X Japan are my all time favourite Japanese rock band, and Dahlia is arguably their best album released as of yet.
Dahlia is full of brilliant songs, whether they are the speed metal that X Japan was known for, or slow ballads. Any metal fan will love the speed metal songs, although many don’t like the ballads. However, general rock fans will find something in Dahlia, as it’s almost like the metal and the ballads balance each other out into basic rock (I found myself loving the album at the tender age of 10, when I only liked rock). Some metallers think that four ballads in ten songs is a bit much, but if you’re a little more open, it doesn’t bring down the album at all.
The title track, Dahlia, starts off the album into some great speed metal. In a mixture of English and Japanese, it caters a bit for people less into the non-English music scene. Toshi’s voice in this one is a great representation of his overall sound as a whole. Yoshiki’s drumming is at his ridiculously high standard of playing. However, the guitars range from brilliance to the rather mediocre, within just one song, which clocks in at a mighty 8 minutes.
Second track – Scars – continues in the speed metal style. All in Japanese, save a couple of verses in some Engrish, Scars is more catchy than Dahlia and has a guitar solo that I can still remember off the top of my head. It’s that good. It’s also a bit heavier sounding than Dahlia, fuelled more by the bass and guitars.
Drain is a brilliant song. One of the best of the album, along with Scars and Tears. The verses are deceptive in that they aren’t really speed metal, but the song picks up a bit with the chorus. I’m not convinced that it’s completely speed metal, but it’s definitely metal of some sort. The song is actually quite bass-driven, which is unusual, but the other guitars still show their worth. Watch out for some interesting, almost whispered, backing vocals.
Here comes the first ballad of Dahlia – Longing. This song is really epic sounding, but not really one of my favourites. With the chorus in English, (not even Engrish – his accent is quite good in this one) you’ll find yourself easily singing along if you’re not a complete metalhead. Toshi’s voice really pulls at your heartstrings in this one, but the song is just too long in my opinion, especially as the general sound doesn’t change – at all – throughout the 7 minutes or so that it goes on for.
Another ballad, Crucify My Love comes later. Great piano-driven ballad, with heart-wrenching strings accompaniment. Fully in English, Crucify My Love will appeal especially to those not into J-music.
Arguably the most well known ballad from X Japan is Tears, a whole 10 minutes 30 seconds long. Again, piano-driven, but the bass and drums contribute to the sound as well (there might be guitars, but if there are, they are very quiet in comparison to the piano, strings and drums). Also, half of the song is in English, including the main hook, and the poem spoken by Yoshiki at the end. Great song, if a bit long. But it’s good enough that it doesn’t matter.
Ending song for the album, Forever Love is excellence, in the form of 8 minutes of epic music. More veteran fans of X Japan will always be reminded of hide’s funeral when they hear this song. At my first listening, Forever Love literally brought me to tears. It’s brilliant, and sad. A surprisingly amazing violin solo comes along half way through, followed by an a cappella verse. Although long, the song is good enough that I don’t actually mind. But you can make your own decision about that.
Rusty Nail – less metal, more towards rock. In fact, Yoshiki’s drumming is actually possible to play without being a professional. Again, not one of my favourites. Actually, I quite dislike the sudden change to the piano and strings arrangement. The tempo slows and lot and the sound of the song changes overall, but what it changes into is just not as good as what it from, except for a cool solo.
White Poem I really brings down the album. What were they thinking…. It’s obviously just a filler song to bring up the album time closer to an hour. In fact, it’s the only X Japan song that I’ve consciously got bored of when listening to it. Still, this one song isn’t enough to bring down my rating.
Wriggle is hard to classify. It’s definitely not one of their ballads, but it’s not quite speed metal either. It’s almost got a feeling of experimental music in there. It’s not bad. In fact it’s quite good and catchy, but it’s gone too quickly with it’s short play time of less than 1:30 minutes.
Overall, Dahlia is brilliant. A must have for anyone into foreign music, particularly J-music. Actually, Dahlia is so good that seven out of the ten songs were released as singles, with five of them going to number one in Japan. With a mixture of metal and ballads, Dahlia is unlike any other album you’ll hear. Brought down by only one song, White Poem I, you won’t regret going now to listen to it.