Majestical Parade

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It's not what you do; it's how you do it. On Majestical Parade, Nightmare don't even pretend to play something original, but their take on the tried 'n' true mixture of hard rock riffs, visual kei dramatics, and shameless J-pop hooks works well, because the band takes good care of every part of the equation. The guitars occasionally veer into mindless thrashing ("Mr. Trash Music," obviously), but for the most part stick to their job of supplying the songs with energy -- the sound isn't as heavy as the band's name suggests, but still has some healthy metalcore grit. Thus propelled, Nightmare rip through a set of tunes that either mash up Whitesnake and Crazy Town, or just sound like normal pop songs played at twice the speed and with the guitar buzz added as an afterthought. The ride is generally kitchy, and sometimes unbearably so -- "Masquerade," with its restaurant Muzak hook, will be a source of everlasting shame for the band, and the likes of "Melody" can get too cheesy too, giving a vibe of a boy band camouflaged as rockers, and this is not to mention Yomi's voice, an example of typical J-rock faux excess. But, although Majestical Parade could have used more heaviness, the rock riffs generally suffice to balance the pop drama, resulting in tunes that are neither overloaded with arrangements -- a problem of many Japanese rockers -- nor subjected to the dumbed-down mono-dimensionality that often plagues radio pop. It's still simple and derivative, but songs like "Parade" and "Nothing You Lose" prove that Nightmare are actually good at creating a convincing, moderately dark mood -- not nearly as involved as real goth rock, maybe, but more user-friendly.

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