Album review: “VERTICAL HORIZON” by Maon Kurosaki

Maon Kurosaki is a female Japanese singer-songwriter from Tokyo signed to Geneon Universal Entertainment. VERTICAL HORIZON is her second album.

Release date: 10th of April, 2013

Track List:
1. Umare Izuru Monogatari
2. UNDER/SHAFT
3. [Dreamed wolf]
4. Juu Oni no Kizuna
5. VERTICAL HORIZON
6. starry x ray
7. Dresser girl…♡
8. Distrigger
9. Nari Hibiita Kodou no Naka de, Boku wa Seijaku wo Kiku
10. FRIDAY MIDNIGHT PARTY!!
11. Just believe.
12. Reimei
13. Story ~Kimi e no Tegami~

1. Umare Izuru Monogatari
As the introduction to the album, Umare Izuru Monogatari is a one-minute track that basically gives us an overview of the basic feel of the rest of the album. Fading in, we are greeted with piano and some percussion, then the volume dies down for a few seconds, and then we hear a much darker-sounding composition while still keeping the same piano melody. It ends like it’s not really finished, with sharp synths, but it’s a fantastic lead-in to…

2. UNDER/SHAFT
… This song. Yes, the opening theme to Jormungand: Perfect Order. That menacing, evil-sounding, but really cool final single released to promote the album. Maon’s vocals are noticeably filtered, which goes together nicely with that in-your-face arrangement. I saw the 45-second preview for this song back in October last year, and to be honest, it didn’t really stand out much… That’s why I was pleasantly surprised with the full version of it, because it just sounds so much better as a complete track. But man, that is one sinister song… wow.

3. [Dreamed wolf]
I think Japanese Melodia said it best — basically, [Dreamed wolf] is a track “opening with a short section of vampire-castle like gothic bells, but proceeding into a haunting mix of dubstep and rock on the highest level quality possible.” Yeah, that’s pretty much the third track for you. But I’ll just add that the verses are harder and heavier than the upbeat chorus, and the metal-influenced guitars make it so rocking and hardcore. Mm-hm, I like this one.

4. Juu Oni no Kizuna
The fourth track opens with a strong drum beat and distorted guitars, then piano and strings join in to make it sound quite anison. It gives our ears a bit of a break from the previous two rock fusion songs, into a style that most of us are more familiar with. The vocals are not under any filters, and I’m glad of that this time around. Maon sounds particularly good in the chorus! Most of the time, the drum beat and the vocals are what stand out, but the bridge allows the guitars to come through as well. Wonderfully done!

5. VERTICAL HORIZON
Now we get to the title track, which is actually very different compared to the rest of the album. It’s relaxing, somewhat trance-y, and her vocals are light & breathy most of the time. The arrangement is made up of piano, strings, rough beats and guitars in some places. The whole song sounds like some kind of dubstep ballad, which is pretty much an oxymoron. After the first verse, I kind of expected the chorus to be a bit more hard-hitting, but it seems like it maintains that same gentle atmosphere all throughout the song. Not that that’s bad, it’s actually pretty good for this. After a few of those dynamic songs, this is exactly what we needed.

6. starryxray
Hmm, so that break didn’t last very long, as we are already back to the upbeat tracks. starry x ray is an electronic rock song that opens with a piercing guitar solo. The whole song is quite upbeat and energetic, especially in the chorus. And man, that hook is damn catchy. You know, sometimes, I feel like dancing to this song, which I don’t do often… It’s actually pretty good, but I just criticize that piercing guitar solo at the start — because I often listen with earphones, that sound hurts my ears… :s

7. Dresser girl…♡
Ahhh, I’m not used to her doing songs like this… Dresser girl…♡ strays away from Maon’s usual material, and she’s able to show that she can do electronic dance music just as well as she does her main genres. She utilizes a higher pitch for this song, but doesn’t overdo it or sound pitchy or screechy like some singers do. I’m not much for this style of music, but I’m all for it with Maon because she does it quite well. ^^

8. Distrigger
Distrigger is the theme song for Kamigari Daemons Trigger game for the iPhone/Android… and what a wonderful choice, as it’s probably one of the best songs from the album! It opens with a sharp piano melody and Maon half singing, half speaking some phrases in English, I think. I can’t be too sure that whole part is in English because she’s under some filters… But anyway, Distrigger is mostly dominated by Maon’s strong vocals. Like Juu Oni no Kizuna, the drums are what stand out. The difference would be that the guitars are slightly more prominent here. But even then, it’s not like some of her other songs, where the guitars rule. Nonetheless, it’s an awesome track!

9. Nari Hibiita Kodou no Naka de, Boku wa Seijaku wo Kiku
Ha, that is one long title… The ninth track was released in the first promotional single for this album — HELL:ium. I just want to say… this is one badass song that’s actually tied to a live-action movie! Woo, another tie-in for Maon. I’m not surprised, haha. Anyway, this track is straight-up rock (or metal, even?), which means no experimental fusion genres or anything like that. I can’t hear anything else in the arrangement besides fierce guitars and powerful drums! Of course, Maon sounds great, as usual. What else is there to say?

10. FRIDAY MIDNIGHT PARTY!!
Yeah, the title totally gives away the whole mood of the song. You can definitely already tell that this is one of those party songs that always seem to be everywhere these days… And you know what? It is, and it isn’t. I mean, it’s certainly party and all, but it’s got a rock edge to it. Maon’s vocals aren’t the best in this song — she’s using a slightly cutesy, higher pitch. Although, that dubstep breakdown is pretty good, FRIDAY MIDNIGHT PARTY!! is not her best, I can definitely say that.

10. Just believe.
Following that rock-ish party song, we finally get a ballad! Wow, I really needed this. Beginning with piano and strings, Maon starts singing quietly and with a hint of sadness, but the chorus is when heavy drums join in and the whole thing sounds like some epic power ballad. The arrangement was nicely done, and I just think that Maon sounds really good. This song allows her strong vocals to come through once again. The chorus is where all the emotions are, and you know, I just love this song…

11. Reimei
I think this was the best track to follow Just believe. because the ending of the previous song goes well with how -reimei- begins. I think I’d have to agree with everyone that this song sounds very anison, but it’s tied to an anime anyway, so whatever! Even so, I actually enjoyed the track, but I have to admit that when I first heard it as the second promotional single for this album, I was also taken aback by how anison it was. Now that I actually hear it on the album, I really like it. The arrangement includes piano, strings, drums and guitars, so it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. Still, it’s a great track.

12. Story ~Kimi e no Tegami~
We are now at the last song of the album, and it sounds pretty ballad-ish at the start, but not as slow as Just believe. As the song progresses, it becomes more mid-tempo and I really liked the whole positive feel of the song. Yes, we all know Maon sounds good, but I think the arrangement kinda overpowered her voice in the chorus. Speaking of the chorus, it has the same melody as the piano we heard in Umare Izuru Monogatari. There’s a lot of piano and the beats remind me of the ones in VERTICAL HORIZON, but they’re a bit clearer here. And of course, there’s guitars… who could forget the guitars… But anyway, it sounds all high and mighty to end off her album, and that’s really awesome!

So that concludes Maon Kurosaki’s second album. I haven’t had a chance to properly review her first album, Butterfly Effect, so I can’t exactly compare the two at the moment… I hopefully will soon… With her sophomore album, I like how Maon is experimenting with different genres, while still staying true to her signature style. We’ve heard electronic, anison, metal, straight-up rock, etc. This is absolutely impressive, and I’m looking forward to the beginning of the next era of songs for Maon!

Rating: 4.5/5

Top five favorites (in order of appearance):
[Dreamed wolf]
Juu Oni no Kizuna
Distrigger
Nari Hibiita Kodou no Naka de, Boku wa Seijaku wo Kiku
Reimei

Least favorite song: FRIDAY MIDNIGHT PARTY!!

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4 thoughts on “Album review: “VERTICAL HORIZON” by Maon Kurosaki

  1. It’s weird how I didn’t notice the melody from Umare Iduru Monogatari on the last track… well, probably because it was my first listen. At least, it makes a full circle; the way it begins is the way it ends.

    I think things are going to pick up even more for Maon from now on. If she continues like this, her songs can easily kick The Gazette or Nightmare’s (most famous J-Rock bands) songs out of the window.
    Oh, and thank you very much for citing me :)

      • The most weird is that I check the title of the track #4 and apparently the title is also read as Toki no Kizuna, apparently the characters 十鬼 can be read as Juu Oni or Toki and the last one makes sense as the last line she says is “Toki no Kizuna”

      • That’s true, it can be read as either way. I did notice that she says ‘toki no kizuna’ at the end, which made me want to write it as so, but I ultimately decided to go with how it is written on generasia. But yeah, either way is fine.

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