- Al Fine
- Kiichigo no Shigemi ni
- To The Beginning
- Hikari Furu
- Yume no Daichi
1. Al Fine
Yuki Kajiura loves her instrumentals, does them damn well if I may say so. Al Fine starts very quietly, with barely audible vocals from the Kalafina girls and music-box-like sounds. As the dynamics increase at the halfway point, strings are introduced which blend with the harmonising voices beautifully. What a way to begin the album!
Getting into it right away, Consolation starts with Kajiuran chanting, and then electric guitars and violins are thrown in to create a rocking blend. Hikaru begins the vocals in the verse with her deeper voice, and conveys a sense of urgency with her fiery delivery. Wakana takes the lead in the chorus, and though she sounds great and hits the notes well, the phrasing bothers me. Poor Wakana doesn’t have enough time to take breath at times, resulting in awkwardness. That’s the only flaw though. The arrangement is fast and exciting, and full-on rock which I love, there’s lots of chanting and the strings section makes it epic. So apart from my little chorus qualm, a superb title track.
Moonfesta is certainly a 180 in style from the hard n’ fast Consolation. It uses the simplest of arrangements with a unison of violin and flute accompanied by hand drumming, and in the verse there’s another unison of Hikaru and the violin. To be honest, I don’t find the verse that interesting. However, it picks up in the chorus, where the instrumentation is far more interesting, with two acoustic guitars, percussion and a violin countermelody. Actually, the acoustic guitars are one of my favourite parts in the song. The Kalafina harmonies are also a plus. Mostly Hikaru leads, which is fitting as her voice is perfect for the light folk style, but Wakana also has lead parts at times. Not the best track Kalafina has done, but there’s enough to keep me interested.
The first ballad of the album, Door begins with the bare arrangement of xylophone and Wakana’s delicate vocals. Piano is introduced, followed by solos from Hikaru and Keiko, but the track starts to shine as the girls do their lovely harmonies. I like that Keiko gets a decent part, but Wakana is definitely my favourite here. As the song progresses, guitar and drums enter the mix, heightening the intensity. The fade-out out at the end was uncharacteristic of Kalafina and didn’t suit the song, but apart from that a good ballad.
Based upon Credens Justiam from the Madoka OST, Mirai is an uplifting pop track with slight rock and choral influences. Hikaru leads for much of the track, providing a cheerful air, and Wakana continues in that manner in her chorus parts. It really is so bright and buoyant, but it unfortunately suffers from Edenitis. That is, I feel it would be more effective with distinction between the verse and chorus. Currently, everything flows into each other and while that’s fine for an OST track, it doesn’t work as well for a song. Despite this complaint, I still give Mirai a lot of listens.
Hanataba uses a new instrument for Kalafina – an accordion. Actually, it works really well, and reminds me of HIMEKA’s Echoes, another ballad where accordion was also used effectively. Hikaru sings emotively in the verse, and showcases how her vocals have improved over the last few years. She has some lovely vibrato too. I’m enjoying how the song increases power in the chorus with the added instrumentation of distorted guitar and drums, and this contrasts with the verse’s softer piano sound. Keiko also gets lead in the second verse, and Wakana’s vocals in the chorus are great. Hanataba is an excellent ballad, and my favourite from the new tracks.
As the lone dance track of the album, Signal continues in the vein of Magnolia from their last album, having a darker sound than their earlier, poppy works. A short drum build-up leads to a harsh, industrial synths and an electronic beat. This is complemented by Hikaru and Keiko being all aggressive, especially Hikaru who is on a roll this album! While Wakana only serves as a backing vocalist, Keiko has a chance to express herself with her deep vocals in the bridge. The accordion part sticks out like a sore thumb, but apart from that it’s dark and heavy and I like it a lot.
The eighth track opens with a long introduction, consisting of foreboding plucked guitar and a background of chanting and wailing. The down-tuned bass reminds me of Mata Kaze ga Tsuyoku Natta, and similarly, Obbligato is also a rock song. After the introduction, blues-inspired riffs are thrust forward, followed by some of the deepest vocals I’ve heard from Kalafina. I’m having trouble deciding who’s leading the verse, I’m leaning towards Hikaru because I think I can hear Keiko harmonising, but I’m unsure. Opinions are welcome! Anyway, whoever it is gives an awesome performance. As the hard rock route continues, Wakana takes over and adeptly handles the vocals for pre-chorus and chorus. This song is such a treat!
9. Kiichigo no Shigemi ni
I said before that Hanataba was my favourite new song, but nipping close at its heels is Kiichigo no Shigemi ni. It’s also a ballad, and a heartfelt one at that. Wakana starts, singing longingly as a lone piano plays, and next Keiko’s low harmonies coincide with the entry of cello. Then Hikaru takes the lead, and wow she sounds as good as I’ve every heard from her before. This song is unembellished, but is all the better for it. Pity it’s so short though.
This song always makes me a bit sad. Probably partly because of Fate/Zero, but Manten is still rather gloomy overall. Actually, it’s a re-arranged version of Let The Stars Fall Down from the Fate/Zero OST (thanks Nat). The introduction utilises a strings section, then Wakana and Keiko harmonise as the instrumentation drops to just piano. Contrastingly, the next part is a loud and powerful, as strings re-enter accompanied by electric guitar. The verse is quieter, but builds up in volume to the chorus. Hikaru and Wakana lead during the verse, and while Hikaru doesn’t sound quite as good in some part, others are much deeper and angrier. Wakana’s work in the chorus is also admirable for her expression. The bridge is a strings section that plays on the themes of the song, and is a very impressive part of the song. Manten shows the darker side of Kalafina, and consequently I really like this track.
11. To The Beginning
I don’t think I’ve heard Kalafina go any more anison than in To The Beginning. Keiko begins the vocals to the anison style verse, characterised by the distinctive percussion of bass-drum-on-every-beat with offbeat hi-hat. As the tempo slows, Wakana takes the lead, with a little Hikaru thrown into the mix. A drum roll announces the start of the chorus, and the tempo increases with it. I love how in the chorus, the main melody of Wakana is complemented by Keiko’s countermelodies in the bass. Also, unlike many other songs of Kalafina’s, all three members get a good amount of lead. It does seem a bit generic because of the anison-ness, but I still enjoy it.
12. Hikari Furu
Like Mirai, Hikaru Furu is also based on a Madoka OST track, this time Sagitta Luminis. I wouldn’t have known except that I was watching Madoka recently when suddenly I went “OMG that’s Hikari Furu!!!” The arrangement strongly reminds me of Seventh Heaven tracks – a big strings presence, slow, and well just all-round epic. Wakana, Keiko and Hikaru all have lead parts, and their harmonies blend brilliantly. Something I noticed was Keiko did a great head voice switch in the first verse, and I can see she’s really improved it since her older songs like Houseki. Hikari Furu carries an interesting tone, to me it feels both sad and happy at the same time, sorrowful yet tinged with hope. I don’t often feel particularly emotional when listening to songs but this one succeeds at that so that’s a good thing, right?
13. Yume no Daichi
Kalafina end the album with the uplifting Yume no Daichi. It’s got a relaxing vibe from the flute, swaying strings and slow percussion, and the vocalists all sound pretty chilled. Wakana has most of the lead, and as usual does a pretty good job. It’s really easy to listen to, but doesn’t interest me as much as other tracks of a similar nature such as I Have A Dream. Overall, lively but bland.
Kalafina’s latest album Consolation was (yet another) fantastic album. I felt that the first half was weaker than the second half, but there were still good tracks everywhere. It was certainly stronger than After Eden, and both the new and old material held their own. There’s also improvement in the vocal department, especially by Hikaru who’s better each time I hear her. Good stuff! Now I’m looking forward to their October single
- Hikari Furu
- Kiichigo no Shigemi ni