- Fairytale ~2012 Christmas LIVE ver.~ (Limited Edition Only)
- Kimi ga Hikari ni Kaete Iku ~2012 Christmas LIVE ver.~ (Limited Edition Only)
- Seventh Heaven ~2012 Christmas LIVE ver.~ (Regular Edition Only)
- Snow Falling ~2012 Christmas LIVE ver.~ (Regular Edition Only)
A graceful strings quartet begins Alleluia, the theme to the Kara no Kyoukai: Mirai Fukuin movie. With the addition of a lone voice, the dynamics build to a peak, which brings us to the introduction of two guitars and drums. The slow, palm-muted chords and gently throbbing bass have a mainstream sound that I haven’t experienced from Kalafina before, with the exception of Mirai. However, the slower and grander arrangement of Alleluia makes it superior to the aforementioned track. Keiko leads the vocals for the majority of the song, and she carries a warm and cherishing tone in her voice, complementing the uplifting and hopeful feel. Then the chorus starts with Wakana’s “Alleluia”, which while being the poppiest I’ve heard from the group, is still beautiful. She does sound uncomfortable on the higher note following it though, as her head voice switch is on the weaker side. Afterwards, Keiko finishes the chorus, and this is where we start to see problems. Her high notes are forced and stick out badly. Keiko, I love you, but you should stick to singing lower until your higher tone becomes more consistent. A lovely choir section filled with luscious harmonies follows from the chorus. The second verse and chorus are similar to the first, with the chorus encountering the same problems as previously mentioned. The final chorus is of a different, more unstructured form than the first and second, and is much better, a fitting ending to the song. Alleluia is not the best Kalafina has done, but still has that Kajiuran charm that makes me want to listen to it.
The B-side, Dolce, is a very unique piece, opening with an almost a capella section from the Kalafina ladies. Wakana has the lead vocals, which is the best choice as she is the most controlled out of the three. Keiko and Hikaru are always singing though, with their gorgeous three-part harmonies forming a deep and rich vocal colour. The strings section is back at the one-third mark, hesitant at first then blossoming into a presence that envelops the voices and makes them flourish. The vocals in this song are an ambrosia to the ears – I don’t think I’ve ever heard them harmonise and blend this well before. Yuki Kajiura and Kalafina should be commended for this. The only issue is that it’s so short. Dolce is just under three minutes long, and feels like an interlude piece. If it was a full track… wow, that would be amazing.
3. Fairytale ~2012 Christmas LIVE ver.~
The Christmas live version of Fairytale opens with the instantly recognisable “walking” sound, played on a piano this time. However, instead of the vocal harmonies, a strings section plays the melody. Given that in this track (and the next few) I can only hear piano and strings, I would guess that they aren’t using their regular live band and are doing an acoustic live or similar, hence the altered arrangements. Wakana begins impeccably, adding a touch of sadness to her vocals. Keiko’s harmonies also start well, although she is too strong at times. Her dynamics in her verse also wander a little. All is well in the bridge though, as the Kalafina members strut their stuff with a harmonising part. The weakest part are the backing vocals by Keiko and Hikaru, which feel airy and lack substance. But to balance the scales, the new live arrangement finds gems such as the crescendoing trills by the strings at the end. A pretty good live here.
4. Kimi ga Hikari ni Kaete Iku ~2012 Christmas LIVE ver.~
The next live also starts well, with Keiko’s deep voice soloing to the piano backing. I especially like her extended note to close the first verse, ending with fluttering vibrato. It goes downhill from there, Wakana being the main problem. She’s struggling with her notes, and also doing that thing where she goes to the note below, then moves up to the one above. It bothers me to hear her do this, and it would sound much better if she went straight to the note. Her tone is mostly fine, but how she gets to the notes is poor. Also, she takes breaths in odd places, ruining the phrasing of the lyrics. There’s a few niggles with Keiko’s dynamics at the beginning of the second verse, but not too major. The arrangement continues with the piano/string combination and is great, though I’m missing the extra power of drums at the last chorus. Overall, Wakana’s vocals spoil the performance of this song. She’s always seemed quite consistent live, so maybe she was having a bad day, but whatever the cause it’s a poor addition to the single.
5. Seventh Heaven ~2012 Christmas LIVE ver.~
Aaaaaah the piano I love these acoustic arrangements!!! Keiko begins the vocals and does a good job. It’s annoying how her dynamics fluctuate so much, but eh whatever. After her extended vibrato note, strings are added to the arrangement, building the intensity with their crescendos and tasteful vibrato. Hikaru’s part next is fairly solid, and following that is the middle section with its striking harmonies. Hikaru shows some consistent vibrato, and Wakana shows… that her head voice is airy and dead. Well, the outro was lovely though, the three-part harmonies making a most satisfying conclusion to the track. I can’t really get into it that much though, it’s all right but not great.
6. Snow Falling ~2012 Christmas LIVE ver.~
The Christmas live versions sure have fantastic arrangements. Snow Falling starts with a gracefully descending piano line, opening up at the end of the introduction with a soft chord. Now the good part is out of the way, here’s where I bitch about various vocal things that piss me off. Wakana’s voice is still weak, and her extended notes wobble a little before the vibrato comes in. She does hit the notes well though, and her harmonies with Keiko are good. Hikaru has a lead part next, and her tone isn’t the best. Kind of sounds like her tongue gets in the way of her singing. The middle section of the song is solid, with nice harmonising, the only bit I didn’t like was the too-long gap between Hikaru’s “falling” and “snow”. Keiko and Wakana didn’t sync their vibrato at the end, but apart from that it finished OK. It might get a few listens, but it’s pretty average.
Alleluia was a bit of an “eh” single to me. The title track was nice, and hearing more Keiko is good after her relative absence of lead parts in Consolation, but some of her notes were too strong for the type of song Alleluia was. Dolce had spectacular harmonies, but felt like an interlude track. Not that I mind interludes, but it would be preferable to be an album track instead of on a single. The lives… Fairytale was fairly good and Kimi ga Hikari ni Kaete Iku was fairly bad. Seventh Heaven and Snow Falling were average. I just don’t see the point of live tracks at all if they’re not good quality. The musicians were fantastic, but the singers were not. They should be just as good as studio recordings, and I don’t think “it’s harder to be perfect live” is a valid excuse. You don’t perform up to scratch – then don’t put it on the single! Going off on a tangent here, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found the performance acceptable on video, but the thing with lives is that visuals are a big part too, and can hide flaws in the vocals. When you just have the audio, the problems become obvious. I expect a higher standard from Kalafina.
Rating: 2.5 stars