Review Summary: An underrated band that goes beyond their classification of Hard Rock/Alt. Rock.
Acid Black Cherry is one of the best bands coming out of Japan today. Although they are a hard rock/alt. rock group, they usually extend the reaches of their genre label. Their first album, Black List, ranges from hard rock, alt. rock, jazz, pop, arena rock, etc. In terms of instrumentation, there is usually a lot going on in the songs. This is similar to what is commonly seen in The Mars Volta with the overabundance of instruments to the point where you have no idea what is going on. However, unlike Mars Volta, Acid Black Cherry grasps a more serious songwriting style rather than the wacky over-the top nature of the latter band. A great example of this would be song to start off this great album, Sins. Sins is the second longest song on the album at about six minutes starting off with some minor keyboard and piano duo. Many parts of the song have 2 guitars, bass, drums, a piano, strings, and a harpsi all escalating the powerhouse of a song; the chorus even has some barely audible trumpets due to all the other crap going on. However, this bunch of instruments works effectively, adding to emotion and power of the song rather than just becoming a convoluted mess.
The vocals are absolutely outstanding, the vocalist has a unique voice that is melodic and can hit all the notes, especially the high notes. His voice works surprisingly well with most of the heavy songs on the album despite being more suited towards the ballads on the album such as Aishitenai, Fuyu no Maboroshi, and Prologue End. Prologue End is the final song of the album and also the longest, being only five seconds longer than Sins. It is without a doubt the most emotional ballad on the album, resembling an 80's power ballad, which some great piano, strings work, and vocals. Unfortunately the ballads on Black List don't stick out very much compared to the rest off the songs and come off as a bit plain for these guys. The band's better ballads are on their next album which is equally worth checking out. Many of the vocals involve frequent use of sharp notes, which is one of the bands defining features.
The band's experimentation is well worth mentioning. Songs like Scar and Black Cherry show off the band's jazzy side while still keeping things hard rock. The first half of Black Cherry is entirely a jazz song with some nice swaying vocals that fit the song style really well. But as the second half approaches, the hard rock aspects are thrown in, still keeping the jazzy feeling and even throwing in some trumpets to add to the craziness; a definite highlight of the album. There are even some pop songs to be found which are just about completely devoid of any hard rock. These songs are Bit Stupid and Dragon Carnival, which contrast the majority of the songs of the album. However, this band manages to prove that they can even write some catchy pop songs. Bit Stupid is the poppier of the two which may come off as cheesy as sounds as if it were written for some Japanese sitcom, but the song rather catchy and little to no complaints about it. On the other hand, we have Dragon Carnival, which packs more of a punch than Bit Stupid. I swear the song sounds like it should be the theme song for some RPG, as the song title suggests. Rakuen has more of an Arena Rock feeling, due to the harmonized shouting and even has a bit of funk thrown in. Murder License is the heaviest song on the album. Its strange how a song can be so heavy yet so catchy; the song is so danceable despite sounding like a villain theme song. This is another great example of a song with too much going on at time, except for the chorus which quiets things down compared to the rest of the obnoxious song. The song is tied with Sins as my favorite song on the album.
Acid Black Cherry have created a masterful album with large amounts of variety, vocal prowess, and versatile instrumentation, making it one of my favorite albums. Despite some lackluster ballads and Spell Magic's repetitive riff, the band has set their place on the music world. Despite the fact that they sing in a language foreign to most on this site, I would doubt that it would affect the music listening experience. If you enjoyed this album, I highly suggest you listening to their following album Q.E.D. [well, that is, if anyone ever listens to this album].