Review Summary: 'Embrace' takes your hand and sends you on a journey through the band's fascinating evolution in its 15 year career, leaving you hoping for many more years to come.
Marking the 15th anniversary of the Japanese band's formation, a lot of expectation is weighed upon 'Embrace' in terms of following the epic 70-minute frenzy of 'To The Loveless', and matching the high standards of the band's diverse catalogue. Ever since the release of 'To The Loveless', the band has been pushing themselves in the Western market, with an extensive low-profile tour of the US and making their work available on Western iTunes stores. The band also released a greatest hits album exclusively to the Western part of the world; even mastering 'Embrace' in New York's Sterling Sound studio. After 15 years, it is time for Boom Boom Satellites to push themselves further into the Western market, and 'Embrace' is the perfect opportunity to showcase their potential and their charisma;
where the band fulfilled that opportunity with exceptional results.
The dominant feature of 'Embrace' is how dynamic the atmosphere of the album is holistically compared to any other of their other albums. 'Another Perfect Day' presents itself as a dark, hypnotic beginning to the album, with Kawashima droning his voice over a pulsating synth line before exploding into familiar territory in the choruses, with trademark soaring vocals and industrial-style guitar riffs. 'Helter Skelter' is a surprising cover of The Beatles song, where BBS manage to stamp their own identity on it; utilizing powerful commanding drum production and massive texture on guitar. Kawashima's vocal performance is also very strong here, and this is where I noticed a marked improvement in his vocal delivery compared to the band's past albums. Main singles 'Broken Mirror' and 'Drifter' follow the same formula with powerful delivery on the choruses through pulsating driven rhythms and simple but effective catchy riffs. These four songs presents accessibility for new listeners of the band, and they stand strong in their own right; they are commanding and engaging to the ear, as well as being catchy and danceable too. 'Disconnected' and 'Thing's Will Never Be the Same' are direct influences off Nine Inch Nails 'The Fragile', with its industrial droning guitars and piano melodies; 'Disconnected' feels like a spiritual partner of 'Star***ers Inc.' 'Flutter' is like the shy brother of 'Drain' off of 'To The Loveless', its verses are inviting and comforting with its floating guitar riff before it churns you into the frantic choruses, which is full of blasting snares and grinding guitar crunches.
What makes 'Embrace' compelling is that nearly half of the album is low-tempo than its singles. Where 'To The Loveless' only gave you around 10 minutes to calm down before throwing you into a synth induced mosh pit again, 'Embrace' sends you flying on a journey half the time into different landscapes, with only a few hints of turbulence along the way. Where some fans may feel unacquainted with the low-tempo songs on 'Embrace', I feel that it perfectly encapsulates what the album should be like; showing it's definition of affection. 'Snow' is the perfect example of the theme of embrace. It's soaring synth melodies and vocals bring an incredibly powerful feeling of hope. The instrumental break at four minutes of 'Snow' is one of the highlights of the album, utilising a House-style rhythm on top of orchestral melodies is an absolute wonder to hear and the break ends befittingly when Kawashima sings with conviction: 'How long must I wait for/When I can't hide under the stars"'
The title song obviously depicts the theme of embrace too. It starts very mellow with soft drum beats and Kawashima crooning overdramatic orchestral strings:
'Picking up all my pieces, like a ghost
Wander the rainy forest like a wolf
I say to myself embrace the world.'
Then the song elevates to another level that I did not expect, with Kawashima falsettoing with incredible emotion and pounding drums and guitar texture which I feel is reminiscient of Sigur Ros' 'Glosoli', before ending on a effective crescendo. 'Snow' and 'Embrace' show a sign of departure from their pulsing party style on their 2007 album 'Exposed', but it showcases the stunning talent that this band has and how far they have evolved from then.
It is interesting to reveal that 'Embrace' is noted to have been influenced by the events of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, of which the atmosphere of the album reflects on this. The title of the last song 'Nine' refers to the magnitude of the earthquake, and the feeling of the song captures the shock and confusion of the tragedy, with its dramatic piano melody and Kawashima rallying the people to 'Carry on, hold tight, everything's alright.'
It is a strong finish to the album and a fitting way to conclude the theme that surrounds the album.
'Embrace' comes with complete confidence from the band's perspective but with also relief from a fan's perspective,
where BBS is carrying their formula of creating a sound that is completely unique and special, but also taking some
risks by stepping into unfamiliar territory that has not been explored in their previous albums in their 15 year long career. 'Embrace' is engaging and sonically interesting, where Kawashima has definitely stepped up his lyrical and vocal performance, and the production has also taken a marked improvement too, which has always been a strength for the band anyway. The album overall is not as breathtaking as 'To The Loveless', where it stuck you in a vise and squeezed the life out of you, but left you wanting more of that pain. 'Embrace' takes your hand and sends you on a flight where you can take in the surroundings and the atmosphere of the album; it certainly made me embrace their fifteen year long career and hope for many more years to come.
Recommended Tracks: 'Helter Skelter','Broken Mirror', 'Snow', 'Drifter', 'Embrace'.