Review | Toshiki Masuda “origin”

origin” dives deep into Toshiki Masuda’s passion for rock music, bringing to the forefront powerful tunes while also keeping things emotional.

Regular edition
Title: origin
Label: TOY'S FACTORY
Release date: 29/09/2021
Genre: Rock

Tracklist:

1 - hikari
2 - ブリキの花
3 - ordinary
4 - 妄想メリーゴーランド
5 - Orange
6 - 日常
7 - Life Goes on
8 - 声にならない聲
9 - 明日はきっと
10 - 今を越えて

Track by track analysis:

1 – hikari

“hikari” kicks off this album with a lot of nostalgia in the mix. On one hand, you have acoustic guitar riffs that bring the sense of youth to the spotlight, on the other you have the electric guitars bringing in nostalgia alongside the delicate piano melodies in the background.

The verses progress in a comfortable tempo, with a traditional 4-piece rock band sound – in which the bassline is massively punchy – driving the song forward.

The chorus is explosive, short, and sweet, carrying those emotions in the instrumental into the performance delivered by Toshiki Masuda.

Masuda’s vocals soar in the soundscape, sounding incredibly clear and powerful in the verses, and overflowing with emotion in the chorus. I do love the progression in the chorus – from the vocal performance side -, with Masuda ramping up the tension, grabbing your attention as he lays those ending notes in vibrato fashion.

Rock-solid kick-off to this album with a song that will make you chant alongside Masuda.

The highlight medley is out.

2 – ブリキの花

Fast-paced guitars open the way for “Buriki no hana”. Quickly, drums and bass join in, creating a simple rock sound that has a twinge of nostalgia underneath. The pacing is constant, with transitions between verses and chorus being seamless.

Although this is not something groundbreaking – it’s done all the time in rock music -, it’s nice to find such a raw take on rock music. It’s simple, fun, and flows really well. The bridge quiets things down to match Toshiki Masuda’s subdued, almost whispered vocals.

Power is returned to this song once again for an exciting last chorus and outro.

On vocals, Toshiki Masuda shows that he’s absolutely in his element delivering an effortless performance filled with emotion.

3 – ordinary

ordinary” changes things around and brings an old-school – I reckon heavily 80s and 90s inspired – rock sound that brings to the spotlight strings and synths to give an elegant twist to this song.

In a way, “ordinary” feels like a song that Porno Graffiti would release. It captures that rock fusion sound of theirs while still sounding like a song, you’d expect from Toshiki Masuda.

The verses have piano arpeggios that add a lot of beauty and gentleness to this track. This happens at the same that the bassline punches its way through and the guitars spread their funky charms to the sound of those splashy, jazzy drums.

Worth mentioning the bridge in this song, channeling those late 80s, early 90s rock/funk vibes with the bassline absolutely own it.

On the vocal end, Toshiki Masuda makes the best of his vibrato to impress but there’s more to his performance. As soon as the song kicks off, Masuda’s singing still is obviously completely different from usual.

It’s really contained, a bit subdued, almost whispered, keeping everything tight until the chorus kicks in and he introduces a lot of color and dynamic to this song, as he taps into a bit of a higher range than his usual mid-tones.

This change in performance perfectly fits the song’s style. Easily one of the best songs on this album.

4 – 妄想メリーゴーランド

Slow, distorted guitars paint the background in the intro to “Mousou merry-go-round” however, things quickly change tone and tempo.

The verses introduce a tempo increase, with the funky guitars going ballistic in speed as drums and tambourine create the groovy background to this track. The chorus is, yet again, simple and intense, going by in a flash but you’ll soon find yourself singing along to it.

There’s a lot happening in this song that the speed in it will mask on a first listen so please do check it out more than once for little details in the instrumental.

As far as performances go, Masuda once again channels a bit of Porno Graffiti in this performance. The way he opens his vowels, how accented those are and the air coming in and out – influencing the power in the performance – is really similar to how Akihito Okano sings. And Toshiki Masuda made that style his and rocks it.

5 – Orange

The tone in this album changes as “Orange” slowly makes its acoustic entrance.

The sound is warm and nostalgic as acoustic guitars, riveting, marching-like drums and delicate strings paint a beautiful soundscape. The song evolves into a heartfelt, melancholic tune as Toshiki Masuda gently lullabies you in the emotional chorus.

I absolutely love the chorus for this song – well, the whole song is actually really good -, but that bridge? The guitars scream. Masuda’s long notes carry a lot of passion.

It will send chills down your spine and, in a way, make you wish Masuda actually sang more songs in this style as those fit really well with his vocals.

6 – 日常

We take a break from acoustic rock and are back with a bass-driven song tailormade to listen to during a drive.

Nichijou” has a warm, punchy bassline at its core, simple guitar riffs, and equally bass-driven drums, comfortably leading the way into the explosion of color in the chorus. Piano melodies join in and Toshiki Masuda’s voice goes higher to match the emotion and tension in that section.

This is the kind of song that may sound mundane but it was crafted in a way that all you get from it are good vibes even if with a bit of melancholy on top.

7 – Life Goes on

Good vibes take over as “Life Goes on” makes its way to center stage. Elegant trumpets, bassy tuba and jazzy piano melodies, funky guitar riffs, and a punchy bassline slowly guide you through the verses. The chorus is pure fun and elegant.

The mood is happy and the tone of the song is made to put a smile on your face while keeping it really classy on the instrumental side.

Toshiki Masuda goes for a gentle performance in which he takes upon himself the role of the storyteller in this inspiring tale. His long notes are consistent and his mid-tones are warm, adding a welcoming vibe to this track.

8 – 声にならない聲

Koe ni naranai Koe” embraces fast-paced rock music once again however with an interesting twist. There’s a bit of aggressiveness in the intro that is quickly countered by softer melodies from the piano and a toning down of the guitars in the verses.

However, if you want fast-paced and exciting rock, Toshiki Masuda does have that for you in the shredding chorus. This is the kind of song that shows influences from Asian Kung-Fu Generation. That kind of fast, pop-punk rock sound that snatches your attention and has you singing your lungs out is present in this song.

Although this may go unnoticed, those rimshots in the second verse are actually a driving force for the song. That’s drum work taken to a whole different level – rare within seiyuu artists’ music – but such a treat to find.

The vocals have a deliberately old-school feel to them. First off there’s no special awareness in those.

The vocals sound muffled and may come across as a bit flat because those were not spread in the soundscape or put in a different location when it comes to the soundstage of this song.

It’s almost like you’re listening to a recording that a band starting out in their garage would record. It’s raw, simple, sounds a bit homey and it works really well with the underlying theme to this album.

9 – 明日はきっと

We’re approaching the end of the album and Toshiki Masuda presents his fans with the delicate acoustic ballad “Asu wa kitto”.

The verses are slow-paced, carrying a bit of sadness but, at the same time there’s hope and Masuda is here to motivate you “lift your head and look in front of you, everything will be okay”.

The chorus has Toshiki Masuda shifting between clean mid-tones and even cleaner head voice – the latter is insanely hard to pull off – and he aces those tricky vocals with impressive ease. He still lacks a bit of power to his head voice but what he delivered in this performance is more than enough to impress.

A beautiful ballad with a high chance to make you cry.

10 – 今を越えて

Wrapping up this album, Toshiki Masuda comes full circle. “Ima o koete” brings intense, toms-driven drums, distant guitars, and a minimalistic bassline underneath. The sound is penetrating and, yet again, you won’t even notice the transition between verses and chorus as there are no changes in the drums or guitars.

That simplicity of carrying over with the same melodies in a loop with only slight twists signaling the start of those sections. Do pay attention to the drum fill and you’ll catch the transition, otherwise, it’ll be pretty seamless.

This is an unconventional song in Masuda’s repertoire, once that is really simple at its core yet requires a powerful performance in contrast. He does go for it, although I felt those higher notes felt a bit raw, almost out of reach for Masuda. He still caught those but the tone isn’t the cleanest. But, it may be the intention with the vocal direction – no one knows – that had Masuda going raw and intense for those notes.

Ima o koete” feels like a proper wrap-up to an album.


Final considerations

I wrote in the “diver” review that the charm behind it was how imperfect it was. That was, indeed, an album with plenty of flaws, a result of wanting to attain a sound that would fit Masuda. And I also said he’d easily iron out those flaws and deliver a much-improved CD to follow that up.

Glad to know that I didn’t fail those predictions. Well, kidding aside, “origin” is a massive improvement in Toshiki Masuda’s sound. There’s no doubt here, this is his best album to date.

Consistency was key in making the world that Masuda wanted to create – exploring his guitar rock roots – come to life.

There are themes of youth, ambition, dreams, fantasies, defeat, and hope going on throughout this album.

While the album is made for the fans to enjoy, Masuda went the extra mile and slipped in messages of hope and, in a way, motivates you in songs like “Ashita wa kitto”.

I was pleasantly surprised to see what Masuda achieved by having a concrete theme that is a bit closer to himself as an individual or artist. But don’t be fooled as the album doesn’t feel personal.

So, if you were expecting it to feel like it – due to how it was promoted as a reflection of “Toshiki Masuda’s rock origins” – the album doesn’t feel like it once.

On the other hand, the album is as advertised: you can really understand the roots behind his passion for rock music. You can tell the artists that influence his sound or have marked him the most. Once again, Porno Graffiti seems to have a big influence on his music, extending to the way Masuda sings in some songs.

Asian Kung-Fu Generation and Spitz also seem to have influenced his music with their simpler yet extremely fun punk-pop rock sound. There are a lot of influences that will be interesting to find in following listens of this album. I won’t name more to not spoil the fun so do enjoy listening to this album and finding all the bands and artists that have influenced Masuda.

It’s hard to point out the best songs in this album taking into account how every single one of these tracks is genuinely good.

If you’re looking for funky rock “ordinary” is the thing for you, a beautiful ballad to inspire you? “Asu wa kitto” is what you look for. A laidback tune to drive to? “Nichijou” is the pick for you.

Fast-paced rock? Pick your poison and believe me, you’ll enjoy it.

All in all, “origin” dives deep into Toshiki Masuda’s passion for rock music, bringing to the forefront powerful tunes nodding at all those influences while also keeping it interesting and emotional at all times.


origin is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

origin / Toshiki Masuda
Toshiki Masuda

SUMMARY

The wait was long. Almost 2 years for Toshiki Masuda to make his comeback but hell if it wasn't worth the wait. "origin" is a vastly improved and superior album in which Toshiki Masuda explores his guitar rock roots, the music that influence him, the soundscapes that shaped him into the artist he is. But there is more to. There's depth to this album, as Masuda tackles themes like motivation, passion, fear, dreams, and fantasies and delivers a set of relatable performances and even inspirational pep talks. His vocals continue to improve, this time around introducing a crystal clear head voice into some of the songs in this album, impressing with his polished range. "origin" is a strong candidate for album of the year 2021.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

hikari
ブリキの花
ordinary
妄想メリーゴーランド
Orange
日常
Life Goes on
声にならない聲
明日はきっと
今を越えて
Vanessa Silvahttps://www.handthatfeedshq.com
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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