REVIEW: KAMIJO - Royal Blood -Revival Best-

Kamijo. The very name strikes extreme emotion into the hearts of millions. Okay, perhaps hundreds of thousands, but the point still stands: Kamijo is immensely popular and rightly so. The man is celebrating his 20th year in the music industry and is going totally over-the-top to do it. Starting with a Greatest Hits World Tour in February and spanning the entire breadth of the year until the grand finale in December, followed by a remastered hits album (Kakumei no Keifu) in June, and finally the original work: Royal Blood. I say original due to the fact that most of these songs all sound completely different from the first recordings. Many have tried and failed this very concept, but our man Kamijo has knocked it out of the park yet again.

1. Emblem
2. Imperial Concerto
3. Bara wa Utsukushiku Chiru
4. Aristocrat's Symphony
5. Chou no Hana
6. Audrey
7. Konoyo de Ichiban Utsukushii Hana
8. Fuyu Tokyo
9. Heel
10. God Palace
11. Royal Blood

I’m digging the fact that Kamijo is slowly using more electronic and industrial influences in his music, even if "Emblem" is just an intro. The only drawback is the obvious comparison to "Vive le Roi" and how it falls short as there is no lyrical content, even chanting. Being that "Emblem" was so industrially oriented, the transition between it and the first full-length song is a little rough around the edges. However, with the first instance of a LAREINE cover and we can already see exactly what Kamijo was going for with Royal Blood. While the original "Imperial Concerto" is far from bad, it was symphonic metal as portrayed by LAREINE. It was far more romantic and light-hearted. This version is significantly more hard-hitting with it’s beats, especially in the chorus and the vocals are much cleaner and more sophisticated. I didn't remember "Bara wa Utsukushiku Chiru" as a shorter track, but it makes sense for it being an anime opening. It’s actually pretty amazing how an anime opener became such a fan favorite. While the original has all the romantic campiness one should expect from LAREINE, this version is pure Kamijo brilliance as it focuses more on his immense vocal ability as well as his knack for over-composing, which is totally a positive thing. He packs a large punch in such a short amount of time. The intricacy of his compositions is really unparalleled in the Visual Kei scene at this time and you see it right in the beginning of this album with sweeping guitar riffs as well as harder beats, making all the LAREINE songs more impactful to say the least.

Talk about a complete 180 from the original. Although, "Aristocrat's Symphony" is a bit more recent and utilized far more modern production methods than almost any LAREINE song, this one needed to be revamped to make it worth it to re-record. While this version does lack energy as it’s now more of a ballad, it doesn’t lack power. It’s atmosphere is incredibly regal and focuses on Kamijo’s ability to reinvent songs that are as recent as this one. "Chou no Hana" is easily one of my favorite reinventions on the album. While I always found the original to be sweet, this version manages to be sweet AND interesting. If there is ever a need to show what growth is like as a vocalist, one could play the original right before this version and anyone would be able to see the improvement that can happen over 20 years of practice. The chorus is actually now pretty overwhelming in its beauty, words barely describe. Unfortunately, the NEW SODMY song that was chosen for Royal Blood was not "PHANTOM". Anyone who saw him perform "PHANTOM" live on tour would be able to tell you how totally incredible the song has become in terms of production and vocal improvement. But, anyway, "Audrey." The song is good, to say the least. It is probably the least powerful on the album, but it makes sense in the context of where it is on the track list between two beautifully romantic songs. In fact, so beautifully written and performed they envelop this song completely and it gets lost in the mix. While I understand and appreciate that "Audrey" is a bit of a fan favorite, but when there were so many ballads lying around, it would have been interesting to hear a 2015 reimagining of a song like "PHANTOM." A mouthful of a title for an extremely powerful song, "Konoyo de Ichiban Utsukushii Bara Yo" delivers like dominoes. This would be the first instance of a newly recorded song on Royal Blood. While it may start off decently low key, the entire song just continues to rise in power until the absolute peak of the song just after the 3:40 mark, this is about the third time the chorus is repeated and you can literally feel the emotion behind his performance. Such an incredibly emotional experience.

Probably one of LAREINE’s most iconic songs, it only makes sense that "Fuyu Tokyo" was going to be redone for his revival best album. Realistically, it’s a 100% different song, like "Aristocrat's Symphony" was. The original was a jazzy/dance song for the time it was created. While this doesn’t lose its obvious jazz influence, it is also far more beat driven now and has far more electronic influence than its previous incarnation. Most obviously, the intro of the song is sung through heavy vocoder, an interesting style choice from a man who needs no help singing. Unsurprisingly, Kamijo decides to mix it up again. A song that was described as a “new musical challenge” for Kamijo comes after the jazz-inspired “Fuyu Tokyo” in the form of a “Rose Croix”-meets-the-samba-style “Heel”. The song is weirdly sexy for something that does have a darker vibe to it as well. Actually, it has been likened to "Ayakashi" by Versailles due to the darkly erotic nature of the song in combination with some influences of other cultures' music, such as Spanish and Arabic.

I’m trying to decide exactly what made him redo "God Palace" and barely change anything about it. It makes sense after “Unmei” was released last year, but there is very little to decipher as to what is different about this song. If you listen closely, you can tell there is some greater finesse to the way he sings especially towards the last two minutes where there’s far more power and emotion in his voice than when he sang it originally. Although much harder to tell and pinpoint in such a lengthy number, there are some new guitar riffs and composition choices throughout that add a bit more intrigue to an already overwhelming piece. Otherwise, mostly the same song. Depending on what version of the preview you listened to, you got two totally different glimpses of the title track. The intro, which is in English, sets up the expectation that the song is going to be decently heavy and sinister. However, the second preview shows the true nature of the song: well composed, powerfully sung, and has a brighter and more optimistic nature than the original preview suggests. This being the longest of the new songs, it doesn’t at all lose interest. There are enough movements in the piece to keep you on your toes, even if (stylistically speaking) it's your typical Kamijo fare.

Overall, one of the best albums I’ve heard in 2015, even if it is due to a bit of nostalgia and reimagining. Sometimes you just have to breathe some new life into old songs to give them a new level of meaning and relevance. Please support the artist by purchasing the album from CDJapan by clicking here. The album is also available for purchase on Japanese iTunes! Enjoy!
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