REVIEW: Alias - Alias

As we live in an era in which music can be made and shared across the globe, bands slowly rise from the residue of the technology created over time. These bands are not located in one place, but many as their members are scattered across the globe. Now, I will re-introduce you to one of the few bands pioneering the new idea of bringing together people from all around the world, in different cultures and backgrounds, together to create intriguing masterpieces that sound both strange and familiar at the same time: Alias.

Alias’ members are located in China, Japan and the United States, all sharing one dream to bring the world together through music. It’s not as clichéd as it sounds, though, folks. When you look at how things are going today, we are all truly connected through music, through the airwaves, through technology and, without technology, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I think Alias is one of the few bands out there that are able to represent what we can accomplish if we work together!

01) True
02) Tsumetai Namida (Cold Tears)
03) Freeze
04) Here
05) the World is mine
06) Rememberance
07) evermore
08) Meguru
09) Lament

The name of Alias’ physical album is also Alias, making for a very lovely and simple typeset on the case. It's essentially the physical release of their first mini-album evermore but includes two new songs called "Freeze" and "Remembrance". In my opinion, I think this is perfect for their first physical CD, especially with the content in the release which conveys the band’s sound so profoundly that I was actually taken slightly aback, but we’ll get to that later. The entire CD is encased in white and light blue covers adorned with silver designs framing the edges of the booklet and case itself. The actual disc reflects the empty, simple casing, being all white and simply reading “Alias” to the right. I interpreted the lack of detail and substance of the inner casing and background of the album artwork to also represent the band’s name. Alias can be anything - it is a name you go by, it is who you are…but who is Alias? What are they trying to convey? All we can tell just from looking at the CD cover is that there’s a beautiful illustration of a girl, hold a ball of light in her hands (which happens to be an artist's interpretation of the vocalist Mai in their drawing style).

The best way to find out who this band is and what their story is about is to listen to the CD…

01) True:

We're introduced to the album with an organ, creating a heavy air that is quickly lifted by a gentle hissing sound with a piano, creating a risky first impression on the listener, but manages to captivate me nonetheless. "Borders remain by people playing blockades,” we hear Tony, of echostream, say as Mai sings. “And everyone seems to believe that without any doubts…” Tony continues his spoken world, the guitar enters with the erhu and bass, becoming gradually heavier and more meaningful. Reading the translations of Mai’s lyrics, and matching them with Tony’s slightly faded words, it is difficult for me to describe how deep this song seems to really go. It discusses inner conflict as well as one’s outlook on how the world is today, making you think as you listen. The song reaches it’s climax at 1:25, introducing the full ensemble of the band with a subtle, but obvious power. Its beat is addictive, and the composition is enticing. Whenever I heard this song playing, I could never skip it, it simply had to be enjoyed over and over again. Even to this day, I am not tired of it because of the large variety of tempo change hidden, altering the overall tone of the song over and over again. I can already say, for myself, that this is one of my favorite tracks on this disc. We can no longer hear Tony until the end… “Everything in the world is connected. Even if they hate, dirty, kill each other. Connections are so tight, that anyone can break them off.”

02) Cold Tears:

Almost immediately, we’re introduced to a more oriental sound. It is much slower, much more calming, but nevertheless, you can’t help yourself but to move to the beat. It’s almost perfect for clubbing. The unique mixture of erhu, guitar, bass and beats entrances you and holds you tight until the very end of the song. Whoever mixed this song knows what they’re doing, because the rise and falls of the beats are superb! It’s not at all a head song, there is no need to go crazy to it. Despite the urge to move, the lyrics seem a bit morbid in the beginning, describing something like the sensation of dying.

翳り始めた 息の音に いつかの夢を見る
As my breath begins to fade, I dream of times past
遠い記憶を 辿りゆく 定めを知りながら
Tracing distant memories while contemplating my fate

Mai describes the life of a person that had not lived a fulfilling life - lacking in experience in some of the greater things about it, and the transition from being on earth to being a spirit in the sky., but it is not an easy process. It is another struggle from within to be willing to let go of your life to be released into the world and float away, like butterflies, unknowing as to their fate or destination. The songs leaves us with the unanswered question “誰ノ為……?―――” (But from whom…?) Who were we released from? Where are we going? What lies in the future, in the afterlife? There are many questions asked, but very few of them are answered. The only way to know is to follow the sound of the erhu and the piano and the mental image of butterflies to the moonlight as we go into the next track.

03) Freeze:

Freeze opens up with the full ensemble, first with the erhu as we were left. Since following the previous story-line, I imagine we’re floating in darkness, but in reality, this is the other side of someone dying. We are now the ones watching our loved ones die right before our eyes, holding their hands and having a heart heavy with regret. Mai’s voice is full of sorrow as she sings with the bass and the erhu fighting for attention in the background. The drums and guitar almost act as the buffer to keep everything balanced and light, making the song just as easy to listen to as the others. There aren’t as many dynamics noticeable here, but it is beautiful, all the same, exiting on a single electronic beat…

04) Here:

The music is still light, a little more cheery and reminiscent, but still holding a fairly sad tone to the composition… In fact, the erhu makes for a very interesting instrument used throughout this entire disc and had been taken full advantage of, adding a certain flavor to things. Whatever you feel from the rest of the band, the erhu represents the exact opposite of those feelings while, at the same time, enhancing those that were already present. It may just be from it’s peculiar sound or just from the notes it’s playing, but it’s presence is made very obvious whenever you hear it. It’s not an instrument you can bury under surrounding noise…in fact, you should never even attempt to do it. An erhu and a bass guitar compliment each other wonderfully when mixed together correctly.

In this song, it is long after the loss of someone we loved. There is a bit of irony here, as in the previous track the narrator was pessimistic, saying “翳る記憶――。” (Memories doomed to fade away), but in fact, no memories were lost. They were all gathered and labels with being good times and bad, but unfortunately, it’s all recalled under depression beneath a fiery, red sky or a moonlit night.

An eternal memory, an eternal mourning. A long road to recovery as you are enveloped with the poetic beauty of the words and cannot escape the sound that is Alias.

05) the World is mine:

Honestly, this track caught me off-guard. It’s darker, heavier and sounds something more robotic to me. It’s different, it’s intriguing, but it’s still not quite reaching a certain level of energy that I feel it needs. The change of pace is very refreshing, but it feels like this song is missing something important, though I can’t put my finger on it. The call and response sequences made and the fusing of the guitar and electronic sounds distract me from really being able to figure it out as I listen. I would have to have had listened to this track a thousand times before I can say for sure. It’s a bit of a hit and miss at times. The song is very good, very being almost totally different from the rest of the track so n this album, but it does not hold the same key to move me as strongly as the others did. I think if the band keeps at it, they can find a way to really blow everyone away and show them that they have more dynamic diversity than most any other band. A track like this is very important in an album structured in such a way - it keeps the listener on their toes and prevents them from becoming bored.

Now I interpret this to be the anger and morbidity of someone that is totally self-aware and noticing all of what’s wrong with the world.

06) Remembrance:

A complete 180 degree spin from the dark, mocking tone we hear in “The World Is Mine”, Remembrance embodies the embrace of one's emotions and acceptance of one's environment and conflicts. The drums are heavier, but not in a sense that KiYO would just be bashing on them. They interlock in a certain way with the strumming of the bass, crossing over so they almost share parts as the guitar fills the open space left between the erhu and the rest. Though it's difficult to hear it, the piano is playing constantly throughout the song. Collectively, each instrument is difficult to tell apart from another, but if you search for it, you will be able to hear it just fine. The bass, piano and drums hold the foundation of the song as the guitar plays a part in igniting the fuses to build toward the chorus. My inability to decipher this song makes me believe that it is the weakest track on the album. I don;t know wht to think about it, but I know that I like it... In the most subtle of ways, we enter the climax of the song. The song is so gentle, it could be just as easily be used as a lullaby as it could be for leisure.

07) evermore:

Ah yes, “evermore”, the namesake of Alias’ famed world debut mini-album! For Alias fans, this may have been their favorite song on the album when they first heard it. This happens every time an album is released - do you know why? Because we have already made our ears accustomed to the tunes and tempo changes to the song! It is easier for us to enjoy something that is familiar rather than something that is new.

This track slowly returns the energy we had previously, this time still in the narration of the person who lost their beloved, but had reached a wonderful resolution with their grief. Almost like a heavenly reunion, we hear a choir singing, which is then replaced by an impressive guitar solo and then the erhu. In my opinion, this is definitely one of the best tracks, its right up there with True due to it's balance and depth.
This song is actually slightly more complicated than some of the others for me. It’s definitely fast paced, which makes it a little more difficult for me to organize my thoughts. None of it really sounds new or actually complicated to me, it sounds like it’s a song I have known forever and ever. Those feelings are only enhanced when I hear the repetition of “If I’m not for myself, who is for me? If I care only for myself, what am I?,” in the background of all of the rest of the music.

08) Meguru/Return:

"Meguru", yet another song that I feel attached to already, but I had never actually heard it’s composition. Curiosity, that’s my first thought. “Where will Alias go with this song as they have laid out an entire story?” Still in a reminiscent state, only now we have fallen in love with someone. And the story starts over, describing how one falls in love and how we still question what the other felt, what the other person thought. Their illusion is playing with our mind and we can only think to ask them “さよならさえ 伝えられずに 離れたこと ―心残り?” (Leaving without even being able to say goodbye you regret what happened?)

No matter what, determination takes its place.  Every thought counted, every emotion felt, every step of progress made since the initial loss will reach the other side of the universe along with the memories held, whatever they may be. It is a feeling of returning home, a feeling of being back to where you belong and a promise that you will get better. Life, no matter how short, goes on.

09) Lament:

"Lament" is a wonderfully written piano piece. Even though it's only little more than 2 minutes long, I think it holds a key point to this album. It acts as the epilogue of the story we had just watched, reflecting on the melodies of the other tracks. I can never, ever skip this track whenever it plays and I suggest that you listen to it to the end as well. A part of me wishes that the song were longer so I could have more to think about and have more to read into, but when you look back on how the entire album was composed and set up, it's just the right amount of time to allow Alias to leave a sort of quiet impression on you.


This album is not at all over-whelming, in the sense that the mysic attacks you, but it's not underwhelming either. I can only honestly say that I am pleasantly surprised as to how good their music is. Alias’ sound and concept is not exactly easy to interpret - all of this is just based on my own feelings, preferences and opinions. As someone who primarily listens to metal and prefers rap-rock and old-school music, I probably would not even have dreamt to listen to a band like this if I were just reading a review like you are now, but you can’t just push away a strange CD because of someone else’s opinion.

When you see all of the band members drawn as anime character on the CD as well as their official accounts, it is safe to assume that they are attempting to lean towards a more sort of "anime-style" sound. I think they have really managed to make us understand what they want us to think of them. Now they need to work on obscuring our expectations by making another single or album that will catch us by surprise! They are still relatively new, so experimenting with sounds would be good for them as long as they do not become to comfortable with one genre. If Alias can manage to remain active and diverse in their music, their already impressive popularity will continue to grow and, just maybe, every other anime fan out there will know the other meaning behind the word "alias" just like how we know the other meaning behind the words/names Versailles or zilch.

Since I am only able to provoke new ways for you to think of such a peculiar band, you need to ask yourself what is it you are looking for in this album, just as you should in all albums. There is not too much optimism to be found and, for a good number of the songs. As I wrote, I was actually almost moved to tears. You need to listen to the song deeper that the obvious exterior layer and thinking “Oh, this is a slow song” or “Oh, this entire album is not enthralling”. There is a story there, with a plot and a conflict and characters. There’s a climax, there’s resolve, there’s even an epilogue! It’s only as exciting as you make it out to be. I recommend this CD to everyone because it’s actually quite relatable in sound to people who listen to just about all kinds of music. Just as it says in their biography, Alias transcends time, distance and boundaries to create a new world.

Translations by Sen

Related Links:
Alias - Introduction
Alias OHP

Share on Google Plus
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment


Post a Comment