Alice Nine “Supernova” (review)

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Alice Nine celebrate this year their 10th anniversary and with that comes the release of their new album titled “Supernova“. The Japanese rock band lead by vocal Shou brings another album full of big surprises, some new experiments but overall a solid album. Now off with the details regarding the album:

supernova

Regular edition

Album: Supernova
Release date: 19/03/2014
Label: Universal Music Japan
Genre: J-Rock

The tracklist is the following:

01.SHINING
02.+-
03.SEVEN
04.メビウス
05.Daybreak
06.shooting star
07.Exist
08.1 Minute Kidding
09.KID
10.SHADOWPLAY (Supernova Edition)
11.開戦前夜  
12.Prelude -resolution-

Track by track analysis:

1 – Shining

With a bassy intro “Shining” comes off as a great track with pretty good instrumentalization and overall solid work. Hiroto and Tora’s guitars are quick, fierce, drawing so much power and energy to the track; Saga’s bass playing is dazzling as always from start to finish setting the high-paced rhythm alongside the technical,  highly snare-focused drum playing throughout a big part of the song. On the chorus all the instruments explode making the already energetic song turn into a full throttle one. The electronica elements given by the synths, slightly unnoticeable for the untrained ear, give the track that extra edge taking the song to another level in the outro. Taking our focus from the instrumentalization to the vocal work we only can say good things about it. Shou sounds fresh making the perfect blend with the instrumental piece. 4/5 

2 – +-

+-” brings us that electric, addictive rock track that we’re so used to in Alice Nine’s career. The synths, the bass are on top of their game. The heavy guitar riffs lead us the way through the perfectly well delivered verses. This is one of those tracks that has everyone amped up in the chorus with the band joining Shou in the vocals. A track that will make you want to join the band screaming your lungs out. An overly fast track that has the band at their best. The outro give us a strong build up leading to Tora and Hiroto’s infernal guitar riffs. This is the kind of rock song that gives everyone that energy to make us go crazy. A well structured track, making good use of everyone’s strengths, to point out that the bass is the moving gear in this band with Saga delivering once again a highly noticeable, high voltage bassline. Tora and Hiroto have their lead role behind the guitars and they simply blow the way to Shou’s piercing vocals and Nao’s not that high speed drums, delivering a solid backbeat to an already electrifying track. 5/5
3 – SEVEN

This album’s promotional single. “SEVEN” is a more industrial rock driven track than the previous ones resorting to a dirtier sound delivered by the drums and synths. Once again built around the bass and the drums this track shows a more assertive side of the band with the imposing vocals along with the lack of guitars giving more space for Shou to shine. The guitars explode in the chorus leaving the bass and drums in charge of the bands beat throughout the verses. The vocal track is strong but not giving that “rock hymn/amped up” lyrics as the previous track, a good change of pace because too many hymns in an album make it sound ridiculous. So far so good but still a bit of a let down taking into equation the fact that the album has, by far, better tracks to be featured as the promotional single. 4/5
4 – メビウス

Going towards a more synth oriented instrumental “mebius” shows us a more pop-rock side to Alice Nine’s sound. A complete change in the album but nothing really different from what the band has used us to. “mebius” gives us a more electronic sound putting the heavy guitar riffs to rest, resorting to the slow paced drums and the funky guitar playing alongside the slapped bass delivered by Saga. The band sounds good but this is nothing out of the ordinary and sounding a bit out of placed in this album. 3.5/5
5 – Daybreak

Possibly one of the best songs in the bands’ repertoire, this one is an instant favorite. The soft synth pads at the beginning, the amazing guitars in the beginning and Shou’s voice draw the first parts of the song. The bass and the drums form the best combo leading us to the chorus that really shows how great that band has turned to and how much they’ve changed. The great highlight will possibly be the instrumental, especially the bass, pads and guitar that make the best atmosphere this song deserved. The almost 80’s guitar riffs in the outro build up for another round of the incredibly catchy chorus. Flawless song from the lyrics plus the vocal work by Shou to the arrangement of the song. 5/5

6 – shooting star

One of the most beautiful tracks Alice Nine has written so far. The main focus stays on the piano with the spotlight aimed at Shou’s softly, emotional vocals. The chorus is so soft, passionate and beautiful resorting to the synths and strings to deliver the finishing blow. It’s a perfect ballad “Alice Nine style”. The guitars stay a big part of the time unnoticed only getting their spotlight in the solo delivered by Tora, otherwise the guitars remain almost completely blended in the background not drawing any aggressiveness from this track. A perfect example of a well made ballad without sounding cheesy. And to put the cherry on top of this lovely instrumental we have the vocals incredibly well delivered by Shou. Alice Nine at its best. 5/5


7 – Exist

Like the previous two tracks “Exist” is an already released single. Resorting to a more aggressive and dirty sound, the band get’s its aggressiveness delivered by the double-bassed drums and unstoppable fierce guitar riffs. The vocals are raw, the bass is hectic. A strong solo is delivered before the outro where full focus stays in Shou’s vocals. Energetic and fun track with a little bit of edge with those screamo parts in the end. 4/5
8 – 1 Minute Kidding

The intermission is a small dance track showing a more electronic, dance sound to Alice Nine’s sound. The synths are addictive and lead the way to the track “KID“. Excellent intro. 4.5/5
9 – KID

Electronica oriented track “KID” shows us a more sawtooth synth oriented sound, slowing down the band’s pace. A few bits of dubstep can be heard here and there in the track. They’re not something major on the track to the point of making you skip listening to the track so we can say “tiny bits” of dubstep in the instrumental lead by the synths. The post-chorus where the guitars go crazy has the synths go completely crazy and here it is: 15 seconds or less of dubstep and you’re in the clear. Going once again towards the verses leading to the chorus, go the guitars and and the drums reaching the end of the track. Way too much experimentation resorting to the already decaying dubstep genre turning “KID” into a bad spot in this album. 3/5
10 – SHADOWPLAY (Supernova Edition)

SHADOWPLAY” is another already known track to all Alice Nine fans. The track was featured in early 2013’s single with the same name. The track gets a facelift in this album getting a more classical/power metal treatment: the piano is in full rage, the strings make their appearance giving a certain grandiosity to the track. The drums are fast and technical showing us a power metal kind of play (a bit of Versailles kind of drum playing). The guitars are raging from start to finish with incredibly good solo parts delivered throughout the track. The vocals stay good as the original track and the guitars not only sounding amazing in most part of the track but they also have their spotlight with an incredibly fast solo delivered by Tora. A facelift that really made this track shine. 4.5/5
11 – 開戦前夜 

“kaisenzenya” is also another known track. Released digitally in 2013 it was part of the single “EXIST/開戦前夜“. This track goes towards a faster beat led by the non-stop loud drums, the guitar are on their apex of aggressiveness and bass delivers a dirty touch to the track. A track that goes in a completely different direction of Alice Nine’s typical tracks. It’s aggressive, dirty, loud and overall noisy, a complete change from the band’s pretty pop-rock. Still a track, that in terms of quality, seems to fail a bit. 3.5/5
12 – Prelude -resolution-

Lead by the harp and the synths, the clock tells us that this is the end of the album. What would seem like a more classical way of closing this chapter turns out to go towards a more danceable sound  in the middle of the track. An instrumental track just like “1 minute kidding” closing the album in a good way after so much ups and downs. 4.5/5

Final rating: 4/5

Well here is a rollercoaster album in its very definition. “Supernova” starts incredibly well with its guitar/bass driven sound but quickly strays off their way towards a more danceable territory quickly collapsing and lessening the album’s quality. “KID” comes out as a clumsy track resorting way too much in electronica elements such as dubstep. It’s not an exaggerated track but it gets on people’s nerves that post-chorus “dubstep explosion”. Getting away from that topic we can say that the album had all the ingredients to sound better than it eventually came to sound. “Shining” is a great single, “+-” comes out as the best track in the album, at least from the new bunch of tracks, “Shadowplay” gets the best facelift ever turning a so-so track into a brilliant one, “shooting star” and “Daybreak” show that they’re still relevant tracks in Alice Nine’s repertoire and quite possibly some of the best this album has presented us. An album full of mixed feelings.

Supernova” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

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