Since 2014, ASURA has been delighting fans with their blend of heavy metal inspired music and dance. In addition to the four musicians in exciting costumes, ASURA brings in dancers Sayaka and Mizuki who give the whole show a glamorous feeling with their choreography. In the underground rock scene of Tokyo, ASURA is often found arm-in-arm with female-fronted heavyweights like Amelia and Yajima Mai.
On July 27th, ASURA dropped their second, full-length album, ETERNAL, onto expectant fans. It has nine songs and an intro track, as is popular for Japanese bands to do. Fans of Japanese rock and metal know that attempting to cast a band, or even a complete album into one single genre is difficult because they like to experiment with different sounds. In ETERNAL, it is clear that ASURA’s members are influenced by metal, idol, classic rock, and even modern pop.
The strongest theme that captures the listener’s attention is the vocal ability of singer Akina. She carries most of the melodic elements of the songs, except for Dragon Crow, which is a short, frantic instrumental track. While the guitar occasionally steps in to carry a portion of the songs melody, it is usually relegated to a rhythm role, leaving Akina to dominate.
Working that guitar is M. That’s not James Bond’s boss, that’s just the guitarist’s stage name. As stated previously, most of his work is rhythmic. The riffs follow the tempo of the song exactly, using very little counterpoint. The exception to this would be Light of Hope. This song sounds as though it were written by BRIDEAR and features strong harmonized guitars and soaring chorus characteristic of a power metal tune.
In Cruel world, Kae makes her bass heard more than anywhere else on the recording. As one of the best tracks, it slows down the tempo just a little to make it more of a rock-and-roll track. All the musicians, as well as vocals, shine against a solid wall of electronic sounds that backdrops everything.
Of course, leading the rhythmic charge throughout is Fumiya behind the drum kit. From the fierce machine gun blast beats of Empress, to the more pop/dance style of Niji, he navigates this album with precision. Although sometimes he has to play off electronic beats that pop up at the beginning of a song, or during a breakdown. The transitions are seamless and he does keep the rest of the band on time.
ETERNAL showcases the musical talent and technical ability of the band, even though, since it is audio only, only 2/3 of ASURA’s members created it. They explore several genres and techniques. Synthesized sounds and instruments appear throughout the album, to augment the musicians. The star of the whole effort is Akina, as the vocalist. This is most evident on the final track, Letter. Accompanied by only a piano, Akina sings a beautiful tune that captures the attention of the crustiest metal-head. And that highlights the problem with the entire disc.
ASURA, on this album, doesn’t seem at all like a metal band. They sound like a soloist with a metal-themed band behind her. As is the case with most solo acts, the music feels manufactured, as though it was purchased off the shelf, picked from many others just like it. Even though they cover several different types of music, they offered nothing unique, just the stereotypes for those genres. While the live show is vivid and entertaining thanks to the dancers, the audio alone feels plastic, and derived. With their obvious talent I look forward to their next album. Hopefully that record, unlike this one, will have a soul.
3. Say to oneself
4. Cruel world
5. Bonds of fire
6. Luv My Rule
7. Dragon Crow
8. Light of Hope
Eternal is available in Europe and the US on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer.