Dark beauty

If the singles preceding the release of hyde’s Roentgen were any indication, it seemed like L’Arc~en~Ciel’s enigmatic singer was trying to elbow in on Gackt’s action.

“Evergreen” and “Angel’s Tale” were soft, sentimental ballads propelled by pretty melodies and sweet guitar picking. In other words, they pandered to Japanese popular taste.

The release of a third single, “Shallow Sleep”, bode no better. The gutsy guitars certainly hinted hyde still had viscera but not enough to defy the demands of the Original Confidence charts.

Thankfully, Roentgen turns out to be much better than those singles let on. They’re probably the most forgettable tracks on the album — its real strength lies in all the other songs.

Roentgen is a beautifully dark work, seething with a sensuality not commonly associated with hyde’s parent band.

Although lush with strings, acoustic guitars and muted jazz trumpets, the album never feels cluttered, and most of the songs bubble to climax that seldom ever happens.

“Unexpected”, the album’s opener, doesn’t offer much melodically, but between hyde’s cool performance and the song’s understated arrangement, it sets the tone for everything else to come.

On “Oasis”, hyde’s near whisper matches the quiet intensity of the song, while “A Drop of Color” feels like a number straight out of film noir.

“The Cape of Storms” could have been a collaboration with Moulin Rouge composer Craig Armstrong, complete with symphony orchestra and tasteful electronica beats.

And if hyde overdubbed his voice 500 times on “White Song”, he could have affected a really good Enya.

With L’Arc~en~Ciel, hyde took every opportunity to show off his versatile falsetto, but with this dark, brooding album, the singer stays in the lower registers, where his voice takes on a fuller, resonant sound.

In short, Roentgen does a tremendous job playing up hyde’s strengths as a singer, while employing a modest but no less dramatic musical backdrop.

And it’s more than popular taste would ever require.