exist†trace – THIS IS NOW (Review)

J-Rock Reviews


Review by David Cirone


THIS IS NOW is bold and uneven, an irresistibly imperfect statement of individual creative and feminine strength. The all-female rock band is still in transition, and they’ve taken a lot of heat for their recent experimentation and shifting musical focus. But exist†trace still rocks hard, and longtime fans are bound to audibly gasp in relief when vocalist Jyou opens the title track with her powerful scream.

That opening moment — that feeling that Jyou’s near-animal roar evokes — is the exist†trace that fans always seem to be hungry for (myself included), and if you’re lucky enough to see the band perform live on their current tour, you’ll see that the “old” version of the band hasn’t gone away, but there are new layers to their personality that you’ll have to accept if you’re going to move forward with these five musicians on their new personal journey. That’s what makes THIS IS NOW equal parts invitation and challenge — can you hear this band’s voice with fresh ears, not just from album to album, but indeed, from song to song? Can you listen in the moment, in the “NOW” that the title represents, without judgement?

“THIS IS NOW” and “BLAST” bookend the 6-song mini-album, and they’re the most rewarding upon first listen, with amazing guitar from miko (blazing solo on “THIS IS NOW”) and vocalist Jyou just going full-force at the mic. These are the crowd-killers at the live shows right now, and they deserve to be played as loud as possible. “BLAST” is one of Jyou’s finest and most passionate performances, and miko loads the lyrics of “THIS IS NOW” with potent, emotional imagery:

Soba ni ite, dareyori itoshii hito yo
Sotto, kuchizuke wo sora he
Daremo ga sou, uragiri se wo muketatte
Kimi to futari, ikiru
Kore ga ima no subete

Stay with me, the person I love more than anyone else
Softly, a kiss to the sky
Same for everyone, even though betrayed and turned against
The two of us, we will live
This is everything now


“TWIN WINGS” and “Shout Out”, both of which have been released as one-coin promotion singles in Japan, are solid bits of songwriting, and guitarist Omi’s “Shout Out” is remarkably sensitive and fierce. “TWIN WINGS” left me completely transfixed by its perfectly-crafted chorus and thematic message of co-existing hope and pain (represented by the promo single’s black and white wings). Bonus points for precise production that flows effortlessly between light and heavy moments to create the kind of lasting experience that echoes long after the song’s final notes.

“Neo-Japanese Heroine” and the video track “Dream Rider” display a pop influence from the other side of the exist†trace coin. Catchy and concise, driven by positive messages with more than a little indulgence in electronic overdubs, these are the type of “new style” songs that have caused a vocal divide among exist†trace fans. You can’t fault their musicianship (in fact, Naoto’s bass line on “Neo-Japanese Heroine” is magic all on its own and Mally’s drums on the closing moments of “Dream Rider” are bursts of thunder), but these songs are a thematic jolt in the midst of an outstanding rock album.

THIS IS NOW is bound to give fans one or two new tracks to add to their list of favorites. Regardless of which side of exist†trace connects to you, there’s no denying that their power is growing. There are no promises for the future — in fact, the band seems determined to be unpredictable — but there’s an honesty in this imperfection that’s truly compelling.

Track List
3. Shout Out
4. Neo-Japanese Heroine

exist†trace on iTunes: http://smarturl.it/exist-trace_iTunes
exist†trace on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/exist-trace_Spotify
exist†trace on Google Play: http://smarturl.it/exist-trace_GGLPlay
exist†trace on Amazon MP3: http://smarturl.it/exist-trace_Amazon

exist†trace Official International Fan Club: http://archangel-diamond.com