Review Summary: The band finally creates their own magnum opus, a beautiful piece of human emotion through pulsating rhythms and heavy synths/guitars that will hardly ever be heard by the Western part of the world.
The release of “Exposed” back in 2007 signalled another evolution for Japanese-Rock Band “Boom Boom Satellites”, to a more mainstream and radio-friendly Pop/Rock approach compared to their earlier D'n'B/Jazz Fusion albums. BBS always had massive potential and hype around them to create something special, but always come so close but yet so far. With almost a three year gap between “Exposed” and “To The Loveless”, how much did BBS change in this timeframe? Well, they have progressed even further from “Exposed”, to the point where “To The Loveless” is actually in a different ‘league’, BBS have finally created an album that illustrates faultlessly what they are: colourful, frantic and matchless.
“To The Loveless” is the definition of epic. Clocking at over seventy minutes long, the album never loses its momentum; it is loud, fearless and demands attention all the time. “Back on My Feet”, “Drain” and “The Harder They Come…” are prime examples of how hard hitting their sound is. BBS have always utilised drums and synths into their pulsing and intense atmosphere and these songs solidify this statement; the menacing use of simplistic but powerful riffs, synchronised with each crash cymbal on “Drain”, draws you into the rhythm until it rips you apart as it enters into a lunatic’s fury during the verses, it is simply breathtaking and you can’t help but get lost in the mayhem. “Undertaker” is another highlight of the album, signifying a groovier side of BBS and is also a hint to their earlier work; where vocals are spoken in the verses, where here the lyrics are at its most strongest (Watching's not fun, till someone screams like a banshee/I think I'm gonna be a prisoner of my own devices)
, but the chorus detonates into an anthemic surge where Kawashima shouts out ‘I’m on my way!’
under the extreme texture of the strings and deep synths in the background, only to add more emotion when a woman’s fragile voice overlaps and whispers the same line, it is rather heartbreaking when the music dies down with the delicateness.
This aspect reinforces also that To The Loveless plays with your emotions too. It sends you on a roller-coaster ride, where at one point your bursting with energy, then the next, you feel like you are looked down by every living soul, but there is always a way through the haze. Songs like “Vapour” to “Stay” are the pinnacle of this, where Vapour hypnotises you in its lullaby-laden piano and then crashes the dream with booming drum fills that distort the picture in the chorus, with glitchy feedback guitars reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails. But “Stay”, even though only an interlude away (which is “Spellbound”, a delicate spacey piano piece) from “Vapour”, is a complete contrast of scenery. It is dominated with beautiful strings and vocals that soar so high with emotion, shouting with desperation ‘So I start to walk alone/But I can't find a way/ I’ll Stay.’
Even though BBS lyrics are known to have not much substance, the emotion that Kawashima evokes within them make it come alive and feel human, and “Stay” is the perfect example of this.
“To The Loveless” can also be very atmospheric in a minimalistic approach, interludes like the self titled song, which again is very similar to “The Frail” from Nine Inch Nails in its climatic approach, keeps the album flowing in an efficient manner without killing the mood set. “Caught In the Sun” may be over ten minutes long, but the main body itself is five to six, where the song pulls you from a commanding anthem into a hypnotic array of synths until it loses itself into the crowds talking in the background for the remainder of the song. This may seem to be inappropriate on paper, but as a mood setter, it is actually flawless, as it feels like you are transferred into the masses, who are getting lost with the disposition. This is what makes “To The Loveless” so compelling and extraordinary. The album ends at a very strong point too, Hounds is another intense piece, which is more driven by a slithering guitar work that explodes into uncontrollable feedback riffing with vocals shouting, “Nothing ever goes the right way!”
It explodes right into your face unexpectedly until it burns out into some background movement of steps walking away from the set, leaving a intimidating presence and the hunger for more.
There are colossal amounts of positive points for this album. The vocals are perfect as it intertwines with the music effortlessly (all vocals are sung in English, and for a Japanese artist, impressive pronunciations), the drums and synths work spectacularly together to create the atmosphere that BBS wanted to portray in this album, there is plenty of confidence within the sound. The overall feel and emotion of the album is very human, which listeners can easily dive into the sound and be sonically driven away from their homeland. Even though the length of the album may be a bit overwhelming for some, and the lyrics can sometimes be cringe-worthy, these negatives seem to be brushed away in an instant due to the power of how incredible the album really is. To The Loveless can be divided like movements in a symphony, where “Back on My Feet” to “Undertaker” sees BBS explore their more explosive side, while “All In a Day” to “Spellbound” experiments more with emotions, and the remainder solidifies the theme of hope and recovery until Hounds shreds it apart right at the very end. The fact of the matter is you can play these sections separately, but playing the album all at once portrays an album that is so rare and distinctive in this current era of music, it is an album for the ages and a masterpiece that will mostly be overlooked immensely in the Western side of the world, which is a massive shame.
Recommended Tracks: 'Back On My Feet', 'Drain', 'The Harder They Come...', 'Undertaker', 'Vapour', 'Stay'.