This review was originally published on Otaku. I’m running it here because it was recently released here in the States.
VAMPS — known as VAMPS (JPN) here in the States for Trademark reasons — is a Japanese hard rock/metal group formed in 2008 by vocalist/rhythm guitarist HYDE of L’Arc~en~Ciel fame and lead guitarist Kazuhito “K.A.Z” Iwaike from Oblivion Dust. L’Arc~en~Ciel is one of Japan’s most successful rock bands of all-time, right up there with Dir En Grey, and they continue to release fantastic new music with the prolific HYDE dividing his time between L’Arc~en~Ciel, VAMPS and his solo career. Oblivion Dust is also a very successful J-Rock group and have been doing well since they reformed in 2007 following several years of inactivity.
SEX BLOOD ROCK N’ ROLL is VAMPS’ English-language debut, following several hit Japanese singles and albums. It’s also their debut in quite a few countries where their music previously was not officially released, such as here in the States, in the UK and in Korea. Although this is the first time they’ve been released in English, most if not all of the songs on the album were previously released in Japanese in Japan.
This is not the first time HYDE has set his sights on international stardom, as he previously released an English language version of his Japanese solo album 666. If I had to compare VAMPS to any of his previous work, it would be that album, which essentially took everything he’d done previously in L’Arc~en~Ciel and amplified it tenfold, the songs being catchier, heavier, more energetic, etc. Which isn’t to say that L’Arc~en~Ciel is lackluster because they’re actually quite amazing. But they’re more of a hard rock or alternative band, whereas HYDE’s 666 album was a purely metal record and took things to an even more impressive level, at least in my opinion. And VAMPS is very much like that album with infectious guitar hooks aplenty, K.A.Z clearly at the top of his game, along with some of HYDE’s most passionate vocals to date.
SEX BLOOD ROCK N’ ROLL opens with the blazing “Devil Side,” which features an especially slick bass guitar line that immediately seduces you. But it’s that high octane chorus that really makes the album blast off as the drums pound away furiously and HYDE belts out his vocals like he’s singing for his life, sounding like a cross between Marilyn Manson and Jared Leto. All of the songs on this album have been remixed with some of the music parts entirely re-recorded in addition to the new English vocals. Here, HYDE’s vocals are somehow catchier, meanwhile the music is a bit heavier. You’ll notice such little differences throughout the album if you compare the songs here to the original Japanese versions. Apparently HYDE and K.A.Z. weren’t content to simply release this with English language vocals, opting to enhance the music whenever possible to make the songs that much more contagious. In fact, even the parts of the original versions that were already in English have been re-recorded and the lyrics have sometimes been changed. For example, in the original version of “Devil Side,” HYDE sang “Fear, In Pain, Crime, Pleasure, Evil, Insane…” but in the new version here he sings “Fear, Insane, Crime, Pleasure, War, Attack…” Who knows why he changed that. My best guess is that he’s a perfectionist and was trying to fine tune the songs here to make new and truly improved versions of them.
In the case of the earworm that is “REVOLUTION II,” there’s a brief and entirely new intro, and the song’s electro elements are more prominent, though the live instruments still dominate the mix.
One of the interesting things about this release is how HYDE has changed the vocal melody of some parts of the songs. For example, he changed the melody of the English parts from the original version of “THE PAST” for this version, so that the vocals here fit the melody of the music even better than they did originally. He did the same thing with “LOVE ADDICT” and these are two of the most infectious songs on the album.
The only mis-step on this album is the cover of David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?,” which they’ve changed the music to dramatically and it just doesn’t work. They try to keep the melody of Bowie’s song at times, but the way they’ve changed the music results in a trainwreck of a song where the vocals don’t even fit the melody of the music. It’s truly a disaster and this album would have been so much better off without it. If people check out the album on iTunes or Amazon, listening to the snippets, and they happen to listen to this track then they might very well choose not to buy the album because it’s truly horrific. But it’s just one track of 13 and the other 12 tracks are all quite good. In fact, I suspect that the album will do fairly well here in the States if it gets some airplay on those satellite radio metal channels where this sort of heavy music thrives.
I didn’t catch VAMPS’ previous North American tour, but after listening to this album several times now I would definitely jump at the opportunity to go see them if they play in my area again.