My thoughts on “The Battle Of Nightmares”, the first album from GARUDA.
Release Date: September 4th 2020
2. Meikyū no hitsuji
4. ◆ no joō -My Queen-
6. Mōsugu yuki ga -’20-
7. Mōsugu yuki ga -’18 acapella-
While I try my best not to bring favorites into the equation too much when writing these articles, there are times where it’s either incredibly difficult or just downright impossible if I’m being totally honest. I don’t really know why I put these sorts of constraints on myself either because let’s face it, being a fan of this Idol stuff is easily one of the most fun things you can be so maybe I should let that come through a bit more in my writing going forward. Heck, why not start right now even.
GARUDA is one of my favorite Idol acts going right now and to be truthful it’s due in equal parts to the project’s dark, Industrial themed take on the Metal genre as well as the woman behind it all. Sakimura Yuffie is not only a fantastic performer on stage, whether it be here with her GARUDA solo project or as part of Melon Batake a go go, but she’s also one of the nicest and most thoughtful people that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. As such, I’m absolutely thrilled for her that after a lot of hard work her first solo album has been released upon the world.
“The Battle Of Nightmares” features 7 tracks, of which 5 appear to be all new material with the rest of the tracklist being filled out with a couple of different versions of GARUDA’s most well known song “Mōsugu yuki ga”. The release centers around the track “Shihaisha” which was Yuffie’s first time writing lyrics by herself and said song also gets the MV treatment too. Life and its struggles are also big themes on this release and there’s some pretty interesting track titles here so I’m really excited to dive in and take a listen. If you would like to read more thoughts from Yuffie on the album and everything that went into recording it, then check out this awesome interview that she did with Beyond Senpai in the run-up to its release. With all of that out of the way, I’ve just about lost all of my patience at this point so let’s dive right into this.
The album’s lead track “Nezame” has a very fitting title, meaning to “awaken” or “wake up” in English and the track’s Industrial meets Gothic style instrumental is quite the wake up call too. Intense and punishing but also darkly melodic at the same time which I suppose could also be an appropriate description of the artist herself. It’s super catchy in some ways while also making you want to headbang and jump around at the same time, so we’re definitely pulling in elements of both the Metal and Idol genres and mixing them together rather effectively here. Vocally Yuffie delivers the sort of performance that we’ve come to expect from her here, at times playing up to the creepy side of her act with some powerful, dark vocal tones as seen in the song’s verses and then seamlessly transitioning from that into a slightly brighter and more Pop leaning style for the track’s choruses. Speaking of the choruses on this one, they’ve got some really catchy lyrics going on and I really think Yuffie got the flow of the delivery pretty much perfect when it comes to her performance of them. The change of tone here also allowed for a break from the denseness of the rest of the track while also helping to further emphasize it at the same time. If that wasn’t enough, we’re also treated to some pretty cool guitar solos and a punishing breakdown later in the track as well so I think it’s fair to say that Yuffie has really come out swinging with her first real solo effort here. A sign of more good things to come on this release I hope!
“Meikyū no hitsuji” introduces more of a synthesizer dynamic to the album, something I was wondering if we’d hear at some point given it has been a fairly consistent feature of past material from the GARUDA project. Here it’s being paired with a very ear pleasing, rhythmic drumbeat to make for a very catchy instrumental that’s still dripping in plenty of distortion, heavy guitar riffs and what have you so as not to feel too out of place with the overall theme we’ve got going on here. There’s a bit of a Melon Batake feel to things, which is an easy and perhaps lazy comparison to make but when the vocals come in with their instrumental matching tempo and catchy hooks I think my comparison becomes a little bit more valid if you allow for the much more Gothic sounding tone being displayed here. There’s a bit of a Marilyn Manson influence here too I think, which is hardly surprising given Yuffie’s appreciation of his music and it’s particularly apparent in the guitar work and overall distortion treatment that the track has been given. I’m not typically a fan of a ton of distortion as you guys know but I think there’s a good balance here between that, the more melodic elements of the instrumental and of course Yuffie’s vocals. Speaking of which, this song also has a ton of lyrical hooks that are sure to get the melody stuck in your head and I also rather liked the inclusion of the supplementary backing vocals too as it gave an extra dimension to things, adding a bit more color and personality that was already plenty of here in the first place. Add to that another chorus that perfectly combines both Metal and Pop and we’ve got another pretty great track on our hands here folks.
The Industrial themes continue into the album’s third track “Shihaisha” which starts off sounding like we’re in the depths of some kind of factory or something before bringing in chugging, heavily distorted guitars and a thunderous drumbeat that’s hiding some rather sinister sounding background vocals underneath all of it. A great example of how you build up a very vivid scene and atmosphere in the mind of the listener. Yuffie’s vocals eventually emerge from the swirling chaos, cutting through the very intense instrumental and ending up sitting pretty high up in the track’s mix. So much so that it almost feels like she’s standing right beside you while delivering her lines, which could be intentional or a bit of an embellishment on my part I’ll admit. Either way, the calmness of her delivery only adds to the unsettling feeling that the song is giving off. The build up to the song’s choruses is subtle but by the time the vocals and the instrumental are soaring into this hauntingly beautiful Symphonic Metal style arrangement you definitely know that this is supposed to be one of several standout moments on the track. One of the others being the bridge where they strip everything back and give Yuffie’s vocals an unobstructed moment in the spotlight, which allows her to deliver yet another beautiful performance before everything ramps back up for one more assault on the ears before the song is snuffed out. A really interesting take on something more in the Ballad style, I really enjoyed this one a lot.
The synthesizers make their triumphant return on the album’s fourth track “◆ no joō -My Queen-” and it’s hard not to start drawing a few more comparisons with the sort of stuff Marilyn Manson might have been putting out in recent times based on the tone and energy with which this track opens. Things do end up taking a different turn as the song gets going however, with the instrumental clearing out quite significantly by the time the first instance of vocals occur, said vocals being initially a fairly modulated and distorted which isn’t something we’ve really heard too much of from GARUDA up to this point though they do revert back to her more typical style as the track gets into full swing. It works well with the personality of the track though and I really quite like the tempo of the instrumental that’s backing it all up too even if it is pretty straightforward stuff for the most part. The choruses are quite different in tone with their very smooth, melodic style of vocal but it’s all being tied together by the instrumental which is keeping things moving along at an ear pleasing pace. The vocal treatment for the choruses really is something I liked quite a bit, as you all know I’m quite partial to that smooth, rich sort of vocal tone and there’s plenty of it happening during these parts along with some nice lyrical hooks too. The distortion begins to creep back in eventually and that’s the sign that the song is drawing to a close and while a lot of its base components are fairly simple on the surface, they’ve all been brought together and executed rather well and the end result is another memorable entry into the GARUDA discography.
We change things up a bit on the following song “Chikai” which takes on more of a thrashy sort of Rock style than anything else that we’ve heard on this album. There’s still an overall Industrial feel to things thanks to the distorted synthesizers and drum tones but you can definitely tell that this one is supposed to be something that’s a bit different. I’d probably even go as far as to say that there’s a slight Melon Batake a go go influence going on with some of the instrumental melodies which gives the song some pretty catchy hooks and a nice groovy vibe to offset a bit of the venom and intensity that’s also being expressed quite openly. On the vocal side of things Yuffie is playing to her strengths once again with another performance that is both as memorable for its attitude laced one-liners as it is for its smooth, dark melodies. The personality behind the vocals is just as much a part of creating the mood and tone of the track as the instrumental is and in this instance too what on the surface might seem like quite a heavy, oppressive song actually has quite a lot of nuance to it both in terms of tone and structure. Of course there’s plenty of the former as well, be it from the thick distortion on some of the guitar parts, the drums being mixed to provide as much industrial sounding clang as possible or the moments where Yuffie grabs a megaphone to make sure she’s definitely getting her point across. I guess in the end what I’m trying to say is that this is a really well put together song and I enjoyed it very much. Yeah, that’ll do.
Rounding out the album we have “Mōsugu yuki ga” which was technically Yuffie’s first release under the GARUDA moniker back in I want to say 2018 but I could be a little off on that. In any case, you can read my initial thoughts on that song and the others that featured on that release here if you’d like to. Anyway, it gets the rework treatment here for her first album. Like I said in my initial review, this song still reminds me of something I heard on a wrestling video game soundtrack many moons ago but I still can’t place it annoyingly enough but I’m sure there have been plenty of Heavy Metal songs with heavily distorted guitars and a thunderous drumbeat that have served such roles in the past. I would say that the most notable difference between the old and new recording of the track are the vocals which sound a lot more crisp and sat a bit higher in the mix here (and have the benefit of a couple extra years’ worth of live performance practice too), which has its pros and cons depending on your outlook I suppose but for me I think it gives Yuffie’s voice that little bit more power that it needed to cut through what is a pretty dense and punishing instrumental. Outside of that there aren’t too many other major changes that I noticed, the track still packs all of the personality and punch that it did originally but now with the added benefit of a bit more polish to bring it up to the current standard of GARUDA’s output.
Included as the final track on the release is an a capella version of the 2018 recording of “Mōsugu yuki ga” which I thought was a nice bonus. You get to hear Yuffie’s performance almost un-obscured besides an admittedly healthy does of echo effect but it’s still more than enough to get an idea of how good of a singer she is while also maintaining that dark, mysterious vibe to her material at the same time. I enjoy stuff like this personally as it’s nice to hear something a bit different than what an artist might typically release but I can totally understand if this maybe isn’t something that some people are that interested in. Still, hopefully everyone can at least appreciate Yuffie’s vocal talents here even if this track isn’t one that might see regular rotation in a lot of playlists.
Given the amount of hard work and effort that I know went into this release, it’s hard to consider “The Battle Of Nightmares” as anything other than a triumph really. The tracks create vivid, dark atmospheres and really nail the sort of mood that this style of music should be going for. Yuffie’s first real attempt at writing lyrics for this project is also very impressive and I hope she takes pride in both the effectiveness in conveying what she was trying to say as well as the subtle (and at times not so subtle) catchiness of it all.
While I feel like it might be a while before we’re treated to another GARUDA release, I’m definitely looking forward with great excitement for when that day eventually comes. I know that just like this one it’s going to be well thought out and executed, which will make it fantastic as a result. In the meantime though I’m going to enjoy “The Battle of Nightmares” and give it plenty of play in my music rotation and I would encourage you all to check it out and hopefully do the same. If you’re into Metal, Industrial or any of those sorts of genres then I know you’ll just love this one. I’m 100% confident of that.