December 18, 2011

Late Isshi's Final Album "Kureha" Pretty Good!

Kagrra,'s awesome vocalist Isshi passed away on July 18, but that doesn't keep record companies from milking the cow as hard as they can. The latest result: "Kureha", the final album of deceased Isshi under his latest solo moniker shiki∞project. Apparently only two songs of the record were finished before Isshi tragically passed away, which is why friends of him allegedly finalized the album.

That did work out fine in the case of Daisuke, another popular visual kei vocalist gone too early, yet you don't really hear much of any distinctive trademarks from other people on "Kureha". Except maybe during tracks like the fine and sweet "Shiro No Kuro/Kuro No Shiro" or the pretty good "Ai santan" or "Zanki", which could easily have been regular Kagrra, songs. Most other tracks retain a strong feeling of "aww, it's good old Isshi" blended with some of Isshi's own later shiki∞project playfulness.

While I wasn't overly impressed by "Rashazakura", the only shiki∞project single Isshi released before his death, I have to admit that "Kureha" is quite a beautiful final collection. Even when Isshi's unique voice receives the apparently mandatory auto-tune treatment for one song ("Matsuri"), the whole style of the song and the pumping, fleshy disco beat make up for that blunder and turn the song into quite a pleasant affair. "Utsushiyo" also takes a step aside to present some variation with wobbly deep basslines mixed below flutes and koto plucking.

"Kyouen ranbu", "Kousa uta", "Dokuhaku" all fall into the same category: I wouldn't be surprised if those were old Kagrra, leftovers, but they aren't bad at all. The first feels a bit as if Gackt produced and co-wrote it, the second is a sweet melancholic ballad, and the third a typical playful pop-rocker. "Kiran" is the only song featuring more obvious hints of metal and shredding guitars, but it's also not at all devoid of the Japanesque edge always present in Isshi songs. "Sakurasou" is a great, dramatic piece with wonderful melodies and beloved Kagrra,-ness all over it, "Toki" a very vintage, six-minute fade out of the album and the last thing we'll probably get to hear from Isshi.

If you treat "Kureha" as another Kagrra, album, it would be better than the last album the band released. And that's an awesome result for Isshi's final record, which, in the end, at least got as much attention as it deserved by those who finished it. I still miss this guy, because I loved almost everything he did with his band and afterwards, I saw him live on stage in Cologne, and I'm pleased that "Kureha" actually turned out quite lovely, even though the production lacks a bit compared to your usual major album release.

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