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During the last years, X Japan have more and more shifted away from their powerful power and speed metal roots and created more and more complex rock opera symphonies that highlighted with the release of the twenty-nine minute masterpiece "Art Of Life". The band had also discovered its talent for emotional rock ballads like "Kurenai" or "Say Anything".
This is what the record "Dahlia" mainly focuses on. More than half of the tracks are epic rock opera ballads that vary on the thin line between intense and romantic as "Tears" and too artificial kitsch as on "Forever Love". The band surely has a lot of talent to write these kinds of songs but they offer nothing new on this album and are too dominant and lose their charm after a while. This is the ideal soundtrack for sensual hours with a Japanese girlfriend, a great album for Japanese radio rock fans and a fest for young female Visual Kei fans but I miss the variety and the high degree of surprises the band had on earlier releases. There is also not much metal about this record, it's more a very Japanese rock and pop record.
The only exception is the opening title track "Dahlia", a nice speedy hard rock anthem with some voice effects that is tough a little bit overlong as many tracks on the release. The other tracks that stand out and are no ballads are more experimental and can't be considered as metal tracks. We have for example the dark industrial grunge track "Scars" that focuses a little bit too much on the trends of the time when the album came out. Finally, the band offers us the interlude "Wriggle" that leads to "Drain" which are two interesting experimental rock tracks with a danceable and commercial approach and many effects. This double pack could play in any eccentric discotheque.
While these experimental songs are all interesting, I miss a truly outstanding song on the record with the exception of the epic ballad "Tears". Many tracks on this record just don't get to the point and too long, too predictable and too similar. This album is filled with potential hit singles but lacks a truly outstanding and experimental track and I miss the open-minded madness of the earlier releases. This record is a very good romantic rock and pop record with many catchy moments but a rather weak metal release and slightly disappointing album for X-Japan that only mostly collected the single outputs of the last years on one single record. Nevertheless, this is a record for special moments and musically, I have nothing to approach to the band. The piano work is excellent, the guitar solos are melodic and tight, the drumming is dynamic, the bass guitar solid but not outstanding and the vocals high pitched and unique as usual. In the end, this is still worthy of a slightly positive rating but check this record out before you buy to make sure you like the ballads and the general style of "Dahlia". This album is good but far from being the masterpiece many fans are talking about. Anyway, the brand new single "Jade" already beats the ballads on this album and X Japan seem to be back stronger than ever before while we wait for a new release to come out soon.
I love this music. This is perhaps one of the greatest non-metal albums I've ever heard. Naturally, a statement like that takes a lot of backing up for two primary reasons. The first objection: "X Japan? Not metal? That speed demon of shredding insanity isn't metal?!" The second objection: "One of the best? Really? What could make something that's essentially the sell-out of a band the best?" Well, those are some valid points that will take some time and space to tackle. This might be a long one, folks. It certainly isn't for everyone, but I'm positive that most people could enjoy it if they'd give it a chance. So hang in there, and you may very well find out what makes Dahlia such a special album.
The style of music played here is highly debatable; I'm pretty sure no one answer is right. I'd liken it to Blue Blood, an album in which X Japan switched genres per song. Dahlia plays out in a similar way, but with an entirely different ensemble of sounds; Blue Blood featured elements of speed/power metal, progressive metal, glam, and even symphonic. Of all those types, I'd say that only the symphonic elments have been retained to an extent worth mentioning. There's orchestra and piano all over this disc, but I'll save the specific details for later. To complement this most prominent aspect, we also get J-pop, industrial rock, atmospheric rock, and some minute traces of the metal once played before. If that doesn't sound like a metalhead's nightmare, then I don't know what does. Upon learning this, people usually dart away in fear, but don't jump to any conclusions.
There can be no proper estimation for how well this mix works. The most prevalent factor holding back other X Japan albums is their lack of a constant flow; on all of Dahlia's predecessors, the band always makes some mistake, no matter how small, that detracts from the listener's enjoyment. For me, at least, this just doesn't happen here. Each and every song is perfect, and they're all in the perfect place. There's no hitch, there's no catch. The band knows when to be emotional, when to get serious, and when to go upbeat. This makes it easier to trust the band to take you to the places you need to go. Let X Japan be your tour guide, and they'll show you sights you never thought you'd see, the beauty of the second world hidden within music. They own acres of property in this realm, and that's all because of this album.
I do need to emphasize that the distinct X sound is still very present; it's just that it's wrapped around a sleeker, more accessable shell than before. Take for example the opening title track. The song is veiled in slight heaviness at first, but once it really gets going, it reveals itself to be a masterful J-pop song filled with airy verses and an upbeat chorus made for store shelves. Things get trickier on track two, "Scars." The song remains commercially capable, but there's a glimmer of electronic and industrial elements as well. All in all, it's the least notable of the tracks, but still good enough not to be a distraction. "Rusty Nail" is more of a straight out J-pop song even though it does retain some rock tendencies. It was a big commercial success, and for good reason; this song is fun and ludicrously catchy. "White Poem I" follows, one of the most interesting and grabbing three minute pieces I've ever heard. It's a highly atmospheric slow song brought to the next level by Toshi's most beautiful singing yet, and repetition serves only to enhance the mood.
The last of the even slightly heavy songs are represented by "Wriggle" and "Drain." The former is just an intro for the latter, and both make one track. This song absolutely rules. It is the most uncharacteristic tune X Japan pulls off on the album, mixing heavy industrial with groovin' rhythms, but they still pull it off. About half the album, or even more, is filled with grandly orchestrated ballads. These are the best displays of the band's talent and emotive chops. Aside from "Crucify My Love," each one runs at least seven minutes and upwards to ten. And they don't get boring. Ever. The first is my personal favorite X Japan song, the unbelievablly moving "Longing." The greatest ballad ever. It's hard to describe what makes these types of X songs so good; all I know is that I can feel this music and that's all that matters. "Tears" and "Forever Love" follow and take your breath away in the same fashion.
The production enhances it with its crystal clear tone. This could have come out this year and it would sound up to date. I can understand the level of openmindedness you'd have to possess to like this CD if you're neither an X Japan fan or a listener of Japanese music. In fact, I probably wouldn't recommend Dahlia to someone who doesn't fall into either of those camps, but I don't have the heart not to; it's just so good that it deserves to be heard. No other X Japan album (or even J-pop, J-metal, whatever) comes close to this level of consistency or listenability. It's one of those releases that shouldn't be as good as it is, yet I have no doubt in my mind that it's superlative. If you're an X Japan fan still holding out because you don't think it's heavy enough, snatch this up immediately, because you're missing one of the better albums of the last 20 years... and so is everyone else.
Dahlia is the swan song of X Japan before they split up in 1997/1998. While they have created an image with their bombastic hairstyles and dress sense, the band has toned down slightly on this album. This however does not mean that the quality of their music has faltered, as evident by the legacy that is left behind by Dahlia, 15 years on.
While previous releases such as Blue Blood and Jealousy produced speedy headbaging power metal songs such as the anthemic X and Silent Jealousy, Dahlia instead shows a maturing of sound both in terms of songwriting and the execution of the songs. Gone are the raw and under produced tracks that were present on previous studio releases of X Japan. Instead, this shows the band slowing down and toying around more with their sound and playing around with more influences instead of simply the straightforward speed metal.
The faster numbers on the album, such as Dahlia and Rusty Nail have become staples in X Japan's live performances and it is little wonder, considering the infectious riffs and strong singalong lines. On these tracks, Yoshiki's frenzy punishments on the drumsets are familiar, as are guitarist Hide's riffs and guitar solos. Toshi's vocal styles on this release are much smoother, more of a mainstream j-rock style, but his ability to hit high notes are still present. Vocal effects are also played with at times, such as on the title track.
The band also enhances the ambience of the music through orchestral compositions that back the songs, be it their power metal songs or their ballads, where the strings are constantly present, creating a dense atmosphere and complementing the music and the mood set up by the band. I also liked how the bass is not neglected, such as on the introduction of Scars where a bass riff is clearly heard, displaying a slight funk influence in the music, while the actual song itself is an industrial-influenced piece, from the riffs played, the solos, the vocal effects and the drumming of Yoshiki.
Of course, this does not mean that they have completed veered off track. The ballads that they are so well known for are still present, with perhaps the more popular ones coming off this album, such as Longing ~unchained melody~ and Tears. Yoshiki's versatility is evident through his roles as not only the drummer, but also the main songwriter and the pianist of the band. The ballads display his talent on the piano, while at times may sound simple, can still ooze out so much emotion that X Japan is known for, amplified by the Hide's solos and Toshi's vocals, leaving me to wonder how X Japan can possibly one of the few bands that can wear so much emotions on their sleeves yet be widely respected by fans, metal or otherwise.
The band's usual habit of mixing Japanese and English lyrics are still present, with the most notable being on the ballad Tears, where there is an entire verse written in English, adding more meaning and emotions to the song, especially for those who do not understand Japanese.
Overall a must-have album for those who are new to the Japanese metal scene.
I always find it interesting that X Japan is so obscure here in the United States in spite of them being seen as a Japanese answer to Led Zeppelin elsewhere. Their native following is rabid yet you can never find any new copies of their albums without a heavy import price attached. The language barrier may have something to do with it, but there is also the fact that the band has a tendency to do whatever the fuck they want stylistically. This is the last album from the band's most prominent period of activity and is tragically the final to feature the late guitarist hide.
While the title track opens the album in a somewhat typical prog/power metal fashion, this album is always remembered for its emphasis on emotional ballads in the vein of Guns N' Roses and Savatage. Some metal listeners may gag at the idea, but this band has a great eye for balladry with songs like "Longing" and "Crucify My Love" do a good job of tugging at listeners' heartstrings. "Tears" is probably my favorite of the lot with its powerful refrain always standing out.
Of course, there is more to this album than soft stuff. In addition to the title track's power metal, the band pulls off some successful experiments in the industrial genre ("Scars," "Wriggle," "Drain"). There are also some cool hybrids with "Rusty Nail" serving as an uplifting number with a somber bridge and "White Poem I" featuring an interesting industrial/ballad combo.
The band's performance matches the song variety. The guitars are excellently executed but the album really shines in the keyboard/vocal department. Drummer/keyboardist Yoshiki Hayashi excels at both instruments and provides some sweet emotions with his great piano lines. Vocalist Toshi Deyama may be an acquired taste for some, but he puts a great deal of passion that helps listeners connect in spite of the language barriers. I suppose it goes along with the idea of music being a universal language...
All in all, this is a fantastic release worth checking out by those that want a little more emotion in their music than usual. Definitely makes me wonder why the band isn't better known over here...
1) Awesome song variety
2) Emotional vocal/keyboard performances
3) Successful experimental tracks
1) May be too soft/experimental for some
2) Language barrier
3) The title track may be out of place
My Current Favorites:
"Scars," "Longing," "Rusty Nail," "Tears," and "Drain"
X Japan's Dahlia is a interesting album. It has 10 songs and 4 of them are ballads. Someone might think this is not a good thing, but when you listen to the album you notice that this is great work. The first song of this album, Dahlia punches you straight to the face, with great guitars by hide and Pata, great guitarsolo by hide, hard drumming by Yoshiki,wonderful bass by Heath and excellent vocals by Toshi. The second song,Scars is pretty simple little rockthing, this is the weakest link of the album.. Third track Longing is the first ballad of this album. It has great lyrics and wonderful guitarsolo, but nothing special that makes you remeber this song forever. Then we get to the second best heavytrack of this album, Rusty Nail which has a excellent chorus and again good guitarsolo and great vocals. Next track, White Poem is a utopistic track that I don't quite understand. Nothing special, nice bass in the start. And next we have wonderful ballad Crucify My Love played by piano. This track tells you how good Yoshiki, the drummer and pianist of the band is. Next we have Tears. It's like Longing, nice ballad with good chorus but nothing so special in it. Then we have Wriggle. Let's just say that when you hear this you always gonna skip it when you are listening to this album. Then Drain,which is quite psychedelic track. Then, at last, the masterpiece of this album: Forever Love. The most beatiful 8 minutes you can ever get from music. So beatiful vocals, so beatiful acoustic guitars, even beatiful acoustic guitarsolo. Even this song alone is worth of getting this album.
It's shame that X Japan broke up a year after this album, this absolutely their best album. If you can find this one from somewhere, I recommend you to buy this one. You won't regret.