KiLLER KiNG “Phantom of Love” (Review)

KiLLER KiNG return with “Phantom of Love“. The quartet brought their A-game for this release, exceeding our expectations with a revamped sound, surprising solo performances, polished vocals and well crafted instrumentals, in what is their best release to date.

Title: Phantom Of Love
Label: B-Project
Release date: 18/03/2018
Genre: J-Pop/Dance

Tracklist:

01. ファントム・オブ・ラブ/KiLLER KiNG
02. umbrella/Yuduki Teramitsu (Koutaro Nishiyama)
03. 絶頂的WANTED!/Haruhi Teramitsu (Taku Yashiro)
04. ヒミツの恋/Akane Fudo (Shoya Chiba)
05. Breaking now/Miroku Shingari (Takuya Eguchi)
06. ファントム・オブ・ラブ (instrumental)
07. umbrella (instrumental)
08. 絶頂的WANTED! (instrumental)
09. ヒミツの恋 (instrumental)
10. Breaking now (instrumental)

Track by track analysis:

01. ファントム・オブ・ラブ (Phantom Of Love)

In the good old tradition of theatrical songs whenever there’s the title “Phantom” around, “Phantom of Love” really sets an urgent and dramatic tone while trying to add a tragic romantic element. The instrumental mixes the classy touch of a choir and strings with a danceable beat that seems like a hybrid of a progressive dance beat with timpani, at times sounding like the timpani are doing the job of double bass drums. The build ups, instead of being done resorting to synths were done by timpani, building up drama and tension to the chorus. Adding timpani doesn’t always pan out in a pop song but the way it was incorporated on this track impressed us, it was a nice touch to the instrumental. Among the various instruments on this track, we need to point out the presence of synths, something that is B-Project‘s staple. This time around there are no dubstep-ish synths nor beats, and this track highly benefited from not having those. Guitars, although not a major presence in the song, are used to enhance certain elements and emotions in the song. The chorus is quite possibly one of the classiest we’ve heard this year and it was incredibly well crafted – just listen to the instrumentalization on that section, everything is on its right place. On the vocal end this was a surprising performance. KiLLER KiNG can actually have such a high level of singing and deliver such an engaging performance. We can’t help but to be impressed with how everyone upped their game for this performance. Classy instrumental and the best vocal performance we’ve ever heard from this unit, all in the same place. 5/5

02. umbrella

The listener is welcomed by a summery vibe courtesy of a jazzy rhodes piano melody, brass, melodic guitar riffs, snary drums, cowbell and a noticeable bass line create this loungy and classy instrumental. From blues-y guitar solos to delicate piano sections or the classy brass, “umbrella” has a rather interesting and well crafted instrumental. Koutaro Nishiyama seems that have found his groove because his performance on this song was surprisingly good. He still struggles with some notes and in some keys but, for the most part, his performance in “umbrella” was pretty good. We’d still would have liked his performance to have a little bit more emotion in order for the song to sound his instead of a karaoke performance, a good one but one that you don’t feel like the singer owned the song. This might not stand out for most people but if you’ve got some experience with music you’ll notice that he’s far from having made this song his, it seems that his performance lacks confidence. Regardless, this is the kind of song you want to be listening to when you’re relaxing on a summer afternoon or going on a drive, it’ll put a smile on your face. 4.5/5

03. 絶頂的WANTED!

Now, if you missed heavy synths and dubstep elements, this instrumental will feel that void. A mid-tempo washy beat with a clap track and some dubstep-ish breaks leads the way to this song. This is an electric pop song through and through. Almost everything about this instrumental is synthetic or program based, with the exception to the faster than lightening guitar solo in the shortest bridge we’ve ever encountered in a pop song. Don’t get us wrong though. These many synths could lead to disaster, if handled sloppily. Thankfully, that is not the case. There are several layers to this song, each one with a different set of synths crafted in a way to enhance and enrich the instrumental not hinder it. We felt that the way the synths were handled actually took into account the lack of live instruments and made up for it in an interesting way. Yashiro‘s performance was energetic and passionate, raising the tension on this mini-album. But this isn’t the kind of performance to showcase his singing skills. While entertaining, we felt that Yashiro could have easily impress us if the vocal direction had been another. One thing we noticed in comparison with previous releases is that he’s much more comfortable going up on the scale or performing in his natural tone. He still has that unique nasal-y tone of his but it is polished in the a way that it doesn’t sound weird or like he was forcing himself to reach a certain note or achieve a certain tone. 絶頂的WANTED! was a good energizer after a quiet jazzy song, yet it failed to hit the mark for us. 4/5

04. ヒミツの恋

Quite possibly the major surprise on this release comes with “Himitsu no Koi“, song performed by Shoya Chiba. This sweet, slow paced ballad resorts to delicate strings – violins and cellos that are used not only as an atmospheric element but also as a way to raise the tension to some of the sections on this song. Additionally we find on this instrumental a bright piano melody, simple percussion, bass and acoustic guitars, these last ones being barely noticeable on this piece. The listener can feel the warmth from this instrumental and lyrics. On the vocal end Shoya Chiba left us in awe. If we had to describe his singing tone comparing with that of another seiyuu, we’d say that he has a little bit of Natsuki Hanae‘s tone in his performance. He can go pretty high on the scale without any issues and his singing tone although not as “in a woman scale/sounding like a woman” as Hanae‘s, is pretty close to it. It is delicate and rich, a treat for anyone that loves these kinds of tenors with sweet, tender vocals with a lot of control over their performances. We weren’t expecting Chiba to be such an impressive singer, clearly, up until now, KiLLER KiNG‘s songs hadn’t been the best to showcase his vocal prowess. “Himitsu no Koi” is a fantastic addition to this mini-album and a sure contender for best song on this release. 5/5

05. Breaking now

To wrap up this release we have KiLLER KiNG‘s heavy hitter, Takuya Eguchi. “Breaking now” is a powerful, high throttle electronic dance song that is completely different from what we can find on this mini-album. The verses mix tempos and tones. The beginning is always quiet, with simple instrumentalization, mostly bass, minimalistic, muffled synths and the second section on each verse that raises the tension to the chorus with fast paced sampled drums, heavy guitar riffs and additional synths joining the mix. There are some rap sections in which glitchy synths join the mix. The instrumental still counts with acoustic guitars to add more depth to the instrumental. The chorus is too good to not talk at least a bit about it. The way in which the chorus was crafted – raising the tension, its energy and uptempo – plus Eguchi‘s fast paced, fiery vocals, make it the most addictive chorus on this release. Takuya Eguchi‘s performance showcased his versatility. From singing sections, some with tricky climbs on the scale, to rap sections in which Eguchi, the iconic seiyuu rapper makes his comeback, this performance has a little bit of everything. After listening to “Breaking now” once, you’ll want to hit that replay button. Top marks. 5/5

Final rating:

KiLLER KiNG brought their best game for this mini-album. We weren’t expecting that the usually “too bright and upbeat to deal with” unit in B-Project would actually have all this in them. Their music was revamped and their performances polished, resulting in an impressive release. The instrumentals explored a little bit of each of the characters’ sides. From dramatic pop to jazzy pop-rock, ballads and ever dance music with an hip-hop touch, this release caters to almost all tastes and showcases the unit’s strengths. We’re particularly fond of the title track. “Phantom of Love” is the kind of song that we’d never expect from KiLLER KiNG. Dramatic performances with an underlying dark and tragic feel is the complete opposite of what this unit had been all about up until this release. Regardless, the instrumental has its moments of brilliance, with the way some of the instruments and samples were used. This song sounded right, and there is literally nothing we’d change about it.

On the vocal end we have some considerations. Takuya Eguchi is, as everyone already knows, one of the most versatile singers in the seiyuu business. His performances always fit the tone and tempo of the song and his singing is filled with life, making his performances always resonate with the listener. With “Phantom of Love” it was no exception. His work on the title track was that of a reliable unit member that could back everyone up for a chorus – in which his tone seems to blend in with everyone’s tones instead of standing out, leaving the spotlight for the other members -, and lead the way with ease when the time came for his to tackle his solo parts. His performance was powerful and the most energetic on this release.

Taku Yashiro has grown as a singer since we last heard him with KiLLER KiNG. His singing is more consistent as you can notice from his performance in the title track, leading everyone with confidence. Although not perfect, his solo performance was a positive step in his growth as a singer. We would have love to listen to him tackle a song like “Himitsu no Koi” or “umbrella“, something in which we could easily focus on his vocals.

Shoya Chiba was the wild card on this release. It was the first time we heard some of the things he did on this mini-album. His vocals are stable and his performances are filled with emotion, serving as perfect contrast to balance Eguchi‘s lower toned vocals in the middle of a group that is filled with mid-toned singers. When on a solo setting, Chiba swept us away. In previous performances with KiLLER KiNG, Chiba never showed everyone his skills or, at least, a portion of those. For “Himitsu no Koi” he brought his best self to the mic and what we got was a rich, impressive vocal performance in a beautiful ballad. Chiba has a stunning falsetto that, we don’t know why, was never used on KiLLER KiNG‘s performances. It was a pleasant surprise on our side, making us see his stance on this group and his vocals in a completely different light.

Koutaro Nishiyama surprised us. In “Phantom of Love” he delivered a fierce and rich performance, finally sounding comfortable in the middle of the unit and in “umbrella” he showcased a little bit of his improvements. Nishiyama is improving slowly and it seems that he’s finding his groove and the music genre(s) that fit best with his vocals. His performance in the solo track was classy and, even with some missteps here and there, it was an enjoyable performance.

KiLLER KiNG have had a lot of inconsistencies in the past. From releases that seem out of place, to lackluster performances or performances ruined by the instrumentals, this unit has always stayed a step behind all other B-Project units. Besides the popular casting choices for this unit, it seemed like they’d never pan out as the great unit everyone wanted them to be. With “Phantom of Love” the tables have turned. KiLLER KiNG seem like a completely different unit. Refined, polished vocals by basically everyone, better instrumentals, more consistency in the release itself, all of this contributed to make us view this unit with a different light. “Phantom of Love” stands with ease as KiLLER KiNG‘s best release to date, as well as one of the best releases in the B-Project franchise.

Phantom of Love” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

Phantom Of Love / KiLLER KiNG
KiLLER KiNG
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3 responses to “KiLLER KiNG “Phantom of Love” (Review)

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