Review | RUBIA Leopard “THRONE”

RUBIA Leopard

RUBIA Leopard arrives with its aggressive mix of nu-metal, hardrock, and punk to deliver a gritty and surprisingly alluring set of songs in “THRONE”.

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.

DIG-ROCK features 3 rock bands of different backgrounds and sound: RUBIA Leopard (Makoto Furukawa on vocals), Impish Crow (Yuma Uchida on vocals), and HOUND ROAR (Toshiyuki Toyonaga on vocals).

Review

Title: THRONE
Label: TEAM Entertainment Inc. 
Release date: 30/03/2022 
Genre: Hardrock/Punk/Nu-metal

Tracklist:

1 - Prisoner
2 - Identity
3 - Destination
4 - NO LIMIT
5 - LOVER
6 - THRONE [NEW SONG]
7 - Prisoner (off vocal)
8 - Identity (off vocal)
9 - Destination (off vocal)
10 - NO LIMIT (off vocal)
11 - LOVER (off vocal)
12 - THRONE (off vocal)

Track by track analysis:

1 – Prisoner

[As previously reviewed] RUBIA Leopard is back to a darker and heavier approach to their sound, very reminiscing of their debut.

Prisoner brings shredding guitar riffs, an electrifying bassline – sharing the top spot as RUBIA Leopard’s best bass line with “Chained to You” – and clean, snare-driven drums, creating a heavier and dirtier sound than usual in the verses.

The song carries over pretty well into the chorus, exploding into a catchy and slow-paced chorus that you’ll want to jam along to.

RUBIA Leopard’s transition into a heavier – still not too heavy – sound suits them well. After all, I am talking about a band that, right from the start, has been representing with pride the grunge rock colors.

At the same time, Makoto Furukawa’s vocals – which are known for a certain versatility – managed well the shift from performing softer rock tunes and even ballads that we’ve got in previous singles, into powerful, high-octane performances that snatch your attention right from the bat.

“Prisoner” is a pure, textbook rock song that doesn’t go overboard with its exploration of its heavier sound, at the same time, it delivers yet another masterful performance by Furukawa that continues to showcase his vocal chops, this time around, in a heavier and lower register.

2 – Identity

[As previously reviewed] RUBIA Leopard goes loud and assertive for Identity. Droned, muffled guitar riffs play in the background, serving as the canvas which Makoto Furukawa’s vocals will color this time around.

Raging guitar riffs, a deep bassline, and playful – yet simple – snary drums slowly build up hype in this track, carrying it over to the chorus after ramping up the tension for it, with speed picking up in the pre-chorus and then developing into a powerful chorus.

There’s something daring, and intimidating about this song as a whole yet, underneath it, there is a bit of playfulness in it that adds a tasteful touch to this track.

Makoto Furukawa goes for a masterful performance – something that, by now, won’t come as a surprise to any RUBIA Leopard fan -, filled with flair and poise.

You can feel Furukawa’s confidence in his performance. The spotlight is on him and he’s enjoying every little bit of it while performing a music genre that he loves. His trademark vibrato was all over the track, another detail that makes his performance stand out.

All in all, Identity doesn’t go as loud and aggressive as Prisoner was but this kind of restrained aggression – with alluring and intimidating undertones – fits the group like a glove and is, in my opinion, the perfect greeting card for newcomers as it is, in my eyes (and ears) the best representation of who they are as a band.

3 – Destination

[As previously reviewed] RUBIA Leopard’s newest song is the dark and enthralling, “Destination”.

The song kicks off in a solemn fashion, slow-paced, and with the instrumental well in the back to give way for Makoto Furukawa’s haunting vocals.

I found the dark intro to be the perfect tone-setter for this song with the delicate guitar notes in the intro almost resembling a sitar or harp, something that is an awesome touch to this imposing song.

Although the rest of the song isn’t that dark instrumental-wise, it was rather nostalgic detail to add to this song, very reminiscing of the intros of some of the most iconic early 00s rock/emo rock songs.

“Destination” then changes dynamics and introduces fast-paced, snary drums, a deep bassline, and shredding guitar riffs, going for a powerful display of the band’s trademark intense, robust rock sound.

The chorus is explosive, with the drums taking the spotlight away from all other instruments with a powerful beat and with cool toms’ fills adding a lot of flair to the performance.

On the vocal end, Makoto Furuwaka goes for a hot-blooded performance, relying on a lot of his natural vibrato to add a bit of drama to the song but also bringing a lot of control and charisma to the spotlight, making it impossible to take my attention away from him.

“Destination” is another remarkable entry in RUBIA Leopard’s repertoire that does an interesting spin on the band’s already solidified gritty and intimidating blend of grunge, emo, and punk-rock.

On top of it, you have Makoto Furukawa delivering yet another charismatic performance that will get your blood pumping faster.

4 – NO LIMIT

[As previously reviewed] RUBIA Leopard kick off their participation in the ongoing – dice – CD series in the DIG-ROCK franchise.

“NO LIMIT” brings exciting guitar riffs, a punchy bassline, and fast-paced snary drums to the spotlight. The band’s grit can be felt in the pre-chorus section, as guitars and bass go darker, building up tension for the powerful chorus.

The chorus has punk and pop-rock influences, being easier to “digest” by those that enjoy rock but not as aggressive or intense as previous songs released by the band have been.

The bridge is quite fun, keeping up with the song’s whole high throttle rock sound.

On the vocal end, Furukawa delivers a stellar performance riding on top of a lot of vibrato, and focusing a lot on rounding those open vowels in the lyrics in order to give his singing an intensity boost.  

This song strays away from the band’s usually heavier and grittier sound with some touches here and there of allure. “NO LIMIT” sounds more like a song that Impish Crow would perform – especially with how easy and pop-driven the lyrics’ structure is in comparison with previous songs released by the band.

All in all, “NO LIMIT” is a solid entry by RUBIA Leopard, not characteristically of them but still a rock-solid one.

5 – LOVER

[As previously reviewed] The song kicks off at slow pacing channeling strong nu-metal vibes with a twist of hardrock in the mix. The guitars are dirty, overdriven, and intense.

The drums are slow-paced and incisive while the bass line is pure gold, driving the song forward with a lot of groove.

This is something I really appreciate about RUBIA Leopard: the little nods at some of the early 00s, and late 90s rock experiments and give those a new life, adding a slightly modern touch to those.

If you were a teen in the early 00s (or just really like music from that time), this will certainly feel nostalgic.

At the same time, this is the first re that the band opts for such a simplistic rock sound, and, as well, such a slow-paced groove.

It suits them rather well, enhancing their whole dangerous vibe as well as making way for Makoto Furukawa to own this performance. The vocals are more aggressive this time around which is also a nice touch.

All in all, RUBIA Leopard‘s “LOVER” is an awesome rock tune that capitalizes on the band’s well-known allure and aggression to deliver a memorable track.

6 – THRONE

Wrapping up this mini-album is “THRONE”, song that marches its way forward with powerful drums and overdriven guitars leading the way.

“THRONE” is a return to the band’s original grungy rock sound, bringing back dirty guitar riffs, punchy basslines, and loud drums going crazy on the splashy and ride.

The verses have a unique duality to them. At first, it seems that the song will be dark and quiet with Makoto Furukawa’s muffled vocals leading the way as muted guitars create a suffocating atmosphere. However, there is much more to it. Guitars go loud and low, the bassline goes really low and punchy while the drums bring out a splashy twist to the song.

As you get to the chorus, guitars pick up the pace, taking the spotlight to them. I absolutely love this chorus on the instrumental side as the drums go for a cool mix of the crash and ride hits, connecting those with a steady snare + bass drum 4/4 rhythm. This doesn’t happen often with RUBIA Leopard’s songs – more bass-driven and deliberately aggressive, at times even fast-paced – so to find this type of work on the cymbals was awesome.

Additionally, Makoto Furukawa is really pushing himself vocally in this chorus, going a bit higher than usual – yet still sounding quite rough – on his vocals to contrast with all the bass going on in the instrumental.

As he does that, the instrumental opens up around him, creating a big soundstage that you can best enjoy with head/earphones on.

From the build-up in tension – happening in the chorus – to its climax – also within the chorus but with the cymbals really giving you a show -, this is a masterful section within a song that feels and sounds right.

When you get to the bridge and outro, you’ll be jamming pretty hard to this song. There is this poise and charisma oozing from this performance – as a whole – that you won’t be indifferent to.

I feel that this happens due to the synergy between instrumental and vocal, with Makoto Furukawa being 100% in his groove for this performance.

What a way to wrap up this mini-album and what a rocking new addition to RUBIA Leopard’s repertoire.


Final considerations

RUBIA Leopard has a unique sound among all 2D rock bands out there. Their sound is gritty, heavily influenced by 90s industrial and grunge rock, carrying a lot of aggression with its raging guitars and riveting drums.

But there are also a lot of influences of groove metal, shown in some instances in the band’s sound, with the bass and drums making sure that the songs will make you want to dance, shout, and jump along to them. There is also a sexy, alluring edge to their songs – in which the bassline can be very well the main responsible for bringing that edge out – with Makoto Furukawa making sure you feel that natural charisma and allure that Akane (who Furukawa is in charge of voicing and performing as) has.

Prisoner” opens this mini-album in the best way possible, perfectly summing up what RUBIA Leopard is all about: gritty, aggressive rock sound with a lot of allure all over. It is an addictive song that sets an awesome tone for this release.

Identity” brings those groove metal influences to the spotlight however it never goes full metal, instead of shifting towards a faster, simpler punk-rock-inspired sound. 

There is still a lot of care about sounding melodic and groovy throughout with the guitars, drums, and bass respectively ensuring you will be jamming to this song as Makoto Furukawa powers his way through the lyrics with his blasting vibrato. This song has a hard-as-nails guitar solo that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Destination” embraces its 90s grunge roots and brings a gritty heavy rock sound to the spotlight. The tone is solemn for the first part but as the song progresses, those emotions evolve and turn into excitement, with the chorus changing dynamics bringing that closed sound to a bigger stage.

NO LIMIT” is a take on punk-pop much in the style of Impish Crow. This is yet another reminder of how versatile is the band as well as Makoto Furukawa on vocals, shifting from his baritone vocals’ powerful vibrato to clean yet aggressive vocals.

LOVER” is a return to the band’s sexy hardrock sound with a touch of nu-metal in there. Don’t expect a logical intro as the band makes sure the intro is as complex and hard to pull off as possible with several tempo changes and mute notes. The song is insanely slow-paced, with the vocals – in nu-metal fashion – doing the whole job as power chords lead the way on the guitar. This is a song that, if you were a teen in the late 90s or early 00s, will bring a lot of nostalgia to the table.

THRONE” is, much like “Prisoner” a song that perfectly encompasses everything RUBIA Leopard is about. You can notice the influences of 90s grunge and alternative rock in there in the first part of the verses, their roots in hardrock in the latter part of the chorus, and their passionate punk-rock influences in the chorus. As far as vocals go, this is a song that showcases a lot of what Makoto Furukawa as Akane can offer. There are low, muffled vocals (these, of course, are heavily processed), and then the low, imposing baritone vocals trading blows with higher, cleaner baritone vocals in the chorus. Add to this a dash of vibrato and yes, this is a performance that really shows how cool of a rock frontman is Makoto Furukawa.

All in all, RUBIA Leopard’s “THRONE” is a show of confidence, charisma, and poise by the band. Their robust heavy rock sound with influences of groove metal, nu-metal, and grunge still shines and is unique in the 2D music panorama. 


RUBIA Leopard‘s “THRONE” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

 

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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 OVERVIEW

Prisoner
Identity
Destination
NO LIMIT
LOVER
THRONE

SUMMARY

The band is sounding better than ever as “THRONE” - the song - can attest to and their repertoire is simply a delight for fans of heavy rock in which the bassline is crazy good and the guitars are ridiculously technical. “THRONE” arrives as a perfect compilation of the best RUBIA Leopard had to offer in the past 2 years. This album is a show of confidence, of charisma, and poise by the band. Their robust heavy rock sound with influences of groove metal, nu-metal, and grunge still shines and is unique in the 2D music panorama. Makoto Furukawa is a powerhouse singer that continues to impress as Akane. His baritone vocals are continuously put to test, with Furukawa going up and down his vocal range while bringing his beaming low vibrato into the mix. As a result, you can have him sound as aggressive or as gentle as possible with that same skillset, voice tone, and quality, a unique duality that makes him an awesome rock frontman. There is always a playful edge - with allure underneath - that drives his performances forward, making RUBIA Leopard’s music sound strangely alluring despite how aggressive - at times - it goes. All in all, “THRONE” is a good CD for you to pick up if you’re just getting into DIG-ROCK and its bands. If you’re a longtime fan of RUBIA Leopard, it appears to be a good summary of the past couple of years while leaving you excited for what’s coming for this band.

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The band is sounding better than ever as “THRONE” - the song - can attest to and their repertoire is simply a delight for fans of heavy rock in which the bassline is crazy good and the guitars are ridiculously technical. “THRONE” arrives as a perfect compilation of the best RUBIA Leopard had to offer in the past 2 years. This album is a show of confidence, of charisma, and poise by the band. Their robust heavy rock sound with influences of groove metal, nu-metal, and grunge still shines and is unique in the 2D music panorama. Makoto Furukawa is a powerhouse singer that continues to impress as Akane. His baritone vocals are continuously put to test, with Furukawa going up and down his vocal range while bringing his beaming low vibrato into the mix. As a result, you can have him sound as aggressive or as gentle as possible with that same skillset, voice tone, and quality, a unique duality that makes him an awesome rock frontman. There is always a playful edge - with allure underneath - that drives his performances forward, making RUBIA Leopard’s music sound strangely alluring despite how aggressive - at times - it goes. All in all, “THRONE” is a good CD for you to pick up if you’re just getting into DIG-ROCK and its bands. If you’re a longtime fan of RUBIA Leopard, it appears to be a good summary of the past couple of years while leaving you excited for what’s coming for this band. Review | RUBIA Leopard "THRONE"