Oct 15

[review] exist†trace Ambivalent Symphony

ambivalent-symphony-smallI tend to take album titles literally. It’s an involuntary response, especially when it comes to seemingly meaningful words or phrases. But before pressing play on exist†trace’s latest body of work, I decided not to pay attention to the album title. As I made my way through the seven tracks of this EP, I thought, “This sounds like some sort of mixed-emotion orchestral arrangement or perhaps a fluctuating philharmonic piece!” It wasn’t until I looked at the album title that I realized the more appropriate coinage of this album: an ambivalent symphony.

exist†trace brings an emotionally schizophrenic romp through Ambivalent Symphony.  Minor keys and synthesizers satiate the moody visual kei brat inside all of us while the fast pace reminds the metal fan that chicks can thrash too. The album opens in a fury of pain and darkness with “Resonance” as vocalist Jou lets out a guttural growl above the screech of enraged guitars. The drums are strong and furious, steadying this otherwise out of control temper tantrum of a song.

existtrace_1009Then an unexpected sun shower falls on your ears. The fires of pain are doused by the sweetness of piano and synthesized strings. Jou’s vocals float serenely over “Umi no Shizuku,” slipping into a soft head voice for the introduction and chorus. That’s not to say there’s no power behind this track. The backing instrumentals serve as a beacon for the otherwise listless melody, supporting and guiding the ballad along.

The album enters its third emotion with “Forward.” Eliminating most of the angst of the previous four tracks, this number trucks on with a slightly sassy and almost sarcastic attitude. The melody is entirely pop-rock, but the dual guitar mini solo and random synthesized noises give this album a feistiness that keeps the tune on the dirtier side. This track serves as the perfect balance for the rest of the album, keeping it grounded and away from being entirely woeful.

Unfortunately, with only six full tracks and one overture (appropriately titled “-overture-”), the album ends before you can become emotionally invested. You want to hear more, to listen to the ballad crescendo one more time or coast over the dueling guitars, but they’re just not there anymore. It’s done. Still, the cacophony of emotions in such a short time span is something to admire. I just wish all artists knew how to appropriately title their albums.

02. Umi no Shizuku
03. -overture-
04. Ambivalence
05. Forward
06. Wrath
07. Owari no nai Sekai

Official Site: http://www.exist-trace.com/release.html
Release date is Oct. 21, 2009 (Japan)


  1. Kathy Chee

    It’s called an advance copy. I wouldn’t say Sarah is surprised by the album length, only that the shortness leaves her emotionally uninvested.

  2. Anon

    How are you reviewing it when it is not out until the 21st?

    Anyway, regarding your views on on album length, granted that most albums outside the visual kei genre do last for a lot longer, I cannot see how you are suprised by the fact that there are only 7 songs in the album.

    Havng only heard brief previews for all songs I cannot comment on songs as they currently stand, however I agree that the album undertakes some what strange mood swings, seemingly they are trying to get their creative juices flowing by attempting a range of musical paces.

    Compared to their last album, this is definatly a step in the right direction for them in their quest to reach a wider audience. I hope they continue to grow and continue to make such great songs.

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