Wagakki Band Album Review: Tokyo Singing

An album review by Rosy Baltussen

Since the 14th of August I’ve been waiting for the release of this album. There had been three full songs released already: Ignite, Singin’ For and Sakura Rising. In the end I was very lucky that 9 days before the official release (14th of October) the digital album has been released.

At 2am I sat behind my laptop to give the album a go! I had been waiting to hear this for so long that I was too excited and couldn’t sleep. I shall let you know what my thoughts are of this beautiful album, which in my opinion is a piece of art.

The album starts with the song ‘Calling’ and it took me right in to it. It was the classic Wagakki Band sound I heard, and I was sold inmediately. ‘Calling’ is a real album opener. It’s a song that is between powerful and slow, it’s the perfect way to start.

The second song of the album is one that I already knew, and which they played live in August. Of course it is ‘Ignite’, a very powerful song, which for me has the surprising Machiya “rap” part, he does so amazingly. I loved ‘Ignite’ since the first time I heard it.

Next is a track called ‘Reload Dead’ and I loved this song since I heard the preview of it. It starts powerfully but gets slower in pace right away. I really love the combination of the traditional Japanese instruments with the drums and guitars. It also has the perfect balance between the voices of Yuko and Machiya.

‘Ikitoshi Ikeru Hana’ is next to feature, and has a perfect combination of the intruments: Sakuchachi, Shamisen and Koto which gives this song the traditional Japanese vibe. It’s a really cheerful uplifting song.

The fifth song, ‘Gekka Bijin’ had been released as a preview, including a great animated video. Yuko wrote and produced this song and I think you can really tell it’s her work. It’s such a beautiful and peaceful song. It made me feel very calm when I listened to it. In this song they also used a great combination of the traditional Japanese instruments, but also the guitar in the back gives this song an extra dimension.

Now it’s up to the song that is known by a lot of people now. ‘Sakura Rising’ featuring Amy Lee of Evanescence fame. I have to be honest and I am still getting used to it. I have never been fond of Amy’s voice and I personally still don’t understand the collaboration, but it is a beautiful song. The band and Yuko sound amazing. It is just that Amy’s part is not my cup of tea. I hope I will get used to it the more I listen to this song.

After this song Machiya really hits it with the guitar, another great and powerful song called ‘Guernica’. I really love his voice in this one, it’s a more raw side we have never really heard before in Wagakki Band songs. It still fits perfectly with Yuko’s voice, but I must say I was pretty surprised when I heard Machiya’s voice this way, but it sounds really amazing.

The eighth song on this album is ‘Tokyo Sensation’ and the title actually says it all. It is a sensation listening to the song. It’s a pretty ‘busy’ song, but it really does it justice. When I heard it for the first time I got a party vibe from it, it made me dance!

‘Origami-ism’ is next on the album and we are getting slowly to the end. That doesn’t say a thing because this one is also a great track. I still had the dancing vibe of the last song and they continue giving me this feeling. Another song which has the perfect balance between the guitars and the traditional instruments. I am so happy to hear so many great shamisen parts.

The song that follows is ‘Atena no nai Tegami’ (unadressed letter) which I had a hard time listening too. The way it starts, it’s very calm and serene, Yuko’s whispering voice in the background already give me goosebumps. But the more I heard this song my eyes filled with tears and I really cried my eyes out. I’ve listened to this song multiple times but I keep feeling the same. It is such a beautiful song with a very strong vibe. The Koto sounds so perfectly together with Yuko’s voice. It is also one of the longer songs on the album. I love the fact the song builds from slow and softly to powerful with a great guitar solo in it. Although for me it was hard to listen to, I think it’s one of the most beautiful songs on the album.

Thankfully after this heavy song we’re getting something powerful again. ‘Nichirin’ has a more rock vibe and kicks in right from the start. I love the fact that the song starts with a lot of guitars and drums which gives it that rock sound, but as the song evolves there is this strong array of traditional instruments giving this song the full package.

‘Eclipse’ is the twelfth song on the album. I’m still getting used to the beginning, which is pretty slow in pace but Yuko’s vocal is strong and powerful, but then the feeling completely changes. I like this very much. You can hear that the album is coming to the end, the song builds more, and then the last song arrives (at least for the physical album).

‘Singin’ For’ is the song that was revealed for the first time at the August 14th concert. I got goosebumps and tears flowed when I heard that song for the first time. And thoae goosebumps never left while listening to it. It is such a powerful song, especially during these diffuclt times. People are saying that ‘Sakura Rising’ has this feeling of hope, well for me this is that song! From the start when I hear all the voices of the eight members together, it is such a strong and powerful emotion. It feels like a connection with all of them. I think this is a great ending of the album.

Since I am listening to the release of the digital version of the album, there is a bonus track available. It’s called ‘Roki’ and is a vocaloid cover, it has been a while since Wagakki Band did one of these. But honestly, this song is such a party! It’s so happy, and has this anime sound, even the voices of Yuko and Machiya sound almost like anime characters. It really has the vocaloid vibe and it made me want to dance non-stop. I think it is such a shame this isn’t on the physical cd as a bonus track, because I love it to bits! At least the digital version ends with a big bang!

My overall opnion of this album is, that it is a truly beautiful and amazing piece or work. All of the instruments and voices have great harmony. And the vibe of each of the songs is well balanced, after a powerful song there will be a slower one which will be followed again by another upbeat song.

There are many instrumental solo’s to be found where every member shines and shows what great musicianship they have. The voices of Yuko and Machiya are always great, and fit perfectly together. As for my opnion and experience, the songs really tell a story and are all connected to each other. And that’s why I think it is a masterpiece.

I am so impressed by what they all pulled off together. It may have been an album they have worked on for two and a half years, but it definitely was worth the wait!

There are songs I feel more connected to at this point after hearing it for the first time. But I really can’t name a favorite. Every song has someting that makes it beautiful and special.
I can’t wait until I receive my physical copies and blast the cd through my stereo.

To end my review with the famous internet joke:
What is your favourite song?
Rosy: Yes!

Wagakki Band, thank you once again for your music and hard work. I feel very blessed to be able to expierence this music.

Wagakki Band is:
Vocals: Yuko Suzuhana
Guitars: Machiya
Shamisen: Beni Ninagawa
Bass: Asa
Drums: Wasabi
Wadaiko: Kurona
Koto: Kiyoshi Ibukuro
Sakuhachi: Daisuke Kaminaga

To support Wagakki Band https://twitter.com/WagakkiBand

Tracklist of Tokyo Singing:
1. Calling
2. Ignite
3. Reload dead
4. Ikitoshi Ikeru Hana
5. Gekka Bijin
6. Sakura Rising with Amy Lee of EVANESCENCE
7. Guernica
8. Tokyo Sensation
9. Origami-ism
10. Atena no nai Tegami
11. Nichirin
12. Eclipse
13. Singin’ for…
14. Roki (Bonus Track, Ditigal Edition Only)

The physical album will be released on the 14th of October 2020 in diffrent versions (CD only, CD+DVD/Blu-ray, CD+Book and Fanclub Edition)

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