Mamiya Takaki “amethyst” (Review)

VAZZROCK‘s “bi-color” series has finally kicked off. “bi-color” focuses on introducing each of the members of Vazzy and Rock Bottom through a series of releases. The first volume “amethyst” is out and we’ve got plenty to say about this impressive release.

A short intro to this project:

VAZZROCK is the newest 2.5D project by Tsukipro. The cast includes 12 characters split into 2 bands: Vazzy and Rock Down. Those 12 characters represent different precious stones. Besides this and in regards to the interactions between this series and others under Tsukipro, it is mentioned that VAZZROCK‘s members are on good terms (some even friends) with some members of SQ and ALIVE. VAZZROCK, SQ and ALIVE all share the same dormitory.

For more about this project and its upcoming releases, please refer to this article.

Title: 眞宮孝明-amethyst-
Label: Tsukipro/Movic
Release date: 23/02/2018
Genre: Rock/Progressive dance Pop

Tracklist:

1. DRAMA「作られた出会い」
2. DRAMA「心、開いて」
3. NOT A GAME(Mamiya Takaki solo)
4. Trick Trap Trick(Mamiya Takaki × Kira Ouka Duet)
5. NOT A GAME -off vocal-
6. Trick Trap Trick -off vocal-

Track by track analysis:

3. NOT A GAME

NOT A GAME” introduces us to an alternative rock tune that mixes thunderous guitar riffs, turntablism, memorable slapped basslines and alluring vocals. This instrumental balances perfectly groovy and edgy vibes under a comfortable mid-tempo. Double bass drums and slap bass are responsible for the groovy component on this song whereas the fast guitar riffs and turntablism bits introduce an edgy tone to it. In the middle of this instrumental that are minimalist synth parts, meant to enhance some of the sections. The instrumental sounds like something out of the good old rap-rock days (minus the rapping). The vocal department counts with Tarusuke Shingaki‘s versatile skillset. His baritone is known to being quite able to adapt to almost every music genre and never disappoints. From singing in the majority of the song to some slow paced rap parts in the intro and second verses, Shingaki tackled everything, exceeding our expectations at the same time. There’s a sweetness to his tone that morphs into something more powerful and imposing, something that fit this song perfectly. A heck of a ride. 5/5

4. Trick Trap Trick

Trick Trap Trick” brings to the table the first duet of the “bi-color” series. Tarusuke Shingaki and Yusuke Kobayashi team up for this surprising performance. Were you expecting another exciting rock tune? If yes, this song will come as a big surprise for you. A loungy dance pop instrumental courtesy of a simple dubstep-ish beat, progressive synths and alluring synth pads and rhodes piano, set a sexy, 90’s inspired summery and mysterious vibe. The first note was enough to surprise us and grab our attention.

The Shingaki Kobayashi combo is perhaps the thing that surprised us the most. Their tones work incredibly well together, with both smoothing their way through this song, setting a groovy and alluring tone. Their melodies and harmonies are just some other plus points (out of many) on their performance. Kudos to Shingaki and Kobayashi that, not only fit like a glove with this kind of setting and mood, but also tried to go beyond it and make the song theirs, adding flourishes, mainly falsetto, that made this performance stand out as the best on this release. Perfect chemistry and addictive instrumental. 5/5

Final rating:

Contrary to Tsukino Production‘s SQ and ALIVE series, VAZZROCK seems like it is the real deal right from the start.

We had some reservations on this franchise mainly due to the fact that, when SQ and ALIVE’s units debuted, their sound was erratic, the songs were confusing or ridiculous at times and the vocals lacked quality in most groups. Now, the same can’t be said about what we heard on “眞宮孝明-amethyst-“, the best opening release we’ve listened to from a franchise that is only now taking its first steps.

With this release we got a glimpse of what Vazzy‘s leader Mamiya Takaki is all about. “NOT A GAME” is a groovy tune that gave us some rap-rock feels (early 90’s kids, you’ll understand this) as soon as it started playing. It had been a while since we last had listened to a rock song with turntablism, especially when that is extremely rare in the 2.5D unit business, more focused on bubblegum pop, edgy pop-rock or EDM pop. The song wasn’t that big of a surprise, at least instrumentally, however it was an entertaining tune that brought to the table the slap bass – double bass drums combo, one of the most powerful and grooviest instrument combinations/techniques we can have paired up in an instrumental. Hyped guitar riffs and a stunning guitar solo completely sold us the song.

Trick Trap Trick” is a tricky song to perform. Dressed in a progressive electronic pop instrumental with washy synths, dubstep elements and a whole lot of bits and hits of instruments that bring to life a faint 90’s electronica/dance music vibe, this song completely caught us off guard.

In the good fashion of following the typical Japanese predictability when it comes to project titles and what those actually end up being – that usually give away all that project is about -, we were expecting only rock songs from VAZZROCK (yet, we are aware that it’s also related with the rocks that represent each member). Also, from the duet we expected a ballad, it wasn’t one. Sounds silly but after years listening to 2.5D idols and seiyuu songs you’ll have that habit and will notice that 99% of times it works like that. Thankfully, there’s that 1% that is there to impress everyone with unpredictable instrumentals and performances that render us speechless. “NOT A GAME” isn’t even close to touch anything rock related. It’s an all out loungy dance song and we loved every second of it. Between the instrumental and the vocal performances we can’t choose a favorite. The whole song is worthy of your attention, especially if you’re into smooth, rich vocals and good old soothing synth pads or rhodes piano melodies. Additionally, “Trick Trap Trick” isn’t a ballad, it’s the polar opposite.

Tarusuke Shingaki has, over the years, made a name for himself with his performances in various character songs. Everyone that has been following his career knows that he is a great singer. His skillset enables him to tackle any kind of song with ease. He makes the song he performs, his. His performance on “Trick Trap Trick” is hypnotizing and alluring at the same time. Smoothing his way through the notes and adding flourishes. When you least expect, you’re already on the palm of his hand. Yusuke Kobayashi was a fantastic addition to this song, performing on par and challenging Shingaki for the spotlight. Kobayashi showcased his skillful singing, tackling falsetto without an issue, matching the tone of the song with a groovy and melodic performance. His performance instantly raised our expectations for his upcoming release.

On “NOT A GAMEShingaki showcased his lower range, fitting well with the instrumental, never once missing a beat, note or performing anything subpar. His singing quality and technique are high. You can tell from his performances that singing is something he’s trained and perfected over the years. In all those songs he showed that he has his English pronunciation on top of its game, not missing a single word on the song, even with “Trick Trap Trick” being a mouthful for the common Japanese native, not used to pronouncing that many “Tr” sounds in the same phrase.

All in all, “Mamiya Takaki-amethyst-” is the debut single and franchise opening release everyone wished they had on their repertoire. Vazzy – in this case its leader – don’t seem to spare anything nor anyone with this groovy, rocking and danceable release. Unpredictable and hypnotizing, this is one of the best releases so far released in 2018 and easily the best franchise opening release from Tsukipro‘s projects/series. VAZZROCK is the project you should be following in 2018. There’s a lot of potential within each group and with such an impressive first release, it’s safe to say that the expectations are now high for the upcoming releases.

眞宮孝明-amethyst- is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for overseas fans.

"VAZZROCK" bi-color Series / Takaaki Mamiya (CV: Tarusuke Shingaki) & Ouka Kira (CV: Yusuke Kobayashi)
Takaaki Mamiya (CV: Tarusuke Shingaki) & Ouka Kira (CV: Yusuke Kobayashi)

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