Review Summary: hide may have died shortly before this release, but "Ja, Zoo" ended the legend's journey with one of his most diverse and important releases to date.
In 1998, tragedy hit Japan. Legendary visual kei artist (and ex-guitarist of X-Japan), hide, died from hanging himself in his apartment. While most rule out the death as a suicide, others argue it was an accident (hide was reportedly intoxicated that night). Whatever the case may be, before his death, hide was mastering one of his most impressive releases that even gives "Psyence" a run for its money. A few months after his death, his third (and final) studio album, "Ja, Zoo" was released to the public. His suicide gave the album a humongous push in sales and promotion, and raked in over a million copies. While the push may be impressive in itself, the actual sound of the CD is what is most remarkable, as it blends the poppy-alternative sound of "Psyence" with the heavy-throwback metal sound of "Hide Your Face", together making a sound that was unlike any Japanese rock album of its time.
The album opens up with "Spread Beaver", which is a rather bizarre track that blends electro-industrial elements, that makes a rather unique opening for the album. The heavy sound is toned down quite a bit when "Rocket Dive" comes on, which is one of the first tracks that fuses the sounds of "Psyence" and "Hide Your Face". The heavy, yet highly melodious and poppy, sound of the track alone makes it a standout track that is a rather addictive experience. The golden sounds are the main ingredient of the album, including high powered tracks like "Leather Face" and "Pink Spider" (the later being one of his most important contributions to the Japanese music scene). "Doubt 97" is yet another industrial-like song, that is not as good as the previous tracks, but is far from being an album sinker either. It is most likely due to the semi-repetitive nature of the song, yet the high power feel of the song fits rather well with the theme of the album.
The pop sound is restated on the track "Fish Scratch Fever", but still maintains quite a heavy bite. The pop/heavy sound of the track is a good introduction as well, as the pop side of the album takes over at full velocity with "Ever Free", which is a heavy/pop mixture, that was experimented heavily with the "Hide Your Face" record. "Breeding" is an interesting track that obviously took influence from the grunge movement a few years prior to the release of the album. An interesting track which shows hide exploring ground which he never really explored before. "Hurry-Go-Round" is perhaps one of the album's most brightest standout points, as it shows the musician at a vulnerable and raw pop state, and practically bleeding emotion all over. It takes the pop sound that was played with on "Psyence", and amplifies it to full max, with one of his most soulful and pop-based songs he ever did. The album then closes with the epic, "Pink Cloud Assembly", which is essentially an orchestral cover of the groundbreaking "Pink Spider" track, that contains dreamy and barely audible vocals from hide. A heart-pulling and emotional track, as it is the final hide song recorded on Earth. An epic and noteworthy closer to the wonderful album.
While it is inevitable that hide did experience humongous fame (even before his death), a remarkable trait about hide is that the man never truly sold out. While some fans may argue that his sound was toned down incredibly, he never lost his heavy edge, and it is quite evident on his final album, "Ja, Zoo" (which turned out to be his best material to date). Overall, a classic album from the legendary Japanese rock musician. A great way to close a remarkable musical journey.