HOUND ROAR brings its classy and mysterious acid-jazz sound to the spotlight with the flawless 1st mini-album “PETAL”.
What is DIG-ROCK?
DIG-ROCK is a 2D rock music franchise created by TEAM Entertainment in 2019. The franchise branches out from the drama CD series, MintLip. This is a mixed media project that incorporates music with drama CDs.
Title: PETAL Label: TEAM Entertainment Inc. Release date: 04/05/2022 Genre: Acid-Jazz/funk-rock
1 - bloom（instrumental） 2 - ROAR 3 - syndrome 4 - Reincarnation 5 - Eyes 6 - Betrayal [NEW SONG] 7 - ROAR (off vocal) 8 - syndrome (off vocal) 9 - Reincarnation (off vocal) 10 - Eyes (off vocal) 11 - Betrayal (off vocal)
Track by track analysis:
1 – bloom（instrumental）
HOUND ROAR kicks this mini-album off with a cinematic and elegant instrumental track in “bloom”, smoothly taking the listener to what is one hell of a fun mini-album to listen to.
2 – ROAR
[As previously reviewed] Funky guitar riffs are HOUND ROAR’s greeting card in “ROAR”. But sooner you’ll understand that this band shines a whole lot in the bass department.
The slap bassline is fat and punchy, lending a lot from jazz and funk, creating a danceable sound at the same time that it leads the way for all other instruments in this song.
Complementing the massive bassline are fast-paced jazz-inspired drums following an odd-time signature and loungy piano melodies that help set a laidback tone to this track.
The verses have a lot of flair and the chorus is incredibly melodic, with Toyonaga’s falsetto pitch vocals being the perfect contrast to that striking bassline.
On the vocal end, Toshiyuki Toyonaga is in his element, showcasing a lot of comfort in his range, shifting between higher and lower-toned sections seamlessly, adding vibrato and falsetto on top of it all while exuding a charisma that fits the band’s jazz-rock sound like a glove.
Absolute masterclass by Toyonaga on the vocal end.
All and all, “ROAR” arrives as a flawless debut song by HOUND ROAR, setting the bar pretty high for upcoming releases while embracing an exciting unique sound within the DIG-ROCK franchise.
3 – syndrome
[As previously reviewed] HOUND ROAR is back at it with “syndrome“, song that kicks off on a melancholic note. However, expect the song to bring you the bass goodness that is now a big greeting card of theirs.
The bassline is punchy and groovy while the funky guitar riffs and rhodes piano melodies paint a summery soundscape in which you’ll want to lose yourself in.
The verses and the chorus have a comfortable tempo, basking in the moonlight as you dance your problems away to the funky rhythms in this song.
The chorus is incredibly catchy and the guitar + bass combo work is off the charts, from the driving bassline to the melodic guitar solo in the bridge, there wasn’t a single moment these two instruments weren’t shining.
I love the good, laidback vibes in “syndrome“.
It’s the perfect marriage of jazz, rock, and funk and it works incredibly well with the band’s whole vibe, of course, with Toshiyuki Toyonaga, it’s incredibly easy to make it work.
I am talking about the bonafide vocal chameleon in the seiyuu industry. The best singer among seiyuu.
And he confidently takes over the song and makes it his with a stellar performance that taps into his melodic, low-to-mid-toned vocal register. And it honestly sounds effortless from him.
He sways the listener with the legato on his vocals in the verses and completely hypnotizes you with a performance brimming with life in the chorus.
This is Toyonaga at his finest.
All in all, HOUND ROAR, are quickly turning into my favorite band in the DIG-ROCK franchise.
They embraced an acid-jazz/jazz-funk sound that I love and it is very reminiscent of SID’s work – another reason why this band’s sound instantly clicked with me -, and to top it all off, Toyonaga is, as usual, a treat to listen to.
4 – Reincarnation
[As previously reviewed] A fade-in acoustic guitar melody opens the curtains to “Reincarnation“, song with a completely different intensity from the band’s previous songs.
The verses are comfortably paced however, the fun comes with the chorus. It is fast-paced, bringing forth an intense and extremely punchy jazz-rock sound.
But fear not, the tone to the whole track is still loungy and pretty groovy, the kind of music that will make you want to either sit back and relax to the good vibes or hit the dancefloor to enjoy the track.
This track has quite a unique structure, with the verses actually making space for an awesome section in which the bassline goes bonkers, bringing out all the groove and more. Since it arrives way earlier than the bridge does – in which there’s a neat, albeit brief, guitar solo – so it’s best to call it an intermission or solo section.
In that intermission, there are also Latin-style acoustic guitar riffs used as flourishes to this track, something that I believe is a nice, subtle touch to this track. And although but a small detail, the drums fill in the big section is pure bliss for jazz fans, with the drums playing around with your notions of tempo and beats.
Wah-wah guitar riffs, elegant piano + rhodes melodies, bass for days, and jazz drums going bonkers as they put chaos in the spotlight. This is HOUND ROAR at its best.
On the vocal end, Toshiyuki Toyonaga is overflowing with energy. He’s singing at a faster pace than the song itself something that is already an indication that you’re in for an entertaining time.
He adds a lot of raw energy to the already electrifying instrumental that we all have in hand. But there’s more to his performance. In the verses, he goes for a classy performance filled with groove and emotion. In a way, that’s the only time in which he actually tones down the speed in his performance, giving you a bit of breathing space.
But when he cranks up the intensity, battling it out with the instrumental? That’s when things are really fun.
It is also worth noting that Toyonaga this time around brought a couple of ad-libs and riffing to his performance, something that raises the overall quality of his performance.
When everything is said and done, HOUND ROAR wasn’t shy about showcasing its versatility on all fronts and doing so while being incredibly confident and charismatic.
That’s another top-tier performance from the jazz-funk band.
5 – Eyes
[As previously reviewed] A rhodes piano melody slowly leads the way for “Eyes”. This is an elegant downtempo jazz-rock tune that is all about creating a loungy, classy soundscape for you to enjoy.
The beat is uneven, with a ¾ tempo leading the way as the focus rests on the fun transitions between hi-hat and snare.
At the same time, the bassline is massive, reverberating in your ears as soon as it makes its entrance, and the guitars have a playful edge to them while not venturing to funk territory – like in previous songs.
The chorus builds up upon the foundations laid out by the verses, increasing the tension while adding a mysterious vibe to the song, something that Toshiyuki Toyonaga further heightens with his performance.
Listeners can expect the unpredictability of jazz to take over in the intermission to the 2nd verse which is a nice touch that arrives at a really unexpected point in the song. That, allied with the crazy guitar work in that section, make this song all the more interesting to listen to again and again, always picking up new elements within it with each listen.
Toshiyuki Toyonaga goes for a technical performance, bringing whispery mid-tones to the verses and a unique sweetness, something I believe further enhances the “mature” vibe of this song. But there’s more to his performance. He brought his vibrato to this performance, using it alongside legato and even in some ad-libs.
As you can tell, this time around everything about “Eyes” is jazz-rock, which makes it have a less “danceable” vibe and, instead exuding maturity and elegance you didn’t find in previous songs.
This is an important addition to HOUND ROAR’s repertoire, showcasing that the band is more than their playful brand of acid jazz, being able to pull off the mature and highly technical jazz that takes you to a dimly lit bar and serves you a drink as you get to watch the band giving a pulse to the bar itself.
This is what I like the most about how jazz music is approached by 2D music projects and HOUND ROAR has managed to pull that off in “Eyes”. It certainly leaves me wanting more from them in this style – although the funky acid-jazz they have going on is also a treat to listen to.
6 – Betrayal
Emotional piano melodies paint an empty soundscape. Muted guitar chords slowly and sparingly add a touch of drama to the stage opening up in front of you.
“Betrayal” has a unique style and sound in comparison to all other songs on this CD. The tone is emotional and there is sadness underneath, something that, no matter how exciting the bassline or drums go, you can’t ever shake off.
This time around the vocals end up stealing the show – instead of both instrumental and vocals doing that, like in all other HR songs -, with Toshiyuki Toyonaga making the best out of the slow-paced bass-driven instrumental.
Everything about the verses is deliberate. The sound is quiet, the drums are slow-paced and bassy. The bassline gives life to the instrumental but instead of sounding funky, it is intense and emotional. Don’t expect this song to make you want to dance or lounge around. This is one of those songs you’d be listening to by the end of a set by a jazz band. It sounds like a dramatic goodbye.
The chorus tries to change things around slightly but the tone is always decadent.
As far as the vocals go, Toshiyuki Toyonaga brings a lot of emotion to his performance but just like the instrumental, he bottles it in order to unleash it in the chorus. The verses have a lot of legato going on in there but the chorus is the one that impresses for its subtle technicality. The tone goes up and down, vibrato is insanely controlled so as to not reverberate (it’s that subtle) and the legato sections pack a lot of emotion going towards the following verse.
“Betrayal” arrives to showcase yet another dimension to HOUND ROAR’s sound, one that is decadent – as most jazz is in tone – and darker in the soundscape it presents.
The highlight medley is out.
HOUND ROAR has a refreshing, refined, and fun acid-jazz sound that will feel both loungy and dancefloor-ready to anyone coming across them.
“PETAL” neatly compiles the band’s first singles in a perfect release that is all about good vibes, technical, unpredictable jazz rhythms, and Toshiyuki Toyonaga’s jaw-dropping versatility.
In jazz fashion, the mini-album kicks off with an instrumental track “bloom” which sets a classy tone for this release.
“ROAR” is slap-bass goodness, with quite the addictive rhythm going on. As a debut song, it was incredibly strong – and made quite the impression for how different it sounded from all other 2D groups out there – and it still holds itself insanely well despite how much the band’s sound has evolved.
“syndrome“ continues to be a fan favorite for a big reason: it has everything you’d want in an acid-jazz song. The rhythm is addictive, the bassline is punchy, the piano melodies (bright and rhodes pianos are used in this song) are dreamy, the guitars have all the funk and more to deliver and those drums are insanely complex.
All create a summery, loungy soundscape that you can’t leave behind.
At center stage, Toshiyuki Toyonaga shows everyone why he’s the best singer among male seiyuu. Poise, charisma, and high level of technicality with all those crescendos, vibrato, breathy notes, constant changes of tempo, and ad-libs, are just some of the ridiculously awesome things he pulls off in this performance, taking “syndrome” to a whole other level.
“Reincarnation” is yet another loungy, danceable hit by HOUND ROAR, showcasing an even funkier side to the band’s sound.
The song kicks off acoustic, which is a rarity in their repertoire, and carries over like that, pairing that acoustic guitar with an electric, giving way to some of the funkiest riffs the band has offered so far.
But the bassline and drums are not to be disregarded as their technicality and quality are the heart of this song. Jazz takes over in the drums while the bassline goes off to groovy territory with a melodic and punchy rhythm leading the way.
On top of it all is the classy piano work that gives a jolly touch to this song, making the perfect contrast with the bassy instrumental.
“Eyes” is all about jazz, bringing its unpredictability to the spotlight, giving way to the piano and rhodes to take over. The tone is mysterious, and alluring, with Toshiyuki Toyonaga’s performance being hypnotizing (the R&B touch to his performance in the bridge is a highlight).
Everything about this song screams “elegance”, making it a perfect example of what HOUND ROAR’s sound is all about.
The band brought a new song along for this mini-album.
“Betrayal” arrives as a disruptive song. Up until now, HOUND ROAR was all about its playful, elegant, and bouncy sound. Happiness – even in the middle of jazz’s decadence – was a big thing.
Well, for this song the tone is completely different. This is an emotional song with an emphasis on “decadence” as a feeling that set the tone for the performance. As a result, the instrumental is slower-paced than usual, there are more hits than continuous riffs or melodies going on. In a way, you can say that the instrumental – at least in the verses – sounds “broken”. The vocals had to change around in terms of style to fit the tone of the song and Toyonaga Toshiyuki went for a gripping performance.
All in all, “PETAL” is a flawless mini-album by the most elegant and refreshing 2D band in Japan.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to purchase this CD, believe me, it is well worth the purchase (especially if you avoided the drama + music CDs some of these songs were included with).
HOUND ROAR‘s “Petal” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.