With 8 years already under their belts, four-piece rock band SCANDAL, made up of Haruna Ono (lead vocal/guitar), Mami Sasazaki (guitar/vocal), Tomomi Ogawa (bass/vocal), and Rina Suzuki (drum/vocal), are set for a world tour in 2015- and in preparation, the band are releasing a new album to say ‘HELLO’ to their global fanbase! Already out in Japan as of the 3rd December, JPU Records brought thirteen track album to Europe on January 19th, beginning the new year with a pop-punk rock vibe which will set hearts racing for their live shows throughout April and May.

HELLO WORLD opens with a bouncy crowd-pleaser, and the band’s 20th single, ‘Image’. A catchy chorus and punky riffs set the track list rolling with a positive tone- the instrumental and solo show off just how cute punk can be in the right hands! Equally upbeat, ‘Your song’ jumps in next, with each of the girls bringing a slightly different sound to the vocals. Perfect for dancing, the ridiculously sweet guitar parts will undoubtedly hook fans worldwide. A little slower, but no less addictive, ‘love in action’ has a little distortion and some breakdowns, but used in a way that matches SCANDAL’s style, somehow fitting sparkly pop and more powerful rock elements into one track without chaos ensuing.

Even at this early point, a sense that SCANDAL is very settled in their sound becomes clear. ‘Onegai Navigation’ stands out for its heavier punky feel, punchy, speedy vocals, and fantastic solos, but many of the tracks lack the same impact and listeners might feel one too many patterns emerging. Luckily, there are just enough surprises in store later in the track list, as listeners will soon find out…

‘Departure’, with its music box opening, instantly hits our eardrums with a pulse of emotions, living up to its name and setting itself apart from the opening tracks. A moving instrumental and alternating vocals gives the track a sense of conversation and keeps the repeating sections fresh and emotional. Adding in a marching beat, ‘Yoake no Ryuseigun’ carries on the touching tones with a strong solo and dramatic final choruses. Following the onslaught of emotion, ‘Runners high’ brings back all of the energy of the opening tracks, with plenty of building tension and explosive choruses, and the charming ‘Hon wo yomu’ (translated: I read a book) is an unexpected high point for HELLO WORLD, with its jovial, laid-back atmosphere and fun instrumentation.

Moving towards the end of the album, the almost unbearably endearing ‘Winter story’, complete with obligatory sparkly chimes, and the more atmospheric, reverberating ‘Oyasumi’, prepare listeners for a special finale- ‘Place of life (feat. Tetsuya Komuro)’. Collaborating with the iconic music producer, SCANDAL complete HELLO WORLD with a resounding and powerful rock ballad, punctuated by echoes of the guitars and soothing piano. Utilising each unique voice, apart and together, and building gradually to a beautiful finish, ‘Place of life’ marks the end of the album with an interesting and different finale.

HELLO WORLD is a lot like a sugar-high, but despite sticking closely to their already successful syrupy sweet pop-meets-punk style, SCANDAL prove that there is more than one side to their music- squeezing in a couple of ballads, and one or two tracks that emphasise the heavier punk elements. For those who have fallen in love upon listening, there are also two bonus tracks on the CD version- ‘Rainy’ and ‘Nai Nai Night 2014’, which might tempt a few to start putting some cash aside. HELLO WORLD is a well-balanced, uplifting album that is sure to get fans excited for the upcoming tour, and will undoubtedly sell as successfully as their earlier works. Better start the countdown, everyone- just over a month to go ’til their London show!

Words by Lauren du Plessis