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On The Rise - 75%

MHLUNA24, June 25th, 2014

Since I've decided to review all the X Japan material I happen to own, I thought it was best to go in chronological order rather than at random like I did with my first two reviews. So here we are with the second release on my list, "Endless Dream". The funny thing about this live demo is that the title track and the rest are from different performances. With the former being from the "Shibuya La-Mama" bootleg, which features all the other songs on here, actually. The main difference being, these were clearly recorded using a fairly decent soundboard. Whereas here, the three tracks besides the title track were recorded with what sounds like a very old tape recorder by someone in the audience. And when I say old, I mean even by 1986's standards.

Now, X had clearly begun to make a name for themselves at this point. They wouldn't have someone recording them perform otherwise . As was the norm in the 80's, the band had a "revolving door" line-up. They seemed to get new guitarists and bassists every month, with Toshi and Yoshiki being the only constant members (which they still are today. Though Pata's been in the band a total of seventeen years at the time of writing this).

But anyway, this a review not a biography. So let's get to the music! "Endless Dream" is the first ballad recorded by the band. They would later go on to be much more well known for this type of music as opposed to the speed metal they favoured in their early days. This is undoubtedly the greatest song here. I would even go as far as to say it's one of my favourite songs by them. It's such a powerful song, filled with emotion from both Toshi's vocals and the instruments accompanying him. It's much more sorrowful sounding than their other ballads, most of which sound upbeat regardless of the lyrical content. As stated earlier, the sound is actually pretty good. You can hear each instrument clear enough and, despite some fuzziness, they all seem to be in tune OK. It's a damn shame this song wasn't included on "Vanishing Vision". I feel it could have become one of their signature songs. Sadly it wasn't meant to be...

The rest of the tracks, while still performed well by the band, are very hard to hear. Mostly because of the aforementioned poor quality, so it's hard to really go into detail about them. "Kurenai" still has that fast, powerful sound that it always has, but without being able to hear it properly, it's just not as engaging as later versions. A shame considering that it became one of the bands signature songs. The other two are the Maiden- influenced songs that plenty of bands were putting out back then. Not much to say about them really. Except that "Stop Bloody Rain" has that fast, Di'anno era, NWOBHM sound and "Lady In Tears" has more of the slow, early power metal feel to it. I will say this about all the songs on here: Toshi does a fine job throughout every one of them. And his voice was still evolving at this point so he still had so much more to give. And give he did! It's a bit of a shame that Yoshiki gets all the praise when I've always been more impressed by Toshi's vocals than his drumming or piano playing (That's just my opinion of course. Yoshiki is still a fantastic musician).

I'm going to be honest, around 70% of the rating I'm giving this demo is for the title track alone. The rest just sound so bad. But, credit where it's due, you can tell the band were definitely finding their sound and building a reputation as one of the next big things. Give it a listen if you can track it down. The title track alone makes it all worth it.

No Way - 86%

OzzyApu, June 10th, 2010

Never judge a band’s material without hearing it, I say. I try to do it, but I know I’m full of shit a lot of times. With a band like X Japan, there’s material all over the place spanning quite a few genres. The more developed music I assumed would be during the later stages, as it is with a lot bands. I thought most of their ‘80s material, especially the demo stuff, would be pretty useless. I couldn’t be more wrong when it comes to the quality of the songs, but I’m pretty correct when it comes to the sound quality.

Now from an honest perspective, these guys likely didn’t have a lot of money, promotion, or equipment to work with, so they took what they got. That’s understandable, as just about everyone in metal starts out this way. With this release, though, the sound quality is lopsided. “Endless Dream” is decent for a vintage live recording, but the other three songs are so quiet that I’m almost maxed out on my stereo system just trying to hear it. The volume needed to play “Kurenai,” “Lady In Tears,” and “Stop Bloody Rain” is so high that any other song with decent quality would shatter my ear drums if I played it. But let me tell you that once you hear these tracks, you won’t want to turn that volume knob back down again, because these songs – all of them – kick copious amounts of ass.

I won’t go into every song in detail, but let me first say that I’m not very knowledgeable on X Japan. I started out listening to Dahlia so I have a vague idea on the early material. As far as I know, none of these songs have made it onto a full-length album or have been recorded with better production values – the exception is “Kurenai,” and boy did they excessively promote that one. If I’m wrong about the others, then sorry; that isn’t the point – it’d be a fantastic thing to have the others re-recorded, but it isn’t the main purpose. When I say these songs are good, I really mean that they’re some of the best I’ve heard from the Visual Kei movement altogether. The opening to “Endless Dream” alone is so dreamy, poignant, and sorrowful that I would pay the band myself to make a better recording of it.

Disregarding the live mixing, each song is a power / speed / heavy metal affair of melodic splendor with thrilling leads, blissful clean cries / singing from Toshi, bombastic bass, and some comforting drumming by Yoshiki. These tracks are all mature, well-thought out, slightly classical, and emotional as hell. The beginning of “Endless Dream” alone competes with the entire Dahlia album, which is high competition since that’s a damn good album and the band was pretty skilled in songwriting by that time. Toshi on there was elegant with his powerful singing voice, and with this one he’s over ten years younger and less focused. His voice is still high and heavily accented, but lucid and affectionate; other times he’ll be shouting and yelling with rage, but it’s the cleans that mesmerize.

X Japan fans, take what you can get from these demos. This isn’t the kind of music anyone would disregard without giving it a proper listen. I know many people will be turned off by the sound quality and Toshi’s vocals at first (they definitely need to grow on the listener), but if they can get over that, then there’s a lot here waiting for them. Shit, I still can’t get over the fact that something as majestic and moving as “Endless Dream” can be disregarded by the band – it’s got the perfect opening atmosphere and clean guitar part for any ballad. Just let this be an example of something so beautiful buried away on something that I could have easily passed up and never heard in my lifetime. What a sad thing that would have been…