Café Parade, Altessimo and Legenders raised the bar with their performances on the first volume of the 3rd ANNIVERSARY DISC series. Variety and quality are this release’s greeting cards, even with some hiccups along the way.
This volume counts with performances of Café Parade (Makoto Furukawa, Daiki Kobayashi, Takuya Kodama, Sho Karino, Kouhei Amasaki), Altessimo (Shunichi Toki, Yusuke Nagano) and Legenders (Jun Kasama, Fumiyoshi Shioya, Wataru Komada).
Title: 3rd ANNIVERSARY DISC 01 Label: Lantis Release date: 17/01/2018 Genre: J-Pop/Theatrical pop/ Pop-Rock
1 - Reversed Masquerade (Café Parade) 2 - Tone's Destiny (Altessimo) 3 - Symphonic Brave (Legenders) 4 - Eternal Fantasia (Café Parade, Legenders and Altessimo)
Track by track analysis:
01 – Reversed Masquerade
Exquisite and theatrical, Café Parade’s “Reversed Masquerade” is a treat that despite catching you off guard at first, will certainly please you, especially if you’re into their unique sound. A music box melody and some ambient elements set an initially eerie vibe, however what we get after that daunting intro is something in the good old Café Parade fashion. Jazzy pop takes up most of the instrumental although we can easily find several changes in tone and intensity in the span of 5 minutes. Contrary to previous releases, these changes felt right and had natural transitions, something we quite enjoyed. Makoto Furukawa steals the show, there’s no discussion. His vibrato imbued vocals are a perfect fit for Café Parade’s theatrical and dramatic sound. Whenever he goes for a note he surpasses everyone’s performances with ease. There’s another member that stands out: Sho Karino, that is the second-best singer on this unit, one in which everyone can rely on. He’s got the energy and technique to impress, being a fantastic bridge between some of the less skilled singers and Furukawa’s power vocals. His melodic mid-tones and vibrato are an excellent addition to the vocal track and an invaluable asset for this unit. This is easily Café Parade’s best song, a feast for the ears be it thanks to the rich, ever changing instrumental or the engaging and energetic vocal performances. 5/5
02 – Tone’s Destiny
The tone changes completely as we’re now with Altessimo, duo known for their classical roots and tasteful sound. A delicate violin melody and bright piano set the tone for this sweet song. The instrumental adds snary, mid-tempo drums, a memorable bassline and bells to the mix, all to crafted in a classy way. The verses are quiet, with the vocals being accompanied by bassy drums and a beautiful piano melody. The pre-chorus raises the tension with urgent splashy drums, leading the way to the best chorus we’ve heard on Altessimo’s songs. All the tension that comes from the pre-chorus is diffused carefully, making the chorus a mild and refined experience for the listener, focused on making the vocals stand out. On the vocal end, we notice that Altessimo really work well as a unit. The chemistry between Toki and Nagano shows through this performance. From their complementing tones to their harmonies, Altessimo’s vocals impressed us. 5/5
03 – Symphonic Brave
Following the lead given by Altessimo, Legenders’ “Symphonic Brave” brings to the table a delicate symphonic touch to their sound. Strings, timpani, uplifting piano melodies, all blend with the unit’s trademark pop-rock sound to deliver a memorable performance. The bass and piano are at the core of this instrumental, setting a hopeful and optimistic tone that will rub off on the listener. The instrumental also counts with an unusual bridge section. Instead of exciting guitar or bass solos, Legenders went the extra mile and delivered an orchestral bridge in which dramatic timpani, cheerful piano melodies and delicate strings do their best to impress the listener. As it has been a staple for them, their vocal performances are filled with emotion, enhancing the already engaging instrumentals. Kasama’s rich baritone smooths its way through the song at the same time that Komada’s unique rough vibrato-ed vocals add depth to the performance, and Shioya adds the finishing touches with his mid-toned vocals. “Symphonic Brave” might not sound as grandiose and exciting as their previous songs but it’s still an interesting addition to their repertoire. 4.5/5
04 – Eternal Fantasia
Café Parade, Altessimo and Legenders join forces for “Eternal Fantasia“. The instrumental lends a bit from each unit’s unique elements. The song is upbeat, with a dramatic, theatrical tone, fast paced drums and guitar riffs, strings, brass and playful piano melodies. Even with this mix, the song still sounds closer to being something we might find Café Parade perform as opposed to the other groups. Due to that, the instrumental will sound slightly odd and a bit exaggerated. When it comes to the vocal performances we have mixed feelings. There is no balance in the performances. What do we mean by this? As an ensemble, everyone has a role, and given the different voice colors within it, week performances or flaws are seldom noticeable. This doesn’t happen with this song though. There are entire sections in which all the best vocalists are taking turns, then leading to the chorus, and there are sections in which all the weakest singers are all in the same place. That makes some of the sections better sounding than others, breaking the balance. It would have been better to intersperse solid and weak singers to not have these oscillations in quality. 4/5
On this volume of the 3rd ANNIVERSARY series we find three contrasting groups. Café Parade embrace a theatrical approach to their music, employing a sort of three-act formula in their instrumentals, changing between tones, genres and tempos quite a few times in the same song; Altessimo bring a delicate and classy touch to the table, classical music is their greeting card and Legenders don an exciting and carefully crafted pop-rock sound with some royal vibes in it. This release benefits from having these unique acts all in the same place, displaying just how rich and varied the franchise is. Variety and quality almost go hand-to-hand with the songs featured on this release.
Vocal wise there are incredibly skilled singers, as well as those that need some improvement on all three groups. Makoto Furukawa, Shunichi Toki and Jun Kasama are the ones that grabbed our attention. Furukawa managed to sing with a musical theater flair. A reminder that most experienced singers (or professional singers) find singing using the musical theater technique extremely difficult. If you listen to “Reversed Masquerade”, you’ll notice that Furukawa made it look and sound too easy. His talent once again comes across in the best of lights. Despite Altessimo being a duo that highly needs both parts to sound complete, we noticed that it’s Shunichi Toki that gives a refined touch to their performance. His vocals carry a lot of emotion, making it extremely easy for the listener to be affected by his performance. Legenders have a strong lineup but it Jun Kasama that usually steals the show with his smooth baritone.
“Eternal Fantasia” tried to incorporate trademark elements from each group and ended up with a weird, loud instrumental that sounds more like something for Café Parade but still on its early stages of composition. With these three unique groups we were expecting the last song to resort to elements that each fan could easily say “This sounds like something (insert group) would perform!“, what we weren’t expecting was that the mix would sound so subpar.
Fans got variety and quality (for the most part) with this release. Café Parade and Altessimo stole the show with two polarizing but impressive performances.
In the end, the first release of the 3rd ANNIVERSARY DISC series is an exciting entry.
THE IDOLM@STER SideM 3rd ANNIVERSARY DISC 01 is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.