Despite being a heavy metal act at heart, X Japan was always a deceptively diverse band, and this trait is in full bloom on Dahlia, leaving little doubt that from this album on, it really made sense for the members to go their separate ways. Not that anyone is hogging the blanket here -- in fact, the group sounds tighter than ever -- but the music is really wide-ranging. They try to hide it by starting with two classic metal ballbreakers, but the second song already sounds more like guitarist Hide's subsequent delightful experiments with industrial rock than a proper speed metal hit. On the other hand, there are plenty full-on piano-and-strings ballads. That's the easy part, though; meanwhile, the record also has a U2-like speedy ditty, some semi-psychedelic experiments (the quite catchy "White Poem I"), a ten-minute epic that puts "November Rain" to shame with its turgid bombast, and more of Hide's industrial noodling, this time with its influences on its sleeve ("Drain"). The best thing about Dahlia, however, is that what should have been a recipe for disaster turned out to be a testament to the band's songwriting skills and simply a formidable album. The record is drenched in the ‘80s (this is where X-Japan's roots lie, after all), but it's proud of it, embracing all the genuine traits of ‘80s rock without discrimination, be it melodrama, classic heavy metal shredding, left-field guitar excursions, neo-classical leanings, or more melodrama. This honesty works, if at the cost of good taste: Dahlia is kitschy and sappy, but it's also a proof that X Japan split because they were bursting with creativity, not running out of ideas.
by Alexey Eremenko