most mature and a departure from his style in Dir en Grey. In the future, I don’t see Sukekiyo as a commercial band. This is a group of talented musicians that are making the music they want, no matter how dark and weird it may get.
While this effort is an improvement over Immortalis, my main complaint with Vitium is that the album still does not feel cohesive. Listening to Immortalis, one track felt like a Dir en Grey song, another could be a lost 9Goats Black Out song and yet another a Rentrer en Soi track, with a few songs making a clear Sukekiyo statement. This inconsistency doesn’t happen as often on Vitium, with the exception of the first two songs on the album. “Leather field” and “dunes” feel out of place, either in order or if they belong on this album at all. Both tracks have a strong Dir en Grey quality to them.
It feels as if the album’s true start is on track three, “dot“, with each following track showing a distinctive Sukekiyo feel, whether each song is strong or not. However, there is a problem with flow on this album. Transitions between songs can be jarring, with the effect not feeling intentional. I hope with corresponding efforts from this supergroup they will be able to come closer together as a band. I believe a result of that would be tight, effortless music. There are a few decisions on the band’s direction that they well need to make. However, this is one of the best newer bands I’ve found in the last few years. Any criticism is a show to their strength, not their weaknesses, as most newer bands offerings are not this strong. There is not a poor track on Vitium, it is the distinction between “good” and “excellent.” This is a band of high pedigree, so expectations are also high. A highly recommended album for listeners looking for complex and dark music. (8.5/10)
One thing I enjoy about the Japanese music industry is the trend of including bonus material on a Deluxe edition of an album. Some bands have better bonus material than others, with Sukekiyo’s always being enjoyable.
Mikami’s voice has a distinctive and deep tone that brilliantly juxtapositions Kyo’s voice.
This time the bonus is two collaborations and two remixes. The collaboration between Kyo and Hiroshi Mikami on “focus” is the highlight. Mikami’s voice has a distinctive and deep tone that brilliantly juxtapositions Kyo’s higher register voice. The remaining remixes are originally from Immortalis, “Elisabeth Addict” and “latour“. Following in similar fashion to the bonus tracks on Immortalis, these remixes, by Renholder and Wes Borland respectively, are of the fairly routine and electronic focused type. Interesting to listen to but nothing special. (7/10)
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