Images can be scrolled at the top of the article
I had the good fortune of receiving a Madmans Espirit subscription box, courtesy of Jrock Vault. Somehow, the package managed to brave the northeast US’s winter treachery, so of course, I felt obligated to pay tribute for this lovely offering.
First off, I have to say—thank you for choosing idiot-proof packaging which allowed me to save the outer box as a ‘trophy’ worth mounting because, at-all-times, I’m two seconds away from using my teeth when a box-cutter would be more efficient. Bonus points for using black tissue paper as a veil for the box’s contents.
There was a lovely double-sided poster nestled inside that I’ve had to tragically choose one side over the other: a shot of the entire group instead of solely lead singer Kyuho for no other reason than I keep thinking the mask he’s holding is legitimately a dismembered human face. It’s not that I don’t love a dark vibe—I just have a perpetual case of tunnel-vision and I’m not sure if waking up to that sight on my wall every day would be good for my mental health.
It’s sad to say, but I felt a distinct sense of nostalgia while tearing the plastic wrapping off the CD Jewel case inside. It’s been nearly a decade and a half since the last time I had the chance to open a package like that and, frankly, I don’t know when I’ll get that chance again. I make it a point to support the artists I love, but my tendencies lean towards either vinyl or digital releases. To peel off that dainty shrink-wrap, open the case, and flip through a physical booklet made me rethink the way I personally memorialize artists who strike a chord with my tastes.
This is all nothing to say of the album itself. At first glance, the CD cover art evokes Taoist imagery in a stoic monochrome that makes me question if I’m being pandered to. Halfway through the CD booklet, the pages switch from white text on black backgrounds to black text on white background,. Granted, black text on white pages has been the norm since parchment was a thing, but there’s a nuance to be appreciated when preceded by the complete inverse.
When I first opened the CD jewel case, I thought the booklet was inserted improperly due to seeing upside-down text on the booklet’s back. Stupid me—this was INTENTIONAL. I gained a new appreciation for the project before even setting foot into my first listen-through
Madmans Espirit’s Conscientization of Unconsciousness plays a wonderful game of hot-and-cold. Despite unmistakably gut-deep angst, there are moments of serene violin, acoustic guitar, and even crooning with a tenderness that at-times conjures echoes of the legendary DIR EN GREY. I can’t remember the last time a project left me guessing track-to-track while still maintaining a sense of cohesion. It merits multiple listen-throughs which, in my opinion, is the mark of a successful album.
All in all, my verdict is: