Review Summary: A brilliant piece of art not to be missed by fans of J-rock or fans of music in general.
Young and ambitious, J-rock quintet Nightmare were enjoying success with their first major label LP Ultimate Circus. With a bright future in prospect ahead of them, they somehow needed to best their impressive debut and make sure everyone could see that they meant business. So without a falter, Takahiro “Sakito” Sakaguchi and his ambitious band of X Japan/LUNA SEA addicts created Livid, the second phase of the evolution of their sound and probably their best effort.
With all of the post Ultimate Circus singles and even some of their b-sides present, the albums track list gives off the impression that it is mostly filler and just a stop gap while they try and figure out what to do next. But it’s quite the contrary. The album roars to life with “Sanagi,” which acts as an extended intro for the single “Varuna.” Varuna proudly displays guitarists Sakito and Hitsugi’s tendency to do two different things at the same time. Yomi delivers one of his best vocal performances on this song showing off his impressive vocal range. “Varuna” is one of Nightmares most well-known songs for a good reason and flawlessly kicks off the album. With the first single out of the way the rest of the albums material has to stack up somehow. “Sekishoku” completely changes the albums pace. The drums stand out as the predominant feature and the guitars kind of just follow suit. The brief track does make for a great jam in all its simplicity, but the album has more to offer than just sweet jams, although “underdog” is just more of that. But it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge that these two songs aren't absolutely brilliant because it’s moments like the energetic “underdog” that makes the album shine like it does.
The second single “Tokyo Shounen” is evidence of this. The song builds up from an electronic sampling that remains present in the background in parts of the song. The guitarists work in perfect harmony with the vocals and both components get their own points to shine without overshadowing each other. But just when you’re getting comfortable, the album throws in a new extreme, the chilling ballad “Suna”. The song starts off with some soft ambience, echoing snare and a guitar playing some clean chords with a little delay. The vocalist gives one of his most emotionally delivered performances in the bands entire catalogue in this song remaining consistent throughout. The first chorus only brings the drums into the foreground with the singer, the distorted guitars erupt in after the chorus, building the song towards the first guitar solo of the song. The guitars go clean for a little interlude and rise back in for the songs crescendo and a guitar solo that never fails to give me chills every time I hear it. The song is separated from the second half of the album by a 7 second pre-gap before the album continues with the b-side from the “Cyan” single, “Tsuki no Hikari, Utsutsu no Yume.” Although a strange choice for inclusion on the album, it deserves its spot and works as a perfect buffer after the albums ballad, a stunningly beautiful song. But I hope you haven’t readjusted to the albums slower pace, because there’s a perfectly good reason it’s called Livid.
“Be buried” is angry, loud and refreshing as well as well written in all its aspects. The song is nicely balanced as well, containing a part where all the instruments drop out except for a dissonant guitar. “Gianizm Go” is the fifth part to Nightmare’s recurring Gianizm series (as well as a b-side from the Tokyo Shounen single) and is one of the band's most bizarre tracks. It’s brief and fast paced as well, making it feel even stranger. One of the albums standouts follows it, the third single “Cyan”. The song begins with some acoustic guitar and the electric guitar that joins it complements it perfectly, complete with a majestic solo. The following two songs start to bring the album to a strong finish. “Remembrance,” a song with rare writing credits attributed to the bands bassist, is a nice mellow song followed seamlessly by the upbeat “Itsuka no Boku e”. The album modestly closes with Travel. The songs foundation is an acoustic guitar and an overlaying, soft electric piece. The song has incredible melody and is unique in Nightmare's discography.
Livid acts as the beginning of Nightmare's transformation from a simple rock band into a song writing powerhouse. With an even brighter future ahead of them and plenty more room to progress their sound even further, Livid stands as an important stepping stone in the future of the band. Showcasing what was to come later in their career and maintaining a unique unrivalled sound of its own, Livid is an album not to miss for fans of J-rock and music in general.