(The following review is of a Japanese band that performs in their native tongue, so you’ll have to pardon any bad translating or lack of lyrical analysis)
Cultural relativism is a funny thing, isn’t it? It’s kind of interesting to see how the different geographic sectors of the world are, especially when it comes to the creative arts like film, television, and of course, music. Certain music genres like hardcore punk or melodic death metal have different regionally-specific origins, and genre tags can mean different things based on the country in question. For a relevant example, in North America (well, maybe just the United States) the term “nu metal” is often associated with bands with metal-like riffs, hip-hop style grooves and vocals, and shit tons of “woe is me”, whiny, preening bullshit. In a country like Japan, nu metal can mean a band such as Maximum The Hormone.
Ah yes, Maximum The Hormone. It’s been a while since their last studio album Bu-ikikaesu (Up From The Ashes), an album which brought them their greatest mainstream success. This was thanks to the Japanese chart popularity of the single “Koi No Mega Lover” (Megaraba of Love) and the songs “What’s Up People” and “Zetsubo Billy” (Billy in Despair) being used as themes in the widely popular anime Death Note, thus becoming mandatory listening for otakus the world over, myself included. After hearing these songs, I went digging through a lot of their discography and found some really energetic, exciting, and interestingly written songs, and they quickly became one of my new favorite bands. Six years and a couple of hiatuses later, the group is now back with their 5th full length release, Yoshu Fukushu (Our Merciless Home’war’k).
Stylistically speaking, not much has changed. Maximum The Hormone’s broad musical template, a mixture of hardcore punk, nu metal minus the whiny bullshit, and upbeat poppy sensibilities, is still intact. Some songs are played completely straight, while others tend to fluctuate between these ideas with great frequency. The group’s signature vocal dynamic still holds up well here, with Ryo Kawakita handling most of the cleans, drummer Nao handling back-up vocals, and Daisuke handling the unclean vocals/rapping, often simultaneously (that’s gotta be hell on his throat).
There’s a bevy of well written and catchy songs on this album. One of the best tracks is “Chu2 The Beam” (8th Grader Beam), a fast-paced tune whose verses making you want to throw down, but then gets contrasted by an infectious chorus, complete with rhythmic applause, that just makes a big dumb smile appear on your face when you’re listening to it. The same can be said of “Mesubuta no Ketsu ni Binta (kick mo)” (Bitch Ass Slapping and Kicking) that starts off quite hardcore and then moves into an almost pop punk-esque chorus. Another song with a lot of punk energy is the aptly titled “Rock Oremairi (3 Chords De Omai Fullbokko)” (Rocking Retaliation: Beat The Hell Out of You With 3 Chords), which does exactly what the title implies and is possibly the most straightforward track on the album.
“Tsume Tsume Tsume”, released as a single 5 years ago, shows up on this album mostly unchanged. There’s an insertion of what sounds like a live performance of the song somewhere in the middle, but it sounds about the same (which is to say pretty cool). Another previously released track “F” (which I think is about Frieza from DBZ) shows up and is one of the more discernibly nu metal-esque tracks on the album. It’s solidly written, gets you pumped, and also has some cool bass slaps here and there.
Speaking of bass, Futoshi Uehara remains in top form as always on this album. The album gives him a major presence, especially on the track “Maximum the Hormone” (yup: a song named after the band) where his bass work pretty much drives the verses. Another track which he stands out is on the track “A.L.I.E.N”. The manic energy and buzzsaw-like guitar/bass work of the song’s verses, combined with the screeching vocals, immediately call to mind the work of Arsonists Get All The Girls, before it ultimately culminates in a sugary-sweet ending that’ll have you riding ponies in no time.
If there’s any problems with the album, it would have to be that there are a handful of breakdowns sprinkled throughout the latter half, and if that’s not your thing, then the songs “Beauty Colosseum” and “Koi no Sperm” are probably not going to do much for you, even if you find yourself pumped by the energy of the former and happy with the poppish nature of the latter. Overall, the new Maximum the Hormone release is a damn good release and definitely worth the $60 I spent on Amazon to get it… you think I’m joking.
I bought the CD off of Amazon. It’s the only place where I found it available. Link here: http://www.amazon.com/Maximum-Hormone-Yoshuu-Fukushuu-VPCC-81770/dp/B00D5JDCUS/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1383679374&sr=1-1&keywords=yoshu+fukushu
Written by: Robert Barrueco – November 5th, 2013