Visual Winter Wonders – the Raid’s “Snow Pledge”

I hate Christmas music. There’s nothing more ear grating to me then the same five and a half songs cycled through the radio, singing the same bland messages year after year. I think what kills a lot of joy in these tracks is that they’re played un-ironically early. The songs aren’t themselves the problem, it’s the fact that they’re overplayed before we even hit December that drives me up a wall.

I’ve made mention before, but I don’t general observe holidays much. Call me a Grinch and I wouldn’t call you wrong. Again, I am trying to change a bit, so my original thought was ‘Jpop Christmas Playlist’. The problem then becomes, I live in Japan and run into the same problems as America. These songs are cycled through just as frequently by late November, that they too, drive me up the wall. Less so then the English counterparts, but still can be quite annoying.

What is my general antithesis for annoying music? Visual Kei of course. Going for an anti-Christmas theme was a bit to obvious in my opinion. Surely, there was something more interesting to be done then that. I did some research and actually realized that Visual Kei cashes in on the winter season as well. In ways that are more creative, and less annoying then the usual fanfare. So to narrow things down I picked songs specifically with the word ‘snow’ in the title for a weekly feature this month.

So kicking it way back to 2013, I chose the Raid. I feel like for how good they are, and how long they’ve been around they don’t get enough coverage. So who better to start that trend then me? Also because wow, the difference between their fourth single, our featured ‘Snow Pledge’ and their recent material is wild.

‘Snow Pledge’ is a really good example of a classic Visual Kei winter song. You’ll understand what I mean in full by the end of the month. It starts with a rather scaled back (for Visual Kei at least) set and theme. The outfits are now white, but still a bit embellished, the time to use fur is now! The song opens with a piano to soften the tone, but when in doubt the song hits a much harder vibe then most holiday music.

Normally, I’d love to do a more in-depth exploration of the lyrics. Unfortunately, translations and just the lyrics in general were sparse. So instead I’ll focus on Sena’s vocals. Sena for a visual kei vocalist, has a pretty high range. He also tends to steer away from growls/screams, which is a bit atypical for Visual Kei. Sena’s strength lies in his higher range, vibrato and falsetto. All of which, work really well in winter music. His delivery in ‘Snow Pledge’ hits just the right notes of Visual Kei, but also that upbeat holiday vibe.

One of the more brilliant moves in this song as well, is the percussion used. We get some excellant use of synthesizer that adds the ‘sparkly’ effect to the song. Such an effect in any other song, I would consider annoying, but here adds to the idea of sparkling snow. There’s experimentation within the percussion as well. Kazhi of course is an excellant drummer but being able to balance the standard drum set up, as well as the more hallowed out/open drums being used was amazing. The subtle change on the song makes a big difference. Between the percussion, guitars, bass and Sena’s vocals really helps create a lighter but still un-compromised Visual Kei track.

It’s also a song that the more I re-watch the music video, the more I question if Sena is awkwardly hugging a mannequin or if that actress is just that stiff. Another aside is just how… young Bo_ya, the guitarist, looks complete with all his original facial piercings. The change from their second year together, to their eighth is quite the site. It gives a weirdly nostalgic vibe to the song, although from the MV is clearly a bit dated in the process too.

With those little jabs at the MV production over, this song hits a couple different notes. First, it does a great job of evoking the image of winter, using fur collars, sparkles, and white without being a direct ‘Christmas’ song. Given the more upbeat nature of the tune, a song that will be (obviously) heavy in my winter rotation.

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