Long-standing band and one of the most recognizable rock acts in Japan, L’Arc~en~Ciel has released a new studio album in nearly four years. I used to be a strong follower of L’Arc, but their stuff the past few years has not impressed me as much as they used to. When I heard they were releasing a new album I thought it would be a good start to get back onto the L’Arc train again. Let’s see if Butterfly has what it takes.
Throughout their career L’Arc~en~Ciel does this kind of thing with periods where they do a lot of activity, and then disappear and you don’t hear from them for a year or two. All the members have separate projects for exploring styles that step out of L’Arc~en~Ciel’s mainstream sound. So when they get back together as the band, it’s almost like a reunion of a band that broke up… sort of. And there was definitely a lot of activity from the band last year for their 20th anniversary, including a slew of concerts and a massive compilation album of pretty much all their singles released to date. Now entering their 21st year, the rock quartet starts off with their twelfth studio album, Butterfly.
As with previous L’Arc~en~Ciel albums, the tracks’ compositions are spread fairly evenly between the four members. The album’s opener and single track Chase, handled by both frontman Hyde and guitarist Ken, is progressive and features wobbly industrial-esque synth lines, but opens up in the chorus where Hyde is allowed to belt out the lines as he pleases. Hyde’s vocal range is displayed in 2010’s ballad BLESS, while his more eccentric style is highlighted in X X X. Tetsuya, who handles the super cool bass lines, is also responsible for the band’s most pop sounding numbers. Tracks like Bye Bye and SHINE are big, open, and festive sounding, using huge orchestral sweeps and just general happy melodies; while ones like Good Luck My Way and NEXUS 4 chugs along with a positive, driving force.
On the drums, Yukihiro takes shade of season and Drink It Down on the route that’s on the darker side with more akin to their earlier works. The atmosphere is mysterious and there is a bit more distortion on guitars and synths. Ken is responsible for the album’s slower numbers wild flower and Mirai Sekai, where the former is a rock-infused ballad and the latter is a nice lullaby piece which I thought was very fitting for the album’s closer. I’m not sure how I feel about Hyde singing me to sleep, though. The inclusion of Drink It Down, NEXUS 4 and SHINE I thought was unneeded. Listening through the album I thought they rehashed old songs for a second, but then I realized those tracks were released in 2008. Something felt off with those tracks included in an album four years later.
Butterfly doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. It’s not a bad album by any means, but it’s kind of just… there. The closer is a bit special, but otherwise nothing overly impressive. It seems that L’Arc has established their sound that teeters between pop and rock a few albums back; and they’re set on it. The album has all the parts that make it unmistakably L’Arc, but if you’ve heard a L’Arc~en~Ciel album before, you’ve heard Butterfly already.
02. X X X
03. Bye Bye
04. Good Luck My Way -Butterfly Ver.-
06. shade of season
07. Drink It Down
08. wild flower
10. NEXUS 4