Laputa

From left to right, top to bottom:
Junji (bass), Tomoi (drums), aki (vocals), Kouichi (guitar)

I'm not sure what it is exactly about Laputa that attracts me to them. There was a time when I was into a lot of Japanese rock like these guys but I've since grown uninterested in all of those bands... except this one. I still find them cool and their songs interesting. Like a lot of bands of this type, they don't do "happy" music. Every song is meant to be taken seriously, and you'll certainly never see them smiling in a photoshoot either to prove their point. They have some powerful songs but most of their slow numbers aren't grand sweeping ballads or emotional outcries, either. So, perhaps they're not the emotionally stirring band, which is usually what I look for. Nonetheless, there are times when nothing else satisfies.

Laputa have carved two niches for themselves. Their early music is very '80s metal influenced. It's heavy rock with a big guitar solo in the middle, basically. Every song is based on a metaly guitar riff, and emphasis is definitely on that instrument throughout. Then, slowly, electronica became more and more of an influence, and by their mini-album "glitter" it was obvious they'd taken on an entirely new sound. Now, guitars have lost their prominence to a dance beat. Some find it utterly repulsive, but I find both stages of the band equally interesting. Admittedly I'm gonna go ahead and call "emadara" my favorite, which is the heaviest peak of their metal phase, but the electronica oriented music is just as quality, trust me.

This change in sound stems heavily from a change in songwriters. Kouichi was responsible for the riff-heavy guitarfests of the early albums, writing nearly every song in those days. However, it was obvious from his limited contributions in the early days that Junji had a far more "experimental" sound. So, it was natural that as he began contributing more the band took on a more electronic sound. Whereas every song on their major debut album "kagerou" was written by Kouichi, he only contributed two to their last full length album "New Temptation." So, considering that you've got two entirely different people writing the bulk of the music in each different period, it's easy to see why people would have a definite preference for one era of the band over the other. But, as I said, for me I like both equally... however it is a little strange to mix them. I either want heavy guitar Laputa or electronic Laputa.

Lucky for us, since their first full-length indies album the band has never changed line-up. It would be a shame to lose any of them as they're all important to the mix. aki has this wonderfully distinct voice, which took me awhile to get used to at first but I've really come to love it. It's not the most versatile, but it's just so distinctive and you'll never mistake it for anyone else. If you don't like it at first, keep listening and it'll grow on you. Kouichi of course is responsible for the guitars in the band, as well as nearly all of their material in the first few years, so in a lot of ways he's the heart of the band. However, in terms of songwriting, Junji is equally important. He contributed the "weird" songs of the band. While Kouichi would write one song based on a metal riff after another, Junji is always experimenting and coming up with weird, creepy music. Of course, in the later period where he took over the majority of the songwriting, he started writing some more "normal" stuff, but nonetheless he always provided a nice counterpoint to Kouichi's more orthodox music. Tomoi is a fine drummer who impressed me by adapting so well to the huge change in music the band underwent. As a band, I'm glad that they did not have to change members because it would really screw up the dynamic if any of them left.

Make sure to try out a couple of albums by them if you want to check them out. Early Laputa, late Laputa, and perhaps something in the middle. While there are constants in Laputa's music throughout their career, I have seen some people who are really into one of their styles and totally opposed to the other.

Now, onto the reviews...

me~memai~mai
Rating: 2
Release date: 2/24/95
Favorite song: Vertigo
TracklistRatingWords; Music
Scapegoat4aki; Kouichi
Vertigo5aki; Kouichi
too late4aki; Junji/aki
Nervous3aki; aki
wana0aki; aki
The unforgiven2aki; Kouichi
Insatiable4aki; Kouichi
Obsessed Life3aki; Junji
falling~5aki; aki/Kouichi
This album proves incredibly well how a collection of decent songs can make a crappy album. OK, it's a bit much to call it "crappy", but here's the album's major flaw: it's boring. It all sounds the same. It's got that syndrome to it and it's hard to take this whole thing in at once. Take just about any individual song and, really, with a few exceptions they're all fine. But most of them are about 5 minutes and man, this album just gets tiring after awhile. They had a cool sound but it ain't cool enough to work it for an entire 45 minutes. You can listen to this album several times and still not remember how any of the songs go, which is a major flaw. So, even if this album does have all of Laputa's major characteristics in full force already (the great riffs, metal guitar solos, cool vocals), as a whole this album just isn't as attractive as their later ones since there's so little variety. Of course the only song to really stand out is "wana" since it's their first step into weird hardcore electronica stuff, but of course it's an absolute mess and is hardly even a song (is there a melody in there anywhere?) For a casual fan you might as well just start with major Laputa, since their major debut has a bit of this "all-sounds-the-same" syndrome but not near as bad. None of the songs on here are so great that you can't live without them. In fact, most of the best ones were updated and placed on their next indies release...


kurumeku haijin
Rating: 5
Release date: 2/25/96
Favorite song: doro~IN BOG...IN WORST~
TracklistRatingWords; Music
doro~IN BOG... IN WORST~5aki; Kouichi
Insatiable4aki; Kouichi
an eternity4aki; Kouichi
Vertigo5aki; Kouichi
naraku no soko5aki; aki
Woah! What happened? Well, a couple of things: the production got better and Laputa sounds a lot heavier, and the album is shorter. Laputa's music works much better in this format if you ask me. Just check out how much more awesome Insatiable is now, compared with the one on the last album which was fine, but not near as aggressive. Even though it's still not very varied (they're still pushing the same formula from the last album, just heavier), the fact it's only five songs helps a lot. The individual songs are far more likely to stand out to you, rather than sounding like one 45-minute metalfest. Since all the songs are rather enjoyable this time around, a part of me does want to say "oh, it's too bad it's so short" but then again, once it gets longer I think it would fall victim to the same problems as the last album. Its strength lies in the fact it's short and to the point. It'll be hard to find this disk anymore, I got rather lucky myself, and you probably will have to pay a pretty high price for it... but it's got everything you could like about early Laputa, and is worth searching for if you dig their early sound.


kage~kagerou~rou
Rating: 4
Release date: 10/23/96
Favorite song: Four leaf clover
TracklistRatingWords; Music
trancexaki
Four leaf clover5aki; Kouichi/Junji
MASTER~Go beyond dimension~3aki; Kouichi
maigo no maigo5aki; Kouichi
Instead of ache4aki; Kouichi
yamanai miminari4aki; Kouichi
kagerou5aki; Kouichi
garasu no shouzou[Album Mix]5aki; Kouichi
Asleep&Awake~fumin to saimin~3aki; Kouichi
hari no mushiro5aki; Kouichi
Venus2aki; Kouichi/Junji
Well, spiff up the production even more, tighten up the songwriting, and throw some great riffs and solos in and here we have Laputa's major label debut. It's not bad... probably not that impressive to most people, but it's an excellent place to go for that "classic Laputa sound." It's dark, heavy, and melodic through and through, which is what they were always about. Again, the problem is that they're just using this one sound throughout the entire album. EVERY song has kinda the same thing going for it so it's going to take a few listens before you can sort out the songs from each other. It is, however, more varied than their indies stuff. Most of it is medium-fast hard rock, but there's a slow song (the title track), some harder/faster stuff and even a pop song at the end. Unfortunately, this vain attempt at a pop ending (I think they're trying to pull a WISH by LUNA SEA, right?) is absolutely awful, easily the stupidest song on the album. Otherwise it's hard to go wrong here. It's actually incredibly consistent, especially considering how inconsistent the indies material was. Everything here is strong except for Venus. Would probably be one of their best albums if they didn't just blow it away with the next one. Picking a favorite song was quite hard: Four leaf clover came out on top since the riffs in that one are just too cool, but maigo no maigo and hari no mushiro were also strong contenders with great guitar riffs.


BEST ALBUM
e~EMADARA~madara
Rating: 5
Release date: 6/25/97
Favorite song: MONOCHROME
TracklistRatingWords; Music
ALKALOID4aki; Kouichi
LOWSPIRITED4aki; Kouichi
MONOCHROME5aki; Kouichi
REINCARNATION MORNING3aki; Kouichi
MOVE ON DARKNESS5aki; Junji
B.C.4aki; Kouichi
MARK MARS5aki; Kouichi
OVER MIND5aki; Kouichi
EVE4aki; Kouichi
STAY5aki; Kouichi
FREESIA5aki; Kouichi
I went ahead and called it their best album but it does have perhaps one problem: it has MONOCHROME on it, which as you'll notice is my favorite song. Why is this a problem you might ask? Because, one you're harping just one style of music for an entire album, you better not have one song on there that just blows the rest of them out of the water. Well, that's what MONOCHROME does. It's basically the perfect Laputa song. A fast rocker with a killer riff, which describes most all of their songs, but like I said this one just does it all right. Not to say the rest of the album doesn't have anything to offer. EMADARA features a really heavy guitar sound and damn near every song is a hard rocker, just to prepare you. ALKALOID gets things off to a rip-roaring start and the album doesn't let up its relentless pace until REINCARNATION MORNING, a slower number. Junji then presents us with his weird and creepy MOVE ON DARKNESS which is very bizarre and cool, and is the one divergence from guitar riff dominated rock on the album. After that though, the next 5 songs pound some more heaviness into you, one awesome riff after another, until finally the closer FREESIA offers us a bit of a slower pace. Definitely the album to go for if you like your Laputa dark and heavy.


ja~JAKOU~kou
Rating: 4
Release date: 2/4/98
Favorite song: sakarete nimai Hallowed Lucifer
TracklistRatingWords; Music
jakou Jakou (musk)5aki; Kouichi
KEMIKARU RIAKUSHON Chemical Reaction5aki; Kouichi
ROZE rose3aki; Kouichi
yurenagara... Swing Sway Away...5aki; Kouichi
sakarete nimai Hallowed Lucifer5aki; Junji
KANARIYA Canary4aki; Kouichi
MIITO AGEIN meet again5aki; aki
hakuchuumu reality under the sun5aki; Kouichi/Junji
NAIFU knife4aki; Junji
KURASSHU BOUI Crash Boy4aki; Kouichi
Having climbed to the peak of heaviness on their last album, Laputa begins searching for new directions. It begins tamely enough, with a couple heavy numbers (Jakou a slow one, Chemical Reaction a fast one) and then once rose starts its weird synthy intro you know something is up. Not a lot has changed, but the band isn't quite as dark and heavy as the last album. And of course, some subtle electronic noises have creeped their way in. As yet it's mostly pretty subtle, but there are some weird noises like in yurenagara... which has a weird keyboard line instead of guitars as would be expected, but it does work. In fact, most every song works on this album and there's nary a bad one in the bunch. My personal favorite is Junji's sakarete nimai, a slow, plodding number that builds to a great finish. As per his usual style, it's pretty weird and creepy. My other favorite here is hakuchuumu, which should win an award for the lead guitar line. I'm still incredibly taken with it. aki's single meet again is perhaps too pop for some fans, but something attracts me to that one as well. Anyway, this album is a rare example of a band branching out but still releasing a strong album. Usually "experimental" albums like this have a number of songs that are just too weird, but such is not the case here. They're all good.


kake~KAKERA~ra
Rating: 4
Release date: 6/9/99
Favorite song: Breath
TracklistRatingWords; Music
Sadness4aki; Kouichi
Virgin cry4aki; Kouichi
Jesus4aki; Kouichi
Starting paranoia3aki; Kouichi
Chimes5aki; Kouichi
Refrain Limit/Drug Habit5aki; Junji
Breath5aki; Kouichi
Feelin' the sky5aki; Kouichi
Masquerade5aki; Kouichi
After lovers5aki; Junji
Laputa move closer to pop territory with this one, with overall pretty good results but it is starting to get a bit weird. The big metal riffs are almost entirely gone! Kouichi's guitar playing is pushed further back and more emphasis is on vocals and big catchy choruses, as is the norm for pop music. I'm not going to deny it though, I love quite a bit of this stuff. Fans turned off by it though should still get it for Junji's offerings, which are as unique as ever and worth the price of admission. The rest of the album has Laputa's highest charting single, Feelin' the sky, which is great the first few listens but does wear a bit thin after awhile. I'm far more impressed by the singles Chimes and then Breath, which was my first Laputa song and still one of my favorites. There was a brief period in which I couldn't put this one down! Anyway, this is far cry from the Laputa of emadara, so don't go into this expecting it. This is a much tamer Laputa. It's also the last album in which Kouichi dominates the songwriting, so expect some more changes...