12012’s Self-Titled Album Not the Pride of 2012
12012 have not been having the best time of it lately. After losing a member last year, the self-titled album release, 12012, is their first since his departure. The band has switched labels to Firewall, alongside DIR EN GREY, and it seems that the curse of trying to emulate the success of forerunners has befallen 12012 and left them in a creative desert with a sound that seems unsure of where they are going or where they are now.
Wataru’s vocals vary between thin growls and piercing, high pitched wailing that emulates Kyo’s vocal style. If anyone thought Mao of Sadie was Kyo-mark-II, this album shows that Wataru is in fact the original’s keenest imitator.
The opening track, “MADARA” was composed with the obvious intention of being an atmosphere-building instrumental, similar to DIR EN GREY or Merry’s Beautiful Freaks. In the short minute and a half, you may find yourself checking to see if the CD is playing because the notes are so low and inaudible. Consisting of clunky piano played at the very bottom of the register and a strange repetitive thud of industrial sounds, “MADARA” doesn’t so much build atmosphere as create a confusing buzz.
Things pick up with the opening notes of “SUICIDE.” A dark, Middle Eastern feel infuses the music, palpably laced with menace. The moment Wataru starts to scream incomprehensibly however, the song descends into messy metalcore and growling that is disconcertingly out of sync with the melody, destroying the promise of the piece.
This is a problem with much of the album as it races through clunking metal riffs and interminable screaming in songs like “ABUSE” and “FEROCIOUS” without much thought for composition. The total effect is a lot of boring noise which in “FEROCIOUS” borders on the painful.
“BAAL-ZEBUL” is a saving grace, as despite Wataru’s vocal mimicry, the instrumentals are generally tighter and cleaner with some interesting siren-like guitar that powers a song and sounds like it may be quite fun live. The real highlights of 12012 come near the middle and at the very end with a handful of subtler, more complex pieces. “SUIREN” is a ballad piece with gentle piano and string accompaniment; it’s a pretty, bright, and hopeful melody that allows Wataru to sing normally, although nestling it between the two screamers, “ABUSE” and “JAZETSU,” is odd, as if the band didn’t give much thought to song order.
“JAZETSU” is heavy while hardly resorting to a wall of noise. They do bring in the noise at the end but until then this is an interesting piece that opens on stark notes from bass and drums. The growls are better and mixed with whispers and the blares of guitar that add up to a more interesting whole, especially in the measured chorus with the climbing minor key giving this a rather sinister air. It’s a shame they went crazy at the end.
“EN,” a melancholy version of “SUIREN,” has more bite to it than “SUIREN” though with a heavier edge and moodier vocals combined with a fuzzy and mesmeric melody. These elements combine to make “EN” the more interesting of the two slower pieces and while not the greatest of slow songs ever written for visual kei, this is a highly passable effort. “EN” is followed by “HESITATION”, a slow, methodic song with a real Western feel to the snarled verses and soaring chorus that takes the album away from overbearing DIR EN GREY influences.
The album leaves the very best till last, although it does make you suffer once more through bad brain bashers “HIDE & SEEK” and “MADMAN” before reaching “FORTITUDE.” 12012 changes character in this final song with delicate guitar introduction and the laid back rap vocals leading into a confident driving melody: it sounds like a whole new artist.
There are few things less enjoyable in the visual kei world than a band that tries too hard to be DIR EN GREY and falls on its face, or gets confused that heavy has to be mean immense assault on the senses to leave headaches in its wake. Performed by some bands, thundering visual kei metal is a joy but 12012 end up plagiarizing and lose themselves in the process. Despite a handful of worthwhile songs, this self-titled album is best avoided.
- FERO CIOUS
- HIDE & SEEK
- 「6」party -reprise-
- vomit -reprise-
- my room agony -reprise-