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One of the most difficult things to do as any type of artist – idol or otherwise – is to follow up on a spectacular album. For Momoiro Clover Z, who I personally believe made perhaps the highlight album of the most recent idol boom, the bar was set almost impossibly high.

Amazingly enough, with this most recent double album release, they actually managed to live up to that hype, and deliver something that not only cements their recent positioning as of late, but also deliver a full, concrete experience that Momoiro Clover Z is known for on their albums.

One of the things that Momoiro Clover Z has definitely struggled with in the past 3 years since the release of 5th Dimension was in fact what exactly a “mature-sounding” Momoiro Clover Z would sound like. For a group whose original concept was built around the ‘pro-wrestling’ bonkura ethos, what would it mean to grow up? Clearly, continuing their old sound was out of the question, since for musicians in particular stagnancy is akin to moving backwards. These three years, leading up to the release of this album, is a response to that question.

Since the single GOUNN, the group has hinted at doubling down on a much more religious imagery, with a focus particularly on the idea of Rinne Tensei (輪廻転生, the Buddhist thought on the transmigration of souls). In fact, this is actually cited as a reason as to why GOUNN is not on this albumGOUNN was the start of this new chapter in their journey, and these two albums collectively form a final answer to this question of what a mature Momoiro Clover Z would sound like.

The creation of the album was in fact a very concept-driven process. Much of what drove the writers to produce their particular works was from the producer Miyamoto Junnosuke creating the two concepts (“waking dreams” for AMARANTHUS, and “sleeping dreams” for Hakkin no Yoake), with each song featuring a particular concept or idea and explicitly meant to not overlap with any other song. Given how loaded these particular terms are within a Buddhist context, this set the ground explicitly for what exactly Miyamoto was looking for, which fully explains why these albums sound as complete as they do.

Particularly striking is also the fact that the two albums were meant to directly flow from one album to the other, with the melody of the last track on AMARANTHUS (Happy RE:Birthday) directly being referenced in the first track of Hakkin (Ko no A, Hajimari no Z -prologue). And whereas AMARANTHUS seems to show the entire flow of life (with the first real track showing the ‘birth’ of a person, and the last two songs both lyrically and musically referencing strong themes of death), the first half of Hakkin no Yoake directly reference various themes of the afterlife.

Unfortunately, it does seem like this ambitious project fell apart a bit towards the latter half of Hakkin no Yoake, especially given how less cohesive the album becomes with the addition of MOON PRIDE and Z no Chikai. Overall, the flow gets interrupted to the point where the second half seems entirely a collection of songs as opposed to a cohesive album, both lyrically and musically.

That being said, these two albums are absolutely stellar. Especially with how weak Momoiro Clover Z has been recently with their singles as of late, all fans had every right to be worried about how these albums were going to play out, but the end result shows a return to form and that amazing, genre-transforming sound we have come to expect of the group.

AMARANTHUS (Regular Edition)

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AMARANTHUS (Limited Edition)

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Hakkin no Yoake (Regular Edition)

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Hakkin no Yoake (Limited Edition)

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