Album Review: Metafive - EP METAHALF (2016)

Takahashi Yukihiro & Metafive - Source: Natalie.mu
After releasing Meta (2016), which can arguably be deemed the best Japanese alternative/techno album of this year, Metafive have made their rounds this year performing a several Japanese music festivals including Summer Sonic and World Happiness. Behind the scenes, the band was also recording new music, and nearly two weeks ago, they dropped an EP or mini-album—Metahalf.

Metahalf (2016)
Source: hmv.co.jp

If you've heard Metafive—or any of the six member's solo works—it goes without saying that they're a group of highly skilled musicians. Nonetheless, Metahalf just does not deliver in the same way that Meta (2016) did. That's not to say that Metahalf isn't a quality EP, it just lacks some of the magic that it's predecessor had. That being said, Meta (2016) is a rare album in that all tracks contain something special, a feat that's quite difficult and somewhat rare for an artist to produce back-to-back. 

It's usually better to get the bad news out of the way first, so let's start with the last two tracks of Metahalf, the weak links: "Peach Pie" and "Submarine". 

As any song Leo Imai is involved in writing, "Peach Pie" has interesting, complex lyrics...but in this case, I think that is the song's downfall. I feel it's trying to say too much; somehow, I feel the lyrics could have been pared down and more direct, sort of like they are in Meta (2016)'s "Don't Move". This one is a bit of a yawner for me, unfortunately. 

The mixing on "Submarine" is quite nice and relaxing...and a little boring. Actually, the title suits the song well in that it feels like meandering in circles, going nowhere. At times, it sounds rather pedestrian, which is too bad considering what this band is capable of. I'm a huge fan of Takahashi Yukihiro's vocals, but although he has a raspy voice, I don't think the moody, draggy rocker way of singing suits him. I hope he sticks to his usual, somewhat pop sound more in the future.

"Chemical" isn't necessarily a weak track in the sense of the aforementioned two. Instead, I believe the song could have used some refinement. I like the jagged nature of the vocals, but after the first couple minutes or so, the composition on the track sounds a bit cacophonous and unfocused:

Granted, I deem this one average by Metafive standards; I expect a lot from them, which means it's generally a awesome track. It's definitely a fun listen and there are so many wicked ways for Metafive to make this song killer during a live performance, so I'm waiting to see what they do with it in concert!

On to the gems: "Musical Chairs" and "Egochin". 

Creativity is the obvious selling point of Metafive, and "Musical Chairs" doesn't disappoint in regards to the lyrics in that respect. I love that the words of the chorus weren't kept static throughout the song: 

While the song doesn't completely ensconce itself in the field of techno and has a somewhat mainstream sound, it isn't dull or boring like "Peach Pie" and "Submarine". 

"Egochin" is hands down the top track of this EP. In fact, I wonder why this one wasn't promoted as much as "Musical Chairs" and "Chemical". The mixing is creative and captivating (that fake-out in the beginning!), soft and hard colliding perfectly, much like several of the tracks on Meta (2016). Takahashi Yukihiro sticks to his standard singing style for this one, and it works perfectly between Imai's cryptic portions of the song. It almost sounds as if Metafive wrote two completely different songs and married them in holy matrimony. Awesome, awesome track!

All in all, Metahalf honestly could have been better, but it's a nice detour while we wait for Metafive's second full album. Hopefully there will be one in early 2017!

Rating: 3.5/5

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