4. Toki no Mukou Maboroshi no Sora (Okami Kakushi OP)
5. Hitomi no Chikara
6. storm (My-Otome Zwei ED 2)
7. eternal blue (Senritsu no Stratus IN)
8. stone cold (Sacred Seven OP)
10. Parallel Hearts (Pandora Hearts OP)
13. Distance (Mobile Suit Gundam SEED HD Remaster IN)
Despite being the title track of the album, elemental and Kajiura with it turned on itself, and became an awkward mix of rock with usual Western chord progressions and oriental melodies already present in numerous Kalafina and FictionJunction songs. An ambiental, minimalistic intro sets off, with the main tones in dysharmony with the background and a very different style of singing from what we can usually hear, until an unskillfully and clumsily done transition brings the guitar-filled chorus which overpowers both vocals and any other instruments. After a while, the violin brings the variety in the middle eight section and a silent section with unison singing, but, aside several bright spots and a catchy tune, elemental is a bit of a disappointment for the music we first hear from the album.
Although the song is mostly reigned by strong drums and a single electric guitar line, the exquisite vocals and silent echoes in the background present an instantly recognizable anison melody, which would have worked much better with a more diverse arrangement. From the very beginning, the tempo and rhythm are unchanging, until the bridge to the chorus, in which all four sing equally with a substantial uprising to the final tone, even though the song doesn’t follow the usual construction but leaves out the second chorus according to Kajiura’s habits. After a section in which everything is brought down but the gritty backdrop, the track unravels into the final chorus and continues off the album in a slightly better fashion.
Rating: 7 ½
A silent, impending start opens the track as the singing begins immediately, in an ambiental but peaceful and relaxing intro, unlike elemental. As to accommodate the slower tempo, the vocal harmonies aren’t as expressed, not explicitly presenting either a happy or a sad atmosphere, and becoming the background at one point. Along with the reappearing jazz bridge and un-metrical timing, the saxophone adds to the laid-back and meditative surrounding, as a deep piano is included in the second chorus with no clear distinction. Hitorigoto is once or twice a pleasant listen, but, unfortunately, gets boring eventually, just like the first two tracks.
4. Toki no Mukou Maboroshi no Sora
Medieval fantasy chants akin to those from the Madoka Magica OST accompanied by a single bell line burst up within a few guitar chords and high-pitched violin before settling down in the first verse of a mystical, but slightly uplifting tone. As the first verse is hurried up and quickly escalated with the gradual inclusion of more bells, the dramatic bridge carries the urging strings which unravel in a powerfully striking, emotional chorus with everyone singing either as the main vocalist or in a choral formation. The same guitars from the previous tracks are included but fit much better with the overall mighty instrumentation and quite expressive harmonies, even though the actual speed of the song is mid-tempo, with the illusion of it boosted up by the arrangement. Following the beautiful vibrato in the middle eight, a sudden vocal-only section comes up and, with a strong drum solo, completes the final chorus ending with another duo of strings and the guitar.
5. Hitomi no Chikara
A mysterious piano in second intervals and a thin solo vocal open the song with a simple introduction which soon slips into a weak, uninteresting and tedious listen of mild ballad-pop. Although a nicely controlled vibrato at the end of most tones is present, other members of FictionJunction provide a bit of a choral background, in the form of freely singing without lyrics. After the first chorus, as the drums slowly set it, sporadic synths enrich the instrumentation but the enduringly continuing solo act and generic melody overthrow any variety.
After quite an uneventful track, the uncanny music box-like orgel with a single high-pitched synths start off, being joined by peaceful but soaring vocals. As stronger drums are slowly added, utilizing an unusually punctuated rhytmic figure to add to the exoticism, a gliding, dry guitar chord opens the new section and every singer gets involved. The focus is equally shared between the voices and the instruments, as the arrangement has been given enough attention to compete, with deep violins and a powerful, decorated flute interlude provide an enigmatic, striking atmosphere. Except a single distorted guitar, there is no clear backdrop to the instruments, with the song setting in after the final orgel section.
7. eternal blue
The instantly recognizable, usual, FictionJunction style commences the track, as the guitar strums along with electronic chips and strings. A bit slower and laid-back tempo is present, but the energy still carries enough to make a dramatic transition to the uplifting chorus, even though several alternations in the melody potentially lead to a gloomier overall tone. Contrasting the previous track, synths take the role of the flute, occasionally hitting higher tones than usual to fill in the gap. After a short piano-only section and the robust vocals suddenly flying in, the track unravels into the final chorus. Eternal blue isn’t especially unique, and is shorter than common Kajiura songs, lasting only about 4 and a half minutes, but it still provides an entertaining listen.
8. stone cold
As one of Kajiura’s rarer approaches to techno, stone cold counts in as a personal favourite, and a unique piece in FictionJunction’s discography. The track opens with a cold, mysterious start, until it gains a trance-like fast tempo, and the adding stoic vocal harmonies bring in cheerlessness. With a deep and haunting techno-rock arrangement and a single melody line, the title fits perfectly just until the chorus, in which the harmonies take an unexpected turn into enormously sad, emotional and nostalgic singing, with a perfect transition between the two, successfully linking polar opposites and providing for an eargasmic experience, along with matched vocals and Wakana in the lead. After several emotional twists in the track filling up to the 6 minute mark, everything comes down suddenly and the instrumentation is stripped to the most powerful and strangely hollow place in the track, as only deep bass and creepily cruel vocal harmonies remain, making a final turn and making to the outburst of the dramatic symphony in the final chorus. Stone cold is an unquivering blend of robotic insensitivity and fiery passion coupled with an excellent instrumentation, pleasingly showing more development as the track progresses, and deserving one of the best places in Kajiura’s trophy room.
With a rest from the electronic influence of the previous few songs, a relaxing piano opens the track as everything becomes silent for a few seconds until, this time Keiko, starts off another seemingly predictable and generic ballad. Unusual vocal techniques are being used several times, with the choral support added in the chorus singles off several voices as particularly strong with the vibrato, and the section end with Keiko’s pleasingly soaring tone, lasting for an unusually long time and almost seeming like it turns into a completely different singer by colour. Nohara may be fairly powerful towards its end, but is still relatively boring, with barely anything to distinguish it from Hitomi no Chikara.
10. Parallel Hearts
As expected, one of the crown jewels of FictionJunction reappears, and immediately starts off the famous fantasy-anison with the usual Kajiuran arrangement and a powerful intention and expressed harmonies from the very beginning. Jumping off the singers’ vibrato and higher notes, the choruses pick up right from the verses and build up on them, with not too much change in tempo or rhythm, and following the same theme. Unfortunately, with the well-known catchy melody, the arrangement, and especially the strings, isn’t varied as much, as standard patterns are just being copied all over the place, until the unexpected turn after the second verse towards a happier melody; a choral interlude with a mystical backdrop plays as everything is silenced and the rebirth of the melody begins, and the tempo speeds up until it becomes fast enough to turn into the final chorus. Parallel Hearts may be a piece in anison history, but isn’t flawless, and feels quite sped-up and unvaried.
Random, irregular sounds after a silent intro unravel into an odd mid-tempo atmosphere, with synths dictating the rhythm and an instant choral backing reappearing. Although not as obvious from the beginning, the stoic and repeated melody similar to stone cold contributes to somewhat strong techno-rock, while the voices do occasionally separate and freely sing, without lyrics. According to the tempo, the construction of verses and chorusses is quite unclear, and there isn’t an actual clear melody line so central to most Kajiura songs. Vocals sing together with rhytmically firing guitars, and a suddenly deep contrabass violin appears as well, making this the first non tie-in song in the album that actually matches the anime ones in quality. After passing a small section under a great amount of filters and stripping the instrumentation down to only hauntingly sung vocals, the somewhat dark song ends with the sound of a machine being shut down.
Nostalgically old-sounding electronic chips and a silent singing background open, with the synths following a melody an orgel usually would. After not too long, the piano appears and builds up to an actually quite strong ani-rock track, despite the fact that judging by the title, we’d probably expect a ballad. Emotional solo singing is present, but with the several not very unique guitar solos stretching all across the track, Yakusoku sounds very little like something Kajiura would compose, as it rather reminds me of Elements Garden or other mainstream acts, and is especially unwelcome near the end of the album.
The album closes the same way it started, with oriental harmonies spread, but this time in a slow tempo and rich arrangement without many guitars involved, and violins replacing them, which is a much welcomed change. Explicit harmonies between the vocals and the constantly stringing violins bring the habitual anison ambient, varying occasionally with choral-only interludes. As the album has had bad ballads precede already, it’s a nice way to end the album, with a quiet and attention-drawing end with more mysterious fantasy bells present at the very beginning of the track as well.
It really is a shame that previously released singles took the spotlight away from the new songs, but I suppose it’s to be expected, since Kajiura is always busy with other anime projects and Kalafina, so the focus isn’t exactly on FictionJunction this time. For big fans though, every new song matters so I suppose it’s like that this time as well.
Favourite songs: stone cold, Toki no Mukou Maboroshi no Sora, Gaika
Least favourite songs: Nohara, Hitomi no Chihara, Hitorigoto
My overall rating is: 71 / 100