X Japan [Japan]
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 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.