L’Arc~en~Ciel ( The Rainbow in French) is a Japanese rock band that formed back in 1991. The band has seen many changes across its long career: it has changed its bassist and drummer, but the core has remained the same.
L’Arc~en~Ciel is operatic with their sound. Instrumentals are excellently dark and dramatic. Hyde’s (the lead singer) vocals are top notch. Hyde’s notes are crisp and resonate well with the punchy rock beats. The band has a metallic ring to them that seems to come up from a dark alley. Their musical cloth is varied and richly detailed. That isn’t the say everything they do is dark rock. Some of their tunes are pretty upbeat and hopeful.
Their rhythms are very American. They are not as hard as Disturbed or Metallica but you can feel the similarities. Some of L’Arc~en~Ciel performances remind me of the over-the-top 80’s hair metal bands…only without the hair and the gravel voices. The band is at their best with their reflective dark songs like Forbidden Lover.
My only gripe is how Hyde can the same throughout an album. Of course some of that is how record labels clean up the voice cracks and other emotional nuances.
Here is the excellent Forbidden Lover from one of their live concerts.
They have done many anime theme songs including “Ready Steady GO” from Fullmetal Alchemist and “DAYBREAK’S BELL” from Mobile Suit Gundam 00, “Lost Heaven” from the Fullmetal Alchemist movie and others.
The band’s image is an interesting mix of modern grunge and music videos that look at home on an opera stage.
L’Arc~en~Ciel has an alter-ego called P’unk~en~Ciel. The band shakes itself up for a more punk sound. Hyde snags the guitar. Tetsuya, normally the bassist, takes the vocals. The result is a faster, harder and more Green Day feel. P’unk~en~Ciel loses the rock opera feel of L’Arc~en~Ciel. It feels like a completely different band. Tetsuya is a good vocalist in his own right. They lose the old fashioned costumes for more modern rocker get-ups in their performances.
It is easy to see how L’Arc~en~Ciel has remained popular since 1991 with their versatility and sound.
They have a place on my playlist, but I prefer more upbeat and happy songs. Some of their P’unk~en~Ciel versions are alright, but I prefer their moody dark works.