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Just a year after the full-on speed onslaught of Vanishing Vision, X Japan released Blue Blood, their breakthrough album. FInally signed by a major label and recieving mainstream success, X Japan were focused to make an album that lived up to their debut while avoiding the all-too-often occuring "signing slump;" and for the most part, they triumphantly succeed. Blue Blood is the band's first attempt at creating an amalgam of styles, and although it's not their best, there are certainly far more hits than misses. We get the speed style portrayed on Vanishing Vision, some glorious ballads, progressive epics, and even a couple top-notch glam tunes (yes, you heard me right.) Basically, if you like 80's metal of any sort, there's something here for you.
First of all, production values have immensely changed. Gone is the raw, noisy tin of the debut, replaced by a clearer dry sound. I can't say this is much of an improvement, however; it makes the heavier songs sound a bit too forceless, and it certainly doesn't do any favors for the vocals. Toshi sounds a bit more strained here. I think it's because he's still trying to do the Kai Hansen-esque vocal style of the original (which worked for that album's style and production) when he should be opting for something a little cleaner. Hide's virtuoso playing seems to have been back, as well. All in all, neither matter too much. One thing that's unrestrained is the insane bass playing; Taiji's off the wall, technical insanity remains unhampered.
There are too many songs to cover them all, so I'm ony covering highlights. That's another thing: the 65 minute runtime will either excite you or test your patience. Probably the most significant factor of Blue Blood is that we get X Japan's first true ballads. "Endless Rain" is a superb act of beauty that showcases Toshi's finest singing of the album and another brilliant, emotional chorus. Finally we get some hints of the majesty to come on Dahlia. A reworking (or rather, lengthening) of Vanishing Love's "Unfinished." This is another highlight, complete with really catchy lyrics. It's just a great way to conclude the album.
"Oh! I'm looking at you
Can't control myself
Nothing, but pain for me
Wipe your tears from your eyes
Just leave and forget me
No need to be hurt anymore"
On the heavier front, we get a few excellent songs. The title track is a speed metal romp that blows the doors wide open, and Hide's charging rythms lead the way. "Orgasm" is short but sweet, representing both the album's heaviest and most energetic display. This is the piece most similar to Vanishing Vision, which makes sense considering that the song had been in the band's back catalogue since at least the mid 80's. "Rose of Pain" is an eleven minute epic that switches from lighter elements to a thundering power anthem. It fails to hold my intersest all the way through, leading me to believe it could have been cut by at least 2-3 minutes. "X" is a kickass song, and "Xclamation" has an atmosphere full of wonder. Thankfully the glam elements are held to a minimum, which makes them not only bearable, but enjoyable, too. "Easy Fight Rambling" is the best of these songs, leaving just enough of that distinctive X flavor in for our pleasure. Interestingly enough, my favorite on ther album is a track that mixes both the heavy and commercial aspects of the band: "Week End," an opus of great rhythms and, of course, another astounding chorus that'll find a home in your head for days.
There's certainly a lot of charm to X Japan's sound, and the most diverse panorama of that charm can be found in Blue Blood. I'd recommend the most first timers to either this release or Vanishing Vision, as they are more accessable to metal fans than the albums to come. It's neither their best or their most consistent, but if you've yet to start, you should probably start fom here. As always, it's highly recommended to fans of X Japan. This band really never does wrong. Even Jealousy has strong merits, despite taking a few ideas found here a bit too far; the party ain't over yet.