Review: VSK – God Songs

If you follow me on Twitter you might remember me mentioning I wanted to do a review of this album. Well I finally got a hold of a copy so hold onto your hats as I bring you a track-by-track review.

Just so you know I’m being fair and objective in my review, I have to admit that I have a bit of a background in the Visual Kei genre. Many a night during my high school days was spent on all manner of websites and blogs checking out what was in hindsight some pretty terrible music. Oh to be young again.

Anyway, now that you’ve learned even more trivial information about my past let’s get into this review. Read on after the break to hear all of my impressions on the album.

1. Heavy Rotation

A classy piano intro leads us into the song. Then the guitars come in and they’re pretty hit and miss if I’m being honest. There’s nothing inherently bad about them but the repeated riff that plays throughout the verses and chorus is rather uninspired and painfully basic. The drums for the most part I liked and I feel like they really helped carry the song. Throwing in a piano solo midway was a nice touch and the guitar solo that followed was one of a few moments where we saw some flair come through. The vocals while not being the strongest in some places (namely the chorus) worked really well with the arrangement although I was left slightly concerned as to how they’d sound on some of the other songs. Overall we’re off to a good enough start and VKS didn’t ruin what is arguably AKB48’s signature song.

2. Iiwake Maybe

Pounding drums and heavy metal guitars are the order of the day here and both are executed well. I really do love how the vocal harmonies are arranged on this track although the backing vocals do get ever so slightly lost among all of the guitars and drums. The guitar riffs seem a lot more adventurous on this track which has me hopeful for the rest of the album after we got off to a slightly rocky start. Iiwake Maybe’s lyrics really do lend themselves well to a Visual Kei style song and don’t sound awkward at all which is something I envision happening on a few of these songs. I know that not everyone likes Iiwake Maybe as an AKB48 song but perhaps you’ll like it as a VSK song after you’ve listened to this cover.

3. Ponytail to Shushu

The one track where you’d think a piano intro would be most appropriate and there isn’t one here. We completely forgo the intro and instead launch straight into the song, which original synthesised instrumental  translates incredibly well into a guitar riff. The song itself starts off pretty slow which had me a bit worried but by the time we hit the chorus the tempo really picks up and things start sounding like the Ponytail that we all know and love. The chorus here reminds me somewhat of the song “Pineapple Army” by Abingdon Boys School, in its “bouncy” nature at least. I honestly didn’t think the lyrics or original arrangement of Ponytail would translate that well but VSK made it work so hats off to them. Two songs in a row that have been rather excellent, let’s hope we can keep this up.

4. Oogoe Diamond

Ah Oogoe Diamond, one of my absolute favourite AKB songs of all time, no pressure then. Well, the intro doesn’t really sound anything like Oogoe Diamond so we’re not off to the best of starts. Pushing past that, the vocals during the verses and chorus are actually quite good but the tempo just seems a bit off during the chorus for some reason. It doesn’t really detract from the song that much but I couldn’t help but notice it. The drums and guitars are both incredibly solid on this track and apart from the very minor nitpicking on my part due to my stupidly high standards we have yet another solid cover here.

5. 10nen Zakura

I have to admit that I’m not the most familiar with this song in that I’ve maybe listened to the original two or three times so bear with me here. This cover is actually very similar to the original. Well, as similar as you can get when you have a male providing vocals over more pronounced guitars. Chances are if you liked the original you’ll like this more rock oriented cover. There’s not really much else for me to say other than go listen to it and see for yourself.

6. Beginner

The intro to this song sounds like something you’d hear before a Visual Kei band takes to the stage at a concert. As for the song itself, well Beginner already had many of the makings of a Visual Kei song and adding in the guitars, drums and some vocal distortions certainly proves that. This is probably my favourite song on the album so far by a long way because everything just comes together so naturally. I’d  even go as far as to say that the vocals on this cover are better than the original. If you only listen to one song from this entire album please make it this one.

7. River

This song’s intro is for lack of a better word, odd. Gang vocals aren’t something you typically hear in a Visual Kei song and the introduction as a whole doesn’t really sound like a Visual Kei song either so I was thrown slightly. Once we actually get into the song it’s quite good. The guitars are powerful but not overwhelming and the guitar solo in the middle of the song is nothing short of fantastic. The vocals are again very solid, much like the rest of the album.

8. Namida Surprise!

This struck me as an odd choice for a cover and I had a feeling that it would pretty awkward, sadly this turned out to be true. Some of the verses work but the chorus just does not fit this style of music. Plus, an idol group singing about birthdays is fine, a Visual Kei band doing it is just weird. I wasn’t really all that impressed with the musical arrangement on this song either. It tries to straddle the line between being light and upbeat while still being a rock song and it doesn’t do either particularly well. I’d avoid this one unless curiosity gets the better of you.

9. Everyday, Kachuusha

The opening riff to me seemed to be in too high of a tuning. I know the original opening is pitched similarly but this just doesn’t work very well on a guitar. My biggest complaint however is that the song is just sung far too slow. This is supposed to be an upbeat summer song but at times in this version it just feels depressing. It’s not that I don’t think this song could work in a Visual Kei style, I just don’t think they got the execution right here at all. I can’t really recommend this song because it’s not that good but it may be worth a listen if only to see what it sounds like sung in a non-idol style.

10. Aitakatta

Seems like this would have been better suited as the first track but I guess that would have been too predictable. The piano intro is back and the song starts out super slow which had me really worried in the beginning. Thankfully this doesn’t go on for the entire song as the pace picks up quickly. Sadly the guitars sound recycled from a couple of the other songs on the album which is disappointing although the solo near the end of the track was nice. The vocals aren’t really anything to write home about either and the album ends on a bit of a downer.

 

Overall

While it has its fair share of less than stellar tracks, this is still a strong release. I’m sure fans of both AKB48 and Visual Kei would appreciate it for the novelty alone. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I loved the album but I enjoyed it enough that I didn’t feel like I’d wasted my time listening to it. I recommend that any fan of AKB48 check this album out just to hear how different each of the songs sounds if nothing else.

Recommended Songs

Iiwake Maybe, Ponytail to Shushu, Beginner, River.

Rating

Garry

About NSK

New School Kaidan is a community-focused website for the Japanese idol industry international fan base. Between podcasts, broadcasts, events, and analytic articles, New School Kaidan aims to bring an understanding of idol culture to the masses.

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3 comments

  1. In high school my friend handed me a DVD of a X Japan concert and told me to watch it. It was one of the first real culture shocks I’ve experienced. I thought they were incredibly cool, over the top, and they were everything that wasn’t mainstream here. It was really saddening to find out at the time that X Japan didn’t exist anymore and that was my first and only experience with Visual Kei.

    Now, several years later, Visual Kei seems to be a shrinking niche with each year, and my stubborn view that any new generation VK band can’t hold a candle to my X Japan didn’t give me high hopes or even interest in this release.

    That said; after giving it a full listen, I’m glad that it wasn’t a train wreck. In fact, Iiwake Maybe and Beginner actually conjured up some goosebumps– like I was hearing them for the first time again. Others could be cut loose into the wild to never return, but a few like Ponytail and 10nen Zakura were pretty solid.

    Nice review, dawg.

  2. Visual Kei + AKB? MAI GOD. This sounds amazing! I need to get my hands on this! This gives me a new dream of learning all the AKB singles on guitar…

  3. I agreed with most of the review except for this little excerpt:
    “Plus, an idol group singing about birthdays is fine, a Visual Kei band doing it is just weird”

    I think if SID (in their VK days), D=OUT, Golden Bomber, or a good number of Oshare-Kei bands wanted to make a birthday song it’d be completely in-tune with their look. A visual-kei band’s music is dictated by their look and their personal sound; not every VK band sounds like Sadie or -OZ-.

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