X Japan - Dahlia review
|Release date:||November 1996|
04. Rusty Nail
05. White Poem I
06. Crucify My Love
10. Forever Love [acoustic version]
The year is 1993. After having recorded the amazing Art of Life, the members of X Japan decided to tour and dedicate themselves to their individual projects.
A quick flash forward to 1996 and we have a more mature X than ever getting ready to produce their fourth and final full-length album, Dahlia. Suffice to say, the pressure was enormous. At this point, they had already acquired the status of most worshipped band ever to emerge from Japan. So how did their final offering turn out, is it something that we can look back to with a smile, saying "Oh, those guys sure went out with a bang!"? Hell yes!
It had been several years since X stopped with their extreme visual style ("visual kei"), and the members looked more like an everyday rock band at this point, making a good portion of the fans uneasy. Would this still be the same X that had produced amazing heavy metal album after another? Putting track 1, the title track, for a spin was probably enough to make even the oldest X fan smile. This is exactly what the band has always been about. Energy. Beauty. Yet, hot as hell heavy metal with melodies capable of swaying exactly anyone, and burying all doubts about metal being "a lot of noise" in the process. As always, Yoshiki's drums are the driving force behind the impressive display of power that is the band - flanked by hide's impressive guitar solos. Of course, the rest of the band members are highly skilled musicians, but it's the pounding of the drummer which immediately lets you know that this is X and nothing else. Impressive passages (earning X the label of "progressive" according to some) along with a band that obviously plays very tight together also adds to the experience. Toshi's voice has always been able to perfectly mix with the sound and is yet another reason to their huge popularity, him being capable of almost anything within vocal ranges. His voice can be an acquired taste for many metalheads though, being extremely light at places, but hey - if you can tolerate Halford, you shouldn't have any problems with this! Toshi's forte is probably his ability to sound so emotional, which is a plus when listening to the many ballads of X. Which brings me to my next point?
Dahlia contains a total of 4 ballads. Many might think that this is too much, but in my opinion there can never be enough of those from this band. "Tears" is my favourite, called cheesy by some, but all the memories I have with this song makes it unbelievably hard to see as anything else but brilliant. The piano and orchestra performs wonders together and creates a very emotional sound. Also, it includes very moving lyrics (written by Yoshiki, he wrote it in memory of his father who committed suicide when Yoshiki was still young). The other ballads are good too, with "Crucify My Love" being perhaps the most depressive song X ever wrote, with strings all over the place and sad sounds in the background; giving you the sense of there being no hope left in the world. However, there are still several heavy numbers on this disc that should definitely not be ignored. We have the almost industrial sounding "Scars" (which features a very interesting intro played on the toms) & "Drain" which both are very different for X - but it shows that they had the will to experiment until the very end. And of course the ultimate floor-filler - "Rusty Nail". Perhaps the most famous of all X songs, this rocker will leave any listener with an extreme desire to start their own band (I know I did!). I can guarantee that even after hearing it the first time, you'll always remember the melody - now that's an infectious chorus. And the intro to this one? Classic use of keyboards!
So what can I say about this album, why am I not ranking it a full 10? Well, the feeling of fillers cannot be ignored. "White Poem I" makes you wonder what X was thinking, and to be fair, the disposition of tracks could also have been better. But hey, that's what the repeat button is for, right? To summarize, Dahlia is easily the second best X Japan album, with Blue Blood being fairly safe on the throne. However, this is a very satisfying ending to their career, and listening to it you can't help but feel that X still had a lot more to give to the world of music. Which, of course, is very sad. But that's life! So go do yourself a favour and get Dahlia, but only after getting Blue Blood first (that should go without saying).
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