Wataru Hatano brings forth one of the most complex concepts of 2022 with his 3rd full-length album “TORUS”.
Title: TORUS Label: DiveII Entertainment Release date: 30/11/2022 Genre: Pop/R&B/Acoustic rock
1 - Prologue of TORUS ～Architect～ 2 - TORUS 3 - Never End!Summer! 4 - ナニイロ 5 - フワリ フワリ 6 - Vivid Junction（Album Version） 7 - Breakers 8 - Agape ～Interlude～ 9 - No Man Is an Island 10 - Get Wild 11 - Not Elimination 12 - Heart To Heart（Album Version） 13 - Epilogue of TORUS ～Creator～
Track by track analysis:
1 – Prologue of TORUS ～Architect～ (INSTRUMENTAL)
A rising, urgent piano melody plays in the background as synths wash away in the background. Soon after, “Prologue of TORUS ～Architect～” introduces a deep yet simplistic bass as Hatano’s vocals enter the track, slowly fading away into “TORUS”.
2 – TORUS
“TORUS” brings overdriven guitars, a dirty bassline, and a strong synth lead in its intro. However, much of that electronica found in the intro is nowhere to be found when it comes to the verses.
The verses are tight and more traditional in their composition, toning down synths to a bare minimum and putting the guitar melodies, bassline, and bassy drums in the spotlight. The feeling you get when listening to the verses is of a wide soundscape with no end. It feels futuristic and refreshing in a way.
When the chorus kicks in, “TORUS” brings out its electronica, with a high-pitched fading synth lead joining in to complement the instrumental
The soundscape stretches to the universe by welcoming these to the instrumental, going all out with the infinity concept in this track.
Wataru Hatano brings his trademark consistency to the spotlight, delivering a steady, energetic, and, in a way, hopeful performance.
3 – Never End!Summer!
[As previously reviewed] Never End! Summer!’s instrumental counts with hyped-up synths, bass-drum centric drums, and exciting guitar riffs, creating an energetic, rather youthful, and catchy sound.
A clap track and chants are also added, adding interactivity to this song. I am sure that this track will work insanely well in a live setting, especially as an encore track to hype up the crowd.
The chorus is addictive and simple, showcasing a tasteful balance between the synths – that might be a bit overwhelming when the song kicks off – and the live classic rock band elements.
I am particularly fond of how deep and warm the drums sound. The focus on its bass sound – bass drum and toms – made the instrumental stand out for me.
When it comes to the vocals, Wataru Hatano goes for an energetic and hopeful performance. You can feel the excitement in his voice, it is as if he is recalling good memories of summer and channeling those so that they rub off on the listener.
Sweet vibrato adds a bit of flair throughout the track, being a really nice touch to a song that seemed like it’d go more the goofy way but ended up being a mature take on peppy pop.
All in all, Wataru Hatano’s Never End! Summer! is a carefree, bubbly pop song that is meant to put a smile on the listener’s face.
4 – ナニイロ
[As previously reviewed] A jolly piano melody opens the curtains for “Naniiro“.
The song has a soft pop-rock sound, focusing on a balance between the core rock band members with strings, piano, and bells. This dynamic, alongside the gentle main melody by the acoustic guitar, creates a warm, bubbly sound.
The verses are pretty straightforward, with all instruments riding on a comfortable mid-tempo, making this quite an enjoyable listen.
The chorus isn’t groundbreaking, sounding clearly made to be featured in anime (thus, there are hundreds of songs that sound like this one, taking away some of the replay value from it) but overall it is an enjoyable tune that will have you nodding your head to it.
On the vocal end, Wataru Hatano is his usual self in terms of consistency and quality even in a song that doesn’t stand out as much as previous songs of his. You can expect his warm baritone vocals to warm you up and put a smile on your face.
5 – フワリ フワリ
[As previously reviewed] “Fuwari Fuwari” explores funk, rock, jazz and a bit of pop, creating a unique and balanced soundscape. If there is something that easily stands out in this song is the groovy bass line.
It is pivotal to make the funky, danceable side of this song come to life. At the same time, playful brass and funky guitar riffs add a taste of jazz and funk, making this track as catchy as you could possibly imagine.
While you’re enjoying this addictive tune, Wataru Hatano delivers a thoroughly groovy performance that makes great use of his control, dishing out sweet vibrato, as well as the right emotions to make this a cool tune to listen to. Top marks.
6 – Vivid Junction（Album Version）
[As previously reviewed, however, revised for the new arrangement]
“Vivid Junction” gets a completely different arrangement in this album. The once high-speed synthwave tune gets the acoustic treatment, bringing a simple beat, deep bassline, and melodic acoustic guitars.
And while this rearrangement might seem, on a first listen, like a downgrade from the original, it actually is a fantastic take on the song, adding to it a sort of final, fatalistic twist. Yes, it lacks the energy of the original but does this album need that energy or coherence in tone? So this is a sensible arrangement that fits the tone of the album and doesn’t lose the essence of the original.
There is something I love about this version and that is the addition of distorted piano melodies in the verses, enriching the unique soundscape in which you now are.
The solo is incredibly sweet yet lonely at the same time, with the acoustic guitar going really high and fickle as all the other instruments disappear as if sucked into the vacuum of space. All that is left is that melody lingering. And it is as sad as you can imagine.
For the rearrangement, Hatano had to re-record this song bringing ad-libs, riffing, and insanely clean mid-to-deep tones. He ended up slowing down his performance, focusing much more on being emotional, something that complemented the song perfectly.
7 – Breakers
[As previously reviewed] A dramatic piano melody leads the way for “Breakers”. It slowly paints a melancholic soundscape that serves as the backdrop for Wataru Hatano’s emotional vocals.
The verses build up the tension in a unique way, coming from a stripped-down section – piano and voice only – to a chorus that introduces hip-hop triplets and adds fat, bassy synths on top.
The 2nd verse welcomes an ethereal choir in the background however, the song still sounds devoid of anything in its soundscape, being haunting for the most part.
There is something strangely addictive to “Breakers”. While it is minimalistic from start to finish, it has a depth in its composition that will go under the radar for many.
The deliberate silences, the intensity in the chorus yet never going beyond this controlled, almost eerie vibe it has going on even to the vocals, seldom rise in tension. This song is mesmerizing in its simplicity.
And to top it all off, Wataru Hatano delivers a contained yet incredibly powerful performance, showcasing his control in the verses and technique in the chorus and bridge (his head voice/falsetto combo is as stunning as ever).
8 – Agape ～Interlude～ (instrumental)
Distorted synths open the doors to the second half of the album, slowly bringing in beautiful piano melodies and legato strings to the spotlight, easing you into the emotional “No Man is an Island”.
9 – No Man Is an Island
A sweet acoustic guitar melody and atmospheric synths open the curtains to “No Man Is an island”, song that basks in its sweet, passionate tone and dreamy vibe.
While most songs in this album are dreamy yet packing quite a lot of power, this song arrives as a pleasant surprise, fully embracing a downtempo, gentle tone with fickle piano melodies that, in a way, encompass the emotions going on in the lyrics. As those emotions grow stronger, so do the piano melodies, getting stronger, fuller, brighter, and more hopeful.
The chorus flows naturally from the verses, being barely noticeable that there is a transition in there. The tone remains sweet however, the only obvious change is in the drums which get slightly faster.
The intermission features those distorted, space-inspired synths at center stage, leaving feelings of longing and love in the air.
The second verse brings a couple of new things to the spotlight, namely the fast, off-tempo drums that arrive as disruptive and urgent despite the sweet tone of the song.
When the bridge arrives, the sound around you closes in and creates an intimate soundscape that feels like a warm, passionate hug. It is overflowing with emotion and longing and Hatano’s performance only makes it all the more moving.
On the vocal end, Wataru Hatano delivers a whisper-style performance, something rare for him, however, it is a style that fits not only perfectly with this song but also with the whole tone of this album.
“No Man is an island” arrived with a delightful sound and gentle vibe and leaves me wanting more and more.
10 – Get Wild
Suit up because things will “Get Wild” with this funk-meets-synthwave tune. Energy levels rise slightly for this tune, something that will leave you wondering why “Vivid Junction” didn’t stay as it is, as it’d be the perfect follow-up for this tune.
Synths are big and quite prominent in this song, coexisting with the funky dual guitars. The bassline punches its way through the instrumental as the drums slowly keep pace.
The chorus is quite open and airy, leaving plenty of space for Wataru Hatano to take the stage and shine with his robust mid-toned vocals.
When it comes to the second verse, things change slightly in tone. The song goes a bit darker with big synth stabs battling it out with dirty guitar riffs as relentless snary drums and a high-pitched synth melody play in the background.
Despite all of this, the chorus drags for way too long and gets too many repetitions. When you get to the last chorus and outro, you’ll be either tired of the song – that doesn’t seem like it’ll ever end – or are singing along to the chorus that you’ve now memorized (given how many times it is repeated).
The fact that the song drags on and doesn’t wrap up in a satisfactory way is something that made this song drop quite a bit in my enjoyment.
11 – Not Elimination
An acoustic guitar opens the doors to the pop-rock tune “Not Elimination”. Soon after, electric guitars storm their way through the song, creating a bridge to the slower and quieter verses.
In the verses, Wataru Hatano finds himself accompanied by a deep bassline, splashy drums, and simple guitar riffs, however, where “Not Elimination” shines in the chorus.
The chorus counts with powerful splashy drums, shredding guitar riffs, and a thunderous bassline as delicate piano melodies play in the background.
This much power is rarely found in Hatano’s music as of late so it’s a sort of fun return to the past in terms of sonority for him.
Another thing that shines in this song is the shredding guitar solo that removes the tap from the bottle of emotions that this song had been storing since the start. It feels good and has a good enough length for you to appreciate it – if you are a fan of rock music.
As far as Hatano’s vocals go, his mid-tones are a perfect matchup for this type of rock music. He is consistent throughout, never wavering in his performance, and was always ready to add an extra bit of emotion to his performance, delivering it in quite the dynamic way with cool accents here and there in some words.
Solid, solid entry.
12 – Heart To Heart（Album Version）
[As previously reviewed, adapted to reflect the new arrangement]
“Heart to Heart” shifts slightly, going even more the jazzy route than the original. As such, the instrumental slows down a bit, brings a beautiful rhodes piano to the spotlight, replaces its drums with a triplets, hip-hop-inspired beat, and embraces atmospheric synths for the pre-chorus, creating a dreamy soundscape.
Forget about the insanely punchy bassline that you could find in the original song. In this one, the bassline only goes all out in the intermission between the first chorus and 2nd verse. Other than that, synths and the beat are in charge of cranking up the bass in this song, something that makes the song sound softer in comparison.
The verses ride on a comfortable tempo, fully embracing its groovy tone yet never overwhelming the listener. The stage is set for Wataru Hatano’s fancy vocals to shine.
With these many changes made to the song, the chorus ends up changing slightly in vibe, being definitely funkier in this version as not much has changed on the vocal end.
Wataru Hatano is in his element in this song, making the best use of his versatile skillset to deliver a performance overflowing with falsetto, sweet mid-tones, and a lot of good vibes.
13 – Epilogue of TORUS ～Creator～ (INSTRUMENTAL)
The journey wraps up with “Epilogue of TORUS ～Creator～” by going back to the start. And that is signaled by the backwards vocals that you find here. In a way, this instrumental is the polar opposite of the intro yet, it is the same track at its core.
Goodbye and welcome to the never-ending loop.
Wataru Hatano releases his first concept album and “TORUS” does deliver a lot of interesting performances here.
With “TORUS” as its concept – a tridimensional space in which energy circulates around countless times over and over again forever -, there was a challenge to make the album and the songs in it fully capture the vibe and deliver something with an appropriate tone.
And what we got was a genuinely interesting take on the concept not necessarily individually but as a whole. When you listen to this album from start to finish – and pay closer attention to everything -, you notice that how it starts and ends is exactly the same, only the intro is playing in the right way and the outro is playing backwards. How this is done is quite ingenious, using a distorted synth that, regardless of whether it is played as it’s meant to be or backwards, it sounds, right.
Then, when it comes to the feelings in this album, it is safe to say that “TORUS” and “Heart to Heart” are in the same tone, and so on and so forth.
The more you analyze the album from start to finish or split the album into two acts and compare the last with the first songs, “TORUS” (the album) is insanely cohesive in tone and concept. This is really something impressive in and of itself so props to the production and mastering team for this album.
Among the new songs, the highlight is, undoubtedly “No Man Is an island”.
“No Man Is an Island” arrives as a surprise sweet shift in tone in this album, focusing more on infinite love than expected. The song counts on lyrics by fellow seiyuu and singer-songwriter Soma Saito.
And, surprisingly as well, this is not a twisted song with multiple meanings or with a dark story at its core. This is a pure love story with some longing at its core, suitable for Hatano’s sweet baritone vocals.
Out of the previously released songs, only “Vivid Junction” got a new arrangement, shifting from its dreamy synthwave sound with a high-octane beat to a somber, slow-paced, and seemingly fatalistic sort of performance.
This rearrangement managed to be the perfect bridge with the haunting “Breakers” and fit right in with the quieter, dreamy, and distant tone of “TORUS” as an album.
However, when you get to “Get wild” and notice that, in fact, this sort of energetic type of song actually worked in the album, it is quite frustrating that a song that invokes the concept of “endless space” – Vivid Junction – doesn’t get to be shown in its true colors.
Well, this is the only point in this album that doesn’t make any sense to me. But I believe it is a stylistic choice so I won’t dive too much into it.
For the very first attempt at a concept album, especially with such a complex concept at its core, I believe Wataru Hatano did an awesome job. “TORUS” is a strong album, in my opinion, his best and truly his most consistent to date.
“TORUS” is available for streaming on Spotify.
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