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Hide was considered one of Japan's best rock musicians, his strange death in 1998 only cementing his legend, and Psyence demonstrates that the fame is fully deserved. Beginning his career in the speed/progressive metal gods X-Japan, in his solo work Hide turned toward alternative rock, and managed to make this drastic change seem like the most natural thing in the world -- Psyence is not a vanity project of a retired rock star, but a stunningly versatile and accomplished album that is stylistically challenging and chock-full of great tracks to boot. There's no trace of classic metal here, although that doesn't mean Hide went pop -- listen to the acid rock of "Bacteria" with its angry mutant vocals. However, that song is only the most radical permutation of the style that Hide explored on Psyence -- for most of the time, the music is based around industrial rock guitar stemming from the likes of Killing Joke, but not limited to the grim, bouncy warnings of Apocalypse: "Lemoned I Scream" and "Hi-Ho," for instance, are sunny pop ditties full of melodic groove. There are more style swings on Psyence, from classic ballads to the garage punk of "Lassie," but the record doesn't fall apart because of Hide's slightly tongue-in-cheek approach to songwriting -- the lighter songs often have an energetic guitar buzz going on in the background, and the heavier tracks sound dynamic rather than menacing, so that the whole album is permeated by the same positive, professional, and ironic vibe. Perhaps the only thing to be held against Psyence is that the album is too long, and the songs begin to blur together around "Good Bye" -- but they are good songs nevertheless.

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