Review by David Cirone
All-female visual kei band exist†trace’s major-label debut EP TRUE starts out strong, picking up the challenging tone of their previous indie release TWIN GATE.
“Shot to the limit… Shot to the limit…”
The title track “TRUE” (see video below) demonstrates a band hell-bent on moving past their own expectations. Every element of exist†trace is in top form, and Mally and Naoto almost steal the song for themselves with a murderous combination of drums and bass at the song’s mid-point, right before a double-guitar solo by Omi and miko lights the song on fire. Jyou’s passionate delivery of lyrics about moving past betrayal and fear show some of the best work of her career as exist†trace’s front-woman.
On “HONNOU” (“Instinct”), Jyou’s playful invitation “Shall we dance?” belongs even more to Omi’s lead guitar, and the blistering guitar solo following Jyou’s laughter at a male opponent should rightfully scare any man thinking about crossing women of this caliber. The hard-rock riffs in “HONNOU” are instantly catchy, and it’s a disappointment when the song fades out (an uncharacteristic move for exist†trace, who usually end their songs with a musical and vocal finality). Fans will wish this song had gone on longer.
While “TRUE” and “HONNOU” were written by miko, “Tokoyami no Yoake” is Omi’s song, and the shift in tone is immediately recognizeable as Jyou’s soft, alluring black-widow voice weaves along with Naoto’s creeping bass. Omi has a stand-out solo here, and exist†trace’s combination of strength and sensuality really shines through on this track.
KISS IN THE DARK (written by miko) is TRUE’s riskiest offering, an upbeat, playful and strange song centered around a swing-style rock beat. It will definitely be the most surprising to hardcore exist trace fans, and it’s a departure not only from this album, but from the whole of their previous work. There’s tongue-in-cheek meaning in the lyrics, as a woman becomes drunk on the taste of forbidden pleasure. The uneven tempo accelerates and fades to create the feeling of a dizzy, passionate episode. If you’re willing to give it a few listens, the song will have a chance to grow on you. But the initial style-shift will be a shock for fans who prefer exist†trace at their most dangerous.
“Jiyuu no Sora, Chijou no Uta” (written by Omi) ends the EP on a softer note than we began, and it has the feel of of a closing chapter of a longer work. The song keeps a steady, comfortable rhythm but doesn’t feel like the end of an album. It’s more like they’re building up to their runner’s pace, gathering strength for the next round of songs they’ve promised will follow TRUE in the near future.
exist†trace has stated openly that they’re looking to bring new elements to their music without discarding the strengths they’ve built up to this point, and so far TRUE gives the indication that the old and new personas have begun a happy yet unpredictable marriage.
Recommended tracks: TRUE, HONNOU, Tokoyami no Yoake