FACT released their self-titled major label debut in Japan in 2009 — a decade after they were formed in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture — and quickly gained a strong national and international following. They have since become one of Japan’s biggest and most-loved rock bands of the decade. In fact, their first two albums reached the top 10 in Japan and their popularity has only grown since, their third album, In the Blink of an Eye, debuting at number 6 on the Oricon weekly chart. Burundanga is their third album and their long-awaited U.S. debut.
In addition to playing festivals like Sonisphere (UK) and Summer Sonic (Japan), FACT have toured with a wide variety of bands including A Skylit Drive, Iwrestledabearonce, Senses Fail, Your Demise and Memphis May Fire. It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve toured with so many different bands because FACT’s unique sound incorporates elements of several different genres including post-rock, hardcore, metal, metalcore, electronic, punk, skatepunk, death metal, visual kei and even pop. If I had to compare them to other artists, there are two bands in particular that come to mind and they’re both genre-benders as well: Madina Lake and Aiden. Bands who make fast, heavy music with edgy lyrics and often raw vocals but not without keen melodic sensibilities.
Naturally, I was curious about the name of this album, Burundanga. A Google search turned up results for a drug called scopolamine, which is a drug made from the extracts of plants in the nightshade family such as jimson weed and henbane. If I understand correctly, research involving scopolamine, which was first isolated by the German scientist Albert Ladenburg in 1880, lead to the discovery of many drugs we use today including the antihistamine diphenhydramine and the synthetic opioid analgesic drugs Dolatin and Demerol. Burundanga is the street version of scopolamine, which can cause symptoms of delirium including disorientation, stupor, memory loss and hallucinations. It is also used to incapacitate people by mixing it with food or drink or by blowing it directly into victim’s faces, making them inhale it.
The album opens with “FOSS,” a high octane tune that begins with raw, racing guitars galore, clobbering drums and melodic synth. The vocals are probably best described as pop-informed punk and call to mind Green Day and Fall Out Boy, though the music is much heavier than either of those bands, splitting the difference between MxPx and Suicidal Tendencies. “From your mouth the poison running down into a glass / in front of someone that’s unnoticed by you,” sings lead vocalist Hiro during the crunchy opening verse. (It seems quite fitting that an album called Burundanga should mention poison.) Later, the song features an uplifting, harmonic battle cry of “oh oh oh oh woah oh oh oh.”
I detect a Bloc Party influence in “Pink Rolex,” one of the album’s strongest tracks, Hiro’s vocals during the first verse especially calling to mind Kele’s. “I threw away something wonderful but I didn’t really know,” he sings, his voice emoting the regret the lyrics call for. The chorus is considerably heavier, Hiro practically screaming “help me to get back all that I left behind” over and over. And once that point is driven home, the song shifts into a pitter-patter electronic outro where Hiro’s vocals stutter until we hear him sing “help me to get back all that I left behind” again, this time more melodic than punk.
The bone-crushing “Tonight” displays the band’s metal side with an onslaught of brutal guitars reminiscent of Among The Living-era Anthrax. While the vocals during the verses are as melodic as they are intense, they erupt like a volcano during the fast and ferocious chorus: “Feel it all tonight / Gonna be alright / Keep it all inside you / never see the light.” It’s metal catharsis.
The band’s charming pop sensibilities are obvious during the melodious “Polyrhythm Winter,” which features a sweet break where we simply hear gentle strings and what sounds like a twinkling music box. Meanwhile, their electronic side is showcased on “1-4,” which is like a deliciously twisted Escape The Fate remix, also calling to mind Bring Me The Horizon’s remix album. It’s during these songs that one truly appreciates how well-produced the album is.
If you like music that takes you to unexpected places, often jumping from one genre to another to another within the context of a single song, then you’re sure to love FACT, especially if you like heavy music. Like burundanga, it just might leave you feeling delirious. What more could you ask for?
On iTunes (U.S.): https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/burundanga/id651632696