J Solo Album ON FIRE
It’s been fourteen years since J began his solo career. Since then, LUNA SEA, the band that instigated the bassist’s rise to fame, have both broken up and reunited but J is still going strong with his solo activities. ON FIRE is his first full-length studio album since 2009’s “Here Comes Nameless Sunrise.”
Album opener “Bring the Light” starts off in a slow and controlled manner, but it isn’t long before the full force of J and his band explode from the speakers. The lyrics, like all of the songs on the album, are a mix of Japanese and English with English mainly used for the catchy hooks that litter each piece. The drums pick up the pace as the song develops and “Bring the Light” becomes the fast paced beginning that every album needs. The chorus line will quickly take residence in your brain and the catchy melody is enhanced by a lighter guitar riff that complements every note.
“Here we go,” the lead single from the album, is driven by hard, fast riffs courtesy of guitarists Takashi Fujita and Kazunori Mizuguchi. The verses have a harder edge to them and they rattle along at the speed of light, however the chorus line is far lighter and more uplifting. J’s vocals soar as he sings the title of the track. The middle portion of the song is made for a crowd to sing along with the “whoa-oh” vocals. The song ends as it began–with fast and fierce guitar work.
Drummer Scott Garrett sets the pace for “Red Sun” straight away as the song opens with his drums alone before the rest of the band join the party. The guitar work in this song is particularly impressive as there is a lighter riff that runs throughout the number and is a perfect complement to the heavier guitar sound that dominates both song and album. It also provides the ideal base for J’s vocals. J displays the variety in his voice to good effect in “Red Sun,” dropping an octave for a couple of lines toward the end to add an extra layer.
Of course, J became famous by playing bass for LUNA SEA, and he plays bass for his solo band alongside vocals. “Fire” begins with bass before the band and a quick blast of the chorus line come crashing in. When the verse begins fully, it’s just J’s voice and his bass and they make a perfect pairing for that all-too-short time where they are the only audible instruments. The chorus is just as catchy and uplifting as the songs that preceed but the added emphasis on the bass line that drives the songand gives “Fire” an added dimension.
“Who is” is far from being a ballad, but it is the mellowest track on the album so far. It settles in nicely after the four fast-paced rock songs that came before, and it brings the tempo down slightly. J provides some backing vocals that help make the chorus line stand out, as the main vocal sings “try to find the light.” Then things pick up a gear again for “storm rider” and it rolls along quickly, carried by quick riffs and drums. J’s vocal is backed by a slow echo of his lines that follows a second later and it is used to great effect in the bridges that lead into the energetic choruses. The chorus line is a simple repetition of “storm rider” with the occasional “go!” thrown in, and like most of the album, it’s easy to surmise that it will be a fierce track live. It features the best guitar solos on the album, both in the middle of the piece and during a few bars near the end.
“Baby baby”, is a definite change in pace and announces its differences immediately with the presence of an acoustic guitar. It’s a sweet song, and the combination of the acoustic and electric guitars in the chorus line highlight it among the more solid rock style of the rest of the album. Things do become a little faster as the song progresses, but it stays mellow and calm and J’s earnest vocals flow throughout. After the calmness and softness of “baby, baby,” the opening bars of the next track, “wild world,” are like having a loud alarm ring in your ears. The track begins with a single, heavy guitar riff that immediately signals that quiet time is over and it’s time to rock again. J’s vocals are darker and deeper and he plays with the guitar riffs wonderfully during the verses before launching into the chorus line. The highlight of the song is the rising guitar and drum interlude that leads into a version of the chorus structured perfectly for a crowd sing along. “Wake up wild world” indeed!
“Another dream,” with its airy title and lyrics also begins lightly. J’s voice is the softest it’s been throughout the album and the guitar and bass take the same soft approach. The drumming is simple and merely keeps time while the guitars build around it. When the song does reach its climax, it’s heavier but still true to the softer opening. It ends with a nice bass and guitar duet. “Another dream” is the ideal song to lead into the closer, “Endless Sky,” J sings of a new world and backing vocals are used to great effect to give the song a more epic feel and to make it a fitting end to the album. A key lyric from the song is “I just wanna fly” and the vocals and guitar riffs certainly have a soaring and flying feel to them.
It’s easy to envision how the songs of ON FIRE will work live and J’s brand of straight, unashamed rock was always made for a live venue. The album is a more than worthy addition to J’s impressive back catalogue–both solo and band.
The CD is available as CD-only version and CD+DVD version.
- Bring the Light
- here we go
- Red Sun
- who is
- storm rider
- baby baby
- wild world
- another dream
- Endless Sky