My thoughts on “Noisy Night Fever”, the second album from Broken By The Scream.
Release Date: October 9th 2019
1. Ai Hakimino Mono
2. Nanairo Scramble
3. ∞ Heartbeat
4. Over The Sea
6. Shiranai Kimi to Manatsu no Yozora
8. Snowlight Fantasy
9. Last Minute
10. Goodnight wa Kiss no ato
11. Haru Urara
You know, one of the main reasons I write these reviews is to hopefully share some interesting music with people who otherwise might not have been aware of it. I dunno how successful I am at that but it’s a nice aim. So when a group that is already super well known, and in most cases well liked also, releases something I’m never really sure how to approach these things. I guess giving my opinion like I normally do is good enough but I do wonder if it turns into a confirmation bias sort of scenario. I think about this stuff way too much folks.
Broken By The Scream are a group that need little introduction at this point. The 4-piece are one of the most well known and loved Idol acts outside of Japan and the numbers back that up. They’ve toured overseas, do a decent amount of promotion in English and their brand of Heavy Metal sprinkled with Pop sensibilities is an easy product to sell in this Post-BABYMETAL world. It also helps that they have two vocalists (Io and Kagura) who can cover the entire range of harsh vocal style, from guttural lows to ear piercing highs. Being backed by a major record label probably doesn’t hurt either.
“Noisy Night Fever” is Broken By The Scream’s second studio album, following up “An Alien’s Portrait” (review here) that released last year. I quite enjoy their musical stylings but I did feel that the last album got a bit repetitive both in structure and its implementation of blast beats everywhere. They’re saying that this time out they’re aiming to be a bit more melodic with Yae and Ayame getting more spotlight in the vocal department so hopefully that gives the instrumentals a bit more scope too. Well I’ll be the judge of that I suppose so if you haven’t made your mind up on this release yet feel free to join me as I run it down. Let’s get into this.
Album opener “Ai Hakimino Mono” wastes little time before getting right down to business in the only way that BBTS know how. After a very brief vocal melody we’re treated to wall to wall blast beats which are very effective at achieving that “brickwalled” sound that seems to be rather popular these days. It’s immense and gives the song a very brutal and aggressive atmosphere. This is developed further with the introduction of Kagura and Io’s harsh vocals which definitely suit this style very well and their technique and ability never ceases to amaze me. Yae and Ayame get their time to shine during the song’s rather catchy and much more upbeat sounding chorus, though they are fighting a rather tough battle against the drumming that remains a constant feature for the duration of the track. I dunno, maybe they could have eased up a bit here to give the girls a bit more room to breathe. The bridge features a face melting guitar solo that is sure to please many of you before it’s a fast and rather aggressive climb to the song’s climax. I quite liked this one, especially how the harsh vocals and more melodic one were playing off of each other. As ever I feel like the blast beats are a bit much but in this instance it’s not as big of a problem for me.
The brutality continues into the album’s second track “Nanairo Scramble” which somehow manages to find another notch on the dial because they’ve managed to make this even more dense and chaotic than the previous track. The “scramble” in the song’s title feels very appropriate because that’s what it feels like we’re in the middle of for much of this song. The aggression and venom in both the instrumental and vocals as this song gets going are pretty incredible and most bands who employ this style might struggle to match it. Everything hits hard and the intensity is palpable. There are times I can’t even make out what Kagura and Io are saying it gets that chaotic. Outside of that, it’s a fairly similar formula to the album’s previous track though Yae and Ayame get a bit more room in the chorus which was nice along with a couple of other slightly more tranquil moments…somehow. The lyrics are catchy again too, which is something that BBTS are pretty good at working into many of their songs for that extra dimension. I also appreciated that the blast beats, while still there weren’t quite so dominating on this track and we actually got to hear a bit more of the guitar which provided several cool moments. There’s another epic guitar solo around the bridge and once again we go screaming over the finish line as the song concludes. Enjoyable once again but this pattern is slightly concerning.
Okay, perhaps I’m being a little bit hasty in that assessment as third track “∞ Heartbeat” definitely has a noticeably different tone to it than the two tracks that preceded it on this release. You can tell it’s going to be a light affair right from the off, well as light as a BBTS song can be anyway, when we notice the absence of blast beats, a slightly more noticeable synthesizer element and some bouncier guitar riffs. More melodic vocals take the lead during the verses as well so perhaps this is what they were talking about when they said they wanted to give Yae and Ayame more to do. It’s all done in a pretty emotive, almost Ballad style which sounded pretty pleasant from what I could make out over the drumming and other such loudness that was going on all around it. Don’t worry though, Kagura and Io’s presence is still felt all over this track but in a slightly more supportive way than we’ve had previously though they do get a few moments to shine too. Once again the chorus impresses with its catchiness and there were a couple of pretty cool synth parts throughout as well which definitely helped to make this song sound more distinct and less paint by numbers. It’s still a bit “brickwalled” but they did a lot to soften it up here which I appreciate. If this is what we can expect a Ballad on this album to sound like then I think that we’re in for a pretty good time here.
The more melodic tone continues into the album’s fourth track “Over The Sea” which opens with some pretty bright and quite cheerful sounding synthesizers. You know something is coming though and it’s not long before there is a drop of sorts and your ears are getting blasted with harsh vocals that are as brutally impressive as ever. That being said, the instrumental does hold onto a lot of the synthesizers that we heard early, taking on a sort of light Digital Hardcore vibe as things really get into full swing. In fact after a while the synthesizers end up being the stars of the show, as do Yae and Ayame who pick up much of the vocal lines on this track. Not something most would have expected from the song’s initial salvo but I think it’s pretty cool. The vocals are a bit vocoded but it works well with this style so I understand why they chose to do it. The chorus is once again very catchy but it sort of sounds like they stuffed Kagura and Io all the way in the back which made things sound kinda weird to me but I guess if they have to be doing their thing there then it’s one way of making sure their harsh vocals aren’t dominating things. Despite some criticisms on my part, I definitely felt like BBTS were missing more songs like this in their discography so while I might not think it’s perfect I can definitely appreciate that they’re doing more stuff like this.
It’s back to the brutality as “KI・RA・I!!” opens up with what to me sounds like a pretty dark and dramatic Metal instrumental though still possessing some nice energy and a pleasing tempo. The harsh vocals sound particularly venomous on this one, with Kagura in particular really getting loose with some squealy parts which you don’t hear too often out of her. In general the harsh vocals hit you like machine gun rounds, one after the other and pound into the eardrums with as much vigor and intensity as the song’s various drumbeats. There is a more melodic element to the vocals too of course, it even pops up during the verses occasionally but once again Yae and Ayame’s talents are left to the chorus to be fully utilized. It’s another fairly catchy deal, in a similar way to how most BBTS choruses are though once again I am a little bit disappointed by all of the blast beats going off as the vocals try to do their thing. It’s not quite as bad here but it is a little distracting. Oh yeah, if you ever wanted to hear Kagura and Io do their thing over a piano interlude then this song has that too and it’s just about as crazy to hear as you’re probably imagining it is in your head right now. There’s also a couple of pretty cool guitar solos so you get the feeling that they probably had quite a bit of fun with this one. Worth checking out for the piano part alone in my opinion.
After what feels like no time at all we hit the half-way point of the album and with it comes “Shiranai Kimi to Manatsu no Yozora”. Not going to lie, that ear piercing note from the guitar at the start of the song really threw me off for a second there. Headphone users beware and all that. It does end up turning into a pretty cool, squealing guitar solo though so I can’t stay too mad at them for it I suppose. This is definitely a slower song by BBTS standards and it’s not quite as heavy either, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still a ton of harsh vocals all over the place. In fact, I’d say they’re driving the song during several parts which is pretty cool but somewhat unfair because why should they get all of this room to play, am I right? In fairness, on this particular song both the harsh and melodic elements get ample opportunity to do their thing, with the slower Ballad style of the melodic parts sort of backing up my initial idea of this being a slower song. They still pack plenty of interesting stuff into it though, with lots of interesting synthesizer parts and even some actual piano making an appearance at one point. On the whole I think this is probably the most balanced song so far on the album, at least in terms of how much of the track each style is afforded. I don’t expect that all the time but in this instance it made for a pretty fun song…which is rare for me to say of a Ballad.
As we all know, BBTS are partial to using a bit of synthesizer in their songs but it’s usually in more of a supporting role to whatever kind of Metal, Hardcore or what have you style that they might be going for on any given outing. For this album’s seventh track “Phoenix” they dip their toe ever so slightly into the well explored world of EDM to bring some pretty danceable elements to the instrumental. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still all kinds of heavy and chaotic but there’s a not so subtle undertone that gives off this pretty bouncy, almost rave-like energy. They could have probably even gone a bit further with it in all honesty but I kinda get that they’ve got a sound that’s their brand and you don’t really want to tinker around too much with a good thing. Interestingly enough on that note, there isn’t a ton of clean vocals on this song which I thought was fairly interesting. Probably the least out of all of the songs we’ve heard on the album thus far actually, and there’s been a few with not that many already so that’s saying something. I guess maybe the Poppier instrumental kind of makes up for it and it was cool to hear Kagura and Io carry a song mostly by themselves and they definitely rose to the occasion and worked really well with the song’s slightly more conventional elements. Not bad and I suppose this could be considered payback for Yae and Ayame’s spotlight on “Over The Sea”.
It’s hard to look at a song title like “Snowlight Fantasy” and not get the idea in your head of this super traditional sounding, whiter than white, J-Pop Ballad with all of the associated trimmings. That’s where my brain goes anyway, but of course this is BBTS so we were never in any danger of getting something quite like that. The instrumental is pretty light though, well by this group’s standards at least and that’s achieved rather effectively by muting the guitars a bit and making use of lighter, more ambient sounding synthesizer tones. It gives the song a brighter, more open feeling than the typical crushingly claustrophobic intensity of many BBTS tracks. There’s still a decent amount here too of course, which is unsurprisingly mainly provided by the drums, but the guitars especially have a bit more room and they reward us with some pretty cool riffs as a result. Vocally there’s a nice mix of clean and harsh, with both sides trading off fairly equally. The clean melodies are fairly heavily vocoded which I guess is an attempt to make them brighter and more sparkly to match the synths and it works well enough. Even the harsh stuff is a bit less venom-laced than usual though it still packs a pretty strong punch when called upon. A pretty interesting song on the whole though maybe not what some are looking for from BBTS.
Ninth track “Last Minute” wastes no time putting itself out there and getting a bit wild, with the opening seconds of the instrumental instantly turning into a chaotic swirl of rapid fire drumbeats and frantic guitar picking. The relentless pace continues even after we reach the first verse and are treated to some especially harsh sounding vocals with Kagura and Io being on absolutely top form for this one. That long, drawn out low scream from Io just before the song drops into the chorus is particularly impressive and something that any vocalist in this genre would be proud to pull off. We return to the tried and tested formula of Yae and Ayame battling it out against relentless blast beats for the chorus which is a little disappointing as I’m sure there’s plenty of other things they could try for these parts as far as the instrumental is concerned. The girls still put in a really nice performance though so it’s not like I’m totally negative on it. Coming out of the first chorus and the song really picks up in intensity and tempo so I suppose they were trying to get the most out of the just over 3 minutes of tape they had to play with here. It gave the song a nice energy while still leaving enough headroom for a cool guitar part or two along the way. I really enjoyed this song, I think in part because it’s a little bit like a Punk song. Play it fast and play it loud.
“Goodnight wa Kiss no ato” might be one of the most unique and interesting songs on the entire album, for my money at least. The opening instrumental while still obviously rooted in the typical genres BBTS tend to favor gets off on this pretty groovy sounding direction which gives the song a little bit something different. The vocals when they eventually come in also take on this pretty dramatic tone in how they’re delivered, I’m talking about the clean ones here of course. That said the harsh vocals do actually match up to the beat and tempo of the song pretty well too which makes for a rather interesting listening experience. The chorus is a lot brighter in both vocal tone and the way the instrumental is composed with vocoder and synthesizers doing the bulk of the heavy lifting in this department, which should come as a surprise to no one at this point. It all works together well to lift the atmosphere up a bit and the lyrics themselves are rather catchy too. I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t opt for blast beats in this instance though, and the instrumental in the chorus still feels pretty immense without them so that was nice. The mid-song breakdown where things got pretty dirty was also incredibly well executed and the harsh vocals in particular were able to pull off some impressive stuff there. Throw in a cool guitar solo for the bridge and yeah, definitely a highlight of the album for me.
The album might be winding down in terms of the number of tracks remaining but that doesn’t mean that BBTS are. Penultimate track “Haru Urara” comes roaring out of the gate quite literally with Kagura and Io getting back to what they do best and what a lot of you are probably paying admission for. They’re accompanied by a rather interesting instrumental that takes the usual BBTS ideas and once again mixes in a few new ones. In this case it’s some mild Power Metal influences and the momentary threat of there being a Dubstep drop that never actually materializes so don’t worry about it. This song is pretty much wall to wall brutality with all manner of crunchy guitars and blast beats swirling together to create this huge wall of noise that’s incredibly dense and produces a very intense atmosphere. There are a few of the more melodic guitar riffs sprinkled throughout the song though and they do a good job of cutting through all of that stuff and it just of keeps the ears from getting too worn out. Am I an old man? Probably. Yae and Ayame also get some time to do their stuff too though give the dominance of the instrumental and the harsh vocals, while very good and quite catchy once again, it does feel like they’re pushed out a bit. Still though, another track where BBTS try out some different stuff and I’m totally okay with how it turned out.
Wrapping up the album is final track “Takaramono” and boy is this really something different folks. You know how Japanese acts like to close out their albums with a super sentimental Ballad type of deal? Well, apparently BBTS are no exception to that rule because that’s pretty much what this song is. Acoustic guitar and some very light synthesizer make up pretty much all of the instrumental here and it results in, perhaps unsurprisingly, a pretty bright and pleasant sort of sound. There’s a moment or two where you think there might be some harsh vocals coming and they do actually pay it off towards then end of the song when things very briefly switch into more of a Rock style with the introduction of some drums and electric guitar. You never get the chaos or intensity of much of the rest of the album though but it does make for an interesting listen to hear harsh vocals sang over a pretty light Rock instrumental for a change. I also appreciated the opportunity to hear all of the members of BBTS doing some clean singing because it’s easy to forget that half of them are more than capable of doing so when they’re screaming and growling most of the time. Probably not the sort of song most of you are listening to this album for but I kinda like just for how different it ended up sounding. Come on it’s an Idol album guys, you had to know a proper Ballad was coming at some point.
I rather enjoyed “Noisy Night Fever” on the whole and thought it was definitely an improvement on Broken By The Scream’s previous album “An Alien’s Portrait” (again, review here). There’s a lot more variety to the songs than on that previous release and they tried a few new things too so that was interesting. It was also cool to hear Yae and Ayame get some more time to shine as I felt they’d been hard done by previously. Only major criticism I have is the use of blast beats during the melodic choruses on several of the songs. It just felt like a bit much to me but I understand it’s a popular thing to do these days I guess?
Well, I guess we’re resetting clock on the countdown to the next BBTS release now folks. You can also probably start a countdown for about 8-9 months from now because that’s when this album will hit streaming services if past releases are anything to go by. A weird way to do things but given the group’s huge popularity overseas it doesn’t seem to be hurting them all that much. I doubt I have to tell many of you this by now but you should go pick this one up if you haven’t done so yet. It’s definitely worth the money in my opinion.