About the Band: ALSDEAD is an alternative-metal band from Tokyo known for a heavy, melodic sound founded in 2008 by DICE AND JOKER members Maki (v), Shin (g) and Setsua (d) and joined by bassist Reito. Reito departed in August 2011 and was replaced by the young and talented Yosuke and the four would power through the VK scene until the recent and heartbreaking departure of Setsua in January of 2014. Former GALEYD drummer, Nikky, joined the ranks in May, giving us the ALSDEAD we have today. IDEA is their third full-length album.
The Packaging: The limited edition comes in a pretty standard, two-disc packaging, including a 13-track CD and a DVD with the PVs for Starless and Kill the King, as well as the Making of Kill the King. The front cover features an hourglass containing a disintegrating moon flowing down over the earth. For me, this speaks to the overall theme of the album: Destruction and creation. Seeing the world in a different way and creating something new.
The tracks: In the interest of full disclosure, I feel the need to tell you that I have an EXTREME personal bias toward this band. I had the pleasure of working with them at OniCon Galveston last year and fell a little in love with all of them. They are a hard working, talented, and amazing group of men and I feel honored to have been a part of it. So, there will be gushing. Lots and lots of gushing.
The disc opens with the ominous sound of a ticking clock, dropping us right into the title track, IDEA and their previous single track, STARLESS. These two songs are everything we love about ALSDEAD. IDEA is a prime example of Maki’s vocal range, moving seamlessly from melodic verses to aggressive growls and even high-toned falsettos. The lyrics introduce us to the world view that pervades the album, describing a corrupt world from an omniscient, almost godlike point of view and calling for its destruction.
STARLESS brings us in closer, making the anger and desperation more human as we hear the all-too familiar voice of someone who wants to believe despite his hopelessness. Shin and Yosuke really shine in this one, the aggression of the song breaking for a moment to make way for a quick, bouncing bass solo that leads smoothly into Shin’s grinding riffs.
This bleak world view reaches a turning point with HERO. With the English lyric, “It’s time to change the world,” we know things are about to look up as we hear from a man who, after waiting his whole life for someone to save him, realizes he’s had that power inside him all along. The song starts off feeling almost mournful, but by the end, we feel uplifted and empowered, leading us into one of the heavier tracks on the album, D.9.N.
D.9.N. couples with the album single, Kill the King, to create the album’s battle cry, calling out corruption and demanding a change. Nikky really shows off in these tracks, pounding out a heavy rhythm that will make your heart race. Even without understanding the lyrics, you can feel the need to take action. Shin and Yosuke trade solos again in one of my favorite exchanges on the album proving once again that Shin is truly one of the most underrated guitarists in the scene.
And now, to my favorite song on the album, ADRENALINE. This is just an all-around great rock song. Maki’s scream cuts right through your spinal column. This song is mostly in English, which he handles with impressive fluency. The instrumentals hit fast and heavy, each element blending cleanly with the next in a true show of musicianship. The four lock together and attack as a unit, driving their message home with hammer blows.
Next come Nostalgia and PICTURE, the closest we get to ballads on this album, though they are hardly ballads at all. Nostalgia kicks off with an electronic melody, reminding me of some of the ALSDEAD classics and making me feel…well, nostalgic. With a catchy melody, it tells a story of past love, invoking a sort of sweet sadness. PICTURE picks up where it leaves off with a floating guitar melody that weaves around Maki’s smooth vocals and leads into yet another skillful and beautiful solo from Shin. The tone of this one is a little fearful, but more hopeful with eyes on the future.
The theme of the second half of the album seems to be all about finding strength within one’s self and it continues with Behind the Pride. Another electronics-laced number, this one feels a little more poppy to me, though it is far from a pop song. Again, I can’t say enough about Maki’s vocals and lyrics and something about this one really speaks to me. It feels earnest and honest, as if he truly aims to lift the listener up.
The album finishes up with World’s End and Gravity. Both songs have a positive and upbeat feel, a total 180 from the pessimistic view we had at the beginning of the record. While still expressing a certain amount of uncertainty, these songs feel like the story’s happy ending. The proverbial walk into the sunset. Everything is a little brighter, a little more relaxed and, as the last song draws to a close, I feel a sort of happy satisfaction.
In the end, this record is a great example of what ALSDEAD does best. They’ve created a record that tells a story, that brings us into their world and paints a picture through music. While there aren’t many surprises here for a long-time ALSDEAD fan and I found myself sometimes wishing they’d push it a little further, overall, I am really happy with what they’ve put out. A must have when you need to feel inspired to change the world.