When most people hear the name ASAGI, they’ll immediately think of the vocalist of the visual kei band D, and that is no different in this case. Only now we’re not talking about a release by D, but by ASAGI himself as a solo artist.
Did you know that ASAGI actually released his first solo work in 2006 in the form of the single Corvinus? And that in 2016 he released another single named Seventh Sense/屍の王者/アンプサイ (Seventh Sense/Shikabane no Oja/Ampusai)? After this single he released one more stopped his solo activities and instead focused his attention on working as a designer, perfumer and of course as the vocalist of D.
For this album he got help from other musicians from the visual kei genre, but also from the traditional genre, all of them playing various instruments (modern like guitar, bass and drums but also traditional shamisen, koto and taiko) while ASAGI himself wrote and composed all lyrics and music for the album. All members from D provide parts with their familiar instruments to various songs, but other artists include SUGIZO (Luna Sea), Shinya (Dir en grey), Leda (Far East Dizain), MiA (MEJIBRAY), yo-ka (DIAURA), Sakito (NIGHTMARE), Jui (GOTCHAROCKA) and JUN (GOTCHAROCKA) (and more!) from the visual genre, but other instruments, not limited to the traditional ones, are played by Ikuro Fujiwara, Sho Tomoda, Yasunori Sakurazawa, Fumiko Kai and Misako Arameki, among others.
There’s a whole list of artists who contributed to this album, which you can view on his own page here.
01. 天地行き来る小船 (Tenchi iku kuru kofune)
02. 月界の御子 (Tsuki-kai no miko)
03. 畏き海へ帰りゃんせ (Kashikoki umi e kaerya n se)
04. 花雲の乱 (Hanagumo no ran)
05. 隠桜 (Komo sakura)
06. 螢火 (Keika)
07. 大豺嶽(おおやまいぬだけ)〜月夜(つくよ)に吠ゆ〜 (Dà chái yuè (O oyama inu dake)~tsukiyo (tsuku yo) ni hoe yu~)
08. 冬椿 〜白妙の化人〜 (Fuyutsubaki ~shirotae no kenin~)
09. 白面金毛九尾の狐火玉 (Hakumenkonmōkyūbinokitsune hidama)
10. 鬼眼羅 (Guǐ yǎn luó)
11. 雲の通ひ路 (Kumo no kayohiji)
12. 妖刀玉兎 (Yōtō gyokuto)
13. 物の怪草子 (Mononoke sōshi)
14. アサギマダラ (Asagimadara)
Quite a while ago a music video for 月界の御子 (Tsuki-kai no miko) was uploaded to the official YouTube channel of D, teasing the release of this album as “first solo album” from ASAGI. As the video suggests, most of the album has a traditional influence and reminded me of the older works of D like 桜花咲きそめにけり (Ouka saki some ni keri), but with a modern twist. These two elements combined with ASAGI’s familiar long vocal notes gave a nice preview of what was to come with the rest of the album.
The speed of the album goes up and down with the various songs. Some songs are fast-paced while you’ll also find a few ballad or ballad-ish songs on there. At the same time the (sometimes heavy) modern guitars combine very well with the traditional shamisen (which is a traditional Japanese guitar), koto (a string instrument which I’ve seen more and more often in modern visual kei music lately) and taiko (in Japan “taiko” refers to any kind of drum, but overseas it refers to the traditional wadaiko drums specifically, which is also the kind of instrument I mean right now). They are more present in some songs than they are in others, but if you listen closely you’ll certainly hear them being used more often than you might have thought at a first listen.
ASAGI combined all of his knowledge and skills both as a vocalist/performer as a composer in this album, and for the ones familiar with D’s work you’ll definitely hear familiar aspects in this album. Especially if you have listened to D’s recent release 愚かしい竜の夢 (Orokashī ryū no yume).
Compared to his previous solo work in 2006, Corvinus, this album is quite a turnaround. Even though 大豺嶽(おおやまいぬだけ)〜月夜(つくよ)に吠ゆ〜 (Dà chái yuè (O oyama inu dake)~tsukiyo (tsuku yo) ni hoe yu~) does remind me of the style he used back then. This first single was a lot darker than the overall feel of this album, as this one is definitely more story based.
If you aren’t (very) familiar with the traditional Japanese music (yet) and aren’t willing to dive into the deep end immediately this album is a good first step to familiarize yourself with the traditional instruments while still holding on to what is familiar from the modern day music industry. Overall it’s a fast paced album (mainly because of the guitarists providing their skills being known for their fast guitar riffs), but it will slow you down with a melodic part here and there or even a full melodic/ballad type of song here and there before it picks up speed again.
Going into this thinking it’s a full traditional influence album will leave you disappointed, as it’s more of a rock opera than anything else, but there’s even a metal-type of song tucked into the tracklist somewhere! (No, I won’t tell you which one, go look for it yourself!)
And if that isn’t convincing enough for you, a lot of familiar (and popular) visual kei musicians provided their skills to this album without turning into anonymous background noise. ASAGI found a gap between several genres and manages to combine those genres into one album while still being interesting to fans of all used genres. That alone is compliment worthy, don’t you think?
Final score: 85/100
Artist: 浅葱 (ASAGI)
Release: 斑 (Madara) (album)
Release date: January 31, 2018
CD number: YICQ-10401 (limited edition) / YICQ-10402 (regular edition)