Bara no Seidou (or "Sanctuary of the Rose") is Malice Mizer's fourth and final album. The context of its creation is the departure of their wildly popular vocalist, Camui Gackt, in the beginning of 1999, and the death of their drummer Kami in June. After a relatively long (for Malice Mizer) period of inactivity, they released Bara no Seidou in August 2000.

Track listing:

  • Bara ni Irodorareta Akui to Higeki no Makuake (Prelude of Malice and Tragedy, Painted by the Rose)
  • Sei naru Toki, Eien no Inori (Holy land, Eternal prayer)
  • Kyomu no Naka de no Yuugi (Games Amidst Nihilism)
  • Kagami no Butou, Genwaku no Yoru (Mirror Dance; Night of Bewitchment)
  • Mayonaka ni Kawashita Yakusoku (Promises Exchanged at Midnight)
  • Chinurareta Kajitsu (Blood-soaked Reality)
  • Chikasuimyaku no Meiro (Labyrinth of Underground Rivers)
  • Hakai no Hate (The Edge of Destruction)
  • Shiroi Hada ni Kuruu Ai to Kanashimi no Rondo (Rondo of Love and Sadness Reaching Madness Through a White Body)
  • Saikai no Chi to Bara (The Rose and Blood of Reunion)

Bara no Seidou is dark. It's full of the sort of heavy organ music you might find in the cathedral of the title. In this sense, this album has a very Gothic (as in cathedral) feel to it, very dark and heavy, as opposed to earlier works such as Merveilles and Memoire, which certainly had their dark moments, but had a very light, Baroque to Renaissance feel to them. This change in style is a good sign of what's to come for Malice Mizer, musically.

The opening piece, Bara ni Irodorareta Akui to Higeki no Makuake, is a fairly traditional Malice Mizer opening track - about half a minute of "prelude". It opens right off with big organ chords and melody, and can be easily mistaken for the beginning of the next track. Sei naru Toki, Eien no Inori is an eight-minute long, mostly orchestral and choral piece. Klaha makes his first appearance here amidst organs and thunder, and later sings with Okada Maki. About halfway through a string section comes in abruptly, and we have a brief guitar interlude in the darkness. The second half is much like the first, with variations. At the end, everyone sings, and the strings come back for a while, giving way again to chorus and organs for a fairly dramatic finish.

Kyomu no Naka de no Yuugi is quite different. It opens with a guitar solo and moves right into synth, synth drums, and harpsichord, a change heralded by the sound of breaking glass. Kozi, Yu~ki, and Mana have spoken bits here as the harpsichord fades away, then returns for a brief choral section. This more or less repeats, and the song fades away on on the piano it entered on. Kagami no Butou, Genwaku no Yoru is mostly strings, bells, prominent harpsichord, and a touch of synth. Klaha is back for this one, with spoken and sung parts. No guitar, but there's Yu~ki on bass. Klaha's longing vocals in Mayonaka ni Kawashita Yakusoku provide one of the less dark experiences on this album.

Chinurareta Kajitsu returns to a synth-dominated expression, this time with Klaha providing the sung and spoken vocals. Like Kyomu, much of the feel of this song is provided by sounds that are difficult to describe, a sort of swishing of synthesized percussion. Chikasuimyaku no Meiro is instrumentally the lightest piece here, consisting mostly of Yu~ki's bass, xylophone, and bells, with the occasional synth organ backing. Vocals are sung and spoken by Takai Youko. This song has a feeling (and sings of) senses slowly drifting away in the cold of a realm of water.

In sharp contrast, Hakai no Hate blends the dark instrumentals of the second track with more chorus, the synth feel of Kyomu and Chinurareta Kajitsu, hard guitar, and the first appearance of a "traditional rock" snare drum set. The chorus sings of breaking free from the bonds of one's own darkness as the mixture of instruments traces to the brink of madness and suddenly scales back. Shiroi Hada ni Kuruu is a Bara no Seidou extension of the "classic" Malice Mizer feel - traditional rock instruments played like Baroque-period chamber music against an orchestral background. Shiroi Hada has a sad, almost desperate feel to it as Klaha sings of the thorns of fate piercing his chest. Guitars and violins here are played like harpsichords in a J. S. Bach composition. It all ends on Saikai no Chi to Bara, which was actually the first song composed on the album, which is almost all classical instrumentation in the style of Shiroi Hada and has some really good harpsichord. The harpsichord is almost omnipresent here and provides a good background for the string sections. The song has a quicker feel to it, almost like a soul of the dead reluctantly fleeing from the mortal world. Almost like Kami. I think if any song on Bara no Seidou is "for" Kami, it is this.

Bara no Seidou is very different from anything Malice Mizer had previously released. For one, the nature of synthesizer usage was really new for them. Really only one or two songs before had featured synthesizers that didn't have a "classical instrument" sound to them. This sort of purely synth sound was to become more common in the few remaining works they would release. Klaha's voice is deeper and more heavily operatic than Gackt's was, which fits well into the nature of this album. Altogether it's a fairly major stylistic shift, one that initially lost Malice Mizer fans.

Another interesting thing about Bara no Seidou is its packaging. Instead of the normal jewel case, Bara no Seidou comes in an A5-sized minibook. The first half is all full-color with pictures, lyrics, and some "background" text interspersed between songs that tells the "story" of Bara no Seidou. ("Story" meaning a fictional work somewhat based around reactions to Malice Mizer's losses, not a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the album.) Among other things it has previews of the costumes they would wear for their next live performance (their first in nearly two years). The second half is the actual CD packaging; the CD lies among a picture of many, many roses.

This album is a must if you're a fan of cathedral music and rock, and like synthesizers.

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