Phoenix Ash is an enigma, for certain. As a huge fan of the complexity that comes with bi-lingual/multi-lingual music, J-Rock/J-Metal are two of my absolute favorite genres. However, the reason I say that about Phoenix Ash is because they are a J-Rock band, based in America and flawlessly incorporate rock/metal influences, as well as English & Japanese lyrics. Covered in Japanese media by outlets like Gekirock Loud Rock Portal, Cure Magazine (Print Magazine) and Mikiki, they’ve amassed quite the following in their near-decade career. It’s not hard to understand why, though! Their melodies are infectious, their lyrics are easy to grasp onto and they just plain… ROCK! Their newest album, Voices (the fourth release since their formation) is their most ambitious and impressive piece of work to date. Having toured in both Japan and the USA, they’ve learned what works for their fans and what doesn’t. Their live show, according to reviews, is just as energetic as their studio performances and always leaves fans begging for more.
Voices begins with an explosive, techno-like intro called “Rise.” This track, alone, seeks to get the listener pumped and features a sampling of the chorus melody to the track that follows, titled “Face the Light.” “Face the Light” comes in hot and heavy, reminding you immediately of something you might hear in a video game with the fast-paced guitar sections and clever use of electronics. Vocalist Sean Chen sings about overcoming anxiety as he steps onto the stage, and what it takes to give the fans what they deserve. After the first chorus, we’re flawlessly transitioned over to Japanese lyrics and a new chorus. This track really has a Power Metal feel to it, as Chen shows off his higher ranged vocal style and soars throughout each chorus. Not to mention… that face-melting bridge solo, provided by Cameron Brochier!
“Goodbye” comes in with mute guitar strumming and a blazing solo, right from the gate. After about 30-35 seconds, Chen comes in and shows more of an emotional side to his lyrics/singing. While this track keeps about the same pace as its predecessor, this track is rooted far more in an emotional connection to the listener. It speaks on the ability to create a relationship that can overcome any obstacle. Chen pleads for this encounter to not be “goodbye.” Showing some contrast, we have “Tired of Romance,” one of the band’s latest (and most popular) singles. This track explores the realization that the relationship is over, and it was toxic from the beginning. This track is slightly faster-paced, a bit more pop-influenced and features an awesome dual vocal chorus between Chen and bassist Law Hsu. The video shows an emotional, yet resilient side of this song and really adds depth and dimension to the lyrics.
One of my personal favorites on the album is “Afterlife,” if for nothing more than that it provides a different type of soundscape. Instead of relying on a fast-paced, electronic-laden underbelly, this track is beautiful and builds to an explosive chorus that you just can’t help but sing! I’d love to see how this song would translate live because there are a lot of interesting moments that I feel could really get a crowd going, as well as participating. For instance, when the song breaks down into a clean, electric guitar section and Chen’s vocals overpower that… there could be a moment where the crowd begins clapping their hands. There is a lot of opportunity for some 80s style air guitar on this track, too, in the solo that bridges the middle of the song into the final pre-chorus.
The final track I’d like to discuss is the title track, “Voices.” This is the track that turned me onto the band, thanks to a Facebook ad and the one that I knew was going to make a fan out of me. While it is the final track on the album, it’s anything but soft or anticlimactic. This track, if not any other, really explores the potential this band has and does a great job of showcasing each mode of their sound. One of my favorite things about this track is how Chen will change from English to Japanese lyrics, in the same sentence and the pop-punk-influenced nature that it exhudes.
Regardless of what you’re into, you’re guaranteed to find something to enjoy in Phoenix Ash. Not only are there fast-paced, complex guitar parts, there are emotional lyrics and an overall air of hope within each track. Phoenix Ash is bridging the gap between normalcy and unique, heartfelt music. They’ve turned a lot of heads and, I wholeheartedly believe that Voices is going to be their breakthrough record. Do yourselves a favor and pick yourself up a copy through their store, at a show near you or through your favorite digital retailer. Voices is out via Plug Records tomorrow!
Phoenix Ash is:
Sean Chen – Vocals
Cameron Brochier – Guitar
Law Hsu – Bass
Aaron Kelley – Drums