REVIEW: YOHIO - Natsu no Owari no Yakusoku

It's been a while since we've seen a release from YOHIO as a solo artist. In fact, it's been 5 years since the popular guitarist and singer put out his last single. This isn't due to lack of effort: YOHIO has spent the past few years growing his label KEIOS Entertainment into the first serious international label for visual rock music. He's also been pushing the limits of his abilities as a vocalist and songwriter while fronting the popular metal band DISREIGN. The knowledge YOHIO gained from all these experiences can be felt when listening to his latest single. 夏の終わりの約束 (Natsu no Owari no Yakusoku) represents a positive growth in YOHIO as a solo artist. It's also a friendly reminder to those who have known him as a singer and businessman for the past few years that he's still a damn good guitarist as well.

夏の終わりの約束 (Natsu no Owari no Yakusoku) Cover
1. 夏の終わりの約束 (Natsu no Owari no Yakusoku)
2. 春雪 〜Spring Snow〜 (Haruyuki 〜 Spring Snow〜)
3. 夏の終わりの約束 - Instrumental
4. 春雪 〜Spring Snow〜 - Instrumental

For the last few years I've been following YOHIO as a vocalist in DISREIGN, and I've been quite impressed by his vocal growth (who would've thought this guy could scream?). The band has been active long enough and often enough that I had actually stopped thinking of him as a guitarist or even a solo artist. The tracks on Natsu no Owari no Yakusoku refocus attention back on those talents of his, and call special attention to his growth as a singer, songwriter, and composer.

The title track is a slow song, and while I'm rather picky about my ballads (it's my personal preference as an adrenaline junky), I found this track to be pleasant and substantive. The song features a mix of orchestral strings and YOHIO's guitar playing, but is closer in tempo and mood to a pop song than a rock ballad. This changes briefly during the guitar solo in the bridge, where we're reminded of what made YOHIO stand out as a talented young artist in the first place. The gentle pace and romantic feel of the song makes it ideal for the fall/winter season that it's being released in. It's a fairly safe song that will satisfy fans while still showcasing YOHIO's flexibility as a songwriter.

While "Natsu no Owari no Yakusoku" definitely shows a little bit of YOHIO's improved vocals (there's some especially nice falsetto notes in there), it's "Haruyuki 〜 Spring Snow〜" that really shows off his growth as an artist. He seems to have a much more confident grasp of the notes at the high and low ends of his range, and his crooning vocals in the chorus really sell the song. In the hands of another less-experienced artist, this upbeat track could've been a very different, very generic "anime opening" song (which VKH Breakdown listeners will know I'm quite sick of at this point). Thankfully, YOHIO has put a strong effort into making this track musically varied and emotionally gripping. "Haruyuki 〜 Spring Snow〜"  has all sorts of little extra touches that take it to the next level, including: a healthy variation of pace, some impactful use of elegant vocal harmonizing, and a blazing-fast guitar solo. I personally would have picked this track as the A-side for the single, although that's probably somewhat influenced by my personal musical preferences.

If you're wondering how much YOHIO has improved over the past few years as a vocalist, guitarist, and composer, this is the single for you. Natsu no Owari no Yakusoku allows YOHIO to flex his musical muscles after spending so much time on other projects, and the obvious improvement in his skills will delight fans. I strongly advise that you listen to the entire single: the B-side is an absolute gem in my opinion, and YOHIO is a talented enough composer that the instrumental versions of the two songs competently stand on their own. 

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  1. Nice to see Yohio improving as an artist, I respect him a lot for what he achieved but these songs have nothing new or interesting to offer to the music industry and his voice is full of auto tuning.
    Anyway, they are common jpop songs, it might sell and I think a lot of people will enjoy it.