My thoughts on “Arumumei”, the latest album from Zenbu Kimi no Sei da.
Release Date: December 18th 2019
1. Zenbu Boku no Sei da
2. When you 2 WANT
3. Greedy Survive
4. Natural Born Independent
6. whiny melty whiny
7. Tadakimito (ZKS EDIT)
8. Sekai ni tatta hitori chippokena kimi o
9. Romance Sect
12. Kawa Mei zen’ya
With how much of the Idol scene I try to keep up with (and it’s not even that much in reality) it’s often easy to overlook just how much of a contribution certain groups or agencies make to the stream of new music that we’re fortunate enough to receive each year. So when one of them decides to spend the better part of a year rerecording the bulk of their back catalog to reflect their groups’ current line-ups it kinda leaves you looking for a new content oasis in a desert of re-recordings.
That was most of 2019 for codomomental and especially their flagship group Zenbu Kimi no Sei da. A pretty major line-up shake up along with an ever increasing touring schedule prompted a complete overhaul of their existing discography. With 2 re-record albums covering most of it and some rather disappointing (from a decision standpoint) b-sides on the couple of singles they also brought in 2019 we’re pretty much all caught up now. Lots of work clearly going on in the studio but not a lot of fresh, new material to show for it is my hopefully fair assessment of the group’s year.
Zenkimi and codomomental came good for us in the end though, managing to sneak in a third album before the end of the year. It looks like it features the group’s last 3 singles and their b-sides along with a few more re-recordings but also a handful of newer songs too, so that’s good for people like me who appreciate the old stuff but also want new things to appreciate too. What little new material Zenkimi have been putting out in 2019 has been pretty good though so hopefully that trend will continue on this album. If not then hey, at worst at least half of the songs are going to be decent, right?
The album opens with Zenkimi’s most recent single “Zenbu Boku no Sei da”. A pretty logical choice to lead with your most recent effort as it’s probably what the average listener remembers hearing most recently. I reviewed this single around the time it came out and you can read my initial thoughts here if you’d like to. The song’s twangy opening Rock instrumental threw me off a bit when I first heard it but once I got over my initial surprise I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. It gives the song a nice but different energy. On the more familiar side of things we have the exaggerated, anime style vocals making a return here but toned down just enough so they’re not at odds with the instrumental. The chorus isn’t as crazy and energetic as Zenkimi are capable of, but a bit more tempo, a quicker flow to the vocals and a hook or two can really go a long way if you use them right. There’s some pretty fun instrumental moments on the track too, with the mid-song downtempo synth and piano interlude being a particular highlight for myself personally. While not the sort of thing you would typically expect to hear from Zenkimi, though they have been trending in this sort of direction in recent years, it’s hard to argue with the results because this track is great from front to back.
Well, we didn’t quite escape the re-records on this album I guess, as second track “When you 2 WANT” sees Zenkimi reach all the way back to 2016 in their discography to freshen up a song that originally appeared on their “Mudai Gassho” single. Ah, good times folks. Anyway, you can ready my (horribly written) initial thoughts on that track here if you’d like as I’ve clearly been covering this stuff for way too long. As best I can make out there hasn’t been any crazy changes to the instrumental on this one and it’s more of a case of updating the vocals to the current line-up. It still features that energetic blend of Electronica and blazing guitar riffs that give the song so much of its personality and the beats from the synths and the drums provide an infectious, danceable quality that little did we know at the time would form the basis for so much of Zenkimi’s sound in the years to come. The vocals are the most obvious difference between the two versions of the song, with the higher pitched delivery of the original being replaced by something a bit more natural on the new recording. I doubt this is anything more than catering to the strengths of the current line-up but I would by lying if I didn’t say I felt like the song loses a bit of its personality as a result. Still, it’s not enough to knock all of the shine off of what was and still is a great song.
The first new song to grace the album comes three tracks in in the form of “Greedy Survive” which cold opens with very dense and almost oppressive drumming in a somewhat Metalcore style. Zenkimi are nothing if not full of surprises. All of this accompanies some moderately vocoded vocals that are providing pretty much all of the song’s melody during this part. There’s then a drop of sorts which introduces what I can only best describe as some dirty, glitchy synthesizers some of which make it sound like there’s laser pistols firing off in multiple different directions. The vocals also become more rapid fire in their delivery which matches well with the tempo of the instrumental and was also pretty catchy to the ear despite everything else going on around them. The chorus attempts to mix the dense, heavier style of the instrumental with some brighter Pop melodies to mixed results. It’s decently catchy but the instrumental ends up washing itself and the vocals out a bit too much for my liking, and while I appreciate things being less clostrophobic than in the verses it sort of ends up being almost too empty in the choruses as a result. Very different from the typical Zenkimi sound, even by recent standards, but still a fairly enjoyable track as long as you’re already into or have an open mind about the genres being called upon for influence here.
It’s back to rummaging through the group’s past discography for the album’s fourth track “Natural Born Independent”. It only came out back in February of 2019 but even that feels like a lifetime ago now. Anyway, if you’d like to read my thoughts on the single at that time the you can do so here. The obvious change here is that Togaren’s vocals have been replaced with those of the new members, which coupled with a few other changes has led to the song having less of an over-exaggerated anime vocal element. I think that’s a bit of a shame personally but it is what it is, you play to your strengths like I mentioned previously. Apart from that it’s pretty much the same song, with a Rock inspired instrumental that is complimented by some synthesizers which provide it with a more melodic element. It also helps soften the blow of Zenkimi moving further away from their original sound by retaining a few aspects of it in their newer material. To be fair, the vocals here are still pretty much the old Zenkimi that we know and love but even they’re drifting a bit further away on this re-recorded version of the track. The song still packs plenty of punch and some great hooks though so it’s not the end of the world, it just took a bit of getting used to is all.
More previously released content follows on from that with the a-side of Zenkimi’s other 2019 single release now making its appearance on the album. The gang is all here with the introduction of “AntiIyours” but if you’d like to check out my original review of this song then it’s right here for your reading pleasure. Synth Rock is once again the name of the game on this track as Zenkimi continue to establish their shift towards this genre and hey credit where it’s due they pulled it off pretty well here. Both styles trade off with each other in a complimentary fashion, though for me I think the synth work is the more interesting of the two. The melodies were just a bit more dynamic and memorable than the still very presentable Rock instrumentation they were working together with. On the vocal side of things it’s pretty much the same as the original, as it should be since it’s the same line-up that recorded it. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, with the verses being pretty catchy and enjoyable to listen to and to a degree the chorus is too. It’s just that it feels a little bit played out at this point, like we’ve heard this same structure and flow on quite a few of their recent releases is what it feels like to me. By no means bad but I kinda figure since the group is trying to tread some new ground with their sound that maybe they’d try to freshen up stuff like this too while they were at it.
After that little trip down memory lane it’s back to the new material with the rather amusingly titled “whiny melty whiny” being the subject of our next discussion. Bright keyboards and synthesizer melodies are the key features of the song’s opening instrumental, with some subtle twangy guitar riffs and a light beat serving to underpin the instrumental and provide it with a bit more of a rhythm. It’s a pretty mild affair and while not exactly offering up much in the way of a cutting edge the melodies being produced by the synthesizers do a very effective job of substituting for that. Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that when the vocals come in they’re also in a pretty mild, melodic style that’s getting close to what I’d consider to be a Ballad but not quite all the way there. It’s a pleasant and very clean vocal performance by Zenkimi standards so it’s nice to hear the members get a chance to show us what they’ve got without vocoder and crazy instrumentation to distract from their talents. There’s a bit more energy to the chorus but nothing too wild or out of place, a little bit more tempo to the instrumental and some more power behind the vocals but very much in keeping with the overall style of the rest of the song. Not the flashiest Zenkimi song you’re ever going to hear, but still enjoyable, and I suppose that’s what makes this one stand out in a funny sort of way.
The other half of Zenkimi’s “AntiIyours” is next to feature on the album with “Tadakimito (ZKS EDIT)” bringing us over the halfway point of this release. If you didn’t check out my original review of the single it featured on as a b-side or the album it originally came out on, then you can do so now should you want to. I notice the “(ZKS EDIT)” they’ve tagged onto the end of the song title here, something codomomental have recently started doing for whatever reason…it looks cool I guess? I don’t think there’s any major changes between the most recent iteration and this album version though but maybe that’s just me. It’s a more synthesizer heavy song than Zenkimi have been putting out in recent times but still has a pretty strong Rock element to it as well. The instrumental on the whole has a really nice energy to it, with the chorus in particular being a highlight, which it should be anyway I suppose. Everything is bright, catchy and has a pleasing beat so no complaints here. The vocals too are really enjoyable, obviously a bit different to the original version of the song but the new members fit right in and it definitely lives up to the spirit of the first outing. Add in a chorus full of really catchy hooks and you’re always going to be onto a winner with a song like this.
The amount of switching back and forth between new and old material is starting to make my head spin at this point. Anyway, we’ve got another new one up next with the incredibly long winded “Sekai ni tatta hitori chippokena kimi o”. Modulated vocals and a warm guitar riff get the song underway with a fairly happy sounding synthesizer melody joining in along the way. Things quieten down a little for the first verse, both vocally and instrumentally, with a shift towards a more piano driven composition and a granular effect being put on the vocals. The vocals are catchy enough here and they’re the stars of the show as the instrumental slowly begins to build itself up for the chorus, which is a much livelier affair by comparison though everything does feel a bit restrained still. A pretty bright Rock leaning instrumental accompanies fairly energetic and catchy vocals, though I did get the feeling that things were a bit washed out though maybe that’s just how my ears heard everything. Would have just liked to have had a bit more definition on the guitars or something there but that’s just me. Quite a nice and rather enjoyable song overall, not bad for what is essentially a Ballad that has been dressed up really nicely. Just goes to show what you can do to make songs like this sound interesting to miserable old people like me.
And then it’s back to the previously released material once again with “Romance Sect” making an appearance on this album. It’s the other half of Zenkimi’s “Natural Born Independent” single that came out early in 2019 and as ever my original review can be found here if you want to give me another hit on the site. Obviously the vocals are the biggest difference between this version and the old one, as once again Togaren has been replaced with the group’s new recruits. Nothing too notable there though, though that is likely in part due to the nature of this particular song. I’m not really sure what they were thinking with this one at the time, but it really does sound like a KAQRIYOTERROR song in both instrumentation as well as vocally. Heavy on the distortion when it comes to the guitars and drumbeats, with a brighter guitar riff cutting through it all as way of providing a melody. It definitely works but it’s just weird hearing it coming from Zenkimi and not the codomomental property that it was originally a key feature of I guess. The upshot is that vocally this song sounds so much more like the KTA of old than the current group does after their year of line-up woes so silver linings and all that. Harsh vocals, a decently catchy chorus and some nice instrumental melodies are all things I enjoy and this song has all of that going for it.
Then just like that along comes another new song in the form of the rather tongue twisty “Synesthesia”. If for some reason you wanted something a bit more along the lines of straight up Rock from Zenkimi then I guess they’re trying to cater to you with this one. There’s a mild fantasy vibe to the song’s opening guitar riff before the song settles into a much less interesting Rock instrumental with some very repetitive riffage and drumbeats. It’s just a little bit bland to me, especially considering how colorful Zenkimi normally are which might not be helping my opinion here. The vocals are pretty clean and natural sounding, though much like the instrumental they’re just lacking that little something to help them along a little. Things do pick up for the chorus but it’s a bit of a mixed bag once again in my opinion. The vocals gain a bit more energy and personality but the instrumental becomes pretty distorted and blown out which while providing an effective change in tone isn’t exactly ideal given how the rest of the song plays out in my opinion. Things do get a bit more interesting down the back third of the song, with some pretty awesome sounding guitar riffs being a key feature here and the vocals start to resemble what most people are likely putting on this album to hear in the first place. It came good in the end I suppose but not everything they tried on this one worked for me personally.
Hey look, more material that has been previously released. Though to be fair to “Teardust” it probably would have been a bit odd if the b-side from Zenkimi’s most recent single didn’t get featured on this album. Oh yeah, you can go read my review of that here if you aren’t already sick to death of me saying that by now. Anyway, this is another song that leans hard in the Rock direction though much more enjoyable than the album’s previous track in my opinion. I don’t know, I guess I’m just a sucker for noodly guitar riffs that underpin a Rock instrumental with a nice tempo and a catchy beat to it. This song is very easy to nod your head along to, which usually means it’s pretty good in my experience. At the time hearing so much clean and unprocessed vocals from Zenkimi was a bit odd to me but I guess there’s been a decent amount of that on this album so perhaps not so much anymore. The girls are all really good singers in their own ways though so it’s not like they need the modulation and what have you…it’s just something different to get used to I suppose. Still, the lyrics are pretty catchy and the chorus in particular stood out to me which is always a good thing. Again, not what you’d normally expect from Zenkimi but I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot in this review already.
Closing out the album is yet another re-recorded track in “Kawa Mei zen’ya”. The way this one was originally released was a bit odd so I’m not sure if it flew under the radar or not, but this is another Togaren era Zenkimi song. As such the vocals have obviously been reworked to replace her and that’s fairly obvious right from the get go. They’ve made a good job of it though, much like the other tracks on the album that got this treatment so no real complaints from me on that front. From an instrumental standpoint it’s another fairly Rock oriented song but with accompanying keyboards to provide a more melodic dimension to the composition and maybe just about manage to inject a little of the old Zenkimi into this new musical direction. Hardly reinventing the wheel here but there’s some pretty catchy riffs and melodies so plenty to enjoy in that regard. The vocals are an interesting mix of being naturally melodic while also being helped along by some mild modulation, it works out well enough but I wouldn’t have minded a stronger hook somewhere along the way. An enjoyable enough song that doesn’t put a foot wrong but also doesn’t really do too much to stand out from a now very crowded Zenkimi discography.
It’s hard not to feel a little disappointed by “Arumumei” I suppose. While there isn’t really anything majorly wrong with the release when viewed in a vacuum, 8 of the songs are either singles from this year or re-records of older material. Considering we already got 2 albums stuffed to the gills with the latter not that long ago it does beg the question why more was needed here. Perhaps re-recording your agency’s entire back catalog doesn’t leave much extra time to work on new material.
As best I can tell from the handful of new tracks featured here it would appear that Zenkimi are going to be leaning even more heavily into genres like Rock, Metal, Hardcore and what have you moving forward. An exciting prospect for many of you reading this I’m sure though you will forgive me if I don’t quite share your enthusiasm. Still, even if it might not be exactly what I want out of this particular group I’m hopeful that 2020 will see them achieve further success and hopefully some more, actually new music for us all to enjoy.