Review | RE-O-DO “Dilemma”

Dear Vocalist 6th season

RE-O-DO’s first entry in the Raving Beats CD series – Dilemma – is a look back at the past while with the eyes set on the future.

Title: Dilemma
Label: Rejet
Release date: 27/01/2021
Genre: Rock/Pop-rock

Tracklist:

1 - Dilemma 
2 - Sunshine of My Shoulder
3 - 兆し
4 - アンビシャスナイト
5 - CHAMPION
6 - 9/10
7 - Rain&Pain
8 - ヒヤシンス
9 - iNiTiaTiVe
10 - SECRET♥DRAMA(Dummyhead mic drama track)

Track by track analysis:

1 – Dilemma

A melancholic piano melody serves as the backdrop for “Dilemma”.

Electric guitars and bassy drums add a ballad undertone to this song – although it doesn’t follow the standard ballad structure -, with the verses riding on a comfortable mid-tempo.

The drums build up tension for this song, being a driving force throughout. The work on the chorus and bridge had me more excited over them rather than on the guitars.

For the most part, this performance was what you’d call uneventful. It’s a straightforward rock performance with no glitter or anything on top.

Although this is but a detail, I loved how Toshiki Masuda had to tackle a fancy crescendo in the pre-chorus. Not only do his vocals now ace those sections but the flair added to his performance is second to none.

2 – Sunshine of My Shoulder

Explosive guitar riffs lead the way in the rocking “Sunshine of My Shoulder”.

The verses count with hard-hitting drums – these ones changing tempo a couple of times within that part –, shredding guitar riffs and a thunderous bassline.

The chorus welcomes brass hits that give this song a groovier sound that then Toshiki Masuda’s vibrato-filled mid-toned vocals end up fleshing out. Worth mentioning that he’s gotten really good at holding notes, going for a fancy set of long notes, something that shows his improved stamina as a singer.

All in all, a welcome mix of an aggressive RE-O-DO with his most recent jazzier and groovier sound.

3 – 兆し

Big, soaring strings paint a beautiful soundscape for “Kizashi”. The verses ride on top of lustrous cello melodies and a simple bass beat in the background, with atmospheric synths joining in close to the pre-chorus to give more depth to this track.

In its comfortable mid-tempo soundscape, the verses build up tension for the dramatic chorus through powerful toms work, taking you by the hand to this big space in front of you that irradiates happiness.

Legato minor-key strings and a riveting marching beat serve as an intermission before the 2nd pre-chorus, standing out for how unusual it is to find such a thing in between verse and pre-chorus as well as for how pure it sound.

It’s as if it is filled with passion. You can feel it with relative ease in that part (if the rest of the song hadn’t clicked with you this far).

Toshiki Masuda taps into his emotional range for this song, delivering each word with a lot of power and care.

4 – アンビシャスナイト

[PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED HOWEVER REVISED]

Heavy guitar riffs make a big entrance in “Ambitious Night”. The tone is dangerous but alluring in its intro and it carries over to the verses, although toned down.

The verses count with a groovy bassline underneath those shredding guitar riffs and incisive splashy rums. There’s a mix of punk-rock and funk in the instrumental although, for the most part, the funk elements only find their way via the massive basslines in RE-O-DO’s songs.

The drums fills in the pre-chorus are subtle but quite a nice touch to this song. Then guitars scream in the chorus, with a powerful performance riding on those high chords.

As far as vocal performances go, Toshiki Masuda delivered a groovy performance while keeping up with the song’s – at times – intense pacing.

5 – CHAMPION

[PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED]

Raging guitars, powerful snare-driven drums and a noticeable bassline give life to “CHAMPION”.

The hard-hitting instrumental is slow-paced and mixed in a way that does not overcrowd the instrumental therefore letting every snare hit, bass kick, and every guitar riff sink in and impact the listener.

RE-O-DO’s punk-pop sound is flashy this time around with this song being the perfect opener for this new Dear Vocalist series.

When it comes to the vocal performance, Toshiki Masuda made sure to showcase his polished vocals, delivering each verse with a touch of vibrato mixed with close to raw vocals.

6 – 9/10

[PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED]

To tie up this release we have the jazz-rock “9/10”. Slow beats, groovy bass lines, funky guitar riffs, classy rhodes piano melodies shape this song into one of the most laidback and easy-listening tunes in the whole Dear Vocalist franchise.

Its funkiness is infectious and the vocals only add the cherry on top of what is this release’s highlight.

Toshiki Masuda’s performance is full of flair, with his low and mid-tones creating a deep, warm atmosphere while his vibrato shines.

7 – Rain&Pain

Youthful guitar riffs and a bright piano melody paint the soundscape for “Rain&Pain”. The verses have a “feel good” vibe to them, flowing in a comfortable tempo on top of its bass-driven sound.

Piano melodies go crazily fast in the chorus as guitars add a playful touch to the chorus. For the most part, this is a laid-back pop-rock tune with punk influences on the guitars.

At centerstage is Toshiki Masuda delivering an engaging performance riding on top of his mid-tones although, in a key slightly higher than usual.

8 – ヒヤシンス

Hyacinth” is yet another well-loved song by RE-O-DO’s fans. It explores high throttle punk-rock music with shredding guitars promptly welcoming the listener to it.

The brief verses continue that shredding sound but add a bass-centric rhythm to it in the background, with bass and bass drums contributing for it from the get-go.

The chorus carries over the tension from the verses but by this time you’re already thinking this is an old-school OLDCODEX song – and you wouldn’t be far from the truth as R.O.N was OLDCODEX’s guitarist and arranger – and Toshiki Masuda’s vocals just can’t keep up with its intensity, going for strained high notes.

A note that I’m reviewing this song in 2021, the song was originally released in 2015, when Masuda was still struggling to find his stride as a singer.

9 – iNiTiaTiVe

Wrapping this album up in style is another fan favorite “iNiTiaTiVe”. Dramatic strings playing in the background as Toshiki Masuda holds your attention.

Then, an exuberant saxophone melody, warm, bassy drums, and punchy bassline paint the intro to the first verse. Well in the verse, mid-tempo guitar riffs join in. The chorus packs quite the punch, contrasting with the comfortable pop-rock verses.

On the vocal end, Toshiki Masuda brings a lot of consistency with rich mid-tones and an awesome control over those as well as vibrato that adds a different twist to his performance. He shines in the bridge, as the instrumental is stripped down of its intensity only to leave him and the piano in the spotlight.

If there is an iconic song in RE-O-DO’s repertoire is this one for sure.


Final considerations

RE-O-DO’s first entry in the Raving Beats CD series – Dilemma – is a look back at the past while with the eyes set in the future.

The new songs feel like a continuation of the story that is unravelling for RE-O-DO and, on the drama parts, you, the listener.

There’s a whole lot of pure love in those tracks, with “Kizashi” being the obvious representant track. It really is a beautiful track with a performance that will make you swoon at times.

Despite its aggressive first impression, “Sunshine of My Shoulder” is yet another song in which you can feel a gentle side to RE-O-DO as a character and that is perfectly fleshed out by Toshiki Masuda that now, more than ever, is a powerful and reliable singer with an awesome emotional range and control over his singing tone.

Dilemma” is the title track but I found it to not be memorable at all. When I wrapped up listening to this album, I genuinely didn’t remember what that song sounded like which is usually an indication that the song didn’t stand out for any particular hit or bit.

This is not to say that the song is weak – which is not – but to say that it is enjoyable however nothing refreshing or exciting within RE-O-DO’s high tension rock repertoire.

There is a load of previously released tracks in this CD. Some of these I’m a bigger fan of, others not so much.

For example, “Hyacinth” is a well-loved song by RE-O-DO’s fans. This was the very first song released in the Dear Vocalist franchise, setting the tone to what is currently the best 2D rock music franchise.

However, no matter how many years pass, this song does not click with me in any way.

For starters, this was performed in 2015, when Toshiki Masuda was still struggling with his control and singing tone, often delivering wobbly, unconfident performances that will stand out for all the wrong reasons; then you have the instrumental that, in comparison with other songs in the franchise – and even RE-O-DO’s songs exclusively – doesn’t have a twist that makes it stand out.

On the other hand, songs like “Ambitious Night”, “Rain&Pain” and “iNiTiaTiVe” are enjoyable – to an extent – illustrating quite well the growth that both RE-O-DO (his feelings mainly) and Toshiki Masuda (his vocals and singing skills) have undergone in these past 6 years.

I’m not surprised with “iNiTiaTiVe” making it into the final selection of songs and better yet, be the most popular song. What fans love about RE-O-DO’s music is that fast-paced punk-pop sound he has since the start, and that performance easily ranks as Masuda’s best as the character.

The surprises arrived at the hand of “CHAMPION” and “9/10”. These are among RE-O-DO’s best songs but somehow, I felt like fans would never choose those because none explore punk-pop. As a matter of fact, “9/10” is a big departure from RE-O-DO’s trademark sound, presenting listeners with a mature loungy funk-rock tune that heavily contrasts with all the music previously released of his.

Still, it was good to find these two gems in this awesome album. By the end of the day, “Dilemma” perfectly illustrates the character development that RE-O-DO has underwent across 6 seasons of CDs in the Dear Vocalist franchise.

At the same time, it is almost like a record of Toshiki Masuda’s growth as a singer, now being on a really high level that puts him on par with some of the vocal giants in this franchise.


Dilemma is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Dilemma
Sunshine of My Shoulder
兆し
アンビシャスナイト
CHAMPION
9/10
Rain&Pain
ヒヤシンス
iNiTiaTiVe
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Also, the only person managing everything The Hand That Feeds HQ related. In 2011, I stumbled upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus". Since then I have been writing about male seiyuu music. You may find me writing almost essays whenever music is really good (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). I also host the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

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