J-POP OVERVIEW

LUNA SEA - LUNA SEA

LUNA SEA was formly known as "Lunacy". It was started by J (bass) and Inoran (guitar) when they were in high school. They joined members from their rival band "Pinocchio", Sugizo (guitar) and Shinya (drums), in Junuary 1989. They recruited the vocalist from "Slaughter", Ryuchi, in June 1989. In November 1990 they officially changed their name from Lunacy to LUNA SEA. They were scouted by Hide from X-Japan and signed to Extasy Records. They released their first indies album, "LUNA SEA", in April 1991. In Septebmer 1991 they were signed to MCA Victor and made their major debut with their second album, "IMAGE". Ever since, LUNA SEA has been one of the top rock bands in Japan. The band disbanded at the end of 2000, and the vocalist, Ryuichi Kawamura continues a solo career.

Released: 4/21/91, re-released: 9/13/00

LUNA SEAThis is LUNA SEA's first album, from 1991. It was released by the indies label, Extasy Records, and was later re-released by the same company in 2000. No doubt Extasy is trying to further reap the benefits of the band's now spectacular popularity, and it is a smart move on their part. A re-release of the first album is also beneficial for today's LUNA SEA fans who have not gotten a chance to purchase their very first album. Overall, the re-release is just a very good situation for everyone.

This CD may be old, but the contents are timeless LUNA SEA classics. The one biggest problem is the sound quality of this CD. The bass is almost nonexistent. If you don't have a nice sound system you may not notice though. The sound quality problems are presumably because the recordings are old, coupled with the fact that this is an indies release. However, there are plenty of indies CDs with much better sound quality than this one, of course. Fortunately the audio quality problems aren't terribly bothersome, especially after you get used to it.

The first track on the CD is "FATE". This is just a short intro track that sounds like it's going to be a longer song. It does have vocals from Ryuichi. "FATE" is a very upbeat and bouncy hard rock track to get you straight into the action.

"TIME IS DEAD" is the first full song. The energy continues its flow almost as if straight through the transition of track 1 to track 2. The firm percussion and crisp guitars continue the stable rock sound. Ryuichi's voice is maybe a bit overly dramatic, but what would the song be without that?

Track 3 is the antagonizing sound of the LUNA SEA classic, "SANDY TIME". The repetitive and prominent bass part is addictive. The climaxes of emotion in this song are great. No, this song isn't really long like the versions they've played at their more recent live performances. This one is the original barebones version of the song.

"BRANCH ROAD" begins with a quick burst of power. The song gets a sudden burst of energy building into the chorus. Pretty nice.

"SHADE" is definitely among the best on this album, if not the best the band has ever produced. The song plays like clockwork, with its sporadic percussion and fast guitars. Ryuichi's yelling is amazing. You'll never hear anyone scream so wildly like this and still make it musical. Ryuichi pulls it off perfectly. It's also interesting that Ryuichi doesn't even really sing like this anymore. He's nine years older now, and you could say that his style has matured a bit. Not that it was really necessary; he was great back in 1991.

Continuing the fast-tempo hard rock songs on this album that the band obviously specialized in, "BLUE TRANSPARENCY" comes next. Sudden dramatic screaming from Ryuichi is surprising, especially for fans used to his more recent style. It works very well. The lyrics "blue transparency" seem very rushed in the chorus, but are still more contagious than annoying.

Track 7, "THE SLAIN" begins with a perpetual tapping noise, and slowly pushes along with a guitar accompaniment and random sounds. This is the first real taste of slow tempo on this album, but it's not lacking energy. In fact, when Ryuichi finally comes in with his moaning, he slowly builds up the frusturation in his voice until he is yelling at the top of his lungs. This is really something to be experienced, but may only be appreciated by the hardcore metal fan. Another interesting thing about this song is the way in which it seems to spend over half the track in the intro stage, building to the main section. This songs only goes through one cycle, so it doesn't really have separate stanzas and a definite chorus. However, the lack of structure is a welcome change of pace that works nicely in this track. The song is not shorter than the rest on the album.

The tapping sound effect continues at the end of track 7 into track 8, a seamless transition. "CHESS" gets the quick energy going again. Now that Ryuichi has shown us his full power, he doesn't seem as reserved about making use of it anymore. The perpetual pounding of the drum gives the listener no chance to ignore the music. Ryuichi's style is graceful in a very strong and active kind of way, if you believe that is possible.

"MOON" brings things down to a slower tempo once again. This song isn't bad, but seems to kind of drag. That's just the style of it. It is a bit depressing. It's followed by "PRECIOUS", which really seems to kind of just sum up the album in one last track. The hard pouding fast tempo heats back up for this classic. This song flows along just perfectly.

This album may be getting old, but the songs are timeless. The CD could be enjoyed for years to come without showing any real signs of age. Pick this one up today because you're really going to enjoy it, no matter when you get it. Aside from the problems of sound quality and total length (only 38 minutes), this album is almost worth a rating of 10. With the recent announcement of LUNA SEA's breakup this year, listening to their first album can really show you just how much of a big deal (and how sad) the band's breakup is after all this time. LUNA SEA really was amazing. Perhaps they were the best band of their time. Personally, I have never come across a better first album from any band (that includes L'Arc and GLAY's indies releases). This album is a classic for you to own forever and treasure. Pick yours up today if you don't already have it and thank Extasy for the re-release.

Overall Rating: 9 - Very good.
Track list:
01. FATE
02. TIME IS DEAD
03. SANDY TIME
04. BRANCH ROAD
05. SHADE
06. BLUE TRANSPARENCY
07. THE SLAIN
08. CHESS
09. MOON
10. PRECIOUS

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