Review Summary: A true Japanese rock/visual classic... what more can be said?
In the 1990's, there was no name bigger than Luna Sea in the visual kei scene. Formed in 1986 by two high school kids (bassist J and guitarist Inoran), the group originally went by the alias of "Lunacy", and released their first demo in 1989. The demo sold out all 100 original copies, and the group proved to have a bright future ahead of them. The group went on to play to mostly sold-out shows for the next two years, until visual kei pioneer, hide (of solo and X Japan fame), discovered their talent, who conversed with fellow X Japan member, Yoshiki (the brain and drummer of the band), and Lunacy were signed to Yoshiki's independent label, Extasy Records, that year, when they changed their name officially to Luna Sea. If being signed and recognized by visual kei royalty isn't remarkable enough, the group's self-titled debut album, released in 1991, was a tremendous underground hit, and the band were pretty much instantly modern visual kei poster boys. Shortly after, the group were recognized by mainstream labels, and were signed to MCA/Victor in 1992, where they released their breakthrough album, "Image", which broke the Oricon top 10, and was a huge surprise hit. The guys were INSTANTLY visual kei superstars, and helped create a sound which remarkably mixed in an aggressive tone with an easily approachable, mainstream style: a style that would be emulated by countless visual acts in years to come. In 1994, however, the band reached their creative peak with the release of "Mother", an album that is entertaining, musically impressive, and is a true visual masterpiece.
The album starts off with "Loveless", which is a gothic-styled bass-covered track that bubbles with angst. A bleak track, but one that shows off what early-day Luna Sea was primarily about
: dark styled tracks with gothic-styled romantic lyrics embedded. An interesting track, and one that bleeds mainstream melody, while maintaining an admirable appeal of impressive band execution and effective poppy licks. The next track, "Rosier", is one of Luna Sea's signature tracks, and is a slightly more aggressive styled track, but pretty much follows the same pattern as "Loveless". At the end of the day, however, it is quite alright, since the formula works like a charm, and essentially was Luna Sea's early-day signature 'swoon'-based style in a nutshell. "Face to Face" cranks the aggression level up tremendously, and shows the band exploring unfamiliar ground in the album, and it ends up sounding reminiscent to early darkwave/gothic rock bands such as The Sisters of Mercy or The Mission. Needless to say, this sudden change in sound is rewarding in itself, and the sound is addictive as all hell, due to its clashing of melody with bleak, grim overtones. One of the best tracks on the album, hands down. "Civilize" is a track that follows a frantic tone: a style that was quite common with visual kei bands of that era. In retrospect, the track is pretty plain, but the ambitiousness in the voice of frontman Ryuichi Kawamura, as well as the switch-up in the chorus, gives the track potential, and makes it a worthy song in the legendary album. "Genesis of Mind" is the album's epica, and follows a sinking type of sound in progression, making for an interesting addition on the rather straightforward album.
And then we reach the halfway point with "Aurora", which follows a less grim of a pattern, and is probably one of the most mainstream friendly tracks on the album. It borders almost entirely on pop rock territory, and makes for another fresh breath of air, adding a little more diversity, along with "Genesis of Mind". A fantastically well done pop rock song, adding even more solidity to the album. "In Future" brings back the grimness of their early material, and combines it with a frantic, punk-fronted sound, similar to that of "Civilize". What makes "In Future" different from "Civilize", however, is that "In Future" has a LOT more variety to it, the most noteworthy example being Ryuichi's vocals, as they end up being distorted, alongside the mangled, dramatic track. An entertaining track to say the least, and the interesting guitar solo in the middle adds more uniqueness to the track's mixture. "Fake" is a straightforward mid 90's visual kei-styled track (the same kinda stuff that bands like Die in Cries & Kuroyume were putting out around this time). But what saves "Fake" from being another cookie-cutter visual kei track of its time would be, once again, the vocals of Ryuichi Kawamura, as this track shows his impressive vocal adaptation, as the album showed him progressively using different vocal styles, ranging from higher-end vocals to lower-end vocals. To better suit the grimness of "Fake", Ryuichi put on a covering of angst over his more typical "mainstream"-friendly vocal style, which added a tremendous atmosphere to the track. Once again, "Fake" proves not to be disposable, due to the impressive vocal adaptation of Ryuichi Kawamura. "True Blue", like "Rosier" before it, proved to be another one of Luna Sea's signature tracks, and it follows a fast-paced melodic style, with harmonies and melodies bleeding all over the ground of the track. The mere harmonic factor of the track makes it another stellar song on the album. The album then finishes up with the final track, the self-titled "Mother", which is one of the most atmospheric tracks on the album. The gravitating element of the track is phenomenally well done, and the dreamy vocals of Ryuichi Kawamura is the icing on the cake. A tremendous track, and with its cozy factor, it makes for an equally fantastic album closer.
All-in-all, "Mother" is an album that follows a relatively straightforward pattern, with not too many progressions explored. But, since the straightforward formula works so tremendously on the album, it ends up not being too much of a problem, and actually ends up being a joy, due to the sheer catchy nature of the album, while maintaining some solid musical work. The few album explorations, however, makes it an even stronger album, with even more solidity backing it up. Without a doubt, a recommended album to fans of Japanese rock, and, perhaps, a recommendation to all kinds of rock fans. Perhaps, this can be the album to desensitize the views of certain music fans towards Asian music as a whole. That is how impressive this album is.