marked the beginning of what X Japan was to become. It’s really as simple as that. No longer were they a mere speed metal act with classical aesthetics (as their debut album Vanishing Vision
portrayed), but now the band had become more. Blue Blood
was the genesis of X Japan’s transcendence into a state of near-perfection. To this day, it is widely acclaimed to be the band’s finest hour; their greatest moment.
In writing this review, I find I have quite the problem. It certainly isn’t easy, as X Japan are hard enough to describe as is. Furthermore, I’m sure no one wants to read a repeat of my previous foray into the band’s domain, simply reworked for a new album. So, where to begin with Blue Blood
? Well, this is the album that first showcased X Japan’s gravitation to a more progressive, experimental sound. While it still retains plenty of heavy metal bliss, the emphasis this time was more on creating an experience. To create said experience, X Japan would embrace a more light-hearted sound on Blue Blood
. The band also began to focus its attention on creating some of the most memorable metal ballads ever written.
Right from the album’s introduction, “Prologue (World Anthem),” can a listener notice the distinct differences in X Japan’s approach. This wonderfully melodic instrumental features some of the best guitar work on the album. X Japan’s string slingers, hide and Pata, seem to intertwine perfectly. Their playing is extremely staid when compared to the rest of the album; it’s almost serene. As the song continues, the music gradually fades away, to be replaced by a hauntingly distorted voice, who growls:
“All of the hate and all of the sadness
have melted away
nothing remains here
closeby, I see love trying to take a shape
as I reach out for it
the love breaks up before my very eyes
everywhere, there flows... blue blood
There in lies the grand vision of X Japan’s music. While it’s both chilling and disturbing at times, so to is it calm and tranquil. The band’s new creative ideals are mostly due to the influence of pianist/percussionist Yoshiki. X Japan’s affinity for its new direction grew out of Yoshiki’s love of classical music. Speaking of said love, it’s certainly evident in Yoshiki’s musicianship; particularly when he’s behind the keys. Yoshiki is quite literally a master of his respective instruments. He’s also something of a musical genius.
These two qualities are displayed flagrantly on “Unfinished.” Blue Blood
is the first album to actually feature the ‘finished’ version of this song. “Unfinished” was originally released on X Japan’s first album, in a form not unlike its name. The song was a little over a minute and a half long, and cut off abruptly. While the incomplete version made for a stunning album ender on Vanishing Vision
, the whole thing is absolutely incredible as a conclusion to Blue Blood
. Yoshiki’s piano work is sheer brilliance. It exudes emotion and depth, and manages to retain all sense of form throughout. Yoshiki is accompanied by his band mates (and even himself, multi-tracked on drums) as the song plays out, yet nothing can steal his thunder on the piano. Yoshiki’s (and the band in general’s) skills are also displayed most impressively on “Kurenai.” Like “Unfinished,” “Kurenai” is also a re-release of a song from Vanishing Vision
. However, on Blue Blood
“Kurenai” is performed by vocalist Toshi completely in Japanese, as opposed to English on Vanishing Vision
. Unlike “Unfinished,” though, this ballad showcases the skills of Yoshiki as a drummer. Once again, the man can’t help but astound. Though his work maybe overshadowed slightly by the other instruments (particularly hide and Pata’s marvelous guitar work), Yoshiki manages to (once again) make his presence known, if only to those who have to listen that much harder.
“Week End” and “Endless Rain” are also built off of Yoshiki’s piano (the latter, in particular). However, both of these songs place more emphasis on the band as a whole, so Yoshiki doesn’t stand out as much. This is actually quite refreshing. These two songs show that the band can work together with a near telepathic link (the former, in particular). It’s a lovely thing to behold.
isn’t all art, though. Songs such as “Orgasm,” “X,” and “Easy Fight Rambling” (especially the former) show that X Japan can rock with the best of them (as well as write slightly debauched songs). On these parts of the album, the efforts of hide, Pata, and bassist Taiji are the main attractions musically. Taiji, while generally shunted behind X Japan’s other members scores plenty of impressive, yet subtle basslines on Blue Blood
. His deep, rich sound has its own distinctive sound; one that happens to be damned impressive. hide and Pata prove, as usual, to be the perfect coefficients to each other. The duo sets up plenty of sonic mayhem on Blue Blood
, but does so in a usually coherent fashion. Their furious, highly technical riffs mix with there swan-song solos in perfect synergy. This just helps X Japan create a deeper sound, that’s altogether easier to lose yourself in.
“Xclamation” and “Celebration” fall into a category that’s in-between the edgiest that Blue Blood
has to offer, and the most tasteful. “Xclamation” is an instrumental of sorts (disregarding a little inaudible dialogue), which is one of the main forms of expression for the band. There are parts for every instrument here, but “Xclamation” quickly becomes Taiji’s domain, as it contains a fantastic bassline of his that quickly develops into a full-blown solo. “Celebration” actually sounds more like an 80s hair metal song more than anything. This is due mostly in-part to the flamboyant guitar work, and sheer sense of attitude that oozes from the song. “Celebration” is certainly the most accessible of any song on Blue Blood
, and therefore the easiest to enjoy.
Up until now, I’ve been rather neglectful of X Japan’s front man, Toshi. That’s because Blue Blood
has two wildcards that carry it to a realm of supreme excellence. One of them is Toshi’s fantastic multi-lingual vocal-work, which holds every song on the album together. X Japan just wouldn’t be the same without Toshi. The second wildcard is one that’s far greater than any one member of the band’s accomplishments. The second wildcard takes the form of the song “Rose of Pain.”
“Rose of Pain” is X Japan’s first attempt at writing a ballad with any “real” significance or meaning. The song is so majestic in scale, that I can’t help but deign it to be anything but an obvious precursor to X Japan’s masterpiece, Art of Life
. Every band member pours their heart and soul into their performance on “Rose of Pain.” hide and Pata play with furious strength; Toshi belts anguished, yet meaningful lyrics (in Japanese); Taiji contributes his powerful bass-work; and Yoshiki performs admirably on both drums and with the highly refined organ introduction. “Rose of Pain” is an essential X Japan experience. I can’t recommend any song on Blue Blood
, sans the beauteous “Unfinished,” higher than I can this one.
is an amazing album. It is quite possibly X Japan’s finest moment (and that is saying quite a bit). I can’t sum it up more aptly than an esteemed colleague of mine once did in reference to another masterpiece:
Fuck genres. If you like music, you owe it to yourself to hear this.