Valkyrie “Ensemble Stars! Album Series Valkyrie” (Review)

Valkyrie’s “Ensemble Stars! Album Series Valkyrie” shows how the unit creates soundscapes and grandiose and classy instrumental pieces pairing them up with top quality vocal performances by Takahashi, Osuka and Yonai.

Title: Ensemble Stars! Album Series Valkyrie
Label: Pony Canyon
Release date: 28/11/18
Genre: Orchestral pop/Symphonic Rock

Tracklist:

01.魅惑劇
02.礼賛歌
03.Mémoire Antique
04.今宵月の館にて
05.Last Lament
06.聖少年遊戯 (旧Valkyrie - Itsuki, Nazuna, Mika)
07.砂上ノ楼閣 (旧Valkyrie - Itsuki, Nazuna, Mika)
08.Cloth Waltz(Itsuki solo song)
09.琥珀ト瑠璃ノ輪舞曲(Mika solo song)

Track by track analysis:

01.魅惑劇

Miwaku Geki instrumentalization creates a soundscape from the first note played and as the song progresses so will the, the listeners, live this experience. As the song begins so does your journey through this ball like experience. The bells in the intro surely do resonate with the idea of Cinderella, a sort of romantic touch and another layer added to Miwaku Geki, a track with many elements to pay attention to. Valkyrie is known for its grandiose sound and often powerful lyrical performances. Picking up from this idea of a romantic and sort of vampire like idea, the piano is sure to creep in with this bewitching notes that add a certain urgency to the instrumental piece, yet it does fix in perfectly when it is incorporated with the rest of the instruments, such as the strings, guitar, drums and bass. It becomes evident that there is some Paganini’s Caprice hints when listening attentively, which once again bring us to a more classic and refined flavor to Miwaku Geki. When it comes to the vocal performance, one cannot turn a blind eye to Takahashi and Osuka‘s lyrical performance. Both of them, provided this song with finishing touch to this song with a rich instrumental. Flawless performance.  5/5

02.礼賛歌

[As previously reviewed]Synth pads and pianissimo strings set the eerie vibe to this grandiose song. Oboe, trumpets, harp, timpani, and many other orchestral instruments (there are too many to name) complete this instrumental’s lineup. A reminder that there are no drums, bass nor guitars on this song. And, in reality, those are not even necessary to make a song sound as grandiose as this one. The strings set an urgency to the piece while the timpani add drama to the instrumental. It’s incredibly satisfying to come across a song that goes in the complete opposite of today’s “mainstream” music. If the instrumental wasn’t enough to impress, the lyrical performances by Takahashi and Osuka left us in awe. This is just like watching/listening to an historical musical play. The listener can’t ignore the delicate and rich instrumentalization that put the focus on the powerful vocal performances. Thoroughly impressed. 5/5

03.Mémoire Antique

Mémoire Antique takes on an acoustic approach, with a refined instrumentalization, yet unlike the other tracks in this release so far, it has a more intimate feeling. If there is one thing that remains present from the intro to the end of the track is the idea of this track being played at a late night soirée. Refined but simpler than the previous tracks in this release, Mémoire Antique shows us a toned down version of Valkyrie. The violins are fully packed with emotion and it is with that idea in mind that the strings lead the instrumental piece, alongside the piano, bass and drums. Truth be told, Valkyrie’s grandiose tracks are always mesmerizing, but their take on a different approach to unit’s “sound” sounds refreshing. So, although the instrumental piece is not grandiose it does not lose Valkyrie’s touch at all. Takahashi and Osuka‘s performance remains lyrical, but once again toned down in order to fit in with the mood of the track. 4.5/5

04.今宵月の館にて

Urgent strings drop the curtain to Koyoi Tsuki no Yakata ni te. When incorporating a harpsichord in an instrumental piece, one ought to understand that when it comes to create a certain romantic and grandiose flavor there is no better choice, yet not only do we have that but also a piano, drums and timpani that certainly add more a delicate and sophisticated touch. Osuka and Takahashi never fail when it comes to their performance, but if we must say Osuka really outdid himself with a lyrical and heartfelt performance, that is of course not to say that Takahashi did not do the same but the one that shone brighter in this track was Osuka. 4.5/5 

05.Last Lament

[As previously review]Melancholic strings mix with a fast paced rock sound. The song’s pace went up with guitars, drums and bass joining in. Most of the orchestral elements were put aside for this song but there are still remnants of those. The strings are a major plus for a rock song like this, just like the delicate piano melodies looping in the background. The instrumental once again caught our attention. Rock songs and strings 99% of times work incredibly well, especially if the tone is as melodramatic and classy as Valkyrie‘s is. The performances were slightly different from the previous track. There was no need to go overboard with the whole lyrical approach to their singing. In result this performance sounds more comfortable and natural. Last Lament closes this single in impressive fashion. 4.5/5

06.聖少年遊戯 

Sei Shounen Yuugi has a different charm that distinguishes this track from the others. Partially due to the fact that there is Yonai singing with Osuka and Takahashi. The lyrical performance has somehow become more delicate and contrasting as it shows a different side of Valkyrie. Sei Shounen Yuugi has the contrast between baritone and tenor in what sounds like a crossfade between tones. Despite the grandiose mood present in this instrumental piece, there are some moments when one can definitely tell that there is a sort of playful tone to certain instruments, such as the harp or the piano. 4.5/5

07.砂上ノ楼閣 

Valkyrie are big in creating soundscapes with their instrumental pieces, and providing the listener with a journey through the track’s duration. Sajou no Roukaku is once more a perfect example of a romantic mood incorporated in another toned down track by Valkyrie, trading the usually grandiose mood for a more picturesque, although certain instruments remain such as the slow and dragging violins, which are the element behind the romantic flavor added in the instrumental piece. Incorporating a shakuhachi in the Sajou no Roukaku was an interesting choice as it added more to the whole idea of creating an image in the listener’s head. Other elements such as the strings’s pizzicato or the piano are other complements in this track’s instrumental piece. When it comes down to talk about the vocal performance, the three members really worked on harmonizing with each other and taking the other elements in this track we cannot say anything other than praise them for a marvelous performance.  5/5

08.Cloth Waltz

Going with more or less the same mood and tempo as the previous track Cloth Waltz focuses its attention on the piano, bells and the slow drums while Takahashi shines with his melodic performance. Unlike what would perhaps be expected from a member of Valkyrie, the overall mode of this track is rather relaxed and no where near the grandiose and refined performances of other tracks in their repertoire. In Cloth Waltz there is a heavy focus on the piano, acoustic guitar and the bass, as well as other elements, but these are the one’s that set the general mood to this track. Takahashi has abandoned the lyrical approach to the lyrics and instead has taken a softer and perhaps more fit way of singing. 4/5

09.琥珀ト瑠璃ノ輪舞曲

Kohaku to Ruri no Rinbukyoku brings back the refined and classic mood with a slow paced instrumental piece. Once again we have an harpsichord with a piano incorporated together, which is a fine choice especially with the violins’s pizzicato and the groovy bass line. We have what we could call of a violin and bass solo which adds more of the romantic ball like mood that is provided by the harpsichord at the beginning of the track and which prolongs throughout the instrumental piece. Osuka‘s vocal performance is on pair with the instrumental piece, between showing off a solid vocal performance with vibrato and emotion giving at key and strategic points. 5/5 

Final rating: 

Valkyrie‘s newest album brought a lot of interesting tracks, some older ones that were featured once again in one of the unit’s releases. 礼賛歌 and Last Lament impressed for their energy, quality and refined instrumental pieces as well as for Takahashi and Osuka‘s vocal performance.

To this release the unit brought their usual grandiose and classic mood as well as the lyrical performance by both members. By now, this formula has been perfected to such a high quality end result that tracks such as Miwaku Geki, heavily driven by the story that is told by the instrumental piece, are born. Another prime example of this is Sajou no Roukaku, which created a beautiful soundscape with several layers and different elements in the instrumental piece that one needs to pay attention to so as to fully grasp the meaning behind such choices. When talking about soundscapes, Valkyrie have created several and each one of them with an unique yet resonating theme behind it. Firstly, there’s a ball like theme going on for Miwaku Geki, then there is Mémoire Antique and its late night soirée mood, a much more relaxed and perhaps even more intimate sound than other tracks in this release, and finally there is Sajou no Roukaku with the shakuhachi which gave to the instrumental piece a traditional mood.

When it comes down to each member’s performance on their solo tracks there is no shadow of a doubt the Osuka had the upper hand. Kohaku to Ruri no Rinbukyoku has its grandiose and polished touch and between the pizzicato or the slow dragging strings or the piano and harpsichord, there was no room for a bad final product. Regarding Osuka‘s vocal performance, we must say that he outdid himself using his vibrato and singing with lots of emotion. On the other hand, Takahashi sang perfectly, yet the instrumental piece of his solo track came short in quality. Although, the instrumental piece itself does not lack anything in particular, it is equally true that there is nothing that makes it exciting to listen to a second time, since it lacks some of the elements found in this release. In short, there is lack of energy in comparison to the other tracks in the album, but other than that the track is good.

Valkyrie are going strong on the soundscapes and grandiose and classy instrumental pieces pairing it up with top quality vocal performances by Takahashi, Osuka and Yonai. Even though there are so many new tracks it is amazing how Valkyrie kept faithful to exploring the orchestral pop/symphonic rock genres and didn’t stray away from their path right now, which is quite promising.

Ensemble Stars! Album Series Valkyrie” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

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