While the early-mid ‘90s saw X Japan become superstars in their homeland, there was surprisingly little band activity after 1992’s On the Verge of Destruction
shows, as most of the band members focused on their solo careers and experimented with different music genres. Toshi had recorded a pop-oriented album, Yoshiki went back to his roots in classical music, and hide played around with his quirky alt-rock outfits. After the release of the grandiose Art of Life
, X Japan released seven singles in anticipation for their fifth album, Dahlia
. As the majority of the material was written by Yoshiki, it felt obvious where X Japan was going; Dahlia
sees the band progressing away from their metal roots and heading towards a much softer sound.
The majority of the album is written by Yoshiki, apart from two songs from hide and minor contributions from the rest of the band. The album starts off with one of the last truly metal Yoshiki compositions: “Dahlia.” Similar to songs such as “Silent Jealousy” and “Art of Life”, the song is heavy and fast, but blends in many of the symphonic and progressive elements X Japan has incorporated in their songs since Blue Blood
, and is one of the album’s finest moments. The two hide-penned songs, “Scars” and “Drain,” are also fast-paced metal songs, and sees hide experiment with industrial metal influences. These three tracks hit hard, with intricate drumming, heavy riffs, and versatile performances from Toshi. To a certain extent, the albums fourth track “Rusty Nail,” is one of the album’s rockers, but softer and is rather melody-driven.
Although they were known as a crazy speed metal band in their earlier days, ever since X’s 1989 hit “Endless Rain,” the band had also been known to write incredibly beautiful and incredibly sappy ballads alongside their heavy metal. Dahlia
brings these ballads to the forefront of their sound, as over half the album consists of ballads. Very much like 1991’s “Say Anything,” songs such as “Tears,” “Longing,” “Crucify My Love,” and “Forever Love” are lengthy, sappy, piano-driven and orchestra-laden ballads, which show off Yoshiki’s talent in writing classical music, Toshi’s beautiful vocal performance, and (unfortunately) very little from the rest of the band. Even the (typically X Japan) experimental “White Poem I” is a slow, catchy ballad-esque track.
However, it is in these ballads that lies Dahlia’s
only true flaw: it’s simply too much. As great as they are, the ballads are sometimes bloated and hinder the album’s pace, particularly the “White Poem” – “Crucify My Love” – “Tears” segment, which is 17 minutes of ballad in the middle of the album. Despite being great songs and perfectly enjoyable as single tracks, it makes the album as a whole drag.
would soon be designated as X Japan’s final studio album, as the band disbanded after two final shows at the Tokyo Dome on December 30th and 31st, 1997 (e.g. The Last Live
). hide passed away in May 1998, and although the band reformed in 2007, it is unsure whether they will be releasing a new album. As such, Dahlia
can be considered as X Japan’s final true effort, and although I criticise it for its excess in ballads, it is a fitting end to their very illustrious career.
Toshi - vocals
Heath - bass
Pata - guitar
hide - guitar
Yoshiki - drums, piano