My thoughts on “Thanatos”, the second mini-album from Inuwasi.
Release Date: March 9th 2021
1. Burnt Sienna
2. in flames
As we continue to push deeper into 2021, one of the cool things to observe is that a lot of the (admittedly fewer than usual) groups who debuted last year are beginning to release follow-up material to their initial 2020 output. Part of being a fan of Idol music and idols in general for me is watching groups develop both as performers and also musically over time, though these days it feels like a lot of them are coming out of the gate swinging hard with high production values, vocal quality, costumes and all the rest. Still though, seeing what they do release to release remains fun all the same.
Inuwasi are probably one of the more hyped groups from the 2020 crop of new debuts, at least from what I’ve seen in English speaking fandom circles for this sort of stuff. Easy to see why too, they have a cool look, an appealing Hardcore sound that gets mashed up with some less likely influences and they’re backed by a pretty big production company in MAPLEZ Inc. I wasn’t quite as gung-ho about them as some, but I can appreciate what they’re trying to do and what they are doing they do very well indeed.
“Thanatos” is the group’s follow-up mini-album to their debut “Aquelar” (review here) and with it comes a few noticeable changes right off the bat. New, much brighter outfits have given the group quite the image change though the release’s jacket artwork remains as unique as ever. Not sure what to make of all of that but I’m sure all will be made much more clear in a minute here. As it is, I’m expecting more of the same musically but equally I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve gone in a slightly more radio friendly direction on this one either. Judging a book by its cover is never a good idea though, so let’s actually listen to these tracks and see what Inuwasi have in store for us here.
Things get off to a very intense start, with the EP’s opening track “Burnt Sienna” assaulting the ears with an aggressive Industrial themed Metal instrumental which cuts a very dark tone. Not that surprising for this style naturally and leading off with a track like this should hopefully make people sit up and take notice if they haven’t already been doing so. The instrumental does empty out a little bit to make room for the vocals, which I wouldn’t necessarily say match the personality of the track given their higher pitched, Pop tone but this is an Idol group at the end of the day so in a lot of ways you do sort of have to work with what you’ve got. It doesn’t sound super great in a lot of places but if I’m being charitable it is something of an interesting contrast between both components of the track. What I did find surprising though was the distinct lack of anything in the way of harsh vocals on this song, something that Inuwasi have shown they can pull off quite effectively in the past and this sort of track would seem like a natural place to make use of them once more. For whatever reason they didn’t opt to do that however and we’re left to ponder what might have been. There is a breakdown of sorts towards the end where some gang vocals do get introduced but it doesn’t have the same sort of impact for me and the tone in which it’s all delivered makes it sound more like a bunch of punk kids acting out than the darker, harsher tone that you’d expect to compliment what’s going on in the instrumental. I like the idea of this one but the execution leaves quite a lot to be desired.
To say that “in flames” offers up a rather unique auditory experience would perhaps be putting things too lightly as I’ve certainly never heard synthesized percussion being layered into a distorted Rock track on too many occasions. After you get used to the eccentricity of it all it does becomes rather catchy though, a pretty good example of how Inuwasi like to put their own twist on an already rather clearly defined concept if you had been wondering just exactly what I had been meaning by that. Unfortunately once we get into the verses the instrumental does lose a lot of its personality, switching to a pretty muddy Rock style to make way for the vocals which while being decently catchy at times come off feeling like they’re lacking in energy. This is mostly the harmonies, “uhh”s and “yeah”s that litter the track as the main vocal component is decently energetic in and of itself but everything around it kinda drags it down a bit which is a shame. We do get a couple of instances of harsh vocals making an appearance on this one however so if you’re a fan of that sort of stuff then you might want to check it out, though said moments are fairly fleeting. On the whole this one is a lot more fun to listen to than its predecessor but it could have been a lot more enjoyable if they’d sharpened it up a little bit and not had everything feel so rolled off and dull. Just my opinion though, I’m definitely not a music producer so my thought process could be a bit off here I suppose.
I don’t know about you guys, but if you’re calling a song “Hades” I sort of expect something pretty dark and brooding in nature given who it’s clearly being named after and what have you. Inuwasi instead decided to go all Electro on us for this EP’s third offering and I kinda like the fuzzy synth melodies that feature during the song’s lead-in and verses. They do lose me a bit in the choruses where things get much too busy and convoluted for my tastes, but you probably already know that I prefer to hear individual instruments as opposed to washed out noise at this point, so you probably saw that one coming. There’s also an interesting lack of bass throughout the track which I feel would have added at least a little something extra to everything else that was going on. I did like the overall beat from the drums though so not all bad on that front at least. Vocally it’s a bit of a mixed bag; on the one hand I liked the somewhat off-beat flow going on in the verses as it added an element of unease to the track but the once again very Pop leaning choruses just don’t really feel like they fit super well though they are decently catchy in an admittedly rather generic way. No harsh vocals to speak of here once again, even though there were a couple of spots they could have worked them in so I’m not really sure what’s going on with that but with how things have been going on this release so far it does sort of seem like they’re trying to move away from them for whatever reason. A pretty decent track here with some catchy lyrical and instrumental hooks but could easily have been improved with a few tweaks here and there in my opinion.
The Industrial themes that we heard earlier on the EP make a return for its fourth track “budh”, though this time the tone of the track is much lighter than its predecessor. Those two things seem like they’d be opposed to each other and they kinda are in a lot of ways but Inuwasi just about manage to navigate a happy medium between the harsher Industrial screeching and the more melodic Soft Rock, at times verging on Shoegaze, that are making up the bulk of this track’s instrumental. It definitely grows on you over time as I wasn’t really that sold on it after my first couple of listens but the track is starting to win me over the more that I hear it. Vocally they keep things pretty melodic throughout, straying pretty close to Ballad territory on several occasions even, which I found to be a little bit boring considering how interesting the instrumental was sounding but nothing here sounds bad by any means. Once again the distinct lack of anything much in the way of harsh vocals is a bit of a surprise as there were several spots throughout the track where I felt they could have added a bit of extra flair to things. I guess maybe the group is trying to move away from that sort of thing for one reason or another and if true that’s a shame because while harsh vocals are becoming a bit overdone by Idol groups these days, if you have space in your songs where they feel like they would be a natural fit then you might as well use them if you’ve shown that you can in the past. Still a good song, though admittedly a bit of a grower and could have been a bit better with a few changes to how they did things.
Ending things off is “holy”, which still manages to bring something different to the table 5 tracks deep on an EP that has had quite the variety of genres and influences on display already. This time out things take on a more ambient dynamic with light synthesizer melodies and a drum machine beat giving the track an almost Chill-Hop vibe…because of course we had to go there at least once on this release. There is also a much harder, very fuzzy and distorted Rock edge to the track at times too so they really did go out of their way to give the listener a variety of textures to keep things sounding pretty varied throughout. It would be pretty easy for these two fairly contrasting styles to not feel like they fit very well together but Inuwasi do a good job of blending both together rather seamlessly here so credit where it’s due for that. I’m also a pretty big fan of the vocals on this one too, they kinda remind me of Yanakoto Sotto Mute in a way in that they have that very emotionally charged style of delivery and ringing high notes that we all know work so well by now. Not to the level of Yanamute of course but I feel like they come decently close to it where it counts while still keeping plenty of what makes Inuwasi who they are vocally as well as personality-wise. A pretty entertaining way to close out this EP and much more enjoyable than any kind of typical sentimental Ballad that we hear all the time would have ended up sounding. Nice to end things on a relative high after a few rough patches on some of the previous tracks.
“Thanatos” is an EP that is not without its flaws, some more easily explained than others. Muddy mixes, picking a vocal style that doesn’t quite fit with an instrumental and things of that nature are all production decisions that could go either way. The overall lack of harsh vocals on this release despite featuring quite significantly on the group’s debut makes a little less sense to me though. I guess maybe Inuwasi don’t want to typecast themselves as “one of those groups” but if your songs have spots where harsh vocals are a reasonable and logical fit and they’re deciding not to use them for whatever reason then that’s pretty much self-sabotage as far as I’m concerned.
What do I know though really? I guess the costume change really was the writing on the wall in a lot of ways. Still, I’m interested to hear what Inuwasi come up with next so of course I will be awaiting their next release quite impatiently. Just a blip or something more? The only way to know for sure is to hear more music from the group so whether you’re a big fan or not, let’s hope that they don’t keep us waiting too long to hear just exactly what comes next here.