Review Summary: Gackt masters his own talents and sculpts a J-pop/rock classic
In context, Mars was an important step for Gackt following Mizerable. There was no doubt that he could hold out on his own, Mizerable showed that without falter, the next question was of course: could he hold out for an entire LP? As practically flawless as Mizerable was, Gackt only showed us that he could put together 4 consistent songs and it’s not like he was a huge songwriter in Malice Mizer, so how was Mars going to turn out?
Short answer: perfectly. Long answer: Mars was an absolutely flawless transition after Mizerable, not only ending up as being the only thing that could logically have been expected, but also surpassing what should have been expected. The moment the transition from “Ares
” to “Asrun Dream
” hits, you know exactly what you’ve been set up for. Gackt doesn’t just go big, he goes huge and accomplishes a lot of things that he never would have been able to as part of Malice Mizer but also appears to still have their basic principles carved into his chest. For example, “Mirror
’s” arena rock would not have gelled with the baroque elegance of an album like Merveilles whereas “freesia
’s” melodramatic ballad like vocals and heavenly piano solo would have felt right at home.
Mars is everything that Gackt’s career was up until his solo career and everything he would excel at later on. As eclectic as it is, there is not a single moment that feels uncomfortable or out of place. Gackt cleanly showcases that he can be a flirtatious pop star with the seductive brass sections of “Vanilla
” and then transition, unquestioned and without error, into a neo-classical composer with the “freesia
” ops, weaving some magnificent textures. To further support Mars as a culmination of Gackt’s various musical talents, he simultaneously displays his gift for song writing, performance and how three-dimensionally he can be personally connected to his music with “Emu 〜For my Dear〜
” and “U + K
”, two pieces written in memory of his ex-band mate and good friend Kami. While “Emu
” functions more as a requiem, seeping all of the drama and heartbreak that comes from losing someone close to you, dynamic shifts abundant (even dropping right of into silence in the middle of the song) “U + K
” is more like a eulogy, taking the form of a far more light-hearted pop song; the “laughy” bridge being one of the albums highlights, connecting intimately with the nostalgic child in all of us.
As with virtually everything else Gackt has been involved in, Mars is extremely artsy in its execution, most obviously apparent in the middle of the album with the “freesia
” ops, but most blatantly with “Illness Illusion
”. Strange ambient sounds and bass thrum while some almost baroque instrumentation plays, with Gackt singing in a bizarre voice over the top. The song goes from this into a big, classic Gackt chorus while maintaining the baroque aesthetic and back and forth between the two styles in a rather brief time slot. Of course, Gackt did not forget the aspects that made Mizerable so special and has stuck to that bill while keeping it fresh with tracks like “dears
”, one of the albums strongest moments with its crisp acoustic guitars, blissful violin leads and his own eloquent vocal hooks. The album's closer sure isn't a slacker either, it's big, it's flamboyant and it's moving. The acoustic guitar slowly blends into the electric soundscapes backing it and Gackt progressively pours more and more energy into his vocal delivery, building up into a chorus of children, reaching it's crescendo and then... it's all over, ending as inconspicuously as it began.
Without putting a single foot backwards, Gackt managed to set his future as one of Japan’s biggest solo superstars with Mars. As refreshing as it is to the book, Gackt pushed every scrap of his musical and performance talent as he could into Mars’ precisely 50 minute running time (and I’m talking exactly
50 minutes to the second, at least on the first press). Gackt skills are pretty much undeniable here and Mars continues to offer new experiences with each return listen. While Gackt managed to answer Mizerable in the only possible way, I guess the real
real question would be: how well could he continue to hold out?