• ''Melancholic mixture of catchy pop rock and sinister metalcore'': A review of lynch.'s ''D.A.R.K. - In the name of evil -''

    lynch. - ''D.A.R.K. - In the name of evil -'' (2015)

    lynch. is a Japanese visual kei band that basically mixes influences from diverse genres such as pop music, new wave, punk rock, glam metal and hard- and metalcore into one courageous and diversified yet focused potpourri garnished with emotionally driven lyrics, eccentric costumes and visually stunning concerts. Since the band is from the Chubu region, they are a part of the so-called Nagoya kei metal subgenre. To keep it simple, the band is one of those experimental groups that emerged a little bit more than a decade ago and got some major attention at home and some minor attention abroad.

    The first wave of visual kei bands had been pioneered by bands such as X Japan, Kamaitachi, D'erlanger, Color and Buck-Tick from the early to the late eighties. A second wave had gathered some minor international success in the nineties with bands such as Penicillin, Malice Mizer, Luna See, Kuroyume and Glay but the genre had a notable decline in the late nineties. Bands such as The Gazette, Moi dix Mois, Dir en Grey, D'espairs Ray and Alice Nine were part of the third and so far last wave in the beginning of the new millennium. Over the past few years, the genre had its share of troubles again but a combination of young idol bands such as Babymetal and Fruitpochette as well as the return of some veterans such as X Japan and Luna Sea, a couple of solo projects from renowned singers such as Kamijo and EMIRU and a few female groups such as Exist Trace and Cyntia have successfully rejuvenated and partially reinvented a dying genre.

    lynch. have always just been side characters of this genre. The band has never been as bombastic as X Japan, as extreme as Dir en Grey or as diversified as Babymetal. The band has only been known to faithful genre fans but this could finally be their shining moment. The last few record of MUCC has been rather disappointing, bands such as D'espairsRay have split up by now and younger outfits such as Babymetal have distanced themselves from the visual kei genre and found their own niche in form of the controversial kawaii metal genre.

    ''D.A.R.K. -In the name of evil-'' has already reached the band's highest chart position in history and is a really entertaining output. The thirteen new tracks are diversified, short and to the point. The opening title track combines gloomy piano sounds, creepy keyboard effects and low male vocals with almost danceable slow rhythms, melodic pop vocals and a catchy chorus. A few faster passages, slow and somewhat brutal metalcore riffs and guttural grunts and screams add even more diversity to the track. As confusing as this might sound to Western audiences, this eccentric mixture isn't anything unusual in Japan and the song sounds in fact surprisingly coherent, grounded and structured. This combination of styles has become a routine for bands like these over the past years and even such a solid tune sounds almost too predictable and lacks honest passion and ferocious innovation. Despite this high degree of diversity, several tunes on the album sound rather alike. They are not necessarily bad but lack originality after a while.

    Thankfully, lynch. adds more and more atmosphere, depth and structure to this kind of music as the album progresses. ''Ghost'' is a first true highlight since it seems to be influenced by rhythm-orientated big band and jazz rhythms in the calmer parts that emerge into a seducing, danceable and charming chorus. Even the sinister metalcore break fits to the gloomy style that isn't a far call from rockabilly and horror punk either. This exciting tune should have been the single of the album instead of the rawer, shorter and simpler ''Evoke'' which is only an average track. The second single is the melancholic ballad ''Eternity'' which comes as a welcome break and emotionally convincing individual tune.

    The band also comes around with a few highly addicting experiemnts. ''Invader'' starts with a fast slap bass solo followed by ferocious drum play and hoarse hardcore vocals before a quite vivid, melodic and catchy chorus comes around. The track is fast, intense and unpredictable yet the funky bass solo, the charming chorus and the brutal vocals stay with the listener for a while. The song feels exciting and never repeats itself in one and a half highly efficient minutes. ''Beast'' hits a similar vein and opposes fast and furious metalcore elements to melancholic pop parts in a vivid tune driven by pitiless drums, pumping bass guitars and beefy riffs. ''Cosmos'' goes one step further in this mixture and includes a slow and efficient bridge with a heartbreaking guitar solo.

    The melancholic guiding line of the record reaches its climax with the longest song ''Melancholic'', an indeed profound, longing and dreamy pop song with slightly depressive riffs, floating melodies and numbing vocals. The song has a very particular atmosphere that goes far beyond the usual diversified entertainment, eccentric image and overwhelming emotions. Album closer ''Moon'' keeps that melancholic atmosphere but is slightly faster and adds some really strong metalcore vocals. This kind of track wouldn't be unusual for modern In Flames and this mixture of numbing melodies and dark aggressivity suits the band very well.

    The longer the album goes and the more one listens to it, the more the melancholic guideline somewhere between sinister metalcore and hopeful pop rock melodies turns out to make sense, to feel profound and to be a true highlight in the band's career. The band has crafted a very unique sound on the sophisticated ''D.A.R.K. -In the name of evil-'' that sounds different from the somewhat aimless offerings by similar genre bands such as Dir en Grey. So far, this is definitely a solid candidate for the best visual kei album of the year. Fans of modern Japanese music of all kinds should give this record a few open-minded spins.

    Final rating: 8.5/10

    Please support the band and check out the following links:

    CD Japan: http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/person/700098535

    Official website: http://pc.lynch.jp/

    YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH4a3Uy6viB3eLuOqQY7sHA/videos

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