ViViD’s first studio album, ‘Infinity,’ an earful of Japanese goodness

ViViD proves that you don’t need a studio album to get noticed. The five member rock band from Japan got together in March of 2009 when bassist Iv (formerly of Kisnate) and drummer Ko-ki (formerly of Novelis) met up and decided they wanted to start up a group. Later that same month, they were joined by vocalist Shin (formerly of Dennou Romeo) and guitarists Reno (formerly of Novelis) and Ry?ga. Indie-PSC signed the group that April, and their first single was released in July.

Since then, the group has released nine singles, four of which appear on their newly released studio album, “Infinity,” which was released June 27, 2012 (under Epic Records Japan). But, between their initial get-together in 2009 and now, four of their singles were used as television or video game theme music (something taken much more seriously in Japan than in the US), which gained them even more exposure.

“Infinity,” being their first full length studio album, serves less as their debut to the music scene and more as a reward to fans for making them popular enough to be picked up by a bigger label. Shin’s vocal range is impressive; he can sing in a raw and (relatively) deep voice one moment and bring it up top the next. His voice shifts from masculine to feminine depending on the song, showing a different sort of range, and one that should be appreciated.

The music itself ranges from soft and classic to harder and more contemporary rock. And it isn’t overly synthesized; you can pick out the different instruments rather than having them so blended and warped that you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends. Each member gets a chance to showcase their talent (the guitars especially are a treat to listen to; kudos to Reno and Ry?ga). Somehow, despite the diversity in track types, the songs still have a sense of cohesiveness and unity. They all belong on this album. Given that some were written and released as theme songs over a year ago, that’s a pretty impressive feat.

Going back to Shin’s masculine/feminine vocal range, the band emulates a current trend among Japanese musicians called visual kei (visual style), in which they utilize flamboyant costumes, make-up and eccentric hairstyles in a way that resembles glam rock (think David Bowie), punk rock or heavy metal. This is typically paired with androgynous aesthetics (combination of masculine and feminine characteristics). Basically, the band’s look and sound keep you guessing whether or not the members are men, women, or a combination (helpful hint, they’re all men).

Here’s the kicker, if you’ve got an open mind, you don’t need to be able to understand Japanese to enjoy their music. Sure, you won’t know what they’re saying if you don’t, but it’s like listening to music without words at all; their vocals are just another instrument to pick apart and enjoy. (Fellow anime fans, if you watch “Bleach,” “Level E” or “Mobile Suit Gundam AGE,” you’ll likely recognize at least three of these awesome tracks).

Don’t knock it until you listen to it; ViViD’s sound is as diverse as it is enjoyable. Check out “Infinity” on iTunes and have a listen for yourself.