PAST OF BLACK – Album Review by TheImmortalHottentot

Hello MikuDB! Today, I’ll be reviewing PAST OF BLACK, the second full album by Solaris (or Virgin Noize). I ran into Solaris’ work months ago, hearing the single off of this album, “Tafel Anatomie”. The track had me interested in hearing more, but I didn’t get a hold of this full album until now. It’s been a while since I’ve done a more thorough review, so I’ll do a bit more track analysis on this one.

PAST OF BLACK is mainly an electronic/techno album, but there is a rock sound prominent in many of the songs, and a definite stylistic change in some of the later songs. I mentally categorized the songs into three different styles that are mostly grouped in different parts of the album. I’ll get into those as I go through the tracks.

The album starts off with “BLACK,” the instrumental intro track. The pounding bass, strange electronic riffs, and low guitar in the back really catch my attention and set the tone for the beginning of the album. The intro also serves as a teaser for track 6, as it is the same music, just shortened and without vocals, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We’re then lead into the energetic opening of “Tafel Anatomie,” the single from the album. This song goes through a lot of rapid changes: from the uptempo lead line at the beginning, to the softer vocals of the verse, then slamming you hard with heavy guitar and a scream, transitioning to the weird but poppy chorus, and repeat. I like the big contrasts within the song, but I can imagine it might grind the gears of people who prefer more uniformity. Despite the heavy use of electronic sounds, I definitely get a rock feel from this song, and it marks the first grouping I imagined for this album, a kind of techno-rock sound, using guitars and rock style with the electronic music. Also of note in this song is the vocals. There is a strange vocal effect achieved with layered voices, and I’m not sure how I feel about it, but maybe it’s okay for this kind of song.

Next, we move to “Apoptosis & Infinite Sadness,” which continues with the techno-rock sound I mentioned. It also has noticeable, but much less drastic tonal shifts, especially at the part in the song where it begins a heavy rock, kind of metal, guitar build. To my disappointment, there is no big climax. Otherwise, I like the song, particularly the chorus.

“BEAT OF BEAST” is the last song is this grouping, and does not have the same heavy parts as the previous songs. It does have an interesting saxophone part, but I don’t really care for the bridge, and GUMI’s vocals are not what they could be. I’m usually a sucker for talk-rapping Vocaloids, but it didn’t really have the impact for me here. Not a bad song, but it doesn’t stand out very much to me.

We get into a slightly different style with “Bad End Disco”. There’s not really any rockish sound like in the previous songs, and the tone is more consistent. This and the following song are in what I think of as the straight techno/electronic part of the album. I like the electro line in the beginning of the track that persists through the background of the song. GUMI and Miku are both singing in this song, but their voices are tuned to a strange sound, so I can’t really tell which one is singing. Not necessarily a bad thing, just notably strange-sounding.

“BLACKxBLACK” brings back the cool, weird riff and strong bass from the intro track. There’s a bit of guitar, but no real rock style to the song, like the beginning tracks. In contrast to “Bad End Disco,” GUMI’s voice has it’s more standard, clear sound, which I really enjoy hearing accompany the harsh, dissonant electronic sounds. This is one of my favorites off of the album.

Next, we get a rather sudden stylistic shift with “Midare Setsugekka,” an upbeat pop-rock song that uses a traditional Japanese string instrument (sounds like a shamisen but there might also be a koto?) and a hint of traditional vocal flavor (except in the chorus). The part with the lead string line invokes a sound like “Senbonzakura,” for reference. We get more clearly GUMI-sounding GUMI for the vocals (which I love, GUMI is my favorite), but there’s a break at one point for a talking part, which sounds like it uses Yukkuri. Overall, I think this is a good song. I’m also a sucker for Japanese string instruments, and GUMI, of course. I wish the chorus wasn’t as poppy, but it’s not a turn-off.

“Rekka Ranbu” continues the traditional Japanese portion of the album. We hear more of the string instruments accompanying a rock song, this time with a less cheery, more sober tone. I think that the vocals of this track are partially using a vocal style called kobushi, which is found in Japanese enka music. This isn’t something that I hear often (if ever) in this kind of music, and I think it works really well, so good marks for this track.

The song “Replay” steps further out of the traditional Japanese theme from the previous two songs. I still group it in with them because the vocals of the verses have that traditional sound, but the song as a whole has heavier emphasis on the drums and bass, with some piano and electronic melodies. It’s a pretty good song, but I don’t have much to say about it.

Finally, the album ends with a full instrumental track, “BLACK RX”. I’m sure there’s some name for the specific genre of electronic music that this track falls under, but (if you can’t already tell), I’m not very good with specifying those (I’m not even sure if I used “techno” right). It sounds like some kind of hardcore chiptune dance… step? Well it sounds cool, that’s all that matters. Quite different from the style of the rest of the album though.

I must admit that this album was not what I was expecting it to be. After having heard “Tafel Anatomie,” I thought Solaris’ other songs would be along similar lines: heavy, hardcore electronic music. Instead, the track’s eccentricity was more revealing of the whole album, which is eclectic and a bit odd, but still quite good. I don’t think this’ll be an album I listen to over and over again (you never know), but there are some good tracks on it that’ll satisfy when I know I want them. And I’ll probably give it some more full playthroughs to solidify my opinion. Of course, I recommend you give it a listen to decide for yourself (one track will not tell you if you like them all for this one).

You can buy it at: iTunes

Thank you for reading! Feel free to share you opinions and recommendations!


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