If, like many of us here at VKH Press, you're a fan of dark visual kei music, there's a strong chance that 2015 has been a great year for you. For the first time in what seems like ages, the visual kei scene has become infused with a fresh supply of darker, heavier releases from bands both old and new. From the GazettE's return to the dark side to the thunderous debut of indie powerhouse DADAROMA, there's been something for every fan who's tired of dancing at concerts and ready to resume headbanging.
There's no denying that finally....finally...a sizeable portion of the visual kei movement has found ways to both accept and evolve its storied past of heavy metal, gothic rock, industrial metal, and avant-garde metal influences into fresh new material. In this respect, the newly-formed DISREIGN has begun to leap-frog its way towards the front of the pack with their newest single KAREHASU. An epic release that improves upon the band's core sound in every way, KAREHASU is a stunningly rapid improvement for a band that has only been active for about 7 months. With this forlornly elegant release, DISREIGN joins bands like DADAROMA, The Black Swan, and Pentagon in the newest generation of the wonderfully dark side of visual kei.
3. BLACK SUN APOCALYPSE
KAREHASU is brooding, soothing, and epic. Its three tracks blend very well together: this is the first single I've heard in a while whose the quality and integrity is spread equally over all of its tracks. Each track runs a little on the longer side (6:09, 4:26, and 4:36 respectively), and the epic atmosphere created with each track makes the single seem to last even longer than it actually is. However, this is not a bad thing. While the tracks have many elements in common, it never feels like DISREIGN is rehashing sounds, but rather exploring one clear central theme in as many ways as possible. Overall, listening to KAREHASU feels less like listening to your average heavy metal single and more like listening to a well-arranged mini-album, which is a notable achievement for DISREIGN.
One of the most obvious improvements made to DISREGN's sound is vocalist YOHIO's continued expansion of his vocal range. If you had told me a year ago that the artist behind the Swedish pop hit "Heartbreak Hotel" was capable of growling, howling, and screaming as well as any respectable front man in the visual metal scene, I would've asked if you'd fallen and hit your head recently. But not only does YOHIO successfully pull off a variety of harsh vocal sounds, he also effectively blends and contrasts them with his renowned clean vocals, which are in peak form on the single.
The other band members continue to perform solidly, but it's the excellent mixing on each track that allows KAREHASU to really shine. DISREIGN mixes traditional rock instruments with a vast array of symphonic and electronic sounds, and every element can be heard clearly. The amount of clever variation in how all these sounds are used together is surprising for a band this young, and really works to make KAREHASU even greater as a whole than its solid individual parts.
While I would be remiss to not touch on each track on the single, I must stress that KAREHASU as a whole is best listened to from start to finish, simply because each track fits so well with the others. That being said, lets briefly examine the individual songs. The title track, the longest on the single, mixes epic orchestral music, pounding metal breakdowns, soothing backing vocals (both male and female), and the full variety of YOHIO's newfound vocal range. The vast number of ways in which these sounds intermingle with each other on "KAREHASU" should be an inspiration for other bands in the scene. As dark as the song is, I often found myself relaxing and drifting off into a peaceful state of mind as I took in all of the track's elegantly moving parts.
The two remaining tracks follow the same theme as "KAREHASU" but change up the pace. "GENESIS" is a much more energetic track that uses electronic music and noise to create an authentic symphonic effect. It's something that I've never experienced before, and I commend DISREIGN for finding a truly unique way to mix electronic and heavy metal music in an industry that ran out of new ways to do so long ago. On the other hand, "BLACK SUN APOCALYPSE" is extremely reminiscent of many of the tracks found on Dir En Grey's ARCHE album. While that can be perceived as a bad thing, I was surprised at how closely YOHIO is able to impersonate Dir En Grey vocalist's Kyo's range. While Kyo can't be beat when it comes to harsh vocals, YOHIO comes closer than many other vocalists. More impressive is that his clean vocals sound almost identical in scale and range to Kyo's. So while some listeners may dismiss "BLACK SUN APOCALYPSE" as a copycat track, the level at which this track is executed definitely makes it worth a listen. If anything, it makes for a solid resume-builder for this newly-formed band.
KAREHASU is a fantastic single, and one that I never would've expected to hear from a band as young as DISREIGN. With this release, the band has nailed down its own niche sound in an area of visual kei where it's very easy and tempting to fall prey to a myriad of overdone heavy metal tropes. The strength of all three tracks shows that the band has rapidly come into its own as a complete unit. Most importantly, it demonstrates DISREIGN's massive potential, and I look forward to seeing them continue to realize that potential in future releases.