X Japan – Vanishing Vision – 4/5
If ever an album cried out for a remastering, this would no doubt be near the top of list. The eponymous debut of well known Japanese artist, if like me you were only familiar with their latter work ignore it, for this shows them at a time where they performed a heavy/power with little in common with the softer, sugary-coated rock that plagued their latter days. This shows an aggressive and creative side, with impressive solos, rasped falsetto vocals and some of the catchiest riffs ever put to practice.
My biggest issue with this album is the drumming. Not to say it isn’t more creative than most albums, with plenty little fills and working well to provide a base layer, but I find myself thankful that it finds itself relegated to back, for (as in the ‘Vanishing Love’) where it comes forward it gives off a tone as though he is slapping the drums with a wet fish, with an entirely off-putting ‘splash’ as it hits the drum. It is thankful then, that the guitars and vocals are the focal point of this performance, though the drums quickly become more tolerable as the album proceeds.
The bass can faintly be heard, but for the most part sits in the background, though when he is given a prominent position (e.g. in ‘Give me the pleasure,’) he proves he’s no slack in this line-up. The vocals could easily be considered a bad point, but whilst they are sung entirely in Japanese with a thick accent, they have a ballsy aggression that quickly grows on you to the point where nothing else would seem to fit. It is, however, the guitar work that truly steals the show. With a thick distortion they provide the meat of the track in the form simple yet catchy melodies, as well as fast-paced soloing that proves the highlight of every track, providing more than ‘just another neo-classical’ style.
This is not an album suited to everyone’s liking, its sound rather different from their American and European equivalent. It’s raw, hard hitting (especially considering it was released in ’88), and manages to pack in a variety of punches throughout its 40 minute length. From bass solos, keyboard intros, ballads and all out head-bangers there’s enough here to keep you interested, even if ultimately, some tracks fall a little behind the rest. New to X-Japan? Say hello to your introductory album.
Highlights: Dear Loser, Sadistic Desire, I’ll Kill You