Japan’s extraordinary hard-rock headliners BAND-MAID let loose the next chapter in their musical conquest with the eight-track EP Unleash, available worldwide since September 21. Coming in under 30 minutes, the blistering runtime rekindles the pugilistic attitudes from the 2021 album Unseen World.
JROCK NEWS resident BAND-MAID fanatics G Andrew White and Nori unpack each track of the percussive and aggressive soundscape of Unleash. Saddle up for a deep dive into the EP’s ferocious battle cries and embrace the metal maidens as they storm the world again!
from now on
G Andrew White: This first track bursts out of the gate into a galloping stride. An astonishingly bold choice to start with an instrumental! Usually, their instrumentals are on the B-side of a single or as a bonus track. Yet, from now on sets a tone like a symphonic overture to a rock opera. From the beginning, the first hums of harmonic cellos pull you in for an epic sprint.
Nori: Agreed. Gutsy move to kick off without lead vocalist SAIKI. So glad they went for it though. My body’s been HYPED for this track ever since their Instagram teased it back in May. Lead guitarist KANAMI emotes some next-level shred. Her two-hand tapping frenzy in previous instrumentals onset and without holding back had become gym day anthems for me, but this culmination of “RAWK!”, the likes of which rarely heard outside Final Fantasy boss battles and Mega Man, makes me feel like a WWE star stepping into the ring.
GAW: The song name hints at the composition, as this banger tries to “balance” dueling melodies in an exhausting run. There is a concerted effort to thrash and be progressive all at once! Starting with a hip-hop influence, scratches on a vinyl record add momentum for a hard-rock groove. Despite the edginess, bet that it will please the BAND-MAID faithful.
Nori: Definitely caught the duality in shifting between a classic eight-beat and a swing rhythm. This back-and-forth compels the song to eschew hesitation and break free from indecisiveness. Makes me wonder if the lyrics about wanting to move past runaround mind games reflect the anxiety coming to a boil within vocalist/guitarist MIKU Kobato, the primary lyricist for the band. The pent-up exasperation that she’s put pen to paper really contrasts her otherwise whimsical alter ego as “cluppo”, the flappy pigeon.
GAW: We already experienced this sumptuous song when it dropped on August 9. At that time, there was a feeling that this was the mid-point of a sonic opus. And now, its place in the track order on the EP confirms that opinion. Straight up, this is BAND-MAID at full speed with unbridled passion! Unmistakably, a statement song for their fans and the world that they will blast away our blues. As we saw in the music video, their anime characters form into “transformers” like space artillery that vaporizes dark clouds from the Earth.
Nori: Equal parts hard rock and slam poetry. Maybe it’s the video… whenever this plays, I picture the Power Rangers assembling their beam cannon or interlocking into a Megazord before tearing our foes asunder. Truly embodies the current iteration of BAND-MAID and its evolution toward a more combative, dominating style.
GAW: There is something familiar here that reminds me of a track from the Roots side of their prior album Unseen World. Do you hear that as well? Yet, I’ll is challenging to get on board with the rest of this trip. After a string of hits on Unleash, this seems like a “take a breather” and coast song. Still, the taps from drummer AKANE on her high hat keep the energy alive.
Nori: You might be thinking of the track I still seek revenge. with those dance floor vibes and themes of begrudging resentment. The silky legato melody hits me like some of their earlier material from the 2017 album Just Bring It. A smooth blend of the classic and contemporary BAND-MAID. Love the chorus with the beefy stream of double bass kicks in the second half. Can’t wait to hear AKANE pound these out live.
GAW: Significantly here, BAND-MAID straddles a fine line between their old style and new, yet comes out better for it. Jogging with a hard-rock tempo, they infuse metal hooks and heavy thrums. Moreover, each member shines as bassist MISA gets a bass solo like a boss, and KANAMI’s response on lead guitar is divine.
Nori: Right on. What’s also brilliant here is that you could entirely rejig the arrangement—into a K-pop dance number or a brassy big band piece or a jazz shuffle, far beyond the realm of BAND-MAID’s repertoire—and the tune wouldn’t lose any of its punch. There’s just no stopping lead composer KANAMI from laying down the spirited sass on the inauthentic and manipulative forces of social media. A multipronged musical assault for the modern age.
GAW: Truly, there is robust commentary in the phrases regarding today’s social media. Specifically, Saiki riffs on the mantras of the web: “Fake crying” on Instagram, “I win!! You can’t win.” in gaming culture, “Follow me now!!” and “like” this or “hashtag” that. Which reminds me, be sure to like and follow us at JROCK NEWS.
Nori: Hold up. Are you an influencer now?
GAW: No, not at all! But I could not resist. This song has lots of thoughtful details that inspired me to be an influencer. Did any instances stand out to you?
Nori: Yes, SAIKI’s and MIKU’s spoken words segue into MISA’s throaty bass slap… easily my favorite moment.
GAW: Ever had a bad breakup? Surprisingly SAIKI, instead of MIKU, pens a song that expresses angry yet triumphant emotions. As the riffs come down the stretch, guitar string bending and hard-pounding beats push the sonic cavalcade to the limits. Finally, this song reaches the finish line and serves as the coda of the EP.
Nori: Musically, HATE? reminded me of the single DICE, which closed out the 2018 album WORLD DOMINATION and also featured KANAMI and MISA trading solos like steeds cruising into the sunset. SAIKI’s a total ice queen with those lyrics… I’d probably concede defeat and shave my head as penance if anyone wrote this about me. It’s as if she penned the words by spearing my heart and using the blood as ink.
GAW: Ouch! Though spare your heart from that pain, given the ideas expressed in Unleash, it may be that they do not “hate” a particular person… but a virus. Of note, the Covid pandemic forced the cancellation of their Nippon Budokan show. The devastation caused by that disease is worth hating on. Plus, the subsequent lockdowns kept the members separate from each other and their fans.
That is until now! Having completed a domestic tour of Japan in September, they are on their way to America. Exactly three years after their last overseas tour, the maids triumphantly return as fans await their “Okyu-ji” (or “service”, as the performances are affectionately called). While some shows are sold out, check the links below for availability.
BAND-MAID US TOUR 2022
|October 9||Aftershock Festival||Sacramento, CA||Buy tickets|
|October 12||The Neptune||Seattle, WA||Buy tickets|
|October 14||August Hall||San Francisco, CA||Buy tickets (sold out)|
|October 15||Belasco||Los Angeles, CA||Buy tickets|
|October 17||House of Blues||San Diego, CA||Buy tickets|
|October 19||Crescent Ballroom||Phoenix, AZ||Buy tickets (sold out)|
|October 21||House of Blues||Dallas, TX||Buy tickets|
|October 22||House of Blues||Houston, TX||Buy tickets|
|October 25||The Fillmore||Washington, DC||Buy tickets|
|October 26||TLA||Philadelphia, PA||Buy tickets|
|October 28||Irving Plaza||New York, NY||Buy tickets|
|October 29||Paradise Rock Club||Boston, MA||Buy tickets|
|October 30||American Dream||East Rutherford, NJ||Buy tickets|
|November 1||House of Blues||Chicago, IL||Buy tickets|
All in all, Unleash awakens BAND-MAID from their pandemic-prolonged dormancy with a virtuosic octet of breakneck furor. This is a must-have for die-hard fans and even newcomers will enjoy this excursion. Also noteworthy, the EP contains Sense and Corallium which were previously released with the Sense single edition.