Overall Score: 9/10 Hooks: 9/10 Consistency: 8/10 Musicianship: 9/10 Pros: Massive hooks | Fantastic musicianship Cons: Some tracks blend together | Others tracks feel out of place
BAND-MAID is a J-Rock band that’s been threatening to make waves in the west for a while now. They first gained attention as little more than a gimmick, as the contrast between their hard hitting J-Rock/metal songs and their cutesy French maid imagery became a talking point in the metal community. However, they have the music to prove that they’re more than just a gimmick, and in 2016 they signed an international deal with JPU Records and played abroad for the first time. Now, after 3 rapidly released, yet successful, mini-albums, they’re ready to unleash their first full-length effort, Just Bring It.
The album gets off to a flying start with “Don’t you tell ME”, with alt-metal riffs and subtle keyboards driving forward the music in BAND-MAID’s patented catchy-yet-heavy style. The band have grown considerably over the 4 years they’ve been releasing music together with more complex structures working their way into the group’s music. Guitarist, backing vocalist and virtual band leader Miku Kobato is one hell of a songwriter, which you have to be if you’re releasing new music almost every year. There are some forgettable moments such as “Moratorium” and “you.” but the album also contains some of BAND-MAID’s best material yet in “Don’t you tell ME” and lead single “YOLO”.
The pop melodies of Saiki Atsumi’s vocals are a perfect complement to the alt-metal riffs of Kobato and Kanami T?no, and create songs that are itching to hit the live circuit. When they do, you can guarantee that the venue will be full of massive singalongs and insane mosh pits at the same time. It’s impossible not to mention the inventive bass playing of Misa too, who never seems content to just play what Kobato and T?no play and instead offers an extra dimension to the sound with creative and complicated bass lines that sometimes almost feel like they’re playing the lead rather than simply holding the rhythm as most bass players are happy to sit back and do.
As has already been said, however, the album is not without its flaws. The band has a very set sound that it wants to persue on this album and as such the quintet don’t seem very keen to stray from the path that they’ve set themselves. This can cause some tracks to feel like they blur together and become indistinct from another during the middle part of the album. With that said, you’ll always find something to drag it back into focus and they don’t let themselves get too bogged down in their comfort zone. Occasionally the band will throw in something different such as group vocals, a flash of electronics or a massive dynamic shift which will throw you completely off your guard. “CROSS” offers plenty of this, with numerous breaks, dynamic shifts, tempo changes and little subtleties that you may miss on first listen but keep coming back to and discovering more.
The oddly named “OOPARTS” is perhaps the oddest track on the album, though. Not in terms of the structure, but because it feels like straight up pop-rock in a sea of heavy hitting J-Rock and alternative metal that dominated Just Bring It. It feels somewhat out of place but offers a nice half-time break. The main issue is that it feels like the band somewhat phoned in this track. The music is catchy enough but lacks the creative songwriting of the rest of the album and Misa’s bass playing is pretty basic. On any other album this wouldn’t be an issue, but on this album it just feels… off. Especially when followed by “Take me higher!!” which shifts seamlessly between hard rock riffs, classic heavy metal solos and modern metal breakdowns to create an entirely different beast. “Awkward” is another track that seems to have this issue as well but avoids slipping all the way into it with the heavy turn about a minute and a half in, going full throttle in the second half of the track.
Putting those minor issues aside, this is an fantastic first full-length from a band that has constantly been on the ascendancy for a number of years now. With backing from the highly reputable Crown Stones label in Japan and international support from JPU Records, BAND-MAID has everything set up to really break out in 2017.
BAND-MAID’s new album Just Bring It is out now in Japan via Crown Stones Records, and will be released internationally by JPU Records on February 10. Pre-order the album here and follow the band on Facebook.