Versailles – Jubilee

Versailles – Jubilee – 4/5

Regulars should have expected this one from me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few will be wondering what too me so long. Yes, it is the return of the sweet transvestites, the Japanese group of musicians who dress like Victorian-era women and perform highly symphonic, emotion-laden power metal with all the ‘malmsteen’ influenced neo-classical wizardry that is so prevalent in artists from this region. Through the slow ballads – in memory of the dearly departed in particular – to the more aggressive tracks, this hour long release lives up to the title of ‘epic’ in its sheer sense of grandeur, carefully breaking up the pace of the album gradually throughout.

On the surface, much of the release feels as though they are doing more of the same, learning from the past and improving slightly on their previous, raising the bar of what they are capable of individually, but they don’t stop there. They quite literally push the boundaries of their already highly symphonic and neo-classical style of performing, living up to their old ‘philharmonic quintet’ title; from acoustic ballads, backing operatic choral works and instrumental, orchestral compositions; whilst the expansion of their sound is certainly one I would ordinarily agree with whole heartedly, this somehow doesn’t feel like an entirely natural progression.

The orchestral component to the composition’s are fairly well fleshed out with regards to tone but it all remains in the backing, pushed far enough away from the core instruments such that it feels superfluous to the track and adds little to the main body; it sounds as though they’ve been called classical composers so much that they’ve believed it, and at times it feels as though the hard hitting crunch of the guitars, and the bombastic crash of the drums have taken a knock in their stead. The balance between the focus on the two sides – the orchestral and the power metal – when lost feels disappointing, but when it does comes together the material that is produced is easily some of the most bold and adventurous they’ve strived for and it does pay off; the delicate violins of the ballad ‘Amorphous’ or the more integral feel in ‘Gekakkou’ proving what they are capable of.

This is not likely to be an album to win over many new fans, providing much of the same overtly symphonic power metal with more of Kamijo’s characteristic vocals and interplay between the duelling guitarists, capable of playing with a certain finesse and an oddly unique style that is rarely seen amongst neo-classical musicians. I miss the aggression of the drums and the thicker crunch of the guitars as they ‘battle’ one another, now only really heard during the solos, but the inclusion of this new element just beginning to come into its own is taking a route set to further separate them from other artists of similar origin. With the tragic loss of bassist ‘Jasmine You’ during production (replaced at the last minute by Hizaki, also the guitarist), this furthering of their sound through both the good and the bad hasn’t dampened by spirits for their future, but whilst showing promise, this is has perhaps only succeeded in equalling their last.

Highlights: Amorphous, Gekkakou, Catharsis, Serenade, PRINCESS – Revival of the Church