Fantôme Iris’ “miroir” is a solid introduction to the band and its tragic, emotional rock sound with a baroque twist.
Fantôme Iris consists of Arthur Lounsbery (on vocals), Wada Masaya, Jun Fukuyama, Tsubasa Yonaga, and Taiyo Ayukawa.
Title: miroir Label: Bushiroad Music Release date: 07/09/2022 Genre: Visual-kei rock
1 - 棺の中のセラヴィ 2 - 銀の百合 3 - Into the Flame 4 - 狂喜のメロディ 5 - ザクロ 6 - XX in Wonderland 7 - 影と光 8 - histoire 9 - ピエロ 10 - Janus 11 - ラプソディア 12 - miroir
Track by track analysis:
1 – 棺の中のセラヴィ
With an atmospheric intro with thunder roaring in the background, you are introduced to the refined yet twisted “Hitsugi no naka no Seraph”.
The verses have quite the surprisingly jolly bounce to them despite the song being rather twisted from its setting to the lyrics.
Pizzicato strings open the verses, bringing celeste, accordion, and fancy harpsichord melodies along the way with chimes, giving this track a full baroque twist to this song.
Although they are present throughout the song, electric guitars make themselves known in the chorus, yet in a subtle way that matches the extravagant mood in this song.
As far as the vocals go, Arthur Lounsbery delivers an effortless performance mainly driven by his natural mid-toned baritone vocals. He matches the mystery and playful tone of the instrumental with a performance that is inviting, almost as if you’re being shown to the ballroom.
Magical and mysterious, “Hitsugi no naka no Seraph” opens this album in style.
2 – 銀の百合
Dark strings and a distorted bassline open the curtains to the dramatic “Gin no Yuri”.
A driving strings melody loops in the background, setting an intense tone to this track. On top of it come the shredding guitars, punchy bassline, and splashy drums.
The tension in the verses carries over to the blasting chorus. As those strings welcome you, the guitars add a sense of freedom, almost like an airy twist, to this track that is enjoyable. It hypes you up but not in an overdone, generic way. It is gripping and the perfect release of tension for a track as intense as this one.
I’m quite fond of the guitar riffs in this song. They go low and heavy, the solo is mesmerizing and equal measures fast and technical. It ends up serving as the perfect contrast to the delicate twist given by the strings.
Arthur Lounsbery’s performance is all about unleashing those emotions, giving an extra boost of excitement that you can feel when the chorus arrives. He makes you want to sing along.
3 – Into the Flame
[As previously reviewed] Low and dirty, “Into the Flame” brings fast-paced, punk-rock-inspired guitar riffs, bassy drums, and dramatic strings to the spotlight.
Its intro is quite intense however the verses have a quieter edge to them, toning down enough to give off a jazzy vibe as Lounsbery goes all melodic for this performance with a mix of clean vocals, vibrato, and head voice that stands out.
The intensity cranks up to the chorus, with the drums going bonkers, completely changing the tempo to the song to an upbeat shredding rock tune that will have you wanting to jump around, scream the lyrics or go absolutely crazy.
“Into the Flame” is not an easy song to tackle on the vocal end. Arthur Lounsbery is singing insanely fast in the chorus in parts that are a mouthful, even for native Japanese speakers. Really. Lounsbery is matching the ridiculously fast tempo on the drums with his performance. That’s no easy feat.
And he went through those lyrics with energy, intensity, and clarity that impress. His energy kept going on and on. When the song wraps up, you’ll be left drained but really satisfied.
4 – 狂喜のメロディ
[As previously reviewed] Wrapping up this single is “Kyoki no Melody”, a song that explores a slightly simpler rock sound, with a reverberating bassline leading the way.
Strings join in for part of the intro, making an appearance mid-way through the verses but those are used mostly as an accent.
This song is all about its groove, with that being a big focus in the drums – really heavy on the bass drum – and the punchy bassline that serves as the heartbeat to this track.
The chorus will have you jam along to the fancy mix of loud, low guitar riffs and strings, constantly fighting for the spotlight as the drums keep the pacing and Arthur Lounsbery skillfully tackles the differences in tempo, the slight legato endings to some words and, ultimately, breathes life to this song.
The bridge gets dramatic with the strings going for an interesting staccato section as the electric guitar blasts its way through this song with an insane solo that will hype you up.
5 – ザクロ
[As previously reviewed] Muffled vocals, gated guitars, and drums create a unique intro to the intense rock tune “Zakuro”.
Progressing from the muffled section, the instrumental goes in full blast with guitars shredding their way through the song as drums pound in the background. The contrast from that part – early on in every verse – to the actual tension right after is quite interesting.
Actually, the verses themselves have at least 3 different parts: the crazy fun and intensity at full blast in the first part of the verse; the transition to a slightly “jazzier”, mellower part that puts the focus on the bassline, funky guitar riffs and vocals and then the part leading to the pre-chorus that cranks up the tension, however, not with the same power as the first part of the verse itself.
This alone is more than enough to add a pinch of unpredictability to the song – at least for those listening to it for the very first time – and make it an awesome song to revisit because there is so much going on that you may find new things with every new listen.
Given how rich and crafty the verses are, the chorus will be a blur to you when the song wraps up. At least, for me, that’s what happened. In contrast to the verses, the chorus is straightforward with high-throttle guitars and uptempo drums leading the way.
Now, another part that struck me was the insane guitar solo in this song. SID’s Shinji – an absolute master on guitar – absolutely rocks this section, delivering a shredding performance that will have you on the edge of your seat. The sheer quality and technicality of this part alone are worth checking this song out.
Despite the relative chaos going on in the song, Arthur Lounsbery’s performance is composed and quite calm in contrast. There’s a unique charisma in the way he’s approaching the song, never sounding overly emotional and seeming like none of that chaos affects him. As far as technique goes, Lounsbery brings vibrato to his arsenal and tackles a couple of legato sections; however, the focus in this performance was on sounding incredibly melodic, something he pulled off with ease.
6 – XX in Wonderland
Slow, melancholic guitar riffs open the doors to what is, surprisingly, a heavy song that is a behemoth to play on the drums.
“XX in Wonderland” is all about its blasting bass sound with the drums and bass going hard on it to the point that there is a lot of groove – with a dark twist – in this track.
When the chorus kicks in, things change slightly, going the melodic route with the strings accompanying Arthur Lounsbery’s vocals as the drums and bass punch their way through the instrumental.
The guitars are tuned low, giving that drop D twist to the performance, taking this song through a darker route than expected.
The pre-solo is led by the bass which does a stunning job of keeping the groove at a high level while not disregarding the aggressive twist to this track. When the guitar solo kicks in, you’re already headbanging to this track (and wishing you could watch this song being performed live).
An unexpected yet welcomed banger in this album.
7 – 影と光
“Kage to hikari” kicks off with a delicate, emotional sound that is contrasting with everything you’ve heard so far in the album.
The verses are all about its punchy bassline and funky guitar riffs, adding a splash of jazz to the band’s rock sound. Strings add a layer of beauty on top of this
The chorus fully embraces the beauty of strings, with them serving as the perfect backdrop for Arthur’s emotional performance.
Now, the guitar solo is something else completely. Slowly, through those legato notes, the tremolo added to the final parts, the guitar screams to you, pouring its heart out. During the time the solo is playing, you just sit there and take in the emotions unleashed in this part.
If you’re looking for a tune that is all about being melodic and emotional – in good measures – Fantôme Iris sure knows how to deliver.
8 – histoire
[As previously reviewed] Acoustic guitars and delicate strings do the honors for histoire. The song flows in classic SID fashion – MAO and Shinji are in the composer and lyricists team –, with groovy verses and classy plus catchy choruses.
The instrumental brings jazz vibes, mixing those with rock and classic elements. Strings have the spotlight in this song, shifting from legato to pizzicato to enhance certain phrases.
Once again, the strings + acoustic guitar combo does it for me. It gives a rustic and classic touch to the song without mellowing it too much. As a result, the song flows smoothly and seamlessly from the verses to the chorus and into the engaging guitar solo in the bridge.
I can’t stress enough how much I like the whole vibe of this song.
On the vocal end, Arthur Lounsbery goes for a pretty complete performance. Not only does he do it with flair – spreading a bit of his magic with vibrato and falsetto throughout the song – but he also showcases confidence as the frontman which really impresses me.
Not many seiyuu can say that they have attempted to perform visual-kei and ended up sounding like the real deal (aside from Fantôme Iris’ Arthur Lounsbery, and a shout-out to FlyME Project’s MEDICODE and DRINK ME and Band Yarouze!’s OSIRIS) and not just a seiyuu singing along to a visual-kei song.
Visual-kei, aside from the looks, is a movement that, when imbued into music, demands a certain delivery, a certain theatricality that is hard to capture. Top marks for both Lounsbery’s performance and the awesome instrumental that serves as his stage.
9 – ピエロ
[As previously reviewed] Orchestral instrumentalization opens the curtains for “Pierrot”.
The intro may lead you to think that you’ll be in for a circus-y song however the song quickly changes its tone, bringing low, aggressive guitar riffs, bassy drums, and a thunderous bassline to the spotlight.
The pre-chorus does have that circus vibe, with what seems like a music box with glitchy guitar riffs playing off-tune in the background.
And then, the chorus brings forth quite the intense instrumentalization with guitars screaming, drums hitting harder and harder with an addictive groove at its core, bassline reverberating throughout, and some synths playing in the background to balance things out what is, without it, a really bass-centric instrumental.
This circus theme in “Pierrot” is way darker and broken than initially expected how well does this song? Way too good.
The bridge goes dark and quiet for a couple of seconds before a high-tension, exciting double guitar solo paints the soundscape black. A neat detail is found right at the end of the outro, with the drums going ballistic on the double bass pedal.
Arthur Lounsbery goes theatrical for this performance, with vibrato playing an important role in fleshing out the drama in the lyrics.
When this song wraps you, you’ll be left wanting more.
10 – Janus
“Janus” is pure bliss for fans of fast-paced rock with a baroque twist. The drama arrives through the legato strings in the background, creating the setting for this tune.
The harpsichord goes loud in this track, leading the way in the first part of the verses before giving way to the double bass drums and low guitar riffs leading up to the chorus.
The chorus is made for headbanging with riveting drums and relentless guitar riffs that will take your breath away. Prepare yourself to enjoy this one a lot.
For fans of fast, technical, and melodic guitar solos, “Janus” more than delivers that, going absolutely bonkers in this part, creating a sort of suffocating vibe that is only countered by the arrival of the last chorus.
11 – ラプソディア
A dramatic piano, an eerie choir, and timpani create a dark, emotional soundscape for “rhapsodia”.
This is something that will easily stand out as you listen to this song: it is incredibly cinematic, creating a grandiose scene with FELIX at centerstage as an orchestra plays in front of him and a choir protects his back.
The stage is set, however…“rhapsodia” is not your regular Fantôme Iris song. It has layers and layers, almost like scenes in a play. You have several parts in this play: a dramatic intro, the airy 1st chorus, the blasting 2nd verse and chorus, and the eerie intermission down to the shredding outro.
This song only grows in tension the more you get closer to its end, with Arthur Lounsbery delivering a stunning performance on top. Drama and nostalgia overflow from his performance, painting a dark soundscape white.
When “rhapsodia” wraps up, you’ll be wanting more.
12 – miroir
“miroir” wraps up this album in such a beautiful – even if slightly tragic – way.
Nostalgia takes over in this delicate instrumental led by the legato strings. Complementing it are the electric and acoustic guitars, a punchy bassline, and tireless drums chasing a memory of the past.
To set that mood, the drums go low to the toms in the first verse, slowly easing you into the emotional performance that awaits you. As the song progresses, the perfect synergy between the electric and acoustic guitars shines, adding a unique warmth with a twinge of pain underneath. This feeling stays with you as the song progresses.
The reverbed guitar solo is brief but so, so good, unleashing all the bottled-up emotions going on in the instrumental up until the moment.
On the vocal end, Arthur Lounsbery goes for an emotional performance, bringing a lot of legato alongside a bit of vibrato – which ends up being a nice touch in the chorus. He is stead
Easily the best song on this album.
Fantôme Iris has been impressing with its refined yet tragic visual-kei rock sound. The band shows, from time to time, influences of groove metal, speed metal, jazz, and funk but it stays true to its classy rock sound (adding bits and pieces from various music genres).
Having SID’s Mao mainly in charge of what are some of the best songs in this album shows that the band’s tragic, baroque vampire fantasy concept does work well with SID’s acid-jazz emotional performances.
By bringing elements of their sound or even some quirks in the vocal direction, Fantôme Iris shows its best side: the emotional one.
Arthur Lounsbery excels in having this sort of cool, distant, and brooding vibe when performing, hinting at a tragic past, and, as a result, his performances throughout this album are overflowing with emotion.
The best song in this album is hands down, “miroir”. This is one of those songs which I can’t stop replaying. I don’t want it to end. It’s beautiful, and refined, but tragic and dark at the same time.
There is a nostalgic story in there and Arthur Lounsbery (as FELIX) does a bloody awesome job fleshing out those emotions to deliver what is the best performance so far with Fantôme Iris.
Now, while I rated this album quite high, there is something amiss overall that can’t be quantified by a 5/5 or a ⅘ ranking.
Don’t get me wrong, the album is good, but far from memorable when you listen to it from start to finish with no pauses (as intended).
While the CD is overflowing with bangers and baroque-inspired rock tunes (a treat for those that love a vampire fantasy type of concept), showing a lot of consistency, by the end of listening to this album, there is only 1 song that stays with me: “miroir”.
The consistency in tone, lyrics, mood, and instrumental across all songs is an extremely positive thing that makes this album worth checking (and has a lot of replay value if you really love the band’s concept), however, there is a downside to it that may end up putting aside potential new fans: aside from a couple of details here and there (that may not even be noticeable on a first listen), there isn’t necessarily that much variety in this CD.
Once again, I’m nitpicking but there is certainly something lacking in this album that makes me want to listen to the album again instead of just some of its songs.
All in all, Fantôme Iris’ “miroir” is a solid introduction to the band and its tragic, emotional rock sound with a baroque twist.
“miroir” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.