Review Summary: The audio equivalent of the greatest summer night ever.
The year is 1993. Western scene was in a hell of a bloom. The newborn grunge heroes Nirvana put out their final studio effort “In Utero”, reversing the recently mainstream-turned genre to it’s roots; 80s teen icons Depeche Mode step into a new phase with the hauntingly beautiful and erotic “Songs Of Faith And Devotion”, mixing their synth-pop origins with alternative rock tendencies; The Smashing Pumpkins came up with the classic teenage angst hymn “Siamese Dream”; the UK was submerging to the brit-pop craze with Suede ahead of the wave.
And meanwhile, a Japanese band that had just celebrated its tenth anniversary came up with masterly crafted record that absorbed every possible influence from the West and beyond.
“Darker Then Darkness” is Buck-Tick’s seventh studio album and arguably one of their best. The name is quite spot on, despite that Buck-Tick never were REALLY dark, their sound always being somewhere at the periphery of the “pop-rock” label. Their music was quite merciful for the ear, devoid of despondency and frustration; but it was nevertheless very colorful in its atmosphere. Buck-Tick somehow mixed conventional rock, pop and a dash of punk with a gothic twist, being as buoyant and easy-going as melancholic and introverted. And back in 1993 they sure stepped into a darker corner of the chosen spectrum.
The album holds up extremely well because the songs don’t repeat themselves: every track on the record has something to bring to the table. And, what is equally important, the record doesn’t wait too much to capture the listener’s attention: the beginning of the very first track “Kirameki No Naka De” (which is, if I’m not mistaken, stands for “Into The Glittering”) gets at you with the first sound of a tender guitar melody played in reverse. The bass-line in this song is catchy and stylish, and manages to stick in your head for hours.
This very first track sets up the mood for the rest of the record perfectly: it’s trippy, it’s mysterious, and it has a great sense of fashion. And yes, it is dark but not coldly heartlessly dark, if you know what I mean: it’s alive and well, it just chose in a dark place.
The mood shape shifts throughout the album while steel remaining the same core. On “Deep Slow”, “Aoi No Sekai” and “Die” it’s upbeat and straightforward, on “Yuuwaku”, “Kamikaze” and “Zero” it’s ironic and creepily dynamic, and when the track “Dress” comes into play (made famous by its use in the anime “Trinity Blood”), the album suddenly drifts off to the sky, with a bittersweet melancholy mood of a lust-ridden dreamer.
The instrumentation and the mixing never fail: while retaining the same bag of tricks for the record, Buck-Tick manage to put in a little pleasant detail in every track, the most hilariously awesome addition being the saxophone in the jazzed-up number “Yuuwaku”. And, of course, Atsushi Sakurai’s mellow rich baritone is the glue that holds the instruments together, conveying every emotion known to man depending on the song.
I think it’s no exaggeration to say that this album is a milestone for Japanese rock and an absolute must-listen for anyone interested in the genre.