Review Summary: Kietai, kienai, kietai, zutto...
In late 2006 Japanese Rock band Nightmare were thrust into the attention of the anime collective when their double a-side single "The WORLD/Alumina" was used as the first opening and ending theme respectively for Death Note. Shortly after they released their phenomenal album The WORLD Ruler which showed them experimenting with a range of different sounds. Their experiments with electronics, jazz and ambience created an album that had a very unique feel to it and was a breath of fresh air in for the modern Visual Kei scene. Fans were delighted when they expanded on this sound with their follow up album Killer Show and they were once again in the eyes of the anime world with "Raison d'etre" being used as the opening to Claymore and "Dirty" as the opening for Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro. Their fame now at its peak, having preformed at the Nippon Budokan prior to Killer Shows release, they had big expectations now to write a follow up to Killer Show. Anime called for them one last time and their promising singles "Lost in Blue" and "NAKED LOVE" were used as the opening and ending theme to Mouryou no Hako. In the May of 2009 Majestical Parade was released... Nightmare had finally slipped.
The album begins with a snare beat not unlike that of a marching band, the parade has begun. "Parade" then brings in some guitar and the rest of the band follows suite. This song itself, although not a particularly strong song, works as an attention grabbing opening. You get the feeling that something really good is about to come. The brief "Parade" ends and the second song begins. The song starts of sounding as if the band is playing in one room together quite far away from the listener. Bam! A drop-tuned riff comes in all by itself, gradually followed by the rest of the band. "Can You Do It?" is the first sign that the album is not going to be quite as Majestical as its title would have you believe. The song is uninspiring and Sakito plays a rather bland guitar solo that doesn't last very long (not that he could have gone very far with it) but it is far better than the aptly titled "Mr. Trash Music" that follows it. Even briefer than the opening track and even more uninspired than "Can You Do It?" "Mr. Trash Music" displays exactly what is going to be wrong with the album. The best thing about it is that it is brief. The album is off to a terrible start here and it unfortunately gets worse.
However luckily, the band has managed to (unintentionally) break the album up into four manageable sections; two great and two horrid sections. This second section consists of tracks 4 through 6 and all of the songs are for some reason stylised with capital letters. The single "NAKED LOVE'" opens this section making a fresh change from the flaccid drop-tuned songs that kicked off the album. However, "NAKED LOVE" has what will become Nightmare's curse in the future: a weak chorus. But despite this, the song is very enjoyable and gets the album back on track. The following song is a strangely Burlesque tune called "MASQUERADE". Now the album is really getting somewhere. The brass instruments backing the songs energetic vibe make you feel once again that you are witnessing a parade. Halfway through the song, the rhythm changes and the guitars go berserk. Sakito fires off a high energy guitar solo while the brass band roars in the background before somehow managing to morph seamlessly back into the original form the song took. "MASQUERADE" by far stands out as one of the highlights of the album and is one I regard as one of Nightmare's best efforts. "MASQUERADE" is followed by the softer "MELODY," another one of the albums strongest songs. The song has a pretty acoustic riff that follows and a sparkly sounding keyboard overdub that follows the song. The guitars have a nice tone that's just the right amount of distortion and doesn't ruin the songs mood. Unfortunately, the parade is about to head through the nasty part of town as the album breaks into its third section, containing its two weakest songs.
"Cynical Re:actor" begins seemingly innocently, but then quickly undoes everything the previous three tracks made. During the verses, the guitars chug along having resumed their poorly utilised drop-tunings and a woman talks over the top of the singer... in English no less (Note that the entire album is in Japanese). The woman speaks to her lover about how she is over him and how she has found someone better. The weak chorus disease pops up again here, but is covered by the fact that the song is the albums weakest song anyway. The entire song sounds forced and is very poorly executed. The guitars drop in and out of audibility in the chorus and the song uses studio produced effects to maintain interest for most of it. The next song is a real disappointment and it comes from a rather unexpected source: the albums Gianizm song. Nightmare's Gianizm series is based off of the values of the character Gian from Doraemon. These songs are characteristically odd and quirky and incredibly well written instrumentally. But the ninth edition to the series (and the last to appear on a studio album excluding "Zero: Beyond the G") is extremely disappointing. For 90% of its brief running time the instruments all sound out of time and the drums in particular become a nuisance very early on. Oddly enough, the chorus is the best part of the song. The rhythm corrects itself somewhat after the first chorus, but come the second chorus, the song commits suicide with what is usually something Nightmare does very well: it changes key. The song sounds embarrassingly uncomfortable and manages to butcher two classic Nightmare elements all within the space of two and a half minutes. "Gianizm Kyuu" concludes the third section of the album in a cringe worthy fashion leaving the album with only four more chances for redemption.
The fourth and final section of the album saves it. It opens with "Nothing You Lose," a ballad composed by the bands bassist Ni~ya which is particularly notable because he very rarely writes songs. The guitars echo over each other in unity while the singer Yomi delivers a soft vocal performance. The chorus is powerful and very well delivered. The guitar solo is perfect here and complements the song nicely. "Nothing You Lose," is not only one of the albums best songs, but also one of the best in the bands entire catalogue. But the real star of the show, the albums best song and my personal favourite Nightmare song is the albums lead single "Lost in Blue." The song utilises semi-tones in an incredible way and the musical unity between the entire band makes "Lost in Blue" one of their most emotionally delivered songs. I get goosebumps every time the chorus starts and Yomi sings about wanting to disappear forever, but not being able to. The guitar solo before the final chorus is beautiful and the end of the song is powerfully uplifting. "Lost in Blue" gives you enough enjoyment to be able to enjoy the final two songs, not that you need it as they are particularly enjoyable songs on their own. "Simple Life" is a nice slow song that prepares you for the albums conclusion. Although it is guiltily reminiscent of the previously released "Jibun no Hana" and "Yasou Kyoku" it holds its own very well despite not having too much to say for itself except for its guitar solo which is one of Sakito's best. The parade is brought to a close by "Chronicle," a memorable tune played loud and proud. The songs dynamics are perfect with just the right amount of soft and heavy. The solo is wonderfully consistent with the display of the final section of the album. The ending of the song is a little confusing however. An acoustic guitar plays some nice chords, but ends with one that sounds like it was building to something else and makes it feel a little unfinished, which is actually quite fitting when you think about it.
Majestical Parade is a real shame of an album. Although it contains several of my favourite Nightmare songs and even my favourite of them all, it doesn't stack up as an album. An album should never feel like it is split into four different sections if it isn't supposed to be listened to as four different sections. Thankfully every second section is excellent and saves the album from being anything below a 3, but great is the most I can say about it as a whole. It isn't excellent but it most certainly is not average. Majestical Parade is also not Nightmares worst album and its artwork as stunning as their other works on VAP, artwork being another aspect of Nightmare that would slip on future albums but just because a potato looks amazing doesn't change the fact that it's a potato. Majestical Parade should be listened to after Nightmare's previous releases as it's an unfortunate example of everything they did right and everything they were about to get wrong.