My thoughts on “NEORDER NATION”, the fourth album from Zenbu Kimi no Sei da.
Release Date: July 4th 2018
1. Tonari Kore Arata
3. Mesu Genome Phenomenon
4. Unknown Carnival
5. Cult Scream
6. Folia Therapy
7. FAIRY TALE FANTASY
9. Viral Labyrinth
One of my favorite times of year is when Zenbu Kimi no Sei da release a new album. That’s probably a pretty strange thing to specifically look forward to but I guess a lot of people probably think that I’m a pretty strange guy. The important thing is that I look forward to Zenkimi album releases because I know ahead of time that they’re going to deliver, and in a big way too. I have yet to be disappointed and don’t expect for that to start now with “NEORDER NATION”.
I suppose for most of us it seems like Zenkimi have had a fairly quiet start to 2018. They of course released their “Tonari Kore Arata” (review here) single back in April but much of the year thus far has been spent touring all over Japan and presumably working on the album that I’ll be reviewing today. They’ve also managed to stabilize the group line-up and haven’t had any changes in personnel for almost a year now, something that I’m sure all involved are thankful for.
As I’ve already mentioned, at least in my opinion, Zenkimi albums always deliver in a big way. There’s usually several new songs that could easily be singles in their own right, along with some new twists on the group’s Electronic Pop-Rock stylings. Zenkimi also seem to have really been maturing their sound over their past few singles, and much of that was started with 2017’s “Egoistic Eat Issues” album release (review here). I’m interested to hear if their sound has evolved further on their fourth album “NEORDER NATION” so let’s go ahead and find out, shall we?
The album kicks off with “Tonari Kore Arata”, which was the a-side of the single that Zenkimi released before this album came into existence. If you would like to read my full write-up of that single, you can do so by clicking here. I personally really like “Tonari Kore Arata” as it somewhat reminds me of another great Zenkimi song in “Wagamama Shinsei Hominina”. It’s also a pretty solid representation of what you should expect from the average Zenkimi song. That being a Rock instrumental carefully mixed together with both piano and synthesizers along with a mix of clean vocals and some more cutesy, Dempa inspired sections. The chorus is also really catchy, which is another thing that Zenkimi tend to do really well. If you like this song then things bode well for you when it comes to the rest of the Zenkimi discography. Not a bad way to start off the album at all.
“Yui-kun-ron”, the album’s second track, is a brand new song so we don’t have to wait too long to hear what Zenkimi have been working on in the studio these past few months. The songs starts off very heavy on the synth before bringing in some guitar and drums to even things out a little bit. The instrumental is still very much synthesizer dominated but the drums do compliment it well and what can be heard of the guitar is also well done. Generally speaking though this is bleep and bloop central, something that I don’t mind at all. Vocally we also get a good mix of “normal” singing that’s accented by some sillier, anime sounding lines every so often to make sure you know that this is a Zenkimi song. Once again the chorus on this song is infectious, has a great beat and will get stuck in your head after a couple of listens. Longtime Zenkimi fans will appreciate this song I think, as it’s very reminiscent of their earlier work.
The album’s third track “Mesu Genome Phenomenon” has quite the title, and it’s definitely not something I would like to try to say 5 times fast…or if I have a drink in me. Now this song is a departure from what we’ve heard previously, both on this album and from Zenkimi in general for the most part. That should be made abundantly clear by the blazing fast guitar riff that kicks this song into overdrive barely 5 seconds in. Indeed this is a much more Rock focused song and I’ve had my misgivings about this sort of stuff in the past from Zenkimi but I feel like this time they full committed to it and it worked out really well. The instrumental is lively, and most importantly it makes you want to move around. On the vocal side of things not much has changed really, maybe we’ve toned the Dempa style voices down a little but for the most part it still sounds like the Zenkimi we know and love, just backed by a really cool sounding band.
Up next is “Unknown Carnival”, which originally appeared as the b-side on Zenkimi’s “Sekirarararaiotto” single and you can read initial review of that here. At the time I wasn’t really that sold on this song as it was still very much in the initial phase of Zenkimi adopting this more Rock focused sound. I guess maybe it was too much change too soon for me at that time but since this song was originally released I have warmed up to it quite a bit. Granted it is more of a mid-tempo song than what I personally prefer both from Zenkimi and in general but man, there’s some really nice guitar riffs going on and the synthesizers aren’t being too forced which is something that can happen on songs like this. Vocally I think with the benefit of hindsight this song serves to prove that Zenkimi can really sing, if anyone was doubting that in the first place. We even got some harsh vocals towards the end there too. What more do you want?
We move quickly back to the new material with track five “Cult Scream”. I was instantly in love with the opening guitar riff for this song, which usually bodes well for what follows. This is another more Rock leaning song, although the slightly unhinged monologues that Zenkimi used to incorporate on a lot of their songs do make a return here. The rest of the vocals are fairly clean although they do get slightly vocoded at times, it’s certainly not overdone though. The song has this pretty epic, almost fantasy feeling to it and that’s for the most part down to the instrumental. It just feels like the sort of thing you might hear in a JRPG or something. There wasn’t as much screaming on this song as the title might suggest, but the one time that harsh vocals were introduced they were done really well. The chorus is also really strong on this track so it has a lot of things going for it. It’s perhaps one of the least Zenkimi sounding Zenkimi songs you’re likely to hear but it’s still great and I would recommend checking it out.
In case anyone was getting worried that Zenkimi have suddenly morphed into a girl Rock band or something, “Folia Therapy” should allay some of those concerns…for now. That’s actually quite an odd title for a song, I guess it would be “Plant Therapy” or something? No comment on that one. This song has some piano in it so I’m obviously down with that and the signature Zenkimi exaggerated vocal delivery is also present so things are sounding a bit more “normal” for sure. There’s still quite a bit of guitar involved though and the song does sorta begin to morph more into a Rock style as it progresses. It also has this really great build-up section about two and a half minutes in that I’m sure goes over great live as I could already imagine the crowd clapping along to it in my head. I wouldn’t say that the lyrics or the way that they’re delivered are the most catchy thing ever but the instrumental has more than enough hooks to make up for that.
Now stop me if I’m getting too ahead of myself here, but doesn’t the main synthesizer melody for “FAIRY TALE FANTASY” kinda sound like something from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s playbook? Let me know if I’m crazy or if I’m actually onto something there. Well, the instrumental certainly matches the title of the song anyway, creating a fairly chilled out and fanciful atmosphere while still retaining enough intensity so as not to lull you to sleep. This is an incredibly synthesizer heavy song so if you haven’t been feeling all those guitars and drums then this might be more your thing. Once again the vocals are fairly clean but tastefully vocoded when it makes sense to do so. They’re a bit overshadowed by the instrumental at times, which is walking the fine line between being really catchy and just downright too repetitive. Not entirely sure where my opinion is on that but I feel like this song would appeal to quite a wide variety of people that might not otherwise be checking Zenkimi out.
I’m going to sound like a broken record here but stop me if I’m getting too ahead of myself. Does the opening guitar riff on “Jouka” not sound a whole lot like the Pokemon battle encounter music? Maybe I really am just starting to lose it. Anyway, we’re back to being pretty Rock heavy for this song, although this time much more atmospheric and dramatic than we’ve heard from Zenkimi up until now. In all honesty this song makes Zenkimi sound a whole lot more like a girl Rock band than an Idol group. There’s not many gimmicks, vocally or otherwise. The song is very straight up J-Rock, although it does also have a rather nice piano interlude that I obviously have to bring up because as you all know I love that kind of stuff. I’m honestly rather conflicted about this song in particular. On the one hand, it’s a really fantastic song but on the other it’s not really the kind of thing that I’m sure most people are picking up a Zenkimi CD for. Well, maybe it’s just something we’re all just going to have to get used to going forward.
We return to the “Tonari Kore Arata” single for the album’s tenth track “Viral Labyrinth” which was written in a very odd way before I translated it from Japanese. Anyway, you can go ahead and read my initial impressions of this b-side by heading back to the original article right here. I suppose at the time I was a little confused by this song as it sounded more to me like a Kaqriyo Terror Architect song than a Zenkimi one. Well now that you put it in context with the rest of this album things start to make a great deal more sense. It has the Electronica meets Rock theme going on and that’s what we’ve been hearing a lot of on this album so far and it also has a ridiculously enjoyable synthesizer melody going on too that I really love. Vocally I also felt like this was more of a KTA song as a lot of their calling cards have been borrowed, with some creepy inflections and a little bit of screaming going on too. I still think it’s a great song but not something I would necessarily associate with Zenkimi.
We dip into the previously released material one more time for the album’s penultimate track “Sekirarararaiotto”. You can once again go back and read my initial impressions of this song over here if you wish. I think it would be fair to say that I wasn’t exactly in love with this song when it first came out and I’m still in the process of coming around to it now if I’m being totally honest. It’s not like it’s a bad song, that definitely would not be a fair thing to say. At the time it just felt a little bit…stale to me, like maybe they reused a few things just to have one more single out by the end of 2017 or something. The new stuff they tried in the song was pretty interesting though, mainly the Rock stuff in particular which at the time would have been a weird thing for me to be saying. The chorus was also fairly good and in a familiar Zenkimi style so they’ve got you covered in that regard. Like I said, not a bad song but also probably not helped by the inclusion of rerecorded versions of “Sophomore Sick Sacrifice” and “Wagamama Shinsei Hominina” on the original release either.
Instead of an epilogue, Zenkimi instead choose to close out this album with “MONOLOGUE”. A song that isn’t actually a monologue at all as best I can tell as I’m pretty sure all four of the members are getting in on the singing action on this one. For me this song ended up sticking out the most on this album as being probably the least Zenkimi sounding song (I feel like I’ve said this a lot in this review). It kinda sounds like an Indie Pop song to me which isn’t a bad thing but definitely not what you’d expect. The instrumental certainly makes the song sound very climactic right from the get-go with a soaring guitar solo before the song settles into something a bit more even tempoed. The drumming and the piano are probably the most notable aspects of the instrumental outside of a couple of guitar highlights which is something I don’t have any major complaints about, but the song does have a somewhat cookie cutter sound. Vocally this one is sung like a Ballad for the most part but with a healthy amount of the girls’ personalities mixed in to avoid it all sounding too homogenous. Perhaps not the most obvious of song picks but it actually ended up being a very fitting way to round out the album.
“NEORDER NATION” ended up being a very interesting album in a lot of ways. I personally think it’s a really good release but it does mark a very noticeable change in Zenkimi’s musical direction, with a fairly heavy focus on more Rock leaning influences. I suppose that’s what happens if you go on tour all over Japan with a backing band for months at a time. Still a great album in my opinion but those expecting the more typical Zenkimi sound might be left wanting with this one.
It will certainly be interesting to see how things develop further over the next couple of Zenkimi singles. If this is the direction we’re going then I’m okay with it because growing and maturing as a group is important and I can think of worse directions Zenkimi could be going in. Now all they have to do is make the band an official part of the line-up and renounce their Idol label and then they’ll really be legitimate in the eyes of some people in this fandom.