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Released when they were still one of the most exciting young bands on the scene -- and before they went in a more mainstream direction -- this debut full-length album from visual kei upstarts Diaura announced their arrival with a bang heard 'round the world. What has always separated Diaura from other kote-kei-influenced bands is their striking sense of melody and their refusal to rely on the time-worn clich├ęs resorted to by most. Incorporating the arch theatricality of heavy metal but never subservient to it, their music is highly melodic and thrillingly immediate, but always unshowy; solos, for the most part tasteful, serve the melody line rather than simply exhibiting the guitarist's skill. This is an album stuffed full of highlights. There's no filler; even those very few tracks with less-than-inspiring verses have fantastic singalong choruses, and all the songwriting has more than enough minor-key melancholy to appeal to every hopeless romantic. A haunting, synth-driven intro with programmed beats segues into the raw, martial metal crunch of "Terrors," setting the stage for what is to come. Standout tracks include "Imperial Core," "Futatsu no Kizuato" ("Two Scars"), and "Another Gate," their thrilling, epic choruses bolstered with synth pads and buoyed by Yo-ka's rich, high tenor. He's also adept at harsh death vocals, as heard to great effect on "An Insanity." Probably the most obviously "pop" tune here is "Lost November," with its chiming guitars, propulsive rhythm, and immediate melody, and the album ends in much the same vein -- and on yet another high note -- with the superb "Ever." If there are any very minor criticisms which can be leveled at this album, they are these: a few of the tracks have rather throwaway, chugtastic verses; there's something of an over-reliance on the same structures in the songwriting, and the production budget is obviously not high, leading the guitars, and especially the drums, sounding a little muddy and flat. But that's it. It's rare that an album is deserving of instant classic status, but it's certainly merited here. This is one of the best debuts VK had ever seen, spectacularly fulfilling Diaura's promise and cementing their place as one of the pre-eminent bands in the scene.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
blue highlight denotes track pick