My thoughts on “Out of order”, the latest single from 8bitBRAIN.
Release Date: November 4th 2020
1. Out of order
While I know that we have long since established that I have no clue as to what should or shouldn’t be more popular, I would still like to think that my musings that I post here on this website might go some small way to getting people to check out some new groups. That is after all the main point to what I’m doing here, outside of also having fun doing what I do of course. I’d say more often than not I end up striking out but that doesn’t make it any less fun to play the game of pretending to be a serious internet J-Pop reviewer.
8bitBRAIN have long been a group that I thought didn’t get the sort of recognition that they deserved, and I pretty much said as much when I wrote about their major debut single “Under the weather” (review here) a few months back. Granted I think in their case it was more of an availability thing than anything else seeing as I’ve seen a decent amount more talk around them since that release came about. That said, in a Western fandom that loves Digital Hardcore, groups like PassCode and what have you I still think there’s plenty of potential for more growth here too. Or maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about like I mentioned above.
In any case, 8bitBRAIN are following up their major debut very quickly indeed with the release of their second single “Out of order”. It follows a similar format to the group’s previous release with multiple versions, each containing an exclusive b-side but if you’re like me and do most of your Idol music shopping online these days you can pick this one up in a nice complete mini-album format from your digital distributor of choice. I’m pretty confident in terms of what to expect out of this one and if 8bitBRAIN can deliver the high quality brand of digitized Hardcore music that’s now expected of them then I think we’re going to be onto a winner with this single too. Can they make it 2 for 2 and really give all of you no more excuses not to check them out? Let’s dive right in and find out, shall we?
The single’s title track comes screaming out of the gates, quite literally in fact, with 8bitBRAIN’s signature brand of Screamo mixed with all manner of digitized synthesizer elements to make for a sound that should be quite appealing to those of you who are fans of Digital Hardcore and other related genres that combine screaming, synthesizers and brutal Rock instrumentals. It’s all quite chaotic pretty much right from the word go, and the vocals are playing into it all too with some positively bloody curdling screams being a highlight of the harsh treatment that’s being applied in healthy doses throughout the song. Seriously, if you’re into this stuff even a little bit then you’re going to be impressed with some of the performances here. 8bitBRAIN are also more than capable of something more melodic too though, and make use of that side of their sound very effectively to balance things out and offer a reprieve from the chaos and brutality with some brighter, more melodic but still heavily vocoded sections that are once again something of a hallmark of this particular style. The track’s choruses are a little bit predictable in terms of both tone and structure but that’s okay because that’s more of a constraint of a well explored genre at this point than anything else. They’re still really catchy and feature a really powerful, melodic performance that’s accompanied by more powerful screaming which I thought was a nice way of tying everything together here actually. The only thing that was really missing was a breakdown but I guess with how much else was going on it’s not the worst idea to hold back on something like that. It didn’t make the song any less enjoyable or impressive to me, that’s for sure.
The single has one…I guess you would say it’s the main b-side, and that role is being filled by “UTA” which starts off in this very mellow, sort of ambient synthesizer direction which is in stark contrast to what we’d just heard previously on this release. They rough things up around the edges with some effective use of guitar fuzz and a slightly more abrasive drumbeat but the overall tone of this one is much more relaxed and Ballad-y which sort of just goes to show that 8bitBRAIN are far from being a one-trick pony. The vocals further cement that Ballad feel, being delivered in a very pleasant mid-tempo and slightly emotional tone with just a little bit of vocoding on top to try to carry on some sort of theme throughout the single I suppose. I did like how they were able to keep things fresh the further into the track we went though, be it the mid-track Screamo breakdown or how the tone for the more melodic parts gradually shifted to something more emotionally charged and ethereal as things began to develop more. Definitely not a song that you want to skip after hearing the first 30 seconds or so because despite not starting out like something most people would probably be coming to a group like 8bitBRAIN for musically, I think by the end of the track they’d done a really good job of putting an interesting spin on a style that is pretty hard to make all that compelling after decades of prior efforts from pretty much everyone and their mother in the J-Pop scene at this point. 8bitBRAIN pulled it off though, so hats off to them for that.
Moving into the version specific b-side portion of the release and first up is “Love&Sick” which can be found on the Type A version of the single, if buying physical copies of media is still something that you’re into. There’s a pretty heavy 8-bit influence to the song’s EDM instrumental so it would appear that 8bitBRAIN are very much living up to their name on this one. It’s all very bright and upbeat, which is further enhanced by the rather heavily vocoded vocals that might be a bit too much for some people, and I’m kinda getting there myself personally, but they do add a strong melodic component to things that shouldn’t be overlooked. It wouldn’t be an 8bitBRAIN song without some harsh vocals though and they make an appearance here too, but in more of a supplemental role to break up the main tone of the song with several moments of unhinged insanity and yet more impressive vocal displays from a group that you probably wouldn’t expect was capable of this on face value. The chorus is fairly typical of the style of song once again but it’s bringing plenty of energy, catchy vocal melodies as well as some nice contrasting harsh vocals which all somehow comes together to flow incredibly well. It’s not going to be the most original thing you’ve heard all year but it does what it needs to and then some. The breakdown of sorts midway through the track was also a highlight and gave the harsher side of the equation a nice opportunity to do its thing without a bunch of pesky melodies getting in the way. On the whole this song is a pretty great contrast of styles and pretty much features everything that makes 8bitBRAIN who they are as a group. On that basis it would be very hard for me not to recommend that you check this one out if you want a strong but brief example of what to expect from the rest of their discography.
Heading further into the single’s selection of b-sides and up next is “EatMeat” which is taken from the Type B version of the release in case you didn’t already see that coming. Not very vegan friendly this one I suppose but man is the instrumental heavy, with distorted guitars, thundering drums and a subtle Industrial slant to the synthesizers giving the song a lot of its personality. There’s still a strong melodic element to things, thanks mainly to the clean, vocoded vocals that valiantly fight their way to the front of the mix where they can before being swallowed back up by the instrumental and drowned out by another venomous harsh vocal barrage. It’s all very dense and high tension outside of that and the chorus though, so if you like your Idol music on the heavier side and don’t mind a bit of synthesizer added into the mix then I think you’ll probably have a pretty enjoyable time with this particular song. Speaking of the chorus, I really do like it a lot as I thought that it added a bit more urgency to things in a weird way, while also lightening the atmosphere just a bit by switching things to a slightly more melodic tone. The lyrics are also rather catchy which is never a bad thing either in my opinion. The structure of the track is a bit repetitive I suppose if I had to criticize something but I think that’s playing into trying to make it catchier than its base components might usually allow. There aren’t any huge surprises here but there doesn’t have to be as the melodies and lyrical hooks combined with the instrumental are more than enough to be getting by on, especially for a b-side that could easily have been a feature track for a lot of other groups.
Last up is our third and final b-side “Avenge”, and if you haven’t already guessed it then I suppose that I should let you know that this track is featured on the Type C version of “Out of order”. This track hits pretty hard right out of the gate with a super bouncy drumbeat and chaotic synthesizers being the standout features of the opening instrumental. We’re then treated to what can best be described as an all out assault on the ears by some once again incredibly impressive harsh vocals which are positively laced with venom. It’s pretty brutal but honestly quite catchy at the same time, something that you only really get when Idol decides to put its spin on genres it should in all likelihood have no business dabbling in in the first place. There is a more melodic component to the song too by the way, coming perhaps unsurprisingly in the form of a cleaner, vocoded style which is a big feature of the chorus where even the instrumental gets in on the act and turns into something a bit more sparkly…if you can believe we get to that point from where we started out from. It makes for a pretty epic sounding closing sequence to the track too so I’m glad they did decide to put something more in this style in here as it would have been quite easy to just ride the brutality shock factor for the entirety of the song’s three and a half minute runtime. In my opinion this could have easily been the title track and I wouldn’t even question it, it’s just that good and any group performing these sorts of genres would no doubt be proud to have a track like this in their discography. Sure it’s “only” a b-side here but as far as I’m concerned this track is recommended listening for anyone either trying to get into 8bitBRAIN for the first time or fans of the sorts of styles of music I’ve been mentioning all through this review. It really is that good.
So 8bitBRAIN continue to release really great music while still somehow managing to fly under most peoples’ radars. I don’t think there’s a single song from this batch that I didn’t enjoy to some degree and while you can definitely knock some elements for being a bit too derivative, if this style of music is something that you enjoy then I certainly can’t see any reason why you aren’t already listening to this group and a big fan of them. If you want new music it’s out there, you just might have to look a little harder than usual to find it these days.
It’s going to take a bit more time but if they can keep up the momentum then I can really see 8bitBRAIN being a big player in the scene 12 months from now and I’d still be saying that even if the scene wasn’t currently being rocked almost daily by COVID related disbandings, graduations and what have you. They have everything they need to be a much bigger group than they currently are, they’re just missing one thing and that’s all of your attention so go and give it to them.