X Japan


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Jealousy is another good old heavy metal album from X Japan. The band is credited with inventing the visual kei style, but you can't really hear that shake-and-stir mixture of U2 arena sound, goth rock, and mid-career Helloween here -- regardless of the band's attire and haircuts, sonically it's a conventional '80s metal record (never mind that it originally came out in 1991). That said, it's a nice document of pre-grunge heavy music, sporting thin production, twin guitars, and glam rock aplomb, but having more to it than just being a Winger imitation. X Japan go through a good deal of quasi-epics and Yngwie Malmsteen-inspired neo-classical leads on the album, only to lapse back again into a hard 'n' heavy frenzy: the music is as un-ironic as possible, but also luckily free from bloated self-importance -- whatever lyrical matters and tricky leads X Japan throw at the listener, they're here to rock out, and they don't hide it. In fact, it feels as if they can't help it -- "Desperate Angel," for instance, could be a huge metal hymn, but instead becomes an annoyingly memorable heavy pop hit that could give Def Leppard a run for their money. However, the remarkable thing about Jealousy is that, for all its hair metal backbone, it's a pretty diverse record. It's quite ballad-heavy, but the slower songs neither bog it down nor sound the same, thanks to good piano and acoustic guitar work as well as clever arrangements; besides, there's also some faithful thrash rumble and a chugging rock & roll number at the end. Things are held together by Toshi's distinct hoarse croaking and the feel that the band is just having its take on the standards of the era -- but those are classy and well-executed standards, even if they weren't meant to age gracefully.

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