For as stupidly massive as Japanese bands will get in their home country, the same doesn’t tend to apply to them for the rest of the world. Sure, more J-Rock and J-Pop is getting a following nowadays, and bands like Babymetal, Crossfaith and One Ok Rock have begun branching out all over the world, but the former are really too weird not to take notice of, and the latter two are a more Westernised take on the genre as it is. Compared to those acts, Esprit D’Air look to actually be bringing more traditional, untampered J-Rock to a wider audience, basing themselves in London to cut out the middleman, and after a three year hiatus, are intending to make some waves with Constellations.
And honestly, it’s hard to say how well Esprit D’Air do in the regard, as while the songs themselves on Constellations bear the bulk of its issues, it’s difficult to fault a lot else. For a self-produced, self-released album, Constellations has immaculate clarity, and on a technical level, Esprit D’Air capture the soaring air that an album with this title would demand. There’s a sense of drama and enormous scope in these tracks, whether that’s in the booming synth-metal of Starstorm, the metalcore crunch of Rebirth or just the feeling of all-encompassing scale delivered by every nimble fretboard dash on these eight tracks that fully backs this being an album driven by uplifting emotion and positivity. Any real issues with the instrumentation and production are nitpicks at best; frontman Kai’s vocals could do with having a bit more body on Guiding Light, and the shrill blasts of synth of Ignition that are more obnoxious than flattering. But compared with albums from Starset and Falling In Reverse this year with a similar cosmic line of sight, Esprit D’Air’s attempts at least have restraint and room to breathe, and that honestly pays off handsomely for them.
But then again, proficiency and good production may be all the Esprit D’Air have, as their effect certainly doesn’t translate into actual songs. Maybe it’s the ignorance of being a non-Japanese speaker, but Constellations can often feel long-winded without ever saying much that sticks. There’s the dainty piano line of Guiding Light and a few of the more prominent synth touches that worm their way in a bit deeper, but beyond that, Constellations feels more like bluster without the necessary substance to back itself up. It doesn’t help that this album can really drag either; with a lack of touchstone moments to refer back to, both in the instrumentation and lyrics, it ends up spiraling away driven by its own self-indulgence, and that honestly feels like the wrong move to take. As talented musicians as Esprit D’Air are – and that isn’t up for debate given some of the evidence here – they don’t use their skills in the most advantageous way, and it ultimately feels like a bit of lost cause.
As such, Constellations isn’t likely to mark J-Rock’s western exodus that Esprit D’Air are looking to pioneer, and is another example of an album that would be far better received back in Japan. That’s not entirely the band’s fault seeing how unaccustomed to the language that western ears are, but it’s hardly an accessible listen in its own right, being too bloated and stagnant in momentum to really do a lot. There’s potential here for Esprit D’Air to take themselves further, but more intense focus and cutting away the chaff needs to be a priority.
For fans of: Area 11, One Ok Rock, Starset
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Constellations’ by Esprit D’Air is out now.