This week we review RAISE A SUILEN’S January 27th single, mind of Prominence along with its coupling track JUST THE WAY I AM. mind of Prominence was composed and arranged by Daisuke Kikuta, with lyrics by Spirit Garden, and JUST THE WAY I AM was composed by Fujita Junpei and arranged by Yuki Hidaka, with lyrics by Asuka Oda.
Dorian: One of RAISE A SUILEN’s hallmarks is their unrestrained maximalism—their songs are almost always bursting at the seams with ideas, and when it works it’s incredible. Their sound, when firing on all cylinders, is wholly unlike anything else in the franchise, and makes for an incredibly fun listen. However, any approach based on coming right up to the line of “too much” is sometimes gonna hurtle right past that mark, and unfortunately “mind of Prominence” does exactly that. There’s just so much going on here, and none of it is given the space to breathe. While there are some fantastic individual moments, like LAYER (Raychell)’s floaty high range on the chorus or the skittery synth riff at 3:30, they’re over in a flash as the band rockets to the next idea, and the song never develops a coherent throughline. I never want RAS to give up their musical pyrotechnics, but without a more disciplined approach we’re gonna keep seeing failed experiments as often as successes.
Madi: The songwriters for RAISE A SUILEN know exactly what to do with LAYER, which is: give her room to just let it RIP. “mind of Prominence” is a banger from the very top, in true untamed RAS style. It’s as catchy as their first release, R・I・O・T, but with an underlying warmth that really makes the track and feels like a mark of RAS’s musical growth to date. The synths are especially delightful to me: they’re all over the place, moving from clean to dirty and back again in a way that contrasts and blends with the guitars. These are synths that were made for strobe lights and light sticks. I have mixed feelings about CHU2’s (Risa Tsumugi) vocals on just about every track, but I think she does fine complementing LAYER’s voice here, although I do not think it adds anything indispensable. The only thing that keeps this from being a top-tier hit for me is the length: you could easily chop a whole minute off of this and it’d be a better track for it.
Dorian: Like “mind of Prominence”, “JUST THE WAY I AM” is bursting at the seams with ideas; however, there’s a cohesion missing in the other song. There’s a sinuousness to the guitar and synth lines that is matched by the vocal melody, and LAYER brings her not-inconsiderable swagger to the latter. She’s met by the other vocalists, with CHU2 (Risa Tsumugi) contributing her usual bluster (less grating here than it sometimes can be) and the rest of the band chiming in on the beautifully dismissive “shut up!” refrain. For my money though, the real MVP here is Yuki Hidaka’s production. It’s his first time producing for an original track in the franchise, though he’s worked on several cover songs, and he does an excellent job of knowing when to push the instruments hard and when to let them recede—or, in some instances, cut out all together—and allow the vocals centre stage. The instrumental break after the guitar solo is a misstep, being cliche almost to the point of parody, but the rest of his work on the track is an immensely promising debut.
Madi: From the CHU2-heavy vocals to the title to the lyrics, right down to the formatting, it’s clear that “JUST THE WAY I AM” is more or less a CHU2 image song. It sounds like her (自画自賛 just the way I am, “singing my praises just the way I am” sure sounds like someone we know in RAS!) and she’s taking center stage alongside LAYER. Unfortunately, it just highlights her limitations as a vocalist: for me, CHU2’s rapping doesn’t add very much to most RAS tracks, and it comes down to the fact that she kind of only has one level, and she always sounds like she’s forcing it a little too hard. I don’t think there’s anything actually wrong with her voice; I think if she could bring some more varied dynamics to her rapping, she could add a lot to pretty much any RAS song. Maybe if Risa Tsumugi channeled TOPHAMHAT-KYO a little bit, we’d get a truly dynamic CHU2. On a non-CHU2 note, JUST THE WAY I AM is a lot of fun but is definitely less musically coherent than mind of Prominence, which is a shame because it has a lot of cool riffs, but each section of the song feels a little untethered from the rest. The vocal melodies for LAYER aren’t as interesting, and the whole song kind of has her at that one very high-energy level, but as a character song for CHU2, it’s pretty fun.