TRIGGER outdid themselves with the concept album “VARIANT“. This is a statement and an intimate look at a group that has reinvented itself.
Title: VARIANT Label: Lantis Release date: 23/06/2021 Genre: Pop / Hip-Hop / Rock / Jazz-pop
1 - The dawn 〜Sword of VARIANT〜 (Instrumental) 2 - VALIANT 3 - Heavenly Visitor 4 - Treasure! 5 - Crescent rise 6 - バラツユ 7 - My Precious World 8 - DIAMOND FUSION
Track by track analysis (instrumentals are not rated):
1 – The dawn 〜Sword of VARIANT〜 (Instrumental)
A dramatic piano melody and a zither like instrument paint a sorrowful soundscape for this album.
2 – VALIANT
Un, deux, trois, TRIGGER kick-off “VALIANT” in a dramatic fashion, with strings leading the way however, the soundscape quickly gets devoid of beauty.
And that’s where things get interesting as TRIGGER trails new territory with this song. Instead of their usual sexy vibe with a touch of beauty on top, “VALIANT” is aggressive, intense, and insanely dirty.
A slow paced hip-hop beat sets the infectious tone for this song. On top of it, the instrumental counts with dirty synths and bassline that add a masculine touch to this performance.
The pre-chorus however is extremely melodic, bringing strings to the spotlight. It’s almost like a wink at the past – TRIGGER’s old sound – and a step forward towards their new, upgraded selves, exuding a whole lot of confidence, passion, and hunger to fight back.
Even if you don’t follow the game’s story, this song speaks for itself, something that attests to the quality of the instrumental and the performances by Wataru Hatano, Soma Saito, and Takuya Sato.
And yes, the chorus is as dirty and intense as you can get. The synths slice through the soundscape as a hard-hitting, slow-paced beat forces its way through.
This chorus is a statement and you can feel it from how it presents itself.
The guitars scream in the background and, although not many will notice it, in the background there are 808s samples enhancing the beat, a detail that takes the chorus to a whole new level for me.
That subtle mix of old-school and “new school” hip-hop instrumentalization is another detail that plays an important role in accentuating TRIGGER’s new duality.
There are delicate piano melodies in the background handing back a bit of TRIGGER’s “lost beauty” and, as a result, the chorus has a mesmerizing, almost spine-chilling contrast between TRIGGER’s aggressive and regal sides. You won’t be able to take your eyes and ears off of their performance.
In a way, “VALIANT” reminds me of early 00s J-pop music that was big on that contrast of heavy guitars with a pop beat and lyrics, however, with a contemporary approach, bringing trap elements to the spotlight.
The chorus sure has a grit that you can’t find anywhere else on TRIGGER’s repertoire.
There will be a lot of people talking about this song, that’s for sure. You’ve never heard TRIGGER perform a song like this.
They are explosive and extremely emotional in the chorus, with high notes and chilling harmonies painting a unique image.
In their individual parts, all members tackle a big chunk of rap and what a performance they deliver!
When it comes to Soma Saito, it was already expected that he’d absolutely ace the rap parts. After all, he’s got an awesome flow and his well-known perfect, clean diction helps him come across both as aggressive or delicate, depending on how he wants to come across.
Now the surprise came from Wataru Hatano and Takuya Sato, as I’d never heard them rapping before this song.
Both were more than up to the test. I dare say, they were on a similar level to Saito and that led to this performance to pack the massive punch it does.
Ladies and gentlemen, “VALIANT” is TRIGGER‘s best song released to date.
3 – Heavenly Visitor
TRIGGER dive into new territory for “Heavenly Visitor”. Wrapped in shredding guitar riffs, a reverberating bassline, and powerful, snary drums, this song is far from sounding like the typical TRIGGER fans are used to.
This change of pace, embracing a heavier sound while still donning their catchy and suggestive pop lyrics is a breath of fresh air on their repertoire.
This rock instrumental has everything, an exciting chorus, melodic verses, a breathtakingly beautiful piano-driven outro and, to top it all, a memorable guitar solo. Now, on the vocal end, we have one of the most exciting and powerful performances from TRIGGER. The trio fits like a glove with this new sound.
Wataru Hatano and Takuya Sato’s low vocals are more than familiar with rock music, tackling low-toned sections and melodic mid-tones with ease.
Soma Saito, although not as familiar as Hatano and Sato, performs on par with them, leading the group towards perfect performance. “Heavenly Visitor” is the song we didn’t even know we’d need to listen to from TRIGGER.
4 – Treasure!
TRIGGER changes things around to welcome funk and jazz to their repertoire with the extremely entertaining song that explores a sonority that sounds completely out of their comfort zone.
Electrifying funky guitar riffs, a groovy bassline, and fast-paced splashy drums with a touch of jazz in them create this addictive and bright song.
Treasure! Is a one-of-a-kind song in TRIGGER’s repertoire.
The passionate and powerful sound shifts into a playful and hopeful sound that sounds incredibly fresh. The funky guitar solo in bridge creates a platform for TRIGGER‘s members to go all out and dazzle with perfect harmonies and playful pitch vocals.
Definition of consistent performance from this group.
5 – Crescent rise
Overdriven guitars, a clocking ticking, and an orchestral – strings and choir – crescendo add an ominous dimension to this song.
Crescent rise rides on top of those clock chimes, even if it is something barely noticeable on a first listen.
Dark, dirty synths help enhance that gritty, high-stakes vibe this song exudes.
The verses are led by a looping overdriven guitar melody as deep, washy industrial synths shape this song into the absolute banger it is.
Strings make their big entrance in the chorus, something that, alongside the progressive bass-drum-driven beat, making the song rise in urgency and drama.
In the background, a wolf howls in what seems like representing the song’s center, Gaku Yaotome (CV: Wataru Hatano). Another nice touch in the instrumental is the pizzicato strings embellishing the 2nd verse.
Teamwork for this song is off the charts, with the verses’ high note canon, courtesy of Ryu (CV: Takuya Sato) and Tenn (CV: Soma Saito) standing out for the novelty it is within TRIGGER‘s repertoire.
This is a song unlike anything in the group’s repertoire.
The dark tone, the emotions in the vocals, all draw you in – that is, if the intro wasn’t enough to catch your attention -, in the end making you hit that replay button just to peel more layers of this song in order to understand all the underlying meanings in the lyrics and instrumentalization.
It is that good of a track.
6 – バラツユ
“Baratsuyu” (or “Bara to You”, as pronounced by Soma Saito in his solo parts) has a romantic feel, kicking off in R&B fashion with its moody bassline and acoustic guitar melodies.
The verses are sweet and slow-paced, enabling you to let all those emotions sink in. You’ll find yourself immersed in those emotional guitar riffs, the longing beat, and, of course, the beautiful performances by the trio.
The chorus is an explosion of color and emotion that will spread warmth in a gentle way. You can feel the passion in the performance, having Gaku (CV: Wataru Hatano) as the centerpiece for it.
On the vocal end, TRIGGER showcase what they’re best at: their harmonies with an insane chemistry leading the way.
Their performance exudes a deep affection for someone – I guess you guys can already tell to whom this song may be about – and Wataru Hatano, Soma Saito, and Takuya Sato did their absolute best to make you connect with those.
Their harmonies are beautiful, their solo parts are tender and overflowing with emotion. This is a rare ballad by the trio and quite the memorable one to boot.
7 – My Precious World
A dramatic piano melody slowly gets increasingly bright, leading up to the 1st verse, and being adorned by atmospheric synths and urgent, loose guitar riffs that give the sense of going on an adventure.
The verses have a good soundstage, with the instrumental creating a vast soundscape for the listener. Reverbed vocals and instruments help creating a distant and, at the same time, dreamy twist to this song.
The chants in the 1st chorus are a new addition to TRIGGER’s songs, which are usually more “in your face” in their presentation and not ethereal like in this specific section in the song.
A progressive piano melody adds tension to the song, taking the verses through a slow but smooth build up into a tight, deep bass-driven sound that envelops the listener in a cosy, almost protective way.
My Precious World is nothing alike TRIGGER’s previously released songs.
It is dreamy, it is hopeful, it is uplifting, ditching the trio’s trademark alluring flair – for this song – in favor of a more dramatic and, yet, still exciting performance.
The song’s minimalistic instrumental is yet another thing you wouldn’t find in their repertoire up until now. I am used to their powerful performances with really elaborate instrumentals as the backdrop. I was not expecting them to go the ethereal route.
This minimalism is welcomed and refreshing, shedding a different light over TRIGGER’s abilities and, as we are all aware by now, their insane versatility and cohesion as a group.
Ryunosuke appears to be a center for this song. Takuya Sato has a lot of spotlight in this song, and his performance is absolutely impressive.
Takuya Sato has been a driving force for TRIGGER since the very start, being the strong core to the trio but also their hidden weapon, as Sato can really deliver a lot more than what is usually asked of him in his performances with TRIGGER.
With an instrumental heavily focused on deep, dirty, bassy synths, Takuya Sato’s deep vocals and powerful vibrato find their way to give a boost to the groovy performance by TRIGGER.
But let’s not forget the rest of the members.
Wataru Hatano is the always reliable singer, being stable in whatever music genre you put him in. Talk about versatility.
With such a deep instrumental, I was actually fearing that he wouldn’t be that easy to spot, as Hatano is going for those deep notes, but he was actually insanely clear in his performance, with both his low notes and sweet vibrato shining.
Soma Saito goes for a pretty unique performance this time around.
For those that are not aware of it, Saito’s – now – consistent vibrato is actually a pretty recent addition, something he’s been polishing in the last couple of months, and it has now reached a point in which his vibrato has a lot of substance.
It seems that he has found his sweet spot when it comes to vibrato, matching both Wataru Hatano and Takuya Sato’s level, going for a robust, energetic performance with a lot of flair and groovy vibrato in the mix.
TRIGGER showcase their cohesion as a unit with a powerful and intense performance on top of a refreshing, dreamy instrumental that is nothing like what the trio is known for.
8 – DIAMOND FUSION
“DIAMOND FUSION” takes TRIGGER back to their alluring, slow-paced yet catchy electronic pop sound. Progressive synths are a must for this kind of song, meant to set the danceable tone and hype the listener throughout.
However, the way the synths were used on this instrumental was rather fresh. The lead synth isn’t looping endlessly, it only comes to the spotlight to enhance certain elements – i.e. intro, pre-chorus – and add explosiveness to the build-ups.
The verses mix progressive synths with slow-paced dubstep-ish drum samples.
This mix did wonders to the whole pacing of the song. So, don’t expect any over-the-top dubstep drum loops or the sort, the drum samples used avoided any kind of ridiculous or annoying results.
The vocals are off the charts.
There’s no shortage of quality and variety. Rap parts, flourishes, some R&B touches, and high notes, all were performed perfectly as you’d expect from them. “DIAMOND FUSION” is an exciting addition to TRIGGER‘s repertoire.
TRIGGER‘s “VARIANT” is a statement album.
It is dramatic, aggressive, raw, and fragile in equal measures and it packs quite the punch while being completely different from the music the group has released before.
This is a concept album, the first one by TRIGGER. At the core of this album is a will to fight.
A hunger to succeed.
Coming together, improving together to be their best version of themselves and be as cohesive and perfect as a unit as possible.
And I believe that TRIGGER sure pulled off every single one of those feelings, fleshing those out in a collection of songs that will be intense, heartbreaking, fun, groovy, and, by the end of it all, an intimate, deep look at a group that wants to be at the top while facing impossible odds.
“The dawn 〜Sword of VARIANT〜” is a moody intro track to this album. It sets a dark, somber and, fragile tone to “VARIANT“.
Carrying over from there is “VALIANT“, song that is nothing like what TRIGGER has released before.
The talented trio cast their allure and sexiness aside and don a dark and aggressive sound with quite a weirdly refreshing masculine intensity.
You can tell from that performance and instrumental that “VALIANT” is a statement song. A track that perfectly encapsulates TRIGGER’s whole “growth” and “hunger” main concepts going on in the album.
It presents fans with the first-ever glimpse at TRIGGER performing rap parts in the middle of their clean and powerful singing sections.
Although a first attempt, it sounded like the trio had always performed songs in that fashion. The transitions between rapping and singing were clean at all times and individually, every member was on top of their game.
An interesting touch is the fact that the song has, at the center, Tenn (CV: Soma Saito), character that you usually wouldn’t associate with the words “aggressive”, “grit” and “dirty”, yet the song has all those characteristics and more.
So, it’s time to cast aside that image of TRIGGER’s songs with Tenn as the center being all alluring. There’s an interesting duality there. He can also be quite aggressive and strangely enough, it suits him.
That aggressiveness carries over to “Heavenly Visitor“, yet another song that, when it was released, was a complete first time for the group tackling pure rock. The guitars scream and the vocals are powerful.
It is a show of strength and a confident showcase of their versatility as performers.
“Treasure!” embraced a mature, alluring jazz-pop sound that once again is a showcase of versatility as well as growth for the group.
The fun, relaxed melodies, and the harmonious vocals are refreshing in this album yet completely on-brand with all the change that is going on in this album.
“Crescent Rise” is the kind of song that instantly clicked with me when I first heard + watched it being performed life back in 2019 at IDOLiSH7’s 2nd Live REUNION.
I’m a fan of Shinnosuke’s work with TRIGGER and it once again didn’t disappoint. He composed a song with an ominous feel yet with a fragility underneath that is striking. You can feel the high stakes in the performances and the dramatic chorus.
An awesome touch is the dirty, overdriven guitar riffs that serve as the motif for this song.
Absolutely masterful both on the composition and then on the vocals, with TRIGGER’s Soma Saito, Wataru Hatano, and Takuya Sato showcasing perfect chemistry.
“Baratsuyu” is a romantic ballad that is a first for TRIGGER as a group. This song counts with Gaku (CV: Wataru Hatano) at center stage, gently lullabying the listener while tackling the feelings of longing for someone.
The group’s dynamics and chemistry shine in this song with their harmonies being off the charts.
“My Precious World” counts with Ryunnosuke (CV: Takuya Sato) at center stage and the vibe changes completely for TRIGGER. The sound is danceable, intense yet rather contained in itself with the beat being rather softer than you’d expect in a dance track.
I actually love that the beat wasn’t accentuated for this track. It leaves more space available in the composition to bring forth the bass, instrument that enhances Takuya Sato’s low baritone vocals. As a result, he’s booming in the track, with a sweet vibrato being just one of the various greeting cards to this track.
Supporting him is Wataru Hatano and Soma Saito that impress with their chemistry throughout. They fill in perfectly the soundscape for the listener, each covering completely different sides of the vocal range in what is a jaw dropping display of cohesion for the group.
Wrapping up this album is the oldie but goodie “DIAMOND FUSION“. This song is meant to be the group’s debut track and it arrives in a really symbolic way as the song responsible for wrapping up “VARIANT“.
In my understanding, the song arrives as a return to the roots or, better yet, to showcase the pride in their roots and accomplishments but you know that, at the same time, it’s a goodbye in more ways than one.
Outside of this album, “DIAMOND FUSION” is just an upbeat, intense song but in this album, it gains a completely different meaning.
TRIGGER is a versatile group in constant improvement and pulling off, time and time again, the craziest of things that you’d think were “impossible”.
As you can tell by now, each song in this album doesn’t sound the same and all are the result of the group branching out, exploring new music genres and compositions while showcasing their versatility on the vocal end.
In “VARIANT” you notice the group’s changes but also the common feelings that carry over from song to song, culminating in “DIAMOND FUSION”.
The want to succeed.
Climb to the top again.
Relive the glory as an improved, hardened and extremely confident and aggressive outfit.
The phoenix rising from the ashes. That’s the imagery I got when “VARIANT” came to a close.
TRIGGER absolutely outdid themselves with “VARIANT“. This concept album is a statement that the group is ready to claim back their throne and right now, they are more than worthy of that.
Perfect on all fronts, “VARIANT” is a strong candidate for album of the year.
VARIANT is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.