Nightmare
Ultimate Circus


4.5
superb

Review

by INTERNATIONAL POPSTAR STEVEN WILSON USER (50 Reviews)
December 16th, 2014 | 13 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One of J-rock's finest debuts. Make sure that you don't miss out on Nightmare's Ultimate Circus!

A record player crackles. A lo-fi recording of a guitar imitating a circus style organ theme plays. A young man begins to sing over the guitar, dissonant feedback and noise hisses in the background and then… BANG! The lo-fi production disappears, two guitars play a thrash metal style mode and the drums and bass crash in the centre. Welcome to Nightmare’s Ultimate Circus.

Ultimate Circus was young up and coming J-rock quintet Nightmare’s first chance to make a splash. The eclectic indie group had finally landed a major label signing after an impressive bout of shows in the club circuits around the Sendai region of Japan, putting out there first single “Believe” (possibly a homage to their idols Luna Sea). But Nightmare weren’t a band that was short of ambition, later releasing the triple A side single Akane/Hate/Over, which was reputedly the first time for any band to release a single with three A sides, a bold statement to their young and somewhat naïve ambition. The three tracks showcased three completely different aspects to the bands style; “Akane” being a pretty, alternative piece; “Hate” a thrashier cut more akin to the material that Nightmare had been playing during their indie years; and “Over” being a slower, mellow track to display the band’s keen sense of balance in their material. Ultimate Circus quietly hit the shelves on Christmas day of 2003, with “Believe” and the triple A side single being present in the track list as well as a b-side from “Believe,” “muzzle.muzzle.muzzle” being placed at the beginning of the album.

Ultimate Circus is one of the most ambitious and stellar debuts that you will find amongst the enormous, watered down Visual-Kei scene post X Japan/Luna Sea. Although it overall may feel somewhat unfocused due to the diversity of the material present throughout the record, its unrelenting charisma is enough for this statement to be completely ignorable. Choosing to title the album Ultimate Circus was a brilliant reflection on the part of the group. The album is a circus of different acts and side shows, entertainment for everyone.

Nightmare make it apparent very quickly with songs like the refined, well crafted “M-aria” placed right next to songs like the wild, progressive and unpredictable “Kabuki Logical” that they are not some one-trick pony X Japan/Luna Sea worship band; they’re artists with a burning passion to make themselves heard. All throughout Ultimate Circus, the band consistently showcases their respective talents for their individual instruments and their keen grasp of melody and harmony. Guitarists Takahiro “Sakito” Sakaguchi and Mitsuo “Hitsugi” Ikari often play two different contrasting pieces over the top of each other, the role of lead and rhythm guitarist being entirely interchangeable between the two even within the same song. An example being the single “Akane” which features Hitsugi beginning with a lead chord sequence while Sakito carries the rhythm and then having the roles switch back for the rest of the song until the ending chord sequence. Satoru “Ruka” Karino’s drumming on the album perfectly holds the songs together, never being overbearing but having just enough of its own flair to be noticeable. Bassist Baba “Ni~ya” Yuuji performs in a similar manner while also occasionally playing riffs that are apart from what Sakito and Hitsugi are playing. Then of course there is the overly flamboyant vocals of Jun “Yomi” Chiba, defining the songs character with his ballad-like wail.

The album is not short of exciting twists and turns. As emphasised above, Nightmare showcase an intuitive sense of variation throughout the material on Ultimate Circus. While unlike future endeavours from the quintet, the ballad tracks don’t leap out as standout moments on the album, “Mind Ocean -Sou***su wa Yuki to Tomo ni-” and “Aquaria” being fair enough tracks but lacking the kick that the rest of the album possesses. These two longer mellow tracks come across more as building blocks to be further developed rather than anything particularly amazing. The true stand out moments on the album are the high-octane, crazy songs designed solely for the purpose of creating a frenzy at a live show. Ultimate Circus remains Nightmare’s heaviest and most metal oriented album to date, probably due them being a young band that was making the transition from years of touring the club circuits to becoming a studio band on a major label. The album’s highlight track is undoubtedly the infectiously wild “Kyokutou Ranshin Tengoku,” the name meaning “Far East Crazy Heaven,” a title that couldn’t be more suitable. “Kyokutou Ranshin Tengoku” is the perfect combination of speedy thrash riffs and sensible melody as well as being blessed with one powerful and highly memorable chorus and guitar solo. Sakito and Hitsugi both taking turns to blaze their fret boards during the superb guitar break. Also shining out amongst the impressively solid track list surprisingly is “Akane” from the triple A side single. Being separated from the other two songs featured on the single, “Akane” is able to shine on its own. The guitars and Yomi’s vocal performance on the song are beautiful and emotionally provocative, some of Nightmare’s best song writing that they would ever do is in this song.

Nightmare show off a colourful array of plumage on their first outing. The band admirably never give a dull moment, the variety of different styles making sure that you never get tired of listening. The bands obviously still a work in progress at this point, but the album contains more than enough flair and ambition to hold its own as one of J-rock’s strongest debuts. The album is tireless and relentless, perhaps occasionally stopping to take a breath on weaker moments such as the single “Believe” but other than that, Ultimate Circus contains a huge amount of energy. Each and every one of the band members performs incredibly well, they have a strong chemistry as a unit and the band showcase promising song writing ability throughout. With tracks to make you thrash around like a lunatic and songs to enjoy a pleasant moment by yourself listening to, Ultimate Circus has something for everyone.



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user ratings (20)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Jasdevi087
December 16th 2014


8137 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I DID IT! I FINALLY DID IT! It's been a long trip Nightmare, you'll always hold a special place in my heart for completely changing the way I enjoy music. I can't believe that a little over a year ago there were no reviews for this band. But now, all of the studio albums have reviews, for better or for worse! Please feel free to spot the any mistakes I may have overlooked.



Akane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOwqwOrMrA8

Kyokutou Ranshin Tengoku: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTHGmQYZBEk

Over: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR9frBI1Jio



EIEN, HANARENU TO, SHINJITETA KEREDO! YOKU NO HANA GA MAU KONO MACHI DE!!!!



Archelirion
December 16th 2014


6594 Comments


Congrats on the achievement! Must feel good, doing an entire band's discography for the first time! Only thing I picked up on is 'Nightmare make it apparently very quickly' - think this is supposed to be apparent. Aside from that, hard pos =D

CalculatingInfinity
December 16th 2014


9870 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Gah I'll never get those awful vocals, but I enjoy this instrumentally. Good review man, nice to see these get reviews regardless.

Sabrutin
December 16th 2014


9782 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

A few typos here and there but the review is tempting me to check the record out, you sound really fond of the band. If this is them at their heaviest I might check it out.

Jasdevi087
December 16th 2014


8137 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks guys!



@Aaron yep, it was meant to be apparent.

@Sabrutin my spelling seems to be really bad atm. It must just be because I've been on holiday for four weeks now but I've been making typos all over the place.

trackbytrackreviews
December 17th 2014


3469 Comments


YOUR FUCKIN NIGHTMARE

Angelboros
December 17th 2014


1357 Comments


@trackbytrackreviews: Oh, God, not that nightmare!

I know I'm late to the party here, but congrats on finishing this band's discography. Reading your reviews
keeps on tempting me to check out some of the other albums that aren't Killer Show.

Jasdevi087
December 17th 2014


8137 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

@Angelboros If you enjoyed Killer Show than you'd love The WORLD Ruler for sure.

taka7495
February 13th 2015


2 Comments


I like your reviews. Just like you, I feel a mount of their energy in "Ultimate Circus".
But Sakito said we were losing original energy in SHOXX in 2013.
It may concerned with dropping of NIGHTMARE.

* perhaps “Mind Ocean -Soushitu wa Yuki to Tomo ni-”

Jasdevi087
February 13th 2015


8137 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks Taka, nice to see another fan here. As I can only understand Japanese at a basic level (I can write and read hiragana, katakana and about a hundred or so kanji and translate small sentences) I am unable to read SHOXX but it concerns me that he'd openly admit that. Though at the same time, I'm sort of glad that he can feel it too.



Also if I just edit the review, I can spell it as "soushitsu" and it won't get filtered if that's what you're suggesting.

Sabrutin
April 2nd 2015


9782 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It took its time to click, but now it's rocking. In my case I'm not sure about its lasting power but this is pretty enjoyable, I'm curious to hear the next albums given the opinions around them.



Favorite tracks are "Promenade" (if only it lasted longer!), "muzzle.muzzle.muzzle" (I'm a sucker for classical quotes), "M~aria" (some strong vocals and catchy riffing there) and the addictive "HATE".

samwise2000
December 13th 2020


1868 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Maria is a fucking bop

samwise2000
July 9th 2021


1868 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

cant listen to old nightmare without being reminded of how terrible the second half of their career has been...



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