The 69 of 2014

Review

by Leela McMullen, chi.yow, Aki, Amy, posted January 1, 2015

AlbumsSingles

Femme Fatale – ARCANA

Kaya was certainly busy during 2014, splitting his time between revived unit Schwarz Stein and newly formed band Femme Fatale. Before ending the year, Femme Fatale released their first full album ARCANA on Christmas Eve. With 22 songs totaling up to over an hour of musical enjoyment with abundant references to the major arcana od the tarot deck, Kaya weaves an epic tale alongside fellow musicians Iori and TaNa on guitars, and Toshi on bass.

Opening with an eerie flare, the synthesized tune “ARCANA -The Hierophant-” carefully draws listeners in before an abrupt distortion marks the start of “JESTER.” The combination of heavy guitars, distinct bass line, and powerful vocals make for a strong initial impression, speedy piano notes adding to the slightly playful atmosphere. There is also an interlude for instrumentalist fans to appreciate a succession of guitar, bass, and even a speedy drum solo before Kaya comes back for the grand finish. “Mabayaku Taiyou” then plunges listeners into an all-encompassing darkness with a guitar-heavy intro before Kaya’s deep operatic vocals ring in. Guitars once more play a prominent role in driving the composition, with a few organ notes blended in as well for a more dramatic and gothic flare.

ARCANA -LOVERS-“ is a calm reflection before the opening of “BURN” filters in. “BURN” starts with a smoldering heat, Kaya’s sultry notes flaring up into passionate declarations aided by rhythmic guitars and punctuating drumbeats. The use of various digital effects is also well-accomplished to subtly transition between the different phases. “STARDUST” builds upon the energy in a more upbeat and whimsical manner, with violins being introduced into the composition. The high string notes complement the deep bass well as Kaya sings in a lighter manner, the constant tempo of the recital paralleling the beat.

The otherworldly interlude “ARCANA -Temperance-” guides listeners to the next reality that begins with “Hermit.” The intro to this reminiscent of old French times until the guitars strike. Violin is once again utilized as the notes weave in a layer of serenity between the verses Kaya sings, once more displaying the diverse range of his voice as he drifts between falsettos and deeper tones. A brief interlude of accordion drifts in almost like a delusion, floating away as an extensive guitar solo powers through. Contrasting this with “the Fatal Day,” smashing cymbals and hard drumbeats provide the main rhythm as Kaya powerfully calls out. In between the sung verses, heavy guitars are piled on to further build the tempo, aiding in driving the composition forward. “BABEL” starts with trilling piano notes, although, in a similar fashion to the preceding songs, the illusion of tranquility is brutally shattered by drums and guitars. Kaya continues to reach out through ethereal calls mixed with deceptively calm notes, completely in control and conducting the chaotic theme reminiscent of the failed tower of babel and the resulting linguistic cacophony.

The music box intro for “Faust” adds a touch of nostalgia alongside the heavy strings. Kaya’s voice is occasionally layered with a higher backing track as the song works toward the climax. He calls out wistfully in parts, spinning a tale of dark promises made and broken before the piece comes to a violent end. “Mephistopheles” then contains a mix of synthetic notes which blend well alongside another strong bass line. This aids in building the tension up between powerful vocal deliveries, a moment of reflection to display a unique bass solo then leading into a winding double guitar solo before Kaya retakes the helm to guide listeners once more through the story. “Perverted Martyr” takes a more indirect approach to storytelling, with gentler guitar melodies and calmer vocals. The steady rhythm set by bass and drums allows for a moment of reflection, as well as greater appreciation of the blend of instruments utilized in the slower paced composition.

KAISERIN -Rosenkreutz-” starts with a more feminine overtone, Kaya singing a playful serenade before bass is gently layered into the tune and the drums phase in in turn. With the occasional digital vocal filter, there is a touch of whimsy in the vocal delivery, accented with small xylophone notes at times. The ominous and overpowering intro to “Chariots,” on the other hand, makes use of dramatic organs as Kaya’s powerful vocals take precedence once more.

ARCANA -Justice-” induces a haunting impression, foreshadowing a potential fall from the heights. However, “MOON” provides another moment of serene calm and reflection after the dramatic series of events in the previous songs. Accompanied only by simple piano and violin, Kaya’s vocals are soothing after the continuous assault of harsh guitars—which do come into play eventually along with a metronome-like drum beat. In another change of pace, the sinister carnival intro wind up for “Grim Reaper” is followed by a rapid descent, barreling forward at an aggressive, guitar-driven pace. Kaya sings accordingly, at times accented by choir-like chimes, while at other times interspersed death growls and screams, presenting a fascinating duality before it all fades away.

After, comes the more dignified “ARCANA -The Emperor-” that escorts listeners on to the mysterious “JUDGEMENT-the die has been cast-.” This track is another powerfully presented composition that starts out with a synthetic acoustic strings intro. Lively double guitars then combine with ringing cymbals as Kaya once more impresses with his strong, operatic vocals. The high tempo finally concludes with the sound of clocks, an allusion to the steady progress of time.

ARCANA -The High Priestess-” is the last of the instrumental transitions, making use of organs to lead through to “The WORLD” which finishes the long journey of Femme Fatale on a tranquil note. Finally, at the end of a foretelling filled with love, chaos, happiness, and turmoil, Kaya’s soothing vocals lay listeners to rest with the steady tap of drums and careful guitars to lull until the next stage of the story begins.

With the combined experiences and strengths of this band’s members, it is not surprising that they were able to present a strong first album release. Literally packed with the mighty store of potential this talented group of musicians has to offer, the dark and complex world of ARCANA is a highly recommended listen for all lovers of gothic visual kei.

 Limited edition box set with bonus goods

 Regular edition: 22 track CD

Track list

  1. ARCANA -The Hierophant-
  2. JESTER
  3. Mabayaku Taiyou
  4. ARCANA -LOVERS-
  5. BURN
  6. STARDUST
  7. ARCANA -Temperance-
  8. Hermit
  9. the Fatal Day
  10. BABEL
  11. Faust
  12. Mephistopheles
  13. Perverted Martyr
  14. KAISERIN -Rosenkreutz-
  15. Chariots
  16. ARCANA -Justice-
  17. MOON
  18. Grim Reaper
  19. ARCANA -The Emperor-
  20. JUDGEMENT-the die has been cast-
  21. ARCANA -The High Priestess-
  22. The WORLD

Leela McMullen is a strong believer in the philosophy "no music, no life." Having traversed the range of Japanese fandoms, she found her home at last in visual kei and has made it her mission to share what she loves most with the world. Leela completed her B.A. in Japanese language from Griffith University in Gold Coast Australia. She now lives and works in Japan, striving to bring you the goods, hot from the scene. Follow her on twitter for juicy hints of upcoming articles if you've got a bit of Japanese language under your belt! http://twitter.com/#!/LeelaInTokyo

Chi’s interest in visual kei stems from her love of art. The unique aesthetics in combination with the wide range of musical styles within the genre have been what has kept her interest in the visual kei scene for over a decade. The main image her friends and classmates have of her is with a camera in hand, face behind the viewfinder or screen. This image is also occasionally combined with memories of running around her to avoid getting into her panorama shots.

Aki is an adventurous soul and an artistic jack of all trades who has followed her heart and dreams to Japan. Here she has found a way to combine her deeply rooted love for rock and metal with her ever growing love for artistic expression. She has long since confessed to being a helpless music addict with a strong preference for Japanese visual rock and metal, and writing for Rokkyuu has become another way for her to share what she loves with the world.

Amy happened across Dir en grey on a used computer and became enamored by the aesthetics and androgyny of visual kei. Amy studied Japanese at university, including a year studying abroad in Tokyo. Interests include anime and manga, reading, learning languages, playing guitar, and holding on to the futile dream of one day meeting Johnny Depp. Amy hopes to bring the overseas fans closer to the bands they love by translating material related to them.

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