Review Summary: Japanese metal band Exist Trace are pushing a lot of the right buttons on Twin Gate, the album's shortage of imagination notwithstanding.
When one hears about a subculture in Japan known best as the visual kei movement, what easily crosses a person's mind would be – more often than not – a plethora of musical groups remembered for dressing in extravagant attire and elaborate hairstyles, almost always coupled with androgynous characteristics; legendary acts like X Japan
, Luna Sea
, and even Buck-Tick
are very good examples of bands whom outright live and breathe the scene itself. To go into the overall backstory of vk would be quite tiring, but entourages both good and not so remarkable have emerged since the 1980s. Although visual kei tends to be populated by men who went out of their way to adopt feminine looks, females existing within the oriental tribe aren't uncommon as of late. In fact, there is one troupe in particular that definitely must not go without notice, and that band is Tokyo's own Exist Trace
. Formed in the year 2003, Exist Trace have consisted entirely of girls since their foundation, which would more or less be a breath of slightly fresh air once nearly every ensemble is taken into account. Throughout much of their splendid career, the band's members have intentionally adopted masculine appearances save for rhythm guitarist Miko, but in recent years, this is something that got phased out to a degree. With currently four albums in their arsenal and a devout international following, ET are far from showing signs of torpidity. This band's second full-length recording, Twin Gate
, would see a release nearly five years from today.
Made available on November 3rd, the all-female act's sophomore album has quite the captivating aura around it. Packing a total of 10 songs, the record's material basically gives us a taste of what Exist Trace are capable of. A majority of the numbers typically demonstrate a combination of rock-centric accessibility and heavier sounds that can very well be associated with Gothic metal, so around this time, comparisons between ET and neo-visual kei teams in the manner of The GazettE
and Abingdon Boys School
were hardly out of the ordinary. Without hesitation, you can say frontwoman Jyou and her group of virile ladies aren't trying their hardest to reinvent the wheel, seeing how Twin Gate
is an effort displaying tried-and-true elements. On the other hand, despite lacking in originality, album #2 courtesy of these gal pals doesn't disappoint regarding emotion alongside the instrumental work in general. To drive the point home, whilst the song structures are predictable as sin, Exist Trace are able to run with these generic arrangements in order to cook up a product that's enjoyable and features a heavy dosage of replay value. The riffs and solos are technically impressive, but not for the sake of merely being awesome. If the power ballad that is “Neverland” and lead single “Knife” are anything to go by, Omi and Miko unleash colorful, yet not too vibrant guitar harmonies which succeed in correlating with the record's nature. The drumming by Mally is not special in any shape or form, though the relatively aggressive “Orleans No Shoujo” would perhaps say otherwise, as her contributions are not so much noteworthy as they are performed pretty damn well. However, it's neither the guitar players nor the drummer responsible for deserving this much praise, but rather Jyou herself. The quality of her voice can range from good to beauteous in a matter of minutes, and the performance she delivers on Twin Gate
overthrows that mildly slapdash feeling many would've anticipated from a band like this. “Blaze,” “Owari No Nai Sekai,” and album closer “Cradle” are all tracks that just can't gloss over Jyou's tempestuous singing. Her growls utilized on “Resonance” and “Orleans No Shoujo” are notably underwhelming, though, and were she to have balanced out her cleans and gutturals here, then the vocals would be one step away from flawlessness; even so, 'tis but a slight nitpick on this reviewer's behalf.
's Twin Gate
is not what most would consider creative in a myriad of senses and the songwriting potential is barely expanded upon, but whatever flaws this LP does have are barely problematic as far as the craftsmanship alongside these chicks' affinity for consistency is concerned. You'll be sure to swim in the waters imprisoning the album, although definitely make sure you're trying to search for fun and not some kind of unconventional approach to ET's easy-to-replicate style.