Sound: Maximum the Hormone is a Japanese band with an indescribably unique blend of nu-metal, punk, funk, and JPop. Perhaps the most apt comparison in terms of western rock would be to describe them as the bastard child of System of a Down and Red Hot Chili Peppers with a dabbling of Blink 182, yet even this really doesn't describe them adequately. Expect heavy guitars, slap bass, brutal rap, and jarringly clean female vocals. Seriously.
"Greatest the Hits: 2011-2011" is their first single release since "Tsume Tsume Tsume"/"F"/"Kill all the 394". On the whole, it represents movement towards a decidedly more metal sound, nearly abandoning the funk-punk that played such an integral role in previous releases such as the "Rockinpo Goroshi" and "Buiikikaesu" albums. However, the toned-down genre-hopping has given way to what I find to be overall better song structure and arrangement, leaving me with mixed feelings.
Part of their initial appeal to many is their ability to seamlessly transition between funky riffing driven by slap bass to pop-punk-style choruses into brutal metal grooves. However, "Greatest the Hits" is for the most part a metal release. The drop-tuned guitar is huge and satisfying, but it forces the bass to take a back-seat role much of the time. Previous releases proudly put the bass and guitar on equal ground in the mix, but such is not the case here. // 7
Lyrics: The vocals are very much dominated by vocalist Daisuke's low screams and high-pitched, abrasive rap-style vocals, with guitarist Ryo's clean vocals and drummer Nao's female vocals acting more as a temporary relief than anything else. Part of what made "Buiikikaesu" special was that the three vocalists were essentially of equal importance, with each singer adding their own color and variety. "Greatest the Hits" gives each vocalist a few shining moments, but it simply lacks the vocal dynamism and unpredictability that is supposed to be the Maximum the Hormone trademark. Additionally, there are a few instances of gag auto-tuned vocals. I understand that it's there as a joke, but it just rubs me the wrong way. // 6
Overall Impression: Overall, the word to describe "Greatest the Hits" relative to previous releases would be "streamlined". The composition is smoother and more polished, with greater focus on continuity and arrangement; however the result is an overall lack of variety. It lacks the witty, infectious chaos that I think would normally be a major draw to new listeners. It's not a bad album, but it certainly doesn't fit the type of music one would expect from Maximum the Hormone. It comes off more as slightly tongue-in-cheek nu-metal than the wild, idiosyncratic musical chameleon act that Maximum the Hormone has built their sound on.
Bottom line: if you're already a fan and crave a more focused, metal sound, then give it a listen. However, if you've never even heard of Maximum the Hormone, then "Greatest the Hits" is not a fitting introduction. // 6