D – Vampire Saga

D – Vampire Saga – 4/5

And so that compulsion to write up what music I happen to be listening to (and try to shorten my list of 'stuff I should write about at some point') has once again struck with this album by the strangely named band “D.” No, it makes no sense to me either but being a Japanese band that doesn't exactly register as a huge shock. Detailing the story of a Vampire who...well I'm assuming does vampiric things; it's all in Japanese but is nonetheless filled with a gothic sensibility that hides behind that hard rock/heavy metal form that typifies bands such as Dead End's last offering and Versailles, except without so much of the string quartet and keyboard work. Melodic Heavy Metal? Heavy Hard Rock? Well both sound pretty silly to me, but nonetheless this is the line they tread. With clean vocals dominating, he demonstrates an odd pop-like sensibility to his hooks that'll often have you humming along, tossing in soprano highs and deep growls to break everything up quite nicely, and perhaps whilst not the greatest at any particular style, transitions with such fluidity that it's hard not to be just a tad impressed.

In fact, that works as a decent summation of this entire release; it may not be the best around, but the diversity in the tracks is nothing short of staggering, and they're never less than good; you won't find yourself reaching to skip a track, and this is a major reason for my high opinion of it. There's a gentle acoustic melody in one of the slower paced tracks, a couple of theatrical offerings and a few twangy middle eastern riff thrown in that wouldn't sound out of place in an "Orphaned Land" album, but it never feels jarring, steadily transitioning in style as the release continues in a manner that almost asks to be called prog. And they aren't exactly shy of performing a plethora of guitars solo's either, with most tracks feeling 'unfinished' if he hadn't slapped his branding on there somewhere.

Speaking of solo's, the drummer too makes his mark with a track devoted to his own abilities and far from being one of those situations where it all seems to go on too long, it's over before you know it and suddenly makes you prick up your ears and realise that within the dense sound he's not been slouching (in fact he's often the most impressive part of the line-up). And thankfully the production feels impeccable; it's precise and clean without a sense of rawness needed for other offerings, but it never goes so far as to lose that punchiness, and for the most part every instrument can be clearly heard in the end result, the bass and drums in particular lending a sense of groove or aggression to shape the tracks with impressive clarity. The moments where everything gets a little too thick with their own lines that aren't perhaps in perfect harmony, creating a touch too much dissonance to the core rhythm of the track comes few and far between, and is a small price to pay for having a band without dead weight. There may not be any individual here that feels exceptional, but as a whole, both in capabilities and composition, they can't help but leave an impression, retarded name and all.

Highlights: Track 6, Track 8, Track 9, Desert Warrior, Track 13