Album: Holy Grail
Released: June 15, 2011
Versailles —Philharmonic Quintet is an iconic Visual Kei and J-Rock band that invites us to participate in a vampiric masquerade with their album Holy Grail.
The band released Holy Grail in three versions: Deluxe Limited, Limited CD + DVD, and CD Only. This review will focus on the latter version to mainly address the music and its visual and scenic dimension.
“MASQUERADE” is a theme of epic contours with symphonic elements. A choir sets a theatrical ambiance for a dark vampiric opera. It also highlights Yuki’s battery's powerful cadence, interrupted, later, by new operatic elements and by the sound of bells, thus reinforcing the ambiance of a vampiric liturgy when Kamijo’s tenor voice awakens.
As a matter of fact, in this song, the vocalist’s expressiveness, liturgical choirs, cardiac percussion, and piercing guitar solos are the perfect aperitif for the glamorous and melodic feast the band has to offer.
Thus, the track provides moments of deep delight, emphasizing Masashi’s intense taping on the bass and the diaphanous dialogues with the electrifying filigrees of Hizaki and Teru.
“Philia” starts with a quick tone, both in percussion and guitars, with the vocalist giving more breadth to his performance. Sublime guitar solos and bass chords. In short, one of the fastest and most technical tracks on Holy Grail.
“Thanatos” reserves a surprise since Hisaki or Teru usually deal with musical composition and Kamijo with the lyric component; however, “Thanatos” is musically orchestrated by Masashi. The beginning is industrial and mechanical. The rhythms' changes are more pronounced, and there’s a more significant variation in vocalizations.
Great emphasis on Masashi’s performance on bass, grabbing the track from the beginning, and debiting thick and melodious rhythmic lines in constant and languorous convulsions that make the demonic and immortal pact sets the theme even more intense and expressive.
After the slower tone of “Thanatos,” “Flowery” is a symphonic hallucination of harsh guitars that, in lyrical terms, addresses, metaphorically, the theme of the loss of innocence, recovering the dance atmosphere that served as a backdrop for “Masquerade.”
“Remember Forever” is a romantic ballad with a slow tone of 80s flavor, namely, at the guitar solos level, in the drums' rhythmic profusion, and the piano's melodic notes. Almost at the end, the acoustic recording transition is nicely executed, and Kamijo’s vocal performance is exuberant throughout the entire track.
“DESTINY -The Lovers-,” a theme composed and written by Kamijo, opens with a classic string “synth” that resembles the soundtrack of a classic romantic melodrama. The band returns to the ballad style, with the track to be built in crescendo, as the guitars and drums follow a more solemn tone.
“DRY ICE SCREAM !! [Remove Silence]” is one of the most intense moments on the album. This is a rather experimental track and somewhat distant from Versailles’ symphonic and baroque musicality. The song seems reminiscent of Moi Dix Mois, both in the harshest and most distorted strokes of the guitar and voice and in the fast and almost “off-beat” percussion. It’s noteworthy that the variations between the conventional melodic tone and the more abrasive, experimental, and futuristic tone are surprising in a band of Victorian and Baroque contours.
“Threshold” is a powerful instrument with an epic and masterful tone. The beginning is dark, and the guitars are present with a fierce distortion, accompanied by the cymbals' intense thunder. The fluttering rhythmic guitar and lead guitar in fleeting daydreams pave the way for Kamijo’s voice in “Judicial Noir,” and the vocalist’s interpretation is at the level of the best we’ve heard from Versailles.
Ballads and ethereal moments are among the band's trademarks, “Love will be born again” stands out in that chapter. Classical strings “synths” and the piano follow the acoustic guitar while Kamijo sings in English. Musically this is one of the band's best ballads, as it conveys a plethora of emotions and the Saturnian tone is rather captivating.
“Vampire” becomes breathtaking as soon as we hear that exceptional bass line, and then the transition to the clavichord and the heavy guitar riffs. Then there‘s a frenzy of sound waves to the point where guitars and bass establish harmonic dialogues, playing in parallel in different tones. There follows a splendid transition to the acoustic recording with Hisaki on the Spanish guitar. “Vampire” is one of the best themes on the album.
“Faith & Decision” starts with a long, monumental, and epic instrumental introduction that lasts for seven minutes! The keyboards that open the theme are breathtaking. An ethereal and sparkling section with a vibrant guitar solo that develops over time, then the instrumentalists’ virtuosity takes us through a fantastic musical ambiance. In short, a fabulous symphonic metal moment.
“The Theme of Holy Grail” is the natural epilogue for the album and gives it the circularity that seems to be recurring in Versailles. Thus, Kamijo composed an instrumental and languid theme that preserves the band’s sound and works as a final synthesis.
Holy Grail delights the followers of the Elegant Gothic Aristocrat aesthetic. Gothic and Baroque environments are leitmotivs for a vampiric masquerade. However, forgetting the scenic paraphernalia and glamour, the band shines bright for its refined artistic sense, creative capacity, and musical versatility.