Aqua Timez

Utai Sarishi Hana

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Strongly in their element, a mix of chord-heavy power pop and mainstream vocal pop, Aqua Timez' Utai Sarishi Hana has the basic sound that has moved them to success over the years, carried in part by fans of anime series for which they create the theme music. Case in point: "Velonica," a bit of music from the massively popular series Bleach. The song itself is a basic bit of rapid-fire delivery reminiscent of bands like Ketsumeishi, but the popularity of the show led largely to the sales figures for the album as a whole. As the album moves forward, the common mix of intentionally flat ballads and thumping power pop dominate the proceedings. Only halfway through the album does the pace pick back up noticeably with the hip-hop based "Massigura." Their delivery seems a bit forced from time to time, but the changeup is a nice effect following a long string of pieces blurring together. "Tsuki, Noburu" has a surprisingly effective bit of reggae, and "Hoshi Ni" provides a clumsy, thrashing bit of industrial music that has a lot of energy in its composition, but little charisma. The tone gets dramatic just before the end, with flowing string arrangements galore, but the album ends with a relative whisper in a lighter version of "Niji," heard early in the proceedings. As a whole, the album stays relatively true to the Aqua Timez sound but provides a few glimpses of other possible sounds -- clumsy techno, mediocre hip-hop, surprisingly good reggae....and lots of basic pop. Fans will be thrilled, and newcomers are likely to have difficulty differentiating much of the album from other Aqua Timez releases.