With his new album Frontier, Mamoru makes his second comeback this year, not making us fans wait too long for something new. His last release was the single シャイン in the first quarter of this year. Mamoru‘s last album is a somewhat distant memory for those of you who remember Passage, an amazing album full of good songs with a different genre from what we were used to listen from him.
So without any further ado let’s get this review started.
More details regarding the single:
Single: Frontier Label: King Records Release date: 16/09/15 Genre: J-Pop/Dance
The tracklist is the following:
FIGHT FOR LOVE
CAN’T EVER LET YOU GO
Magic (WEST LA REMIX)
Track by track analysis:
Penned by Mamoru himself, Frontier is a track that clearly shows sign of being created by STY. Starting with a simple instrumental mainly created around some basic drums and synth pads, we have Mamoru‘s opportunity to shine right from the beginning with his beautiful high notes. Although the instrumental seems to be the same throughout the intro of Frontier, the truth is that we have some new elements added here and there, such as a muted piano and some strings in the background that if you listen to the track with some attention you’ll notice. It isn’t until we reach the pre-chorus that we have some powerful percussion typical of STY making us remember Unstoppable also created by him.
From this point on we have more of the typical elements that we usually listen to in those more danceable tracks of Mamoru such as in New Order, but adapted to a track with slower tempo such as this one. We can say for sure that this track is different from any other track we’ve listened from him, despite the fact that we can still recognize his trademark “sound”. The perfect track to start this album. 5/5
2- Break it!
This is the track that titles the single and it starts with Mamoru and the guitars that easily give this track a more drum&bass feel to it. Needless to say that the person behind this instrumental is STY that has already worked with Mamoru in his previous work such as New Order and with his song Unstoppable and if we have this in account it will make sense why this song is so addictive. This track has more highlight to the drums and the guitars. The synths in the chorus and guitar just make this song even better. This track has a good build-up since the beginning until reaching the chorus where it “explodes” leaving place to once again the drums and the rest of the instrumental shine and also to Mamoru to use his vocals. Break it! is the opening theme of the anime Cardfight!! Vanguard G in which he also has a role. 4.5/5
Starting off with a powerful intro mainly focused on the strings and the beautiful yet dramatic piano with some synth pads at the background we have Evolve. This slightly orchestral instrumental gets heavy when we reach the chorus with some drums and bass that add some grandiosity to the instrumental, but quickly we’ll return to the slow and less orchestral instrumental. Evolve has a good balance between these two different genres, which is good because otherwise we could have an overcrowded track, something that’s always bad. In the chorus we return to the orchestral instrumental with strings that guide us alongside the drums and muted guitar plus the bass that is very noticeable, almost like it is in “solo-mode”. The outro is slow but still has the drums, bass and the strings that follows us throughout all the song. The piano is definitely one of the most beautiful instruments played in this track, even though we cannot listen to it all the time, but the few times that we can actually do it is simply amazing how crystal clear it sounds and how well it mixes into the rest of the instrumental. 5/5
4- Naked tango
Following the title of this track Naked tango really starts as your typical tango song. Now if you think we’ll have a tango track sang by Mamoru then you’re mistaken, because the tango-like intro is really small and we quickly notice the transition to a more “jazzy” instrumental. With a piano, drums and bandoneon plus the piano we have the perfect mix for creating the whole “jazzy/tango” genre in this track. Naked tango is certainly a more laid back track, and a good change of pace in the album, also this track gives the opportunity for Mamoru to show us yet another time that he really knows how to sing well without failing a single note, showing us his versatility. The main focus in this track’s chorus is the bass that it really noticeable, on the other hand we have a outro that is different from what we’re used to, leaving the bandoneon to shine. 5/5
5- Fight for love
With an electronica intro we have Fight for love. This track has a good instrumental with some synths pads, piano and a guitar, but somehow it doesn’t seem to have its usual power, well that is only until we reach the pre-chorus. We then have a guitar in solo and Mamoru singing with his voice manipulated, but quickly we return to the previous instrumental. Now for those of you who are thinking why this song sounds so different from the usual, the answer is because it was a different person to create it; this time instead of Jin Nakamura or STY we have SHOW helping Mamoru, and I think it is pretty obvious that this instrumental clearly has a lack of energy in comparison with others. Even with all this said Fight for love is one of those tracks that you cannot hate, because it has its good parts, in this case the pre-chorus and the outro (especially) but the overall isn’t bad either, still that lack of energy is somewhat a not so good aspect of this song. 4/5
6- New Order
We now reach the middle of this album. Starting with Mamoru’s vocals and the electronica elements, both the synths and the drums make it clear that this music was made for the dancefloor. The heavy synths reverberate together with the bass giving that extra power to make the synths deliver one amazing instrumental piece. The buildup in the song quite resembles a lot with the one in the song “Unstoppable” from the album “Passage”. This time we have a bit of voice manipulation to go well with the heavy electronica-driven instrumental but when needed he delivers the most angelic of tones with his high notes. STY worked on the arrangement, lyrics and composition of this track and that is quite noticeable.
As already mentioned the track Unstoppable pops into my mind when I listen to this single and why is that? The heavy presence of synths and bass elements is always brought by STY to Mamoru’s tracks. That electronic pop is his trademark easily spotted on Mamoru’s work so far, tracks like スーパーノヴァ or GOLDEN NIGHT -futuremix- are good examples of the use of those elements. Extremely addictive song; at the first listen it will certainly make an impact. 5/5
7- Trust me
With a fast tempo instrumental, we have Trust me, a slightly more dance oriented track. Heavy synths and guitar are the main focus in the track. In this track Mamoru opted for rapping at the beginning and then switched to his normal singing in the pre-chorus and chorus. It has to be brought to attention, that Trust me‘s chorus is actually surprisingly pretty good, it has the heavy synths from the beginning and all, but somehow in the chorus it just sounds so well maybe due to the other pad that was added to the instrumental. This track was created by another different person, this time it was TSUGE, the man behind Transform, so one can see why the instrumental sounds distinct once more. Although, more recently Mamoru has been more in the electronic genre, it cannot be said that this hard/heavy electronica genre is always the best choice for him, now let’s be honest he can still sing his best but the instrumental sometimes makes the track a little bit difficult to listen to. Even with all this said, this track shows us that Mamoru can pull off any genre and sing it well. 4.5/5
8- Can’t ever let you go
Can’t ever let you go is a ballad, a not so unexpected choice from Mamoru given the thought that he always has at least one in ever album of his, so we can expect good things from it. With a piano, drums and a bass that really mix in really well, we complete the perfect stage for Mamoru to shine all he wants in this laid back ballad. The flutes that come and go were a good addition and the piano that is minimum but still was able to put the rest of the instrumental together. Can’t ever let go is a track with a simple acoustic guitar that, as the flutes, appears here and there. 4.5/5
9- Magic (WEST LA REMIX)
Magic was already released in the previous single Break it!, this time we have its remix. The original track had trumpets and shamisen that really made the instrumental more oriental, on the other hand, the remix has the synths doing the work of the trumpets and also making the instrumental more mysterious. Although Mamoru‘s vocal performance is being manipulated it mixes very well into the track. The bass is also to be the subject of our attention, because not only does it give some extra power but it also helps it make up for the lack of shamisen that was in the original version. Also we have to be on the look out for the piano in the pre-chorus, an unexpected choice but nevertheless a good one, complementing the changes that were done in this remix. Magic‘s remix can be described as a slow tempo track with the right elements changing this track to an urban one, and we must say that it was a good decision. 4.5/5
10- Don’t stop!
Don’t stop! is a little different from what we’re used to listen from Mamoru, starting with a powerful guitar, brass and as if wasn’t enough we even have some electronica elements in it as well. Now don’t get scared of what’s coming next, because the instrumental makes a turnover and transforms into a rock oriented one; so maybe you’re thinking that it’s unusual for him to do so, but the truth is カノン was a rock song and it worked out really well, possibly it even made some of you wish he’d sing like that more often, well in this track the same could be said if the intro wasn’t so exaggerated, because the rest of the track is pretty good, a rather fresh option from Mamoru but still a good one.
The balance between the electronic, rock and brass elements was really well kept in almost all parts of the track, except for the intro, as mentioned earlier. The chorus is really showing us Mamoru‘s rock side, whereas the outro is calm but still has some space for him to shine. Amazing guitar solo, not to fast but still with some spike to it, really made this track complete. 4.5/5
Starting off this single we have シャイン, an electronic track with lots of synths and piano that easily mix well with the anime’s theme, and the reason behind it? Well it’s easy, because it was Elements Garden that created this song, so it is obvious that the synths and the amazing piano that has some more highlight here and there to be in this track. This time instead of betting on a more rock instrumental we have an electronic pop song that makes us addicted to it with the first time listening to it, and earlier I mentioned that SHINE wasn’t a pop/rock song but it definitely still has some guitars, they aren’t as powerful as in カノン, for example, but at the same time they fit in the instrumental perfectly so we don’t have any complaints. 5/5
To end this this album we have ただ、そばにいて (tada soba ni ite) another ballad with a simple and yet beautiful piano, with this song we have once again a chance to be reassured by Mamoru‘s vocal performance. ただ、そばにいて is a simple track instrumental wise, but still the emotional toll is vast. It is until after you reach the first chorus that we have the other elements make their appearance, such as the bass and guitar, but they still are overshadowed by the piano, only once in a while you’ll listen to them, the drums make its appearance after. Although the instrumental doesn’t evolve into anything more or less than the beginning we can really understand that the main focus is supposed to be Mamoru‘s vocal performance. ただ、そばにいて was the best choice to end this album.5/5
Frontier‘s an amazing album with lots of good things to say. We can say that Mamoru really gave his all trying to show us that he is versatile, like in Naked tango, Trust me with his rap and Don’t stop! with a rock side revealed once again, and we must say that it really is good to see Mamoru trying new genres. Other tracks like Can’t ever let you go or ただ、そばにいて, beautiful ballads that really show us his power as a singer and that he not only sings well his normal tracks but when it’s needed he gets all the notes and uses his amazing vibrato.
Regarding other tracks we have Magic, that even though it was already released in a previous single, the remix version is really good, with a urban touch and the combo of the electronic elements really made the track refreshing. Frontier was a really good track penned by Mamoru himself and with the help of STY it turned out to be one of the best tracks in the album, and the best way to kick it off. Evolve was an unexpected track with a new approach that was different, instead of just focusing on the electronic elements we have a combo of orchestral, guitar and bass that was really well done maintaining the balance between the elements which could prove to be difficult.
Overall this album was really good with only one less good song, Fight for love due to its lack of energy, but other than that this album was good showing some of the best sides of Mamoru and exploring some others, like a more rock oriented on, like we could notice in Don’t stop! something that some of the fans will want to see in the near future happen more frequently. Frontier showed us once again that Mamoru is versatile and that he’s always trying to incorporate some new things here and there which is good.
“FRONTIER” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.