My thoughts on “Aquler”, the first mini-album from INUWASI.
Release Date: November 30th 2020
2. Just The Face, No The Faith
5. Sabbath to sabaku
6. All I Know
Well, I think it’s pretty safe to say that 2020 didn’t exactly give anyone a whole lot to be excited about and I’m not even talking only about in the world of Idol when I make that assessment. That said, it was definitely one of the rougher years in the scene in recent memory and it wasn’t helped by the delayed effects of the pandemic causing many much loves groups and individuals to no longer be performing for all of our pleasure. A bit of a double gut punch if you will, after everything already being on a reduced schedule as it was.
There were a handful of new groups who came along that managed to generate some buzz in the circles that I keep though, one of which being INUWASI who had quite a few people eagerly anticipating the day that the release that I’m going to be talking about today would finally drop. The 6-member outfit, under the MAPLE INC banner, made everyone wait but eventually gave us all something of an early Christmas present with the release of their first mini-album “Aquler” at the very end of November. A bit of positive news to start drawing to a close a not so positive year.
Was the wait worth it though? I suppose that’s the real question a lot of people would have been asking and I’m curious to find out myself. While I’m definitely not as into INUWASI as some other people I know, what I have heard from the group and seen on a couple of their live streams has definitely sounded like something that I could get into more if the opportunity were to present itself. Well today it finally has and I’m about to sit down and share some thoughts on INUWASI’s debut release with you all. I have a bit of an idea what to expect but I think I should still be in the dark enough that it’ll be fun to just hit play and see where this release takes me. Speaking of which, lets go ahead and do just that right now shall we?
Kicking off the release is “crier”, which is also being used as the main promotional track and is quite likely to be a lot of peoples’ first introduction to INUWASI. Considering the group’s image and styling, the opening instrumental which leans quite heavily into what can best be described as a Rap beat might be a bit of a head scratcher and that feeling probably isn’t alleviated much when the vocals are brought in also in a very genre appropriate style. It has a pretty chill vibe and the flow is nice and smooth too, so if you’re into this sort of stuff then I think you might actually find this track interesting even if the group putting it out don’t really look like they should be anywhere near this genre, judging covers of books and all that. The choruses get a bit more conventionally melodic, though definitely still very much keeping to a similar tempo to the rest of the track but the change in tone was welcomed as it added a bit more of dimension to the song and the lyrics are similarly catchy but perhaps in a slightly more overt way this time. If you’re feeling a bit confused or misled by what you thought INUWASI should sound like, then don’t worry because the last minute or so of the track sees thing go in a dramatically different direction with a Hardcore style breakdown and plenty of harsh vocals becoming the focal point which you definitely wouldn’t have seen coming based on how this track started out had you come into this release blind. This is all contrasted rather nicely with some more melodic vocals, similar to what we heard in the choruses before the track eventually reaches its conclusion. A bit of a bait and switch this one, so make sure you stick with it to the end.
I’m a bit of a Punk Rock fan as some of you might know, and a fairly big chunk of the genre is made up of songs that are typically under 2 minutes in length and don’t waste any of it by being anything less than 1000% energy and anger about something or other. Well, INUWASI have provided us with something of a take on this style with their mini-album’s second track “Just The Face, No The Faith” which clocks in at a shade under 90 seconds and pretty much does all of the things I just mentioned. Granted they do manage to fit a more melodic, J-Pop element in here too because this is an Idol song after all but outside of that we’re treated to a rapid tempo, very intense Punk instrumental that thunders in the ears and plenty of screaming and general chaos as you can almost picture the song flailing around wildly in your mind while listening to it. Probably not something that everyone is going to find appealing and it is over about as quickly as it started but you don’t really see this style too much in Idol right now so I thought it was pretty cool that at least one group is giving it a try. Not a whole lot else to say about this one apart from I love its energy and I wouldn’t mind this style being a bit more widely employed when it comes to similar groups in this sub-genre of Idol.
We continue the high octane Punk theme in the next track “Kerbezoid”, which is a term I’m definitely not familiar with and a cursory Google search hasn’t really helped to clarify much either. The song title sounds pretty cool at least though, so there’s that. Intense drumming and blistering guitar riffs are a big part of the instrumental and while not quite as chaotic as the previous track it definitely has a lot of the same energy so if you liked what you heard previously then there’s a whole lot more of it happening here too. The vocals are playing a split role of both balancing things out with some more melodic moments while also adding to the insanity with some well placed, punctuating harsh vocals which continue to impress with their venom and tone. Interestingly enough, there’s also quite a bit of English involved on this track and while some of it isn’t quite as…fluid as the rest I think INUWASI does a pretty good job of getting their point across. I mean, how much clearer can you get than “Everything is Fuck up. Don’t think about masses. Freak this world, and fuckers” right? No chorus to speak of though now that I think about it, but honestly you don’t even really notice it with everything else that’s going on on the track. Another fairly short one at a little over 2 and a half minutes but they make full use of their time and with the energy being expended for the performance it’s probably for the best that this isn’t a 5 minute epic. We’re really getting treated to some pretty fun Punk stuff from this release, despite how everything started out.
After all that, things calm down a bit as we move into “Fey-Tan”…well sort of anyway as the rather pleasant synthesizer opening segment does get rather crushed by some unexpected harsh vocals for a spell but after that it gets back on track with the more melodic, ambient synthesizer style that we were being promised when the track was first starting to get warmed up. The vocals are very melodic here as they should be and at times feel like they’re almost floating along as they’re carried away by the instrumental so very much a change of pace compared to the release’s last couple of tracks. There are still some harsher moments littered throughout the track though, where the instrumental takes on this fuzzier, more granular texture and so do the vocals which gives them this…soft harshness if that makes any sense whatsoever. The important thing is that it gives the track some tonal variety which is nice because I think at this point it would have been okay if they had just done the whole track in the more ambient style that is already a feature of much of it. Definitely something that I can appreciate however, as are some of the finer points of the instrumental where a well placed melody or beat really serves to add an extra dimension to things. It’s actually pretty cool how they’ve managed to have a track with a pretty different sort of tone be able to tie in to the rest of this release and while it is perhaps a little bit straightforward in terms of how everything is structured that doesn’t make it any less of an enjoyable listening experience in my opinion.
I kinda thought that we were going back hard in the Rap direction during the opening instrumental to “Sabbath to sabaku”, because that’s definitely something of a Rap inspired beat that I’m hearing as the song is warming up. Things get pretty quickly turned on their head however, with the track morphing into a very intense, high tempo Rock arrangement that would have been very fitting in the era of say, Black Sabbath for example. The vocals in the verses are heavily dominated by the same harsh style we’ve seen elsewhere on the release with only a brief moment or two where something more melodic enters the fray before being rather quickly bounced back out. The choruses gives us more of an opportunity to hear that sort of stuff though and the track takes on more of a J-Pop tone here too which probably isn’t what a lot of the people who are going to be listening to it are looking for but I thought that it was catchy enough and gave the ears a bit of a break from all of the noise and chaos that they had been subjected to for the majority of the rest of the song. They do also somehow manage to tie the Rap beat back in near the end, with a short but substantial section where we get a little bit of rapping going on. Not really sure how I feel about it honestly as it’s likely a bit out of place when set against everything else going on but I guess it does put something of a spin on things so I guess I can give it a pass even if it’s still sort of an odd thing to be including here in my opinion. Yeah, somewhat conflicted on this one but it’s still a pretty fun listen either way.
Closing out the release is “All I Know” and perhaps rather predictably it’s one of these songs that’s done in that bright, warm, optimistic sort of tone so kind of a big departure from what we’ve all (presumably) been enjoying up to now. It’s not quite the mid-tempo Ballad that it could have so easily been though, as INUWASI do put a bit of a Punk slant on it with a pretty energetic Rock instrumental accompanying a nice bright vocal performance that all comes together really nicely in an ear pleasing, mainstream audience appealing sort of way. You’re not really going to hear much that you haven’t heard before on this one, especially if you’ve been following J-Pop for a while like I have but it’s a nice enough track and I doubt you’re going to come away feeling like it’s “bad” or anything like that. It’s just a bit more normal compared to the rest of this release and if I had to give one actual critique I would say that there are points where the vocals do get a bit pitchy but that’s always something that I’ve been a bit more sensitive to than others so maybe you’ll think differently once you get a chance to take a listen. Like I said earlier, you sort of come to expect this type of song on a longer form release from most Japanese acts so I can’t really complain too much about it when it shows up here. It’s not what I’m really putting on INUWASI or similar groups in this genre to hear but I get why they feel the need to include this sort of material and I can appreciate it for what it is even if I think they could have slipped a harsh vocal or two in just for a laugh.
I’m kinda curious what people who maybe aren’t that familiar with INUWASI though of this release honestly. I feel like there’s plenty of what you’d expect from a group with these visuals and such but at the same time there were also a few curveballs thrown in too. I can take or leave the Rap and sentimental Rock stuff at this point but I think the group’s core sound of Hardcore, harsh vocals and what have you is a strong selling point in what is admittedly a fairly well saturated market these days. I guess maybe the other stuff is them trying to put a more unique spin on things now that I think about it.
Where things go from here is anyone’s guess after the year we’ve just had, but considering that INUWASI are managed by MAPLE INC. and have a new release coming out next week we don’t really have to wait too long to find out in this particular group’s case at least. They’re definitely in a stronger position than a lot of groups are currently but I suppose it remains to be seen just how much things will take off once we’re finally free of the shackles of COVID in the latter half of 2021.