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Energizing, emotional, operatic, poetic, symphonic - 85%

kluseba, July 15th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2012, CD, Victor

Liv Moon is a symphonic power metal band that has what I would call a fairly typical Japanese sound. Their fourth record, Symphonic Moon, opens with electronic samples, cinematic symphonic elements, and variable, slightly theatrical, and powerful female lead vocals. The singer seems to be influenced by singers such as Kate Bush, but also the ABBA singers. The use of sometimes exaggeratedly poetic Japanese lyrics with a few passages in other languages (such as English) is typical for the genre, and so are the topics around dark romanticism. From the first song on, you know exactly what you have to expect for the upcoming fifty-three minutes, and this is very much a “love it or hate it” sort of genre.

The mixture of versatile elements of diverse metal subgenres, along with a commercial touch, is something one can see in many Japanese heavy and power metal bands, particularly in the Visual Kei scene around bands from pioneers X Japan, Concerto Moon, and even MUCC. Similar acts are artists and bands like Alhambra, Cross Vein, and Hamada Mari, but fans of bands such as Seraphim or Nightwish should also check this band out. The catchy “Alchemy” is not a far call from Nightwish’s “Amaranth” and has a lot of hit potential. The sacral elements and vocals in “Kill Me, Kiss Me” or “Datenshino Emi” make think of Krypteria, and this song has tons of hit potential as well.

“Koorino Hitsugi” opens with piano melodies reminding me of HIM’s breakthrough hit “Join Me In Death”, while the rest of the song turns out to be a rather epic ballad with great orchestration that sounds a bit like modern Helloween songs like “Light The Universe” or “Hold Me In Your Arms”. Akane Liv shows her incredible talent in this powerful ballad that puts some warmth in my heart in these cold winter days. My conscience is aware that this kind of music is a bit cheesy and not very unique for some, but my romantic soul really digs this record. If you like this song you will also fall in love with “Shingetsuse”.

The Japanese always know that after such an emotional ballad they must land a harder track and “Fugitive” indeed opens with electronic samples, hard guitar riffs, dominating bass guitar, and a few upper mid-tempo passages. Along with the amazing and powerful “The Last Savior” that even features some male shouts in the chorus and a great guitar solo, it’s probably the fastest track on here. “Black Serenade” follows, sounding like an Anette Olzon song with some influences taken from the “Mission Impossible” title melody.

To keep it short, the band combines energizing power metal with classical symphonic elements to create eleven addicting, reasonably diverse, and energizing anthems plus an interlude. I really can’t find a single weak track on here, but you definitely need to appreciate this kind of music in general to enjoy the album. While the record is not really unique, it’s made with passion and represents Japanese pop metal culture very well. Fans of everything from X Japan to Nightwish, Rondo Veneziano to Evanescence, as well as the Mamma Mia! and Phantom Of The Opera musicals should pick this passionate release up. The warm symphonic sound, the poetic and romantic language, and the powerful female vocals make this the perfect soundtrack for the winter season and Christmas in my opinion.

Originally written for Black Wind Metal

Another fitting album title I suppose - 80%

Liquid_Braino, February 11th, 2014

Symphonic Moon probably isn't the best place to initiate oneself into Liv Moon's discography, but as it was my inception, I can at least state that it certainly did not deter me from exploring the rest of the group's catalog. The cover sleeve may be lurid and pompous, but it clearly defines what one would expect out of the music. The album roughly exists as two halves of a symphonic metal representation. Much of first half leans towards the mid-paced gothic side of things. Obviously by 'gothic' I don't mean in a Darren White era Anathema sense, so for those purists offended by the misappropriation of the term, I sincerely apologize from the deepest regions of my heart for the eventual bastardization given to the genre classification over the years. Anyways, the other half of the album's spectrum is wilder, faster and brighter. And the whole thing is pretty damn garish and silly, yet strangely endearing.

Unless you're a bass enthusiast, the production is quite good, especially regarding the drums, in which each cymbal crash is sharp and crystal clear without being too brash. I myself found it weird that I noticed that sort of minor perk, but with the bass guitar at such a low volume, I more or less eventually picked up on oddball qualities to compensate. That is, after much indulgence regarding vocalist Akane Liv and the formidable guitar shredder Takayoshi Ohmura. That's a one-two punch of talent that cannot be denied, that is, unless the songs themselves are rat droppings. Thankfully, with keyboardist/composer Tatsuya at the helm, most of them aren't.

I like the gothic opener called "Amen!" quite a bit, featuring a touch of power metal in spots and a blistering lead break. Akane is in fine form, utilizing a borderline operatic approach that's rather elegant and easy on the ears, but busting out some freakish high notes during climactic moments. Still, when I'm in the mood for Symphonic Moon, it's actually difficult not to just dive into the latter half of the album, starting with "Black Serenade". Here is where the flowery, rapid power metal finally kicks in, and it's a sweet shot of adrenaline. What I dig most about this particular song is the remnants of gothic trappings still clinging to the overall sound, imbibing the tune with a little bit of despair to dampen the flying musical acrobatics.

An even friskier humdinger pops up a couple of tracks later, that being "The Last Savior". Opening with an extremely busy, ass-spanking riff over a raging double-bass pummel, it's a sheer winner for those looking for over-the-top fast power metal wizardry. Akane's voice at first seems a bit too dainty juxtaposed with the rollicking rhythms, but she turns up the gas during the chorus to such an extent that when she desperately shrieks out "SAVIOR'S COMING!!!" it's like she's warning an entire village that a catastrophic tidal flood of sacred ejaculate is cascading their way. Most likely not the lyric's intentions, but the strength of her voice at times can be quite shocking, certainly enough to conjure up dumb thoughts in my head.

Not every song is jizz-worthy though. While most of Symphonic Moon is sung in Japanese, there's a healthy amount of wonky-accented English floating about as well, emphasized relatively early on with the all-English "Alchemy". A corny stab at accessible pop-metal, it flounders under a boring chord sequence, cringe-inducing lyrics and the complete absence of showmanship. The waltzy "Kiss Me Kill Me" is another lemon that's saved only by the hilariously blunt prose.

"Take off the ring
Take off my clothes
Dance with me now!"

I'm down with that! In all seriousness though, if an enticing woman throws those lines at you and you're donning a wedding band, keep your eyes peeled for a hidden camera, or expect blackmail as a future predicament. Much of the other English lyrics tend to follow the tried and tested theme of "flying away to our destiny" that Japan seems to love so much. I never understood that, but I'm assuming it has nothing to do with kamikaze pilots.

A couple of interesting tunes that stray from the album's over-arching musical motif deserve mention. Sandwiched at the album's center-point is "Fugitive", a pretty decent denim & jeans style rocker that's notable thanks to it being the only tune in which the bass player is clearly audible, and he even gets to put on a bit of a show. Good for him! The album closes with "Masquerade", another all-English number that possesses a full-on Kate Bush aura, particularly during her Never For Ever days. It's a dreamy jewel, and a diversion from metal while staying true to the album's general symphonic vibe.

I hate rating an album like this, because it's hard to be sincere when taking into account different angles and perceptions. Basing my rating on the music itself, there are songs that excel in energy, style and grace, while some others should have been left on the bathroom floor. Yet regarding this album, I find myself remembering the 'good shit' rather than just the 'shit', because when Liv Moon are playing their A-game, I'm ready to fill up my stein with a hearty stout and cheer them on. I honestly don't care to mull over the ineptness of "Datenshi no Emi" with its atrocious and repetitive "You broke my heart!" chorus when I can be transported to the land of bliss and babes by the orgasmic crescendo of "Kokorodukiyo" (that's the track directly after "Black Serenade" for those who can't read boxy looking symbols). The good does dramatically outweigh the bad in clinical terms, so if you can handle lush symphonic metal with a few dips in the valley, it's definitely worth trekking through.