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Liquid_Braino, June 11th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Zeno Records Japan

Cross Vein is like an eccentric friend that I haven't seen in a few years and didn't realize until we hooked up again how much I missed hanging out with that party animal. Except that after a while, I need a break again. My body can't handle the lifestyle, I got a family and a good job and can't crawl into my home at 6AM on a Tuesday glazed with beer sweat. So here we are again, Cross Vein is back, urging me to shed all inhibitions, or at least that's what I was predicting. But this time it's a bit different. There's a sense of maturity, restraint, maybe even wisdom. I mean, we can party a bit, but Cross Vein is feeling that age-thang too, finally coming around to seeing that "all cake and no vegetables" is a guaranteed life-shortener.

The band haven't migrated from their fundamental style whatsoever, this is flower power metal with an emphasis on FLOWER, but it's also frequently fast, and snaking between garish goth leanings and rousing patriotic anthems to the glory, pride and honor of...Fantasia. In fact, while watching the video for "Graceful Gate", I get so riled up with blind patriotism that I feel the need to polish and sharpen my trusty katana to protect my country, in which I've so far bravely sliced in half four watermelons and two pumpkins. This song is the perfect opener after the intro, letting us know that the band hasn't gone soft concerning propulsion and instrumental flair.

Yet, some differences to a more sophisticated approach are apparent. Production-wise the music doesn't feel obliged to drench itself in the gothic miasma cloaking Birth of Romance, or cocoon us in cotton candy and pound us with marshmallow mallets like Royal Eternity. Even when the band is in full swing, the shimmering keyboards are placed at suitable levels in which they're audible but not perpetually volleying for dominance, and there's this sense of community and equitable parity concerning the guitars, bass and drums. It's all very clear and vivid, with the production allowing for more breathing space than I'm used to concerning this gang. Julia is a bit upfront and crystalline, but even her typical psionic shrill attacks are subdued to some extent. She's developed a bit of head-voice operatics, and uses this technique quite often during higher notes, which gives off a more distinguished vibe than her girlish piercing chest-voice. I'm not sure if I prefer this style or not, as I've always been impressed by her aural insanity, but I have to admit that it makes for an easier listen.

The stormy haze over the sprawling castle has dispersed, but the band hasn't ditched their gothic roots. It makes sense since their visual aesthetic always leaned that way while also embracing decadent cuteness, and even the name Cross Vein boasts an odd vampiric theme (crosses are bad, veins are yummy). "Masquerade~交響曲第25番~" offers the best of both worlds, a gothic metal power-storm, scurrying like terrified christian children being chased through the woods by a virulent swarm of Hillary's emails. The other spooky-themed number, "Wonderous Nightmare", is more of a swingin' vaudeville carnival ride through a house of ghoulish delights, but damn does it swing. The solo break is something to behold, not for the guitar and keyboard exhibits of virtuosity, but for the fucking drumming. Pulling off a total swing rhythm at a speedy thrash gait is not easy, and in fact it sounds borderline demented, and yet he plays it tight and efficient. Get in that shit man!

Oh, there's a ballad, but I'm liking it. "Fate" is its name, and I'm not sure if it's just me getting old or if the song just has that "real emotion" quality that transcends saccharine muck, but it's moving. On the other side of Fantasia lurks "Brilliant Star", a high speedball that piles on the majestic triumphs of valor upon the fallen foes of Fantasia's alluring landscapes of endless wonder. What's important, though, is that due to the album's compact approach, there's not much room for replication, although " 隠されしエデン" and "星屑の軌跡" are quite similar mid-paced J-metal numbers regardless.

So, Cross Vein have evolved, but at their own resistant pace, and, concerning full-lengths, this time I didn't become overwhelmed by their grandiose musical gestures during the first listen. I would still recommend the Profusion mini release as the true gateway to their sound, but this is quite an agreeable follow-up to delve into, sweet as hell, but not too filling.