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If a duo can qualify as a supergroup, Vamps certainly fit the bill, being comprised of Hyde, frontman of the visual kei classics L'Arc-en-Ciel, and K.A.Z., the guitarist of the extremely worthy industrial act Oblivion Dust. The two men have collaborated before, and their new project entered the Japanese charts as if those charts are their own kitchen; this is totally deserved on the strength of the music, but still doesn't make Vamps the top achievement for the two. The cover art channels the Rolling Stones, and the album really opens and closes with a couple of rowdy, angular rock tracks, but for the most part Vamps play visual kei in the L'Arc-en-Ciel vein, reinforced with a few bars of metal from K.A.Z.'s heavy rock past. The riffs are borderline power metal -- think Stratovarius or maybe Nightwish -- but Vamps successfully avoid the overblown bombast, cranking out a fine set of sentimental hard rock hits that don't have any big hooks, like Oblivion Dust were known for, but, between the twin guitars and Hyde's strong vocals, offer a cornucopia of little ones. Still, it's only the good old visual kei -- maybe the best songs produced in the genre since Luna Sea folded, but not anything above that -- which means there's a cap on the catchiness level. The most thrilling parts of the album are when the band dares to try something new, be it the raw punkish riffs of "Sex Blood Rock n' Roll" or the menacing synth backdrop of the powerful riffs on "Vampire Depression," but for the most part the group plays it safe. There's no faulting them for that, as Vamps are still a great melodic hard rock unit, but the fun is accompanied by a slightly vexing aftertaste of a great band not quite seeing things through.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
blue highlight denotes track pick