Momoiro Clover Z are one of the few idol groups that I have personally followed for most of their career. While I admit I lost most of my interest after GOUNN, their last album, 5TH DIMENSION was an outstanding achievement and really stood high above the sea of idol albums. It managed to reach a level of quality seldom seen in the genre, and was a legitimately exhilarating and memorable listen, with lasting appeal and high replay value.
Now, in 2016, they return with not one, but two full lengths, AMARANTHUS and Hakkin no Yoake. Pitched as two separate albums, not a double album– this is both a bold and risky move in my opinion. Do these albums warrant the separate album status? Do they stand on their own? Is this an overkill of material or is it a sea of gold? Well, there’s only one way to find out.
Let’s get right to it. AMARANTHUS is OUTSTANDING. It’s delightfully eclectic and features a wide range of gorgeous instrumentation (every player on this album must be commended- from the bonkers guitar work to the lovely harmonica playing). It is very well pieced together, and plays together as a whole album which is enjoyable from start to end. In-fact, this is likely the best album under the Momoiro Clover Z name– yes, even better than 5TH DIMENSION. Yep. I said that.
While it doesn’t stray from the ridiculous theatrics the group has become known for- it does harness them a little and makes for a much more pleasant and less fatiguing listen as a whole. Vocals are of a much higher caliber than the usual idol group material, with moments that will likely impress the most hard vocal critics. It’s both surprising and a breath of fresh air for the genre. Even the ballad songs here are compelling to listen to- and those are usually the ones that I skip on any idol release. Overall, AMARANTHUS is a great starter for the two sets and reminds why Momoiro Clover Z were ON TOP a few years back.
But can they keep this quality up for BOTH albums? Well…
Hakkin no Yoake follows the trend that I see in a lot of double albums (made even worse by the fact that these two are marketed as two SEPERATE entities)… that the second disc is quite often, well, the BORING one. This is unfortunately one of the most evident things you hear after the joy that AMARANTHUS was to listen to. Hakkin no Yoake faces you with it’s main problem right away- generic, bland, and uninspiring idol ballads or gimmicky pop tracks for 90% of it’s running time. This album feels like it could have been released by any old idol group off the street (sans it’s admittedly great production value).
Sure there’s a few bangers in the mix here… like “Mahorobakeshon” with its excellent bass playing and vocal harmonizing on the chorus that is a true (guilty?) pleasure to listen to. The lowest point is “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” featuring KISS (yes, that KISS). It’s just…. AWFUL. Terrible, generic guitar riffs, underutilized KISS and especially cringe inducing solo vocals. Momoiro Clover Z only work when they have music that suits their vocals- and this just isn’t that. It’s so bad that I cannot endure it all the way through anymore… skip it at all costs.
As single albums, AMARANTHUS is the go-to idol group album this year (so far anyway). It’s a great example of how to do the genre right, inviting to non-idol fans without alienating the original fans. A great running time and compelling and playful tracks that hold you in their grip for the whole album. Hakkin no Yoake does not remotely reach these heights- and falls to the wayside into the foamy pink sea of everyday idol groups. It does nothing to stand out and unfortunately will likely be forgotten under the weight of its big sister album. Only grab if you’re a hardcore Momoiro Clover Z fan.
Hakkin no Yoake- 5.5/10
Total = 13.5/20
Score= 6.75/10 Two albums on the same day prove to be too bold of a proposition for Momoiro Clover Z. However, AMARANTHUS is top notch idol material.