Knights arrives with a powerful release filled with fresh, danceable and classy tunes coated in some of the best vocal performances in the Ensemble Stars!’s franchise.
Title: Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.2 Knights Label: Pony Canyon Release date: 09/08/2017 Genre: J-Pop/Rock
1 - Article of Faith 2 - Knights the Phantom Thief 3 - Crush of Judgment 4 - Article of Faith (off vocal) 5 - Knights the Phantom Thief (off vocal) 6 - Crush of Judgment (off vocal)
Track by track analysis:
1 – Article of Faith
“Article of Faith“ is dressed in a dance-pop fashion in which synths leads, soothing synth pads, noticeable basslines, and simple, danceable beats are kings. The instrumental’s progression is done flawlessly, creating enough tension when necessary and giving us soothing, quiet sections in which vocals are able to shine.
Even though the whole instrumental is a winner, the chorus is a major highlight. The progression, the buildup, and the delivery, all were made in a way that makes this chorus one of the most addictive in 2017.
The vocal performances caught us off guard. KNIGHTS don’t play around with their performances, almost everyone brings something fresh and unique to the performance.
The result is simple: “Article of Faith” is easily one of the most exciting songs released this past summer and an excellent opening song for this release.
2 – Knights the Phantom Thief
Toning down a bit of its tension, “Knights the Phantom Thief” embraces a groovy, jazz-inspired sound.
Brass introduces a classy element to this instrumental while a funky bassline sets an alluring vibe to this tune, add to it are melodic guitar licks, playful piano melodies, and a tasty saxophone solo and we’re set to go with this loungy and classy vibe.
This instrumental still has a bit of the danceable vibe from the previous track but executes it in an opposite way, one we find is the best to showcase the unit’s vocal prowess and versatility.
This song demanded melodic vocal performances and flourishes and what we got was exactly that. There’s a whole lot of vibrato on this song alongside some smooth performances.
When it comes to choosing someone that stood out we find ourselves unable to. Solo parts, choruses, there’s not a single section in which every member pitches in their best, enrich the overall quality of the vocals. This is the funky tune we didn’t know we needed until we heard it.
3 – Crush of Judgment
The vibe changes completely for “Crush of Judgment”, song that sets aside the groovy melodies and danceable tunes in previous songs to bring back a retro pop-rock sound. Dreamy synths play in the background, blending with the simple rock instrumental to create yet another exciting and fresh tune.
The instrumental might sound fast-paced at times but it’s only an impression – mostly due to some of the synths playing in the background with a different tempo -, for those 3:30 minutes we find a song riding on a solid mid-tempo. The verses are exciting and energetic; however, our attention was grabbed when the chorus kicked in.
The whole late 90’s synth pop-rock vibe culminates in that part. Knights Killers, sub-unit consisting of Asanuma Shintaro (Knights), Hikaru Midorikawa (fine), Shinichiro Kamio (Akatsuki), and Yuki Yonai (Ra*bits), are on vocal duty for this song.
What a lineup and what a performance we got! We couldn’t think of a better song to end this release with, nor we could think about a better lineup to perform this high throttle song as well as what we have here. The performances were powerful and engaging, impressing us from the get-go. Hands down the best song on this release.
KNIGHTS has easily the best release in the 3rd unit song CD series. They are also the unit that is most complete on the vocal end. Daiki Yamashita, Shintaro Asanuma, Masami Ito, Ryo Kitamura, and Reiou Tsuchida brought their best to the table for this release.
They all have melodic singing tones and voice colors that complement each other, creating smooth choruses and stunning harmonies.
In this release, you also find Knights Killers, sub-unit consisting of Shintaro Asanuma (Knights), Hikaru Midorikawa (fine), Shinichiro Kamio (Akatsuki), and Yuki Yonai (Ra*bits) that upped the ante with their energetic performance.
“Article of Faith” set the stage for what would end up being the best release part of the 3rd unit song CD series. Its danceable vibe – that avoided being overwhelming or ridiculous – grabbed our attention. “Knights the Phantom Thief” added a classy touch to this release alongside top-tier, melodic performances.
To wrap this release I found “Crush of Judgment” earning the award for best performance. The vocal performances far exceeded my expectations.
Everyone seemed to click so well for this performance that I couldn’t help but feel blown away when the song came to an end.
In the end, Knight‘s take on the Unit Song CD 3rd series is indeed the best one. The unit upped the ante with this release and set itself apart from the other units in the franchise.
Exciting and well-crafted instrumentals with polished and rich vocals can only lead to something: a quality release. If there’s a single to recommend from this series it’s this one. A true gem of a release.
“Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.2 Knights” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.