Review | MEZZO” “Intermezzo”

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MEZZO” encapsulate 5 years of music, memories and a lot of growth in their first full-length album “Intermezzo”.

Regular
Title: Intermezzo
Label: Lantis 
Release date: 20/10/2021
Genre: Ballad/Pop/Rock

Tracklist:

1 - 未来絵
2 - miss you…
3 - 雨
4 - 甘さひかえめ
5 - カレイドスコープ
6 - 恋のかけら
7 - 月明かりイルミネイト
8 - Tears Over ~この星の君と~
9 - Dear Butterfly
10 - Forever Note

Track by track analysis:

1 – 未来絵

Acoustic guitars and a bouncy bassline create a gentle, warm soundscape right off the bat. The verses carry over in a comfortable mid-tempo, with electric guitars, delicate strings, and piano melodies giving life to this beautiful song.

The transition to the chorus is seamless, carrying over in the same tone and with the same intensity as the verses. The big difference lies in the vocals that shift from gentle and smooth in the verses to powerful and passionate in the chorus.

I feel like this song creates a cozy atmosphere, almost like you’re singing along to MEZZO’s in a campfire. It’s that laidback, yet having a hopeful, bright twist to it to puts a smile on your face.

On the vocal end, Abe and KENN harmonize in perfection and deliver rock-solid individual performances, with Abe going for a smoother approach to his singing whereas KENN went to a raspy and huskier than usual performance. As all pieces as put together, you get “Mirai e”, a beautiful introduction to this album.

2 – miss you…

An oldie but a goodie, “miss you…” was released in 2016 and later included in the “i7” released by IDOLiSH7.

Why the 3rd release of this song on CD? Well, I’ll try to explain to you in this brief review.

“miss you…” is a sweet ballad that has at its core a beautiful mix of rock and pop. The intro is quite big, with electric guitars at the forefront, trying to impress you right off the bat however, the song’s dynamics change for the 1st verse, compressing that wide space in the intro into a cozy performance.

As a result, the verses have a comfortable mid-tempo in which the bassline and bassy drums make sure to create a warm sound while the strings and acoustic guitars tuck you in for this emotional track.

The chorus is almost like a lullaby, however incredibly gentle and, in a way, melancholic.

I love the double guitar solo in the chorus, adding another pinch of emotion to this track.

As far as vocal performances go, “miss you…” features 2 expressive performances that make the lyrics come to life in the stunning soundscape you’re put in. KENN and Abe’s chemistry is on display in this song with their harmonies playing with your emotions and their individual parts attempting to soothe you.

Perfect balance between sweet and melancholic.

3 – 雨

[PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED]

There are a few times in which we automatically listen to a song and fall in love with it. “Ame” is one of the few exceptions that fall under this description. “Ame” has the makings of a ballad but with a twist.

If you’re familiar with MEZZO‘s music you’ll notice that up until now the duo has been performing pop ballads, however, this one will instantly feel different as the first notes sink in.

This R&B ballad mixes the best of the genre with pop lyrics. Embracing a quiet sound, this instrumental features acoustic guitars, a clap track, slow-paced bass drum samples, dreamy synth pads, delicate strings, a couple of wind instrument samples, and a stunning piano melody. This song was crafted in a way that the instrumental alone is enough to give you goosebumps.

Its delicate and gentle vibe sinks in and takes the listener with it, embracing you in a longing melody and melancholic lyrics. Atsushi Abe and KENN exceeded our already high expectations for this single.

Their harmonies, R&B riffing, ad-libs, the emotions in their performances, everything contributed to this breathtakingly beautiful song. After listening to this song your emotions will be all over the place – or your mouth will be wide open in awe -. This song right here is MEZZO‘s masterpiece. 

4 – 甘さひかえめ

[PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED]

A sweet acoustic guitar melody and strings set a sweet mood for “Amasa Hikaeme“, the coupling song for this release and the second R&B tune on this single.

This slow jam exuding a 90’s vibe brings to the table acoustic guitars, minimalistic percussion, strings, and atmospheric synth pads. If you pay close attention to this instrumental you’ll find some sitar hits, a rather unusual addition to this music genre.

This instrumental has a more relaxed approach to the genre and strays away from ballad territory, providing a well-needed breath of fresh air to all the people that listened previously to “Ame” and are still putting together their feelings. On top of this sweet instrumental, we find Abe and KENN‘s honeyed performances.

Both brought their best for this song, Abe with rich, melodic ad-libs and KENN with his smoky tone, showed that they are more than able to make R&B their playground. This mellow song sits comfortably in the middle of MEZZO‘s flawless repertoire.

5 – カレイドスコープ

[PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED]

Kaleidoscope mixes traditional Eastern Asia elements with upbeat pop-rock that has the hand of MIKOTO (Marginal #4, KENN, etc). The song is pretty straightforward.

The focus is on a strong bass sound, something that both the drums and bass pull off. On top of it are simple guitar riffs and little details that make this song stand out: the delicate, dreamy piano and synth melodies and the organ hits.

This song is a new page for MEZZO, duo best known for its emotional ballads not for uptempo pop-rock tunes.

Although this sounds nothing like you could expect from them, the duo pulled it off pretty neatly. At this point in his career, it is safe to say that KENN already breathes MIKOTO’s compositions.

Both have been collaborating for years so KENN already has his singing style tailored for this trademark MIKOTO song.

On the other hand, Atsushi Abe is having fun, his performance is filled with excitement, something that we clearly never listen to in MEZZO’s usual more somber songs.

All in all, Kaleidoscope is fun yet really a generic song.

6 – 恋のかけら

[PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED, REVISED]

Koi no Kakera” is a mid-tempo track that relies on a more alternative pop sound, bringing to the table strings, acoustic guitars, hi-hat-focused drums, and a barely audible bass.

With all these elements together you’re presented with a textbook pop track that could have come straight from an anime opening theme. It’s generic at best in its presentation.

Vocally, KENN reminds me once again why I do love his singing voice. He’s got good control, his mid-tones have a raspy, almost husky tonality and he hits low and high notes without sounding off-key.

On the other side, we find Atsushi Abe trying his best to fit in the song but you can tell he does struggle in some parts. This is something that happened when the song was recorded (2016) but that now, especially in a live setting, Abe no longer struggles with, as a matter of fact, this song did deserve to be re-recorded to reflect the singing skills and chemistry the duo now has.

In this original recording from 2016, I can’t say that they did particularly work well together. There was a clear difference in both skills and comfort on the mic and the fact that instrumental goes big on those looping high synths, did not help them in their performances.

As a whole, and this opinion is still the same since I reviewed this song in 2016, this is a cutesy song but not one that showcases how talented the duo is, and certainly it’s not the most inspired instrumental in their repertoire.

7 – 月明かりイルミネイト

[PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED, REVISED]

月明かりイルミネイト (Tsukiakari Illuminate) is one of the very first ballads released by the duo. It follows a simple piano melody on top of a slow-paced beat, carefully taking you by hand through the story unfolding.

The story itself is melancholic and the piano makes sure to highlight that, with acoustic guitars on top adding a touch of beauty to it.

You can expect the vocals to deliver – even if we’re going back in time to 2016 when the song was first released – a gentle performance that blends the best of both worlds, Abe’s falsetto and ad-libs and KENN’s husky mid-tones.

Their harmonies are solid and sweet, adding an extra bit of emotion to the song.  

An oldie but a goodie, “Tsukiakari Illuminate” is an emotional ballad well worth your attention.

8 – Tears Over ~この星の君と~

The 2nd out of the 2 new songs in this album is “Tears Over ~Kono Hoshi no Kimi to~”.

This is a review, of course, of the group version, however, if you purchased any of the 2 different editions of the album, you’ll have a solo version of this song.

Tears Over ~Kono Hoshi no Kimi to~” kicks off gently, with emotional vocals accompanied by a melancholic piano melody. I find it really interesting the edition made to the piano melody, making it sound slightly dated, giving off a late 60s jazz-meets-80s R&B vibe.

And surprise, surprise.

The chorus does go the sweet, jazzy route, with the elegant jazzy instrumental painting this fancy, late-night soundscape gazing from a high rise to the streets below. It is cozy, classy, and surprisingly mature coming from MEZZO.

This surprising change in their sound fits their improved singing skills and dynamic genuinely well, with Abe’s smooth mid-tones gliding through the bassline while KENN’s slightly suggestive growly mid-tones make it almost impossible for you to shift attention to someone else.

And when it is time to harmonize… MEZZO more than impresses. Slow, smooth, and steady, the duo delivers an outstanding performance in what is not only the best new song in this album but also, alongside “Ame”, the best song in this album.

9 – Dear Butterfly

[PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED]

Dear Butterfly” has an instrumental that brings out a sweet and warm vibe.

You are welcomed with a sweet and simple piano melody – that later will be looping in the background -, after that minimal synths and strings mix with slow-paced percussion – mainly a bass drum and some edited dubstep-ish percussion bits.

The percussion triplets enhance the pace of the song but only a little bit, this is a slow-paced song, not a high-tension dancefloor anthem.

The looping piano melody alongside the progressive instrumentalization in the verses makes for a contrasting, yet interesting mix that tastes like a ballad but sounds like a minimal dance tune.

The vocal performances are as expected. Chemistry is something this duo doesn’t lack, and alongside that chemistry is their individual singing skills that together make this song even sweeter and richer. A unique ballad that left me wanting more.

10 – Forever Note

[PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED]

Forever Note is yet another new iteration for this duo. Acoustic guitars, a laidback piano melody, simple snare drums, and a noticeable bass line give life to this song.

Although the verses are lackluster, the chorus is exciting and instantly draws your attention in. A nice touch in the reverbed guitar riffs with a blue-grass touch.

The way the reverb was worked made the riffs sound distant and dreamy. The guitar solo is unexpectedly good albeit brief.

On the vocal end, Atsushi Abe and KENN are trailing safe territory and, as a result, they sing their hearts out.

It seems, especially after Kaleidoscope and now with Forever Note, that MEZZO is starting from straying away from ballads and embarking on a pop-rock journey.

Of course, this can change with any upcoming release but, so far, it is diluting the duo’s quality and originality within the IDOLiSH7 franchise.


Final considerations:

MEZZO’s “Intermezzo” is a fantastic journey through their repertoire, documenting their growth individually as well as the improvement of their chemistry across 5 years of music.

This is not a perfect album but I feel like those imperfections are what give this album its unique charm.

If you’re a fan of the duo, this was everything and more you were expecting – unless you were expecting something crazy – however, for me, it felt like something was missing.

Out of 10 songs, only 2 are new and much of their back catalog fully deserved to be re-recorded however what everyone got were the original songs. Why am I even mentioning this?

Because you’ll notice big changes in their quality and even chemistry as a unit throughout this album. There’s consistency in their sound with sweet/bittersweet ballads being the main body of work but also with one or two upbeat tunes and certainly a rock tune here and there.

But the vocals lack consistency. The songs dating back to 2016, for example, haven’t aged that well on the performance side, and for those catching MEZZO for the very first time through this album, there will be some wonder why KENN and/or Atsushi Abe sound absolutely mesmerizing in some songs but then are shaky in others.

These small hiccups are, in a way, endearing. It is a sign the group has grown a whole lot since they were first introduced to everyone. Would I still want some songs to be re-recorded? Yes. MEZZO sounds way better right now than they did in 2016.

The chemistry between the members ended up being worked to a point that now they complement each other perfectly. Individually, KENN and Atsushi Abe have put in the work to sound the best they can with each song and, as you skim through the songs, you notice just how different they sound.

Well, that isn’t something that was weighed in this review however, it was an observation that I felt needed to be made, especially given how some songs in this CD are already on their 3rd time being re-released.

Intermezzo” mixes 8 “oldies” with 2 new songs, creating an interesting story about growth as a duo.

Out of the “oldies” in this album “Ame” still hits like a truck as soon as it starts playing. That is still, to this date, one of the best ballads I’ve listened to by a 2D group and easily the best song by MEZZO.

Then, out of the new songs, and because I’m an absolute sucker for jazz music, I fell instantly in love with “Tears Over ~Kono Hoshi no Kimi to~”. MEZZO with a mature, elegant vibe is something I never expected I’d get to listen to but hell if it isn’t an awesome song.

I love that slow pace to the beat, the careful bassline, the whole late-night vibe in the soundscape, and those vocals? Among the best KENN and Atsushi Abe have delivered as MEZZO. Phenomenal song.

All in all, MEZZO’s “Intermezzo” is the long-awaited 1st full-length album that everyone hoped would be good and it actually exceeded those expectations. Growth is at its core but there’s plenty of depth in their songs as well as surprising performances by the duo’s vocals, KENN and Atsushi Abe.


Intermezzo” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

未来絵
miss you…
甘さひかえめ
カレイドスコープ
恋のかけら
月明かりイルミネイト
Tears Over ~この星の君と~
Dear Butterfly
Forever Note

SUMMARY

MEZZO’s “Intermezzo” is the long-awaited 1st full-length album that everyone hoped would be good and it actually exceeded those expectations. Growth is at its core but there’s plenty of depth in their songs as well as surprising performances by the duo’s vocals, KENN and Atsushi Abe. If you're big on ballads and love sweet, gentle vocals, MEZZO's "Intermezzo" more than delivers.
Vanessa Silva
Vanessa Silvahttps://www.handthatfeedshq.com
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder, content creator, and music reviewer. Basically, the only person managing everything at The Hand That Feeds HQ. Stumbling upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus" in 2011 was the start of this journey. If music is thought-provoking or deep, you may find her writing almost essays (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). She's the producer and host of the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

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Review | MEZZO” "Intermezzo"MEZZO’s “Intermezzo” is the long-awaited 1st full-length album that everyone hoped would be good and it actually exceeded those expectations. Growth is at its core but there’s plenty of depth in their songs as well as surprising performances by the duo’s vocals, KENN and Atsushi Abe. If you're big on ballads and love sweet, gentle vocals, MEZZO's "Intermezzo" more than delivers.