We Review Things: Screaming Sixties | “Zetsu”

Zetsu is an 18-track epic from two of the greatest warriors in chika idol.  Since forming in 2014, Montero and Kai of Zekkyosuru 60 Do, aka Screaming Sixties, have driven enough miles to circumnavigate the globe twice while performing approximately 300 gigs a year. And that isn’t hyperbole.

The next time you find yourself in Japan you can be certain that, somewhere, Screaming Sixties are performing a show and you need to get to whatever city they’re playing in because that’s why they made Shinkansen.

Before I get into the review itself, I want to make sure I don’t bury the lede: This is an essential album that you need to purchase immediately!

If you have any thoughts of picking up Zetsu (and you should), you need to open the website of your Japanese music retailer of choice and order it today. Most sites are starting to flag this CD as back-ordered and, if history repeats itself, once the first pressing of this CD is sold old, the only place you will be able to find it is at a Zekkyo60 live.  Also note: most retail sites won’t recognize “Screaming Sixties” as the group name so you will need to search on Zekkyosuru 60 Do or 絶叫する60度 .

Homicidols Album Review Scale:

Five Heartbleeds  One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: Both in relation to itself and music as a whole, this album could not possibly be any better.
Four Heartbleeds One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: This is a very damn good record, and you should probably buy it and listen to it all the time and consider starting a website dedicated to the artists that made it and albums like it.
Three Heartbleeds One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: More good than bad, but not great; one or two awesome songs can’t get it over the hump.
Two Heartbleeds One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: More bad than good, and lacks the kind of standout track that can take it out of the crappiness wallow.
One Heartbleed One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: This is a bad, bad piece of work. Do not buy this.
Zero Heartbleeds: People associated with this should be ashamed of themselves; there’s pride to be had in any effort made to meet a goal, but that’s your only reward. Please don’t make music anymore.

One of the downsides of being a truly independent idol unit is that there is no management company or staff backing you that can coordinate things like the international digital release of your music. And online presence has never been a focus of the Screaming Sixties anyway. They are all about the live house. This is why they diligently maintain two twitter accounts relaying gig info but don’t even have an official YouTube channel. The record label behind the album isn’t a heavy hitter either.  amRECORD has issued a total of three albums including this one and the Screaming Sixties previous collaboration with THE HEANACAT.  

In a nutshell, this may be your last chance to pick up this CD short of the moment you can check “Attend Screaming Sixties Live” off your bucket list.

The Review

Although Zetsu is Zekkyosuru 60 Do’s first full album, it plays much like a greatest hits retrospective of the Screaming Sixties’ five-year career. Of the eighteen total tracks, only two are brand new; nine are first-time recordings of songs they have been performing live for years, and seven are new recordings of previously released songs.

The re-recordings hew close to the original songs with the notable development of Kai and Montero’s vocals.  This becomes immediately clear on the CD’s opening track, 「 桜は二度散る、そして二度咲く。」(“Sakura are Scattered Twice and Bloom Twice”). Originally released three years ago as their second single with 6% is MINE, the vocals in this updated version have much more richness and depth.

In general, Zetsu serves as an prime exhibition of Montero and Kai’s exceptional voices. They are each capable of singing with both delicacy and power.  They describe their music as “flowing with the blood of METAL and PUNK” and display the vocal chops to pull off songs ranging across both genres.  While many Screaming Sixties songs are a kind of hybrid of pop punk with emotive power metal choruses, the songs on Zetsu depart from this formula on a significant number of occasions.

“small money,sweet honey” is a manically upbeat punkabilly tune that I keep on my workout playlist. Recorded during their collaboration with I love you orchestra, the tune is reminiscent of the shiny post-punk of Bow Wow Wow or The Waitresses.

The arrangement for「 空蝉の花」(“Empty Rose Flower”) includes traditional Japanese instruments and rhythms and, while Montero and Kai never quite dip into enka, more restrained and harmonious vocals.

There’s another change-up from their go to power-punk in「絶対零度ファンク」(“Absolute Zero Degree Funk”), although it comes off a bit more jazzy than funked up. Still, it is a high-energy tune with a reckless tempo which will rock any live house.

Most surprisingly on Zetsu are the number of occasions that Montero and Kai are willing to slip into softer and more delicate tracks.「T字路」(“T-Shaped Road”) has all the warmth and sweetness of a Sakura Gakuin song, while「無限の画用紙」(“Infinite Paper”) is a simple and stirringly beautiful ballad that closes the album. For me, the song on the album that has received the most replays by far is the straight-up power metal ballad「道化師のパズル」(“Jester Puzzle“).

Their debut single with 6% is MINE, “Only Place We Can Cry”, is also included and has been re-recorded with fat-fingered guitars that move it closer towards punk on the musical spectrum and away from the metal precision of the original. The Screaming Sixties easily inhabit a place where punk and metal play nice with each other, so giving this classic tune a more raw edge isn’t something any of their fans should find objectionable.

Overall:

Zetsu is a must have. The Screaming Sixties are one of the defining chika idol acts of this decade. Emerging in 2014 as the original BiS collapsed and BABYMETAL set off to conquer Sonisphere, they have proven themselves to possess the talent and endurance to be counted among the alt-idol royalty. This album serves as an almost definitive Zekkyosuru 60 Do collection, memorializing the work of one of the best-ever acts in underground idol.

More importantly though, it’s great music that you can blast in your car. As I mentioned above, remaining copies of the CD are selling fast and you may very well regret missing this opportunity to easily pick up a copy.

The only thing missing from this generous, 18-track CD are any songs from last year’s collaboration with THE HEANACAT.  While adding any more material would have pushed this CD into double-album territory, I really wish they could have at least included “Cockroach”.

Score: One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews

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