REVIEW: Matenrou Opera's Chikyu

The era leading up to Matenrou Opera's fifth studio album, Chikyu, was pretty enigmatic from the start. The era was pretty adventurous, with two maxi singles and three digital singles. Clearly they were going for some sort of elemental concept considering their singles focused on fire, water, wind, and earth with a fifth element (presumably because this is their fifth album) called the ether. Strangely, it seems they focused most of this album around the earth. In any case, the album has some pretty clear strengths and weaknesses.

1. Pandora
2. Burning Soul
3. Chimeishou
4. You & I
5. Kimi to Miru Kaze no Yukue
6. Goodbye My World
7. Aoku Toumei na Kono Shinpi ni Umi e
8. Ether
9. Fantasia
10. Silent Screm
11. Tataeyou Haha Naru Chi de
12. Chikyu
13. Uso no Nai Watashi de
They waste literally no time getting into the meat and potatoes of the album. "Pandora" is pretty hard-hitting right out of the gate. An extremely heavy and rhythmic song, the focus here does not appear to be on Sono in the slightest. In fact, his vocal performance for the first half of the song leaves a lot to be desired as he basically just sprechgesang (or, spoken singing) the lyrics while the rest of the members do the work to make the song powerful and interesting. Thankfully, it leads into the (arguably) best of the singles, "Burning Soul." The song is anthemic and not overly long like most of the other singles. One could easily see this song as a heavy-hitter and fan favorite at live shows. The general idea of sprechgesang is present in the verses, but that classic Sono metal-voice comes in full force in the chorus right before the addicting chanting of "Carry on, carry on, keep on Burning Soul!" After such a powerful and anthemic song, they seem to have put a filler single "Chimeishou" in for no real reason. It doesn't quite go with the other songs and isn't exactly a fan favorite. This would've served better as the bonus track if they truly felt the need to put a lackluster anime theme song on the album.

The flow of the album is not ceased with follow-up track "You & I". The album, at this stage, is high energy if nothing else. Though "Pandora" may have been a glorified intro and "Chimeishou" a glorified anime theme song, the energy has been totally consistent. You can imagine these songs as "radio-friendly metal", if you will, due to their rhythmic structure, catchy lyrics, and anthemic nature. Finally bringing in the actual concept of the album is digital-promo-single "Kimi to Miru Kaze no Yukue". The song is a grower as it has some thematic elements that don't make sense outside of the context of the album. The keyboard melody is supposed to be very symbolic of the wind carrying the melody (possibly due to not much else carrying a tune in the song). Otherwise, the single had a pretty mid-tempo energy with some strong beats and an okay vocal performance on Sono's part.

"Goodbye My World" is not totally an excellent choice of composition. The lyrics are there, they're catchy with a pretty good idea of what Sono wants to do to the world (it's "reset it", if you have yet to hear the song). The problem is that it feels like several different songs were mashed together to create a hybrid Frankenstein's Monster of a song. The hook is in a totally different key and, possibly, genre from the rest of the song. A rare swing-and-total-miss from these guys.

Another digital promo song comes up next, "Aoku Toumei na Kono Shinpi no Umi e". This would be the song dedicated to the element of water, but the problem is while it attempts to transmit the idea of lazily drifting on the sea, it feels more like you're sinking into it and falling asleep. Not their best ballad, but a solid effort.  The following two songs more than make up for it. "Fantasia" is the album's instrumental. Albums before had incredible shows of talent on Anzi's part with big, vibrant compositions that showed Anzi as someone with virtually no match in the business. While "Fantasia" is a beautifully composed song that harkens up some stunning imagery and an overwhelming melody, the sheer technical talent isn't there. All a matter of opinion on what you like more: technicality or melody. Personally, both things are very important! "Silent Scream" is a nice follow up, the same style is present in this song (for example: the imagery, melody, general compositional feel) but with lyrics and Sono pulls this off really well. For the first time on a new song on this album does he really deliver with his powerhouse vocal range.

And suddenly we're at the end of the album as it finally reaches an apex: The remaining songs finish out the ode to the elements that they have been trying to get to this whole time. "Ether" and "Tateyou Haha Naru Chi De" were both pre-released. "Ether" as an absolutely ethereal piece of music! Terrible puns aside, if there were two songs on this album that legitimately nailed the exact thing they were trying to go for it was this song and "Burning Soul". Totally encompassing the imagery of a fifth element of the spirit and fire itself, these songs are outstanding innovations in the band's discography. The other single, "Tateyou..." is a grower in the way "Kimi to Miru..." was. Not initially very captivating, the song becomes the stunning masterpiece it is when you listen to the various vocal layers recorded by a children's choir and Sono himself praising Mother Earth for the gifts she gives us each day. This blends very well into album title track "Chikyu" which continues on in the same fashion, but is altogether a bit too lengthy. Instead of feeling like a 7-miniute song followed by a 5-minute song, it becomes a 12-minute epic that had a lot of unnecessary bits and repetitive lyrics. Good lyrics, poetic lyrics.... But the same lyrics.

Bonus track "Uso no Nai Watashi de" is a super fast-paced and energetic song that delivers on vocal performance and composition in ways like "Silent Scream" and "Fantasia", but doesn't feel rushed or forced. It almost sounds like it should be the third track of this album... Too bad that slot was taken by  "Chimeishou"... Which sounded an awful lot like it should've been a bonus track. But, I digress.

In any case, the album was a solid B+ effort on their part. I am not positive anything will ever live up to the absolute masterpiece "Kassai to Gekijou no Gloria" was on the level of my personal bias, but perchance what the band needs is a change. And like a Phoenix Rising from the ash, so will Matenrou Opera. Maybe even a big name guitarist will help them out on future endeavors. Who knows, I can't predict the future.

While the album has been out for a long time at this point, please still support them by clicking here.
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