Review by Jen Wang
BACK-ON’s mini-album New World was released in 2006, a few years after rap-rock reached its zenith in popularity in the U.S. It’s hard to not draw comparisons to certain bands, especially when the title track fits so perfectly in that genre. There’s the subdued keyboard in the beginning, the heavy guitars that follow, and of course, the juxtaposition of rapping and singing.
The dual voices, however, are what make BACK-ON different. Teeda skillfully delivers rhymes, mixing up tempo and languages; he’s proof that BACK-ON isn’t just a rock band that threw in some rap. Then there is Kenji03’s clear and optimistic vocals, which supplies a staying power for when listeners have outgrown the angst and anger from typical rap-rock outfits.
That positivity also shines in “Chain (Album Mix)”, which was originally the theme to Air Gear. It sounds like a mash-up from three different genres—hip-hop, hard rock, and pop-punk—but instead of dissonance, the result is an incredibly catchy tune. The crescendo of Gori’s bass particularly provides a nice build-up of momentum. It’s the perfect carpe diem anthem for an action sports anime. The next song, “RAIN”, is a mirror opposite: soft and nostalgic. Macchin lightly taps on the cymbals while Teeda flows through the verses. The inclusion of strings adds to the gentle guitar melody supplied by Kenji03 and Shu.
The strings don’t work so well in “Hikari Sasuhou”. They just seem out of place when followed by fierce guitar riffs and emphatic rapping. “DRIVE” is a trip back to the eighties with the synthesizers, bopping beat, and higher-pitched vocals. There’s a freshness though in the blending of genres that keeps the sound from being dated.
Closing out the album is the aggressive “MAKE SOME NOISE”. The band must have made it for a live show, as the chorus is loud and repetitive enough for the audience to shout along. Shu strums his guitar like he’s revving up an engine. With such great energy, it’s easy to picture the crowd whose cheers have been recorded for the track. BACK-ON ends on a high note, having proven that they are so much more than a rap-rock band.