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This is a seriously slamming album. From blazing speed metal to Judas Priest-like riffing to catchy Van Halen-like (David Lee Roth era, natch) party anthems, to heartbreaking ballads, X Japan had it all and delivered it with the kind of flair and joy that only young Japanese men crazy for American and British hard rock and metal can. Their diversity, sadly, was probably why they never really were able to crack the American market, as well as their extreme glam image, which was outdated in America by the time this album was released. Visual Kei aesthetic aside, the music is the matter here, and it is some damned good stuff.
Toshimitsu "Toshi" Deyama's vocals are excellent throughout the album, raspy and passionate, eager and enthusiastic, but always tuneful. He actually sings quite a few lyrics in "Engrish", but the majority of the songs are in Japanese, another sticking point with the average American. Nonetheless, he shines all the way through no matter what the style they're essaying. Pata and the late hide were an effective guitar team, whipping out a tasty array of riffs, melodies, and soloing that could've gone toe to toe with most any American contender at the time. When they let loose and shred, it's still very melodic and tasteful, as well as very structured, and when they play more emotional parts, like on "Endless Rain", they tear your heart out with their feeling. I have always contended that the Japanese do have soul and this will prove me correct. When you have atomic bombs dropped on your country, well, if that doesn't fill you with sorrow, what will?
Taiji and Yoshiki are another very effective team in that they are an energetic and exciting rhythm section with lots of character and musical ability to spare. Yoshiki's drumming is furious and full of energy and vigor, and Taiji doesn't sit back and unimaginatively thump the roots on the bass front; he puts in lots of melodic and exciting fills and riffs of his own that compliment the guitars and frequently diverge from them in his own very distinct manner. They may have made Poison look plain jane, but these guys had chops and creativity as well as taste and class, a rare thing in such an image-oriented band.
Song wise, virtually all the songs on here are excellent. Yoshiki wrote some good stuff, and it shows. His diversity as a composer is impressive, and even the simple party songs like "Celebration" (with its hilarious chipmunk voice part after the solo section) and "Easy Fight Rambling" are catchy and well-written. After the emotional instrumental opening of "World Anthem" (their entrance theme live), hang on to your hats for the riff onslaught of the title track, with its blasting energy and strong melodies. Pata and hide launch into the twin guitar melodies in the solo section with aplomb, and the chorus is undeniable. The song itself is intensely dynamic, going from frenzied thrash metal to slow parts with ease. "Endless Rain" is a heart-rending ballad that showcases their softer side with plenty of class and feeling. "Rose of Pain" is the album's epic, nearly 12 minutes long and full of twists and turns that make it far from boring. "Week End" features some really nice crunchy riffing as well as excellent soloing, and a fantastic chorus that will indeed stick in your mind for ages afterward. There really is not a duffer in all the songs on display here.
Altogether, these guys were so talented and gifted it's a shame they never were able to get anywhere in America. Their songs were so well-written and better than much of the dreck in the American mainstream at the time this came out in 1989, it's an injustice to say the least they never made it over here. Especially with the injury of hide's unfortunate death a year after they broke up in 1997 adding to this insult. If they'd gotten anywhere over here, perhaps things would've been better for them. Once you get past the image, man, these guys killed the competition, it's that simple. Give this a chance and see what I mean, and keep an open mind at all times.