UNDEAD “Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.6 UNDEAD” (Review)

UNDEAD bring to the table a sound that completely unique among Ensemble Stars‘ units. This volume lacked excitement or anything engaging for the most part, however there are some bright points on it, some even astounding that are well worth your time.

A brief intro:

UNDEAD consist of Toshiki Masuda, Yuki Ono, Wataru Hatano and Kei Hosogai.

Title: Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.6 UNDEAD
Label: Pony Canyon
Release date: 04/10/17
Genre: J-Pop/Rock

Tracklist:

1.Gate of the Abyss 
2.Break the Prison 
3.Death Game Holic

Track by track analysis:

1.Gate of the Abyss

Gate of the Abyss kicks off strongly. With deep instrumentalization – mostly bass oriented – and an overall interesting composition, this is a powerful song to open this single with. Fast paced drums, a noticeable bassline, raging guitar riffs – and top quality solo parts -, plus dramatic strings, make this instrumental good enough to spark our interest. If you were waiting an all out rock song after reading this short description, then you’ll be disappointed. Yes, it has all the typical rock elements but the execution was made in a way that this song can’t help but to sound more like a pop track. UNDEAD‘s vocals are incredibly well balanced. Everyone nails their solo parts and in the chorus there’s virtually no one standing out. Solid group performance. 4/5

2.Break the Prison

Slowing down a bit, Break the Prison is a mid-tempo pop-rock tune in which guitar riffs, snary drums and a groovy bassline are kings. The instrumental is rather simple but quite effective at keeping the listener interested.  Adding to this rock base we have strings and delicate piano melodies. This is an easy to listen pop-rock song that will get stuck in your head. The performances weren’t anything otherworldly or impressive. There’s nothing especially tricky about the vocal parts and everyone performed those with ease – both solo and choruses. Safe performance in a song that didn’t require much flair. 4/5

3.Death Game Holic

To complete this release, we’re presented with a dark rock song and by far the best on this release. The industrial rock instrumental mixed with some pop touches worked out incredibly well for this song. The splashy drums set a fast pace to this song, a song that makes great use of the bass – those basslines are as groovy as they are imposing -, adds dirty synths in the good old fashion of industrial rock, lends help from raging guitar riffs, dark piano melodies and dramatic strings sections. The instrumental alone is a winner. The song features デッドマンズ on vocals, basically a sub-unit that includes Toshiki Masuda, Yuichiro Umehara (from Akatsuki) and Yuki Ono. This trio managed to deliver an impressive performance. Masuda and Umehara were a force to reckon with. Powerful vocals, exciting harmonizations and overall complete performances caught us by surprise. Vocals and instrumentals on point. Top marks. 5/5

Final rating:

First time reviewing a release by UNDEAD and we must say that this group has potential to impress although they only managed to do it once out of 3 tries.

UNDEAD are a pop-rock outfit with an underlining dark vibe. Their pop-rock blend with industrial rock vibes is certainly ear catching. The one thing that stands out in all songs is the bass work. All the basslines on this single are powerful and memorable, being responsible for driving all songs forward. Other thing that we enjoyed was the contrast between the fast paced drums and raging guitars versus the delicate strings and piano melodies. Expect rather predictable progressions for all songs – but don’t be disappointed with those. The dynamic and progression of those was well done, there are no crazy, over the top parts that come out of nowhere to catch the listener off guard. We can say that all instrumentals are enjoyable to listen to and a major plus for this group.

The vocal performances were safe and comfortable for the most part. Nothing really interesting happened during the first two songs but what happened on Death Game Holic left us in awe. Now, this is what we call an impressive vocal performance. Dressed in a heavier sound, Deadmanz are a powerful trio in which nothing is really missing. Yuki Ono has proven time and time again that, as much as he tries singing other music genres, the one he fits best is rock. His versatile vocals and melodic lower tones are perfect for this trio’s dynamic. Yuichiro Umehara shows that he keeps improving his singing skills. He comes from Akatsuki, another Ensemble Stars!‘ unit, to simply dazzle us with his improved control and stable mid-tones. On the other side, we find Toshiki Masuda doing what he does best since last year, impress us with yet another growth spurt. In the lack of a better word to describe his singing skills, I’d say he’s a beast right now. His energy and total control over his vocals are just two of the many things that have improved on his end. Together with Umehara – that has been improving a lot in the past year -, and Ono‘s versatile vocals, what we got was a complete, engaging vocal performance that made us beg for more from them.

They spiced things up when the previous two songs were bland. We can’t say that those were bad – because they weren’t – but weren’t as engaging as Death Game Holic ended up being. And having Wataru Hatano on board for vocal duty didn’t seem to do any good to the uneventful songs – we mention this because he tends to be the one standing out in almost every group he’s a part of, in this case he didn’t shine. Kei Hosogai‘s performances were nothing out of the ordinary, ending up being overshadowed by Masuda (mainly), Ono and Hatano’s vocals.

As a whole, UNDEAD‘s single didn’t manage to impress but the special collaboration did. We were expecting much more from this unit however only a part of those expectations was met.

Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.6 UNDEAD” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series / UNDEAD (Rei Sakuma, Kaoru Hakaze, Koga Ogami, Adonis Otogari)
UNDEAD (Rei Sakuma, Kaoru Hakaze, Koga Ogami, Adonis Otogari)

 

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