The birth and rise in popularity of Kawaii metal in the last few years brought us a few unique bands that represent the genre really well.
Besides the obvious Babymetal, Fruitpochette is in my opinion one of the bands that best represent what it’s all about; heavy music accompanied by beautiful or catchy melodies and cute sounding vocals. So far, the band has always managed to deliver material that’s compelling, fresh and hard hitting.
Before I tackle this review I’ll give you a bit of background on my personal experience with the band. I discovered them mid 2014 through an article on this website. I listened to a few samples on Amazon Japan which won me over and convinced me to give Shippu Jinrai, the band’s first mini album, a try. I had no idea they would become one of my favorite bands in recent years. I have always had varied musical taste, ranging from really cheesy pop stuff, to just about the most brutal music out there. I’m weird like that. Maybe that’s part of what made me love Kawaii metal so much. Having a strong preference for beautiful melodies accompanied by intense and powerful riffs really made me fall hard for Fruitpochette’s first effort. The album’s 7 songs all highlight these qualities to varying degrees.
The first time I heard “Parasite”, “Fantastic” and “Chocolate bits”, I knew those were very special songs that I would be humming along for many years to come, and probably to some extent for the rest of my life. So, as you can imagine, my expectations for “The Crest of Evil” were sky high.
If you’re at all familiar with the band, I would say the album is pretty much what you would expect. For the most part, there are no big surprises here. Despite the Jpop/Metal attributes people always use to refer to them, they have always been much closer to Metal than anything else and this album reflects that pretty faithfully. Heavy and complex guitars, fast drums, tempo changes, intense solos, accompanied by synthesizers and clean vocals which serve to embellish the whole and really bring in the melodic aspect of their music.
Even though I think very highly of the album now, for some reason it took me a few listens to warm up to it. Some albums you just connect with right away, while others require a bit more time, but this doesn’t necessarily change how you feel once you’ve had time to properly take them in. The first time I listened to it I felt it was decent but I was by no means blown away by it. I listen to so much music nowadays it’s becoming hard for me to be blown away by any album on my first listen. It was around the third time where it really clicked with me.
The people writing the band’s material should be applauded for so unabashedly creating music that is either very heavy, or very melodic. You can tell by the complexity of the riffs and arrangements that a whole lot of work went into the creation of those songs. I only have one complaint about the song writing itself. You see, many Japanese record labels choose to hire different song writers to create the material for the bands they manage. This has the benefit of being able to select the very best songs produced by their song writers, and it also adds a lot of variety to the music itself due to it having been created by different people. My knowledge of Japanese is very limited so I can’t verify this but you can tell that the album in its entirety is written by the same group of people. As a result, when you listen to the album from beginning to end, you sense a certain familiarity between the songs and toward the end, I felt like I had heard all of the song writers’ proverbial “bag of tricks”. Minor complaint. Trust me, if you enjoy their music, you won’t be bothered by this but it is still worth mentioning.
Of the 13 songs on Crest of Evil, I felt that 8 or 9 of them were faithful to what we’ve come to know the band for. The rest are a bit of a departure. I’m not referring to the quality in any way here. I’m simply saying that it’s nice that the song writers made an effort to create something different and not simply do a repeat of their previous material. The album at its core is high energy Heavy metal with some very fast parts and many melodic pieces. The songs that showcase this are amazing and for those alone the record is worth it in my opinion.
“Drop” and “Paradox” start the record in a big way and, provided you’re a fan of Fruitpochette, will remind you why you love this band so much. High energy songs that don’t waste any time getting this point across. “Advance” is a pretty standard Metal song. There’s nothing too surprising or original about it but it has great guitars and strong vocals. “DieOut” stands out compared to the rest of the album. It is significantly less heavy so it might not be for everyone but I personally feel it’s great that they were willing to explore different sounds. Its chorus is also pretty great. Solid song.
“Happiness” is incredibly good in just about every way. From its awesome intro with amazing guitars to its really catchy chorus, it is one wild ride from beginning to end. It represents in my opinion the very best Fruitpochette has to offer. Could be the best song on the record. “Action” is very, very good. Another fast and intense song that highlights the band’s signature sound. Its incorporation of different sounds works and really fits the song.
“SheerMadness” starts off slow but the song really shines when it reaches the chorus. Beautiful guitar solos as well. “Deadly” stands out for its melody. Beautiful guitars, synth and vocals. Also packs quite a punch. Another great song. “Lacus” marks another departure from the rest of the record. It is more of a moody song and it incorporates different sounds like clean piano, violin and other softer synthesizer sounds. It works. The girls also deliver a great performance on this one.
I’ve kept the songs that I considered less impressive for the end. “CleverDick” has pretty good guitars but I felt it didn’t do anything special plus the vocals and the melody are somewhat forgettable. Strange that they chose this track for the album’s first MV. Maybe I’m in the minority with this opinion? Just about the only thing “Vainglory” has going for it is a nice little chorus. The rest of the song is a little dull and unsurprising. Guitars and Drums are pretty standard. The synths sound they chose sound close to Electro or Dubstep music so it’s not for everyone. “Repose” is a 2 minute piece with nothing but clean guitars and vocals. It’s alright but it’s also nothing special. It probably shouldn’t be judged by itself because it most likely serves as an intro to “Happiness”. And finally, “Effect” is pretty ordinary and pales next to the brilliance of the rest of the record. 9 kick ass songs out of 13 isn’t bad if you ask me. I see myself listening to this one for a while.
I should say something about the girls’ performance vocal wise. I’ve always felt that Mina and Shiori’s vocals prior to their first full length album were very strong and beyond reproach. This is something that can clearly be seen in their live performances. It never feels like they’re struggling, even when hitting those high notes, and they have an assurance about their own vocal abilities that comes through in their singing. This was no different on this album. They pretty much share the vocals on the album equally and when they sing together it sounds really powerful. On top of that, the stuff they sing is compelling. It was a treat to hear them sing their heart out song after song.
From a production point of view, it’s quality stuff. The sound engineer and the production team really did their homework. I’ve had a chance to listen to the album on my home theater system with a pair of high-end headphones and it is a feast for the ears. I would even say that the overall sound quality is slightly clearer than Shippu Jinrai.
For the time being it’s difficult for me to say if whether or not I prefer Crest of Evil to their previous releases. As we all know your appreciation of a record can change greatly in time and I still feel like I haven’t completely taken in the album. A few more weeks will probably be sufficient to form a final opinion. For now I can tell you that I’m enjoying it as much as their previous material. Is this worth a purchase? If you’re a fan of their previous stuff, it’s a no-brainer. Get it! You won’t be disappointed. If you’re a fan of Babymetal and looking to discover other similar bands, or just a fan of metal in general, they are definitely worth checking out. Go watch “Parasite” and “CleverDick” on Youtube and listen to their album samples on Amazon Japan, that’ll give you a pretty good idea.
Fruitpochette are on a roll and I can only hope they’ll keep producing quality material like that. A live DVD with a real band backing them up is the next logical step and hopefully this will happen as it would bring them much deserved credibility.