Review | RUBIA Leopard “Trigger”

RUBIA Leopard

RUBIA Leopard wrap up 1 year of releases since their debut with the exhilarating and powerful mini-album, Trigger.

RUBIA Leopard is a popular rock band within the franchise. It is fronted by AKANE (CV: Makoto Furukawa) and counts with guitarist KURONO (CV: Kaito Ishikawa), bassist MASHIRO (CV: Takuya Sato) and drummer HAIJI (CV: Natsuki Hanae).


Title: Trigger
Label: TEAM Entertainment Inc. 
Release date: 16/12/2020
Genre: Rock / Grunge / Ballad

Track list:

1 - Answer
2 - Chained to You
3 - Never end
4 - Higher Ground
5 - EXISTER
6 - Answer(Off Vocal)
7 - Chained to You(Off Vocal)
8 - Never end(Off Vocal)
9 - Higher Ground(Off Vocal)
10 - EXISTER(Off Vocal)

Track by track analysis:

1 – Answer

[As previously reviewed]

Answer kicks off with a quiet and distant melody that leads the way into the whole rock band, slow paced and ominous sound.

The verses focus on creating an edgy but not overcrowded platform for the vocals to shine, giving priority to the emotions overflowing from Furukawa’s vocals as opposed to the pain and melancholy that comes from this post-grunge rock tune. 

Things change a bit around when we hit the chorus.

The instrumentalization for this part of the song stands out from the rest, as a crunchy bass line, shredding guitar riffs and splashy drums take a place at center stage. This is a powerful and textbook build up done in a 90s fashion.

Makoto Furukawa fronts RUBIA Leopard with a charisma and confidence that it is as if he has always been a frontman.

When it comes to technique, Furukawa more often than not is off the charts. For this song, it was no different.

His growly vibrato enhances the melancholy in this rock tune and the rawness that he brings – both in emotions and vocal delivery – make this performance sound even more powerful.


2 – Chained to You

[As previously reviewed]

A groovy slap bass line takes over as slow tempo, splashy drums and alluring guitar riffs make their entrance.

Sliding guitar riffs and simple hi-hat + bass drum beat shape the suggestive verses, making the song exude a forbidden, alluring vibe.

The chorus is rather simple, with the guitars exploring tones and pedals to create the slightly overdriven and sliding fun that is this song.

The vocals are simple, requiring much less vibrato from Makoto Furukawa, instead focusing his technique into adding a funky yet dangerous touch to this song.

A pleasant change of pace for the band, but it is already starting to form a kind of pattern.

It was interesting to find RUBIA Leopard being comfortable in slow tempo rock tunes instead of shredding like crazy. Fun song and all rounded performance make this song yet another solid entry.



3 – Never end

[As previously reviewed]

RUBIA Leopard embrace a softer, ballad sound for Never end.

A slow paced piano melody set the emotional tone for this song. Acoustic guitars, a slow paced snary beat and a highly noticeable bass line help paint this pained, melancholic image that the piano and vocals put the first strokes in.

Electric guitars do not play as big a role as they did in previous songs, however they impact this song with accents in the intro and help build up the song to the emotional chorus.

Makoto Furukawa‘s vocals are the perfect fit for this kind of song. His growly, vibrato-y vocals tackle this ballad in a way that makes chills run down the spine.

Just from the intro, in which his voice is low and rather quiet – almost as if wounded by something -, accompanying the gloomy piano melody, it is noticeable that we are in for an emotional ride.

Furukawa then capitalizes on his technique and delivers one stellar emotional performance for this song.

It is easier for the listener to feel this song because the performance is meant to impact you.

The emotion, the simple yet direct instrumental, the way the song flows, culminating in a highly emotional performance. 



4 – Higher Ground

[As previously reviewed]

RUBIA Leopard are back with a high octane rock tune. Higher Ground doesn’t shy away from being a fierce, fast-paced and cool rock track that you’ll want to jam along–or headbang to.

The song kicks off with a simple guitar riff, that channels a bit of GRANRODEO’s–which is great!–explosive and catchy rock sound.

Higher Ground has that catchy sound, making good use of simple compositions and tasteful melodies to deliver a memorable track with a radio-friendly sound.

The verses are exciting and the chorus is undoubtedly the most explosive out of all tracks the band has released so far.

On vocal duty is Makoto Furukawa and what a performance he delivers!

Aside from his comfortable mid-tones in the verses, he adds his robust vibrato and fancy falsetto in the chorus.

For those familiar with Furukawa’s singing style, you’ll know that he is very keen on using his vibrato to enhance his performances.

It usually flows naturally for him–as his voice has a bit of that to begin with–however, if you listen to his performance in Higher Ground, you’ll notice that he tried to have it in check.

The verses are almost–emphasis on “almost”–clean of vibrato, adding a unique flavor to his performance. I felt like this was an interesting touch, although we all know that his powerful vibrato is a trademark of his.

Higher Ground is a banger. Even if you’re not too big on rock music, this song will definitely catch your attention and the chorus will refuse to leave your mind for a while. Top marks.


5 – EXISTER

The new song in town is EXISTER, track that makes the mini-album come full circle in both intensity and tone.

A thunderously groovy bass line leads the way for this shredding song with an old-school hardrock feel, with quick verses and also a quick chorus that go by in an instant.

The intensity of this song is unlike anything RUBIA Leopard have released before.

The slap bass line adds a refreshing touch to the the band’s overall sound – something that we’ve heard glimpses of in “Chained to You” – and gives, not an alluring vibe like in that song but a edge that makes the band exude a dangerous vibe.

The fast paced and brief chorus put emphasis in the urgency of this track, with things flowing too quickly at times, for you, on a first listen, to take in everything that is happening – background, vocals or other details.

In my experience listening to this song, I’d suggest you listen to it 2 or 3 times to catch most of the details in this track and understand why this is such a good, groovy hardrock song.

On the vocal end, Makoto Furukawa is stuck with some crazily difficult English lyrics to tackle.

He did his best to pull those off but it was easily noticeable how he wasn’t confident performing those, as his shifts between English and Japanese lyrics weren’t smooth.

At the same time, the emotions he has during his performance shift just enough in that change between languages to be noticeable some discomfort – or lack of confidence – in tackling the English lyrics.

This isn’t a fact that weighs down the ranking for this song but it is worth noting that Furukawa could have easily done an insanely good job with half the English lyrics around.

Furukawa then tries to make up for the first verse’s uncharismatic performance and delivers his all in the chorus, then never lowering his tension until the song wraps up.

All in all, EXISTER winks at hardrock while bringing back the band’s groovy rock sound from “Chained to You”. Fresh entry in this release.


Final considerations:

RUBIA Leopard showcased their quality and intensity with an absolute banger of a mini-album in Trigger.

This is a band that, since the very 1st day, has me on the edge of my seat. This is the kind of rock that I’d love for more groups to explore, this is the sound that many fans of rock crave for.

RUBIA Leopard not only meet those expectations but they go beyond. Their music is incisive, aggressive and alluring, all in good measures.

Simplicity and complexity go hand-in-hand in their repertoire and things are always fresh on the vocal end.

Trigger is a mini-album that features some of RUBIA Leopard’s best songs to date. However, when I was listening and reviewing the songs one by one as those were released as singles in the last year, I didn’t notice it.

How much you can tell that the band improved with each release. Each song was more refined than the other. The vocals were more polished. The songs, more emotional.

There were a couple of songs to break the ice in the middle such as Chained to You – song with a lot of funk and groove metal influences – and Never End – ballad that I didn’t expect fans would get from what seemed to me to be a gritty, aggressive and intense rock bands.

Turns out, it also has a soft spot that suits them a lot.

There’s no doubt about it that Makoto Furukawa is THE frontman everyone wants to have in their rock band.

Charismatic, consistent, versatile and, most of all, sensible, delivering passionate performances of various intensities and exploring different emotions depending on the song in question.

Trigger is a mini-album that shows you that rock music in 2D music projects is alive and kicking despite how much pop and hip-hop still dominate the field.

RUBIA Leopard’s Trigger serves as a great introduction to the band as well as to rock, as most songs are friendly to those that don’t usually enjoy shredding rock songs and powerful vocals.

Trigger is one of the best mini-albums of 2020.


Trigger is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

DIG-ROCK RUBIA Leopard Mini Album "Trigger" / RUBIA Leopard
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Answer
Chained to You
Never end
Higher Ground
EXISTER
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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