Review Summary: A very disappointing album that does nothing but hold back a promising career and deliver a kick to the legs of the crippled Visual-Kei scene.
When a band releases a self-titled album in the middle of their career, it usually signifies a change in sound, line-up or direction. In the case of Nightmare, it means none of these. No, in Nightmare’s case it means stripping down your sound and then filling in the gaps with sugary production and electronics. Instead of trying to use what worked with their previous effort Majestical Parade, the band decided to take what didn’t work and just add more to it. Their debut on Avex Group’s music label shows the band lose sight of what made them special and release a stark, watered down waste of potential.
The album starts off interestingly enough, a spoken word introduction that keeps the listener interested enough. You’ll later realise that it was probably little more than an attempt to add a little variation to, what is for the most part, an incredibly bland album. The first couple of true songs are interesting enough, “Vermillion” has an enticing enough melody and a well-executed guitar solo to be expected from the likes of guitarist Takahiro “Sakito” Sakaguchi. As well as this, the track “Swallowtail” utilises a catchy rhythm that alternates between 4/4 and 5/4, showing promises of clever song writing. This, however, is a trick.
Aside from the closing track “Sleeper,” any sign of Nightmare’s prior flair and ambition has completely disappeared. Most of the songs in the middle of the album are either half-baked ideas to fill in the albums running time or sound exactly like one another. An example being the single “Rem” which sounds unmistakably similar to the song “Vermillion” which so proudly opened the album. On far too many occasions Nightmare fall into the all too simple habit of exhausting the hell out of drop C# tuning on tracks such as “Fragment” and “a:fantasia”. As well as this obvious abuse of their song writing abilities, the band seems to have allowed the producer (or perhaps it was their own bright idea) to bludgeon the living daylights out of the songs with electronics which don’t serve any purpose other than to fill the gaping void the weak instrumentation leaves and make everything seem obnoxiously loud.
The album could have perhaps saved itself by having a more modest track listing to trim out the excess fat but instead it includes a bloated feeling 15 tracks (including an incentive track placed in by Avex on the DVDless version). This unsatisfactory track list buries the songs that are actually worth listening to under a bunch of less than worthy mediocre, easy to consume, watery pieces. For the second album in a row, Nightmare have made a hashed effort on their classic Gianizm series with “Zero -Beyond the G-“meandering forward awkwardly, focusing more on speed and noise than trying to be a decent song, closing off Nightmare’s unique and quirky Gianizm series with a sad fizzle rather than the intense explosion it carried up until Majestical Parade.
Unfairly hidden at the end of the album are the two actually decent songs that save the album. For the first time since their third outing Anima, rhythm guitarist Mitsuo “Hitsugi” Ikari has his name to a song, the enjoyable “Rinne.” Although the song is guilty of the same watery electronics that the rest of the album is subject to, it is far less prominent here and Sakito and Hitsugi’s traditional this guitar does this and the other does that union shines here. Not to mention the song is one of the only ones on the album with a decent chorus. The other track worthy of special mention is “Sleeper.” The song does a fantastic job of finishing the album off, with every member of the band shining in their own particular way. The use of arpeggiated chords in the song is extremely effective especially where the band drops out and it’s just the guitar and the vocals. If you only ever hear one song from this album, make sure it’s this one.
Nightmare’s self-titled effort is a poor one. While being listenable enough, it lacks Nightmare’s distinct flair and instead seems more focused on pushing sales. On the plus side, it has its moments and the only way forward for Nightmare is up. Regardless, the band have some serious work to do to recover from this wishy-washy attempt if people are to take them seriously once more. The cliché “quality over quantity” might be appropriate here as well and some fresh ideas wouldn’t be too unwanted either. Considering the album was a self-titled album, something like that would have been expected, but unless you’re a fan of the band or a hardcore J-rock fan, steer clear of this album.