Known as the most aggressive rocker – personality and sound – in the Dear Vocalist franchise, Judah ends up delivering the most romantic album in the franchise with “Display“.
Title: ディスプレイ Label: Rejet Release date: 24/03/2021 Genre: Rock / Hardrock / Acoustic
1 - ディスプレイ 2 - 仮説 3 - MY BLEACH 4 - TSK!! TSK!! 5 - 飛翔 6 - 2 of a Kind 7 - エスカレーション! 8 - I Can't Say GoodBye 9 - 最愛 10 - SECRET♥DRAMA（Dummyhead mic drama track）
Track by track analysis:
1 – ディスプレイ
Fast paced guitar riffs lead the way for the high-throttle “Display”.
The verses feature a clash of guitars parts, with lower toned riffs on your left and bright, technical riffs on your right. The bassline is punchy, playing at centerstage with the exciting double-bass drums.
The transition from verses to chorus is seamless, with the tension and speed in the verses carrying over to the explosive chorus.
The guitar solo packs a lot of emotion and goes on for a perfect length.
On the vocal hand, Soma Saito goes for a performance tapping more into his natural tenor range rather than Judah’s raspy lower tenor singing tone. It may sound a bit odd or even different because it doesn’t sound like “Judah” but it does work surprisingly well.
2 – 仮説
Warm acoustic guitar riffs and a clap track set a mellow tone to “Kasetsu”, track that will take you on an emotional trip, even more so if you’ve been following Judah’s story unravel in the drama parts throughout these past 6 years.
The verses are stripped down, with acoustic guitars and a simple beat accompanying Soma Saito’s emotional mid-tones and tender vibrato.
The pre-chorus adds minimalistic, atmospheric synths in the background, creating a wide soundscape in which the chorus thrives, gently painting it in a passionate way.
The piano melodies reach you with longing and, as the acoustic guitars strum close to you it’s noticeable that this song is both a realization and a confession.
Beautiful track and quite the surprise, as this is the first time Judah releases a stripped down, acoustic song.
3 – MY BLEACH
Overdriven guitar riffs change the tone to this CD yet again. The sound in “MY BLEACH“ is dirty thanks to those fat guitar riffs, slow-paced, melodic bassline and preying bass-drum driven drums.
It’s undeniable that there’s a suggestive edge to this song, with Soma Saito fleshing out that with his rich performance filled with vibrato, riffing and fancy decrescendos and crescendos raising the tension in the song.
His mid-tones are rock solid, even going for long notes and, as those notes fade out, effortlessly give them a twist by going for a crescendo.
This is not only an insanely charismatic performance by Saito but also confident display of skill.
The song itself has an underlying feeling of “I love you so I want to change myself for you and meet you halfway” which, for those that have followed the drama CDs is a big moment in Judah’s character development.
4 – TSK!! TSK!!
Now exploring the oldies but goodies you’ll come across “TSK!! TSK!!”, the most aggressive rock tune in Judah’s repertoire (at least, so far).
The guitar riffs are imposing from the get-go, the drums pack quite the punch in the verses and the bassline is punchy throughout.
The song goes full-throttle in the chorus, with overdriven guitars sharing the spotlight with the bassy drums. The breakdown in the bridge will stand out for its loud and aggressive tone, lending a bit of inspiration from nu-metal in there.
Soma Saito delivers a rocking performance that starts with annoyance at its core, hence the tongue click as the guitars introduce you to the first verse.
From then on, Saito is on top of his game with a lot of power in those mid-tones. Occasionally, he uses his vibrato to enrich or put emphasis on a particular section or word, which is a nice touch that adds variety to his performance.
Then you have to steady long notes in which he flaunts both his singing skills as well as his stamina to pull those off.
One of the best songs in his repertoire by far.
5 – 飛翔
“Hisho” has a dreamy soundscape waiting for you. The piano melodies are ethereal, the guitar riffs are distant while Soma Saito gently guides you to the shredding verses.
Dynamics change dramatically for this section with synths moving away from the soundscape and giving way for a punchy slap bassline, hard-hitting snary drums and shredding guitar riffs.
The tone may be different from the intro but the feelings of “freedom” and “adventure” are there, carrying over to the powerful chorus.
The dreamy piano melodies return in the bridge, giving back that sense of freedom to the track as Soma Saito delivers an emotional performance.
6 – 2 of a Kind
A dramatic piano melody opens the curtains for “2 of a Kind”. Urgent strings paint the background as splashy drums and ringing guitar riffs lead the way into the first verse.
The verse is stripped down, with strings, an introspective bassline and a minimalist beat serving as a backup track for Soma Saito’s raw mid-toned vocals.
Strings soar, building up the tension for the explosive chorus waiting for you. The emotions overflow as Saito “falsetto’s” his way through this section.
The break will make chills run down your spine as the dramatic piano melody takes centerstage, making sure each note hits you harder than the last.
Strings return with electric guitars and powerful splashy drums to lead you back to the final chorus in this song.
Soma Saito goes for a masterful performance, showcasing a lot of control and emotions that not only matched but went beyond what the instrumental alone conveys.
7 – エスカレーション!
“Escalation!” is a classic Judah track, the first song of his released in the Dear Vocalist franchise.
The verses are frantic, with drums covering the whole song at an insanely fast-paced, punk-rock inspired tempo. Guitars scream verses and go ballistic in the chorus. At the same time, the bassline explodes in the background, making you want to headbang along to it.
On the vocal end it is worth mentioning that this was a time in which Soma Saito had a more limited vocal range and skillset and he was still rocking to this track without any issues.
Iconic song and easily one of the franchise’s greeting card tracks.
8 – I Can’t Say GoodBye
One of the fan favorite songs is the melancholic “I Can’t Say GoodBye”, song that features simple guitar riffs and drums in the spotlight as a warm bassline and bright, airy piano melodies painting the soundscape in beautiful hues.
The chorus is brief but to the point, leaving the talk – and confession – to the verses.
The song’s slow pacing works in favor of Soma Saito’s emotional performance – tackling a slighter lower key than usual -, pouring all those feelings of longing and love out in the open in what is one of the boldest performances in this CD.
9 – 最愛
“Saiai” kicks off with melancholic guitar riffs and gentle, longing strings. The tone is remorseful, evolving into an emotional song that will put the emotions in check. The song structure is quite interesting.
The dramatic, slow paced intro, the urgent, remorseful and, at times, suffocating verses, the emotionally charged 2nd chorus and outro, then the lyrics.
The theme explored in the lyrics materialized in an astounding way. The outro is sure to deal a major blow if too immersed in the song.
When it comes to the vocal performances Soma Saito mixes low tones in the intro with his mid-tones filled with vibrato in the verses.
There is a bit of rawness in the emotions in the chorus, culminating in a spine-chilling performance in the outro. This song quickly grabbed a spot as one of Judah’s best songs.
In case you didn’t notice in “Display”, despite Judah having the most aggressive rock sound in the Dear Vocalist franchise, in an interesting turn of events, he’s also a massive romantic – a clumsy one, but still a romantic at his core.
All his songs are declarations of love or realizations of his wrongs and will to change for the one he loves.
This results in a set of songs that time and time again showcase how much Judah has evolved as a character throughout the franchise’s 5 CD seasons – and now the RAVING BEATS!!! 1st album series -, and even if you did not follow the stories unfolding in the drama CDs, you’ll feel a gradual build-up of those feelings of care and guilt throughout the album, and the realization, the bare heart proclamation of love in “Saiai”.
The new songs “Display”, “Kasetsu” and “MY BLEACH” are bold approaches to the themes of “love”, “regret” and “change”.
Out of the oldies – but goodies – this CD features “I Can’t Say GoodBye”, “Escalation!”, “Hisho”, “2 of a Kind” and “TSK!! TSK!!”. These are massive tracks that, within this CD and in the playing order set in it, help flesh out this story of love and miscommunication that is Judah’s romantic life.
There are plenty of rocking tunes among those, some of those made for headbanging, with fast tempos and shredding guitars that will put you on the edge. Others have a quieter take on rock music but nothing was as impressive and surprising as this one track.
“Kasetsu” takes the crown for me as the best song – on par with “Saiai” and “MY BLEACH” – in Judah’s repertoire and within this album. Stripped-down acoustic rock is not a thing he does.
In 6 years, this was the first time. It feels like the character decided to bare his heart out to his loved one in a definitive and bold fashion.
No lies, no miscommunication, just a straightforward display of his feelings and what a song it is! And what a performance is that one by Soma Saito!
It’s rather interesting that those following the Dear Vocalist franchise since the start have had the pleasure of experiencing Soma Saito’s growth as a singer; lacking confidence however with already rock-solid singing skills back in 2015, into a full-fledged rock star in 2021 with a confidence that shines a mile away and a charisma that shows in every performance no matter the music genre or vocal direction asked of him.
His singing skills have evolved a whole lot in these past 6 years. The most obvious improvement was the vibrato, which he was really weak in back in 2015.
Around 2017, he started to showcase a wobbly vibrato but it was only around 2019, with “Saiai” that he would he bring to the table that – now – emotional and reliable vibrato of his. And in “MY BLEACH” you got yet another glimpse of the further improvements he’s doing to that skill, sounding even better.
His wide vocal range and control improved a lot throughout, with Saito standing out as one of the best singers within the Dear Vocalist franchise (easily sharing the top spot with Toshiyuki Toyonaga).
In “Display” (the album), Judah bares his heart out.
He’s bold, at times aggressive, others just misunderstood or clumsy but his intense rock sound and emotional lyrics show the care and longing for his loved one. And his music passes those feelings in an unfiltered, raw way that will resonate with you.
When the album stops playing, you’ll be left wondering whether his story will continue or if this is just a goodbye. I’ll be positive here and say that this is just Rejet wrapping up a big chapter in his story, an intermission if you will, and that more character development and awesome music will await us, hopefully, next year.
Display is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.