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Joan of Arc was a metal fan - 84%

Liquid_Braino, April 2nd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Victor

Before I actually started listening to them, I was sure that Cross Vein was merely a front for fashion companies and boutiques to advertise their Rococo-inspired dresses through the comely presence of the vocalist on their album and single covers. Maybe to an extent it's even true, but regardless of any sort of gimmick involved, Cross Vein are a pretty tight bunch of performers who can match their dexterous soloing with solid composition skills. Flowery as a motherfucker, but this is flower-power metal backed by triffids and giant hogweeds, equal parts gorgeous and relentless.

To put it bluntly, this album is lavish, flamboyant and decadent, yet still manages to rock. The metallic riffs are often submerged in a syrupy stew of chiming keyboard swirls, yet thanks to the top-notch production and the tight rhythm section, the faster numbers are still propulsive with backbone and snazzy leads burst through this shimmering wall-of-sound right when they're needed. Leading the charge is Julia, whose octave range begins at "very high" and ends at "puppy-killing sonic wave". She's certainly got the skills and can pull this shit off live, but her voice can also be representative of what this scene's detractors love to harp on about, often using terms like "helium" and "irritating as fuck" to emphasize their assertions. Personally, though I'm desensitized to these sort of vocals to a degree in that emulating a dolphin reaching an orgiastic climax wouldn't faze me, I think her little firecracker tone fits the grandiose nature of these songs quite well and adds to the overall enjoyment. This can be taken as an endorsement or a dire warning depending on how deeply one is immersed into the female-fronted side of the Japanese metal canon.

While most of these tracks follow the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-wank-chorus format, there are usually some surprising twists of complexity sneaking their way into them, especially concerning the drum-work. An example of this involves one of the album's major high points, the mid-tempo monster "Forget-Me-Not", in which during the second verse the drummer starts jazzing the fuck out while the rest of the band holds the fort as if nothing is amiss. There's also "The Sainted Tower ~ 寂寞の塔", which could have been a rote gothic metal thing if it weren't for just enough off-kilter rhythms and technical heroics thrown in to piss off the Ruby Gloom types.

The smorgasbord of fast and slower tracks are evenly spread out, with opener "Eternal Dream" providing an excellent overview of the band's chops, melodic bombast and penchant for speed. But the real killer concerning the fifth gear overdrive songs is the glorious "Maid of Lorraine", like an audio equivalent of Luc Besson's interpretation of that historic tale, "The Messenger", but with all of the non-action scenes involving dramatic baloney and hammy acting spliced out and replaced with pointless Muay Thai carnage featuring Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin. The song may be hyper-ridiculous, but it's absolute candy for the ears. Possibly the most impressive of these tracks, though, is the instrumental number "Suite Museum", in which all pop-leaning constraints involving song structure are jettisoned in favor of constant yet seamless shifting of progressive building blocks with a plethora of solos and even an excursion into loungy jazz.

One of the reasons I'll continue to hold on to Cross Vein's prior two single releases consisting of three tunes each is not an obsession for frou frou dresses, but the fact that their short running length offers no time to get exhausted with the band's frosting-coated vision of power metal. It's like eating a delicious slice of birthday cake. Royal Eternity, on the other hand, is almost like eating the whole fucking cake in one go. Tasty and sugary as hell, but it gets more than a bit filling as I scarf away. The last batch of songs tend to suffer as a result, which isn't really fair as there's some good shit to be discovered when I'm not stuffed with keyboard and choir overkill by then. I didn't even notice what an amazing guitar solo lurked within "Ephemeral Snow ~ 追憶は儚き雪" until around the fifth listen as my head tends to wander from the music at the point where that song begins due to the group's complete disinterest in stripping down their garish proclivities. Also, why the fuck "Red Star" from the Profusion single wasn't included here I can't even guess since it's one of Cross Vein's best corkers full-stop.

Cross Vein have always been about going over the top in their overall sumptuous musical embellishments, much like Julia's wardrobe that's probably the size of my house. With a focus more on elaborate melodies than head-banging riffs, the band's 'power' is more reliant on the kick-drums and the singer's wails, and it works for the most part, and at times fantastically, but I will concede that it's better to listen to this album with an empty stomach.