It's time for Exist Trace fans to swallow a potentially hard truth: as of the release of their newest album WORLD MAKER, the old Exist Trace is almost completely gone. This all-female visual kei band has spent the last couple of years transitioning into a new style and sound. Gone are the heavy, rocking, and dark elements of earlier hits such as VANGUARD, RESONANCE, True, and even Daybreak. They have been replaced by a lighter, more flexible sound that will peak the interest of some listeners, and draw the outrage of others. But if you set aside your expectations for this band, you will find an album that is quite decent given the relatively small stylistic transition period. While none of its tracks are exactly ground-breaking, WORLD MAKER does make use of the band's depth and creativity in a new light. It also puts Exist Trace squarely at a crossroads, where one path leads to returning to their old sound with new inspiration, and the other leads to continuing on with their new style, potentially past a point of no return.

WORLD MAKER Regular Edition Cover

3. Spiral Daisakusen
5. Imagination
6. Feel
8. Antique Doll
9. Kuchibiru
10. RAZE
11. Nagai Yume no Owari ni

WORLD MAKER gets all three of its promotional tracks out of the way at the beginning. It's an interesting choice, particularly because each of these first three tracks shows off a different side of Exist Trace's  new sound. The title track is a lulling and relaxing song that sports some nice synth music in the background. It is strikingly similar to MUCC's "Mother", but with slightly more intricate guitar work throughout the verses. It's a great song to relax to, and the vocals are particularly good during the chorus. WORLD MAKER immediately picks up the pace with "DIAMOND", which is one of my favorite songs from the album. Its instrumentation is slightly reminiscent of the old Exist Trace, and the upbeat nature of the song works surprisingly well with the somewhat-heavier sound. Crooning guitar melodies and crackling electronic sounds are mixed around the lyrical back-and-forth between vocalist Jyou and Guitarist Miko to create an upbeat song that's still worthy of a little headbanging.

At this point, the listener will have noticed a new trend that Exist Trace employs throughout the album: guitarist Miko has taken over backing vocals, along with much of the lead vocals. This adds depth to some of the songs, but Miko's voice can be a little grating on some of the high notes. "Spiral Daisakusen" is a strong example of this fault. In spite of this, it is still a solid and unique song that uses a disco-esque vibe in an interesting way. These first three tracks summarize the general range of the album fairly well: relaxed and cool ballads, strong tracks with a positive edge, and tracks infused with a modern interpretation of jazz, swing, or disco. All of the tracks on this album fall into one or more of those three categories.

"JUST ONE" is a fast-paced song that starts off sounding like an older and heavier Exist Trace song before bursting into an excitedly optimistic chorus. The combination of opposite themes works surprisingly well. "Imagination" slows things down in its own groovy way. The crooning guitars and vocals during the verses transition well into a relaxed chorus that draws influences from blues and jazz. WORLD MAKER then surprises us with "Feel", a very ominous transition track that sounds the like the band's former style, only at slower pace. It then picks the pace back up with the electronica-friendly "SHOOTING STAR". It's a catchy song that uses a lot of electronic sounds and some distorted backing vocals, but not in a way that overpowers the song. The chorus also shows off more of the disco-sounding style heard in "Spiral Daisakusen".

"Antique Doll" is another one of my favorite tracks. It starts off sounding like it's going to be a dance track, before transitioning into the strong guitar work that we're used to hearing from Exist Trace in the past. The electronic sounds are subtly blended into the framework of the track in such a way that they embellish the song without lightening its mood. The track even features a small break-down, where the mixture of electronic sounds and power chords really shines. "Kuchibiru" is a strong rock song with a steady beat during the verses, and a catchy and soothing one during the chorus. It's another case of Exist Trace making two opposing forces work together.

"RAZE" is the only song on the album that I would truly call "heavy". The verses alternate between some (admittedly weak) shouting from Jyou and slightly upbeat singing from Miko. The song builds in intensity before bursting into the melodic chorus. Although the chorus is "lighter" than the rest of the track, "RAZE" never completely stops feeling like a good old-fashioned headbanging song. It's followed by the only true ballad on the album, the mournful "Nagai Yume no Owari ni". Opening with beautifully-done piano and chimes, this pseudo-acoustic song features some of the vocalists' best work (especially in the chorus). WORLD MAKER picks up the pace and ends on a light note with "VOICE". It's a pretty straight-forward closing song with a bit of a rocking edge to it, and it gets the job done.

So is WORLD MAKER an improvement on past releases? It's difficult to say. On the one hand, it shows a broad range that I doubt anyone thought this band had. On the other, very few of the songs really did anything to grab and move me in the way that I'm used to experiencing from older Exist Trace songs. That's not to say WORLD MAKER is a poor-quality release; there's not a bad track on the album. It all comes down to how open you are to listening to an entirely different sound from this band. If you see it as them maturing or experimenting with their style, then you'll find this album to be rather enjoyable, eve if it's only for a few listens. However, if you're set on hearing the older and heavier Exist Trace, then you will be sorely disappointed. As for whether or not Exist Trace is selling out, I think WORLD MAKER makes a good case to hold off on passing judgement until another single or album is released.

Buy it on CDJapan:
Special thanks to RESONANCE Media for providing the music!
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  1. the lead vocalist is Jyou; Omi is the lead guitarist.