Naosuke Oyama “citrine” (Review)

The surprise so far in the bi-color series belongs to Naosuke Oyama‘s “citrine“. The very first release in the bi-color series to embrace a blend of high-tension, 90’s dance-pop and rock is here to steal the show.

Updated intro to this series with some spoilers in the mix:

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. VAZZROCKSQ and ALIVE all share the same dormitory. Vazzy and Rock Down‘s leaders were once part of the same group with SolidS‘ Shiki Takamura and QUELL‘s Shu Izumi.

Title:  大山直助-citrine-
Label: Tsukipro/Movic
Release date: 29/06/2018
Genre: Dance-Pop/Pop-rock

Tracklist:

1 - ドラマ「PLAY GAME」
2 - ドラマ「CHALLENGER」
3 - ヒル・イナ・BABY
4 - Rose Gambler [duet]
5 - ヒル・イナ・BABY -off vocal-
6 - Rose Gambler -off vocal-

Track by track analysis:

3 – ヒル・イナ・BABY

Hiru Ina BABY” perfectly captured the late 90’s high-tension vibe and pacing, reminiscing of what T.M.Revolution was known for back in the day (i.e Hot Limit). The simple dance-pop sound, characteristic of that period, mixed playful piano melodies, catchy hooks, simple pulsing synth work and bass beats with funky guitar riffs, creating an addictive and easy-listening sound that would cater to almost anyone. Well, this song is no different. Everything about it is catchy, the progression is exciting and the instrumentalization, although dated, sounds incredibly fresh.

On the vocal end, Sasa showed that he can handle his own pretty well. He brought to the table and fit perfectly with the song’s playful vibe and delivered an unexpectedly good performance. Unique entry in the bi-color series. 5/5

4 – Rose Gambler

To wrap up this release, we have “Rose Gambler“, another unique duet song in the bi-color series. Just like the previous tune, this song is high-tension and made for the dancefloor. Dramatic strings and heavy guitars set a darker or, at least, more serious tone to this song. This blend of rawness from the heavy guitar riffs and the delicate touch of the strings created a strangely alluring and cool soundscape, catching the listener’s attention on a first listen. The instrumental counts with slow paced verses – those in which guitars take the front wheel – and high-tension, fast paced choruses in which synths are king. Whether it’s with that simple, yet effective, progression, the way the build ups and drops were set up, or the interesting dubstep-ish break in the bridge – that stands out for the way the strings and hi-hat triplets play around – this instrumental is incredibly balanced and feels right.

Tsubasa Sasa and Shun Horie turned out to be an interesting and surprising duo. They matched the instrumental’s energy, were in sync throughout the song and showed a consistency and control over their vocals that impressed. Another pleasant surprise and one of the best dance songs in the franchise. 5/5

Final rating:

A new member, a different approach to rock music. Dance-rock shaped Naozuke Oyama‘s “citrine” into an unique release, yet another exciting layer added to what is shaping up to be an eclectic and vocally powerful, Vazzy.

Up until now, listeners only got to listen to very few dance music incursions in the bi-color series (basically the other one is “TRICK TRAP TRICK“). Jazz-rock, R&B and nu-metal have made an impression so far in the series but we weren’t expecting a complete release to embrace dance music or, at least, blend it this well with rock music.

Hiru Ina BABY is the kind of song that will make you nostalgic. The instrumental channeled perfectly that 90’s dance-pop feel that marked a generation. It might sound dated to some people, especially those not fans of music with an old-school touch, yet I feel that it’s those exact retro synths and guitar effects, characteristic of the late 90’s – that make this song sound fresh and, at the same time, set itself apart from all other songs released so far in the franchise. Its simplicity and straightforwardness were enough to leave a mark.

On the other side, Rose Gambler, the duet, was another pleasant surprise. By no means expect a slow paced, laidback tune like most of the duets so far. This song sounds edgier due to the addition of heavy guitar riffs but, instead of making this song sound straight-up heavy, strings were added, balancing the tone and overall feel of the song. In return we got an interesting blend of dance and rock that is, at the same time, dramatic and exciting. This song stands out as one of the best so far in the franchise.

Tsubasa Sasa hadn’t shone once on Vazzy‘s first unit CD nor in “Time is now…“, duet song included in the previous bi-color series CD. Things changed for this release and he far exceeded my expectations. Tsubasa Sasa adapts well to the song he’s performing, sounding natural and confident. That confidence of his and the fact that he is a solid singer, make him stand out. Forget his excessive nasalization or key issues mentioned in the past, he sounds like a completely different singer.

If there’s one thing we can ascertain, after more than a couple of releases reviewed from this franchise, is that there are no two songs that feel or sound the same. Each character channels a completely different vibe, which results in a completely different approach to rock music. This is an interesting aspect that I feel will make the VAZZROCK stand out in the long run.

All in all, “citrine” is the unexpected dark horse. Given previous performances, expectations on Sasa‘s singing were low, however he surprised positively with two groovy performances, shedding a completely different light over his capabilities. This release easily ranks among the best in the bi-color series.

VAZZROCK” bi-color Series (5) “Naosuke Oyama – citrine –” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN. 

"VAZZROCK" bi-color Series / Naosuke Oyama (CV: Tsubasa Sasa) & Yuma Shirase (CV: Shun Horie)
Naosuke Oyama (CV: Tsubasa Sasa) & Yuma Shirase (CV: Shun Horie)
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