A Reaper’s Introspection - “UnAlive” Album Review

posted April 2, 2022 in Arts & Entertainment by Jonathan Ross.

The wonderful thing about music is that not only is there a genre for everybody, but artists come in all forms—each with their own unique style.

Around two years ago, the Internet experienced the first telltale sign of a new trend in content: the rise of vtubers.

For those unaware, vtubers are streamers and content creators of all varieties who use the power of 3D models and facial tracking technology to adopt an online persona with which they present themselves to an audience.

Among the independents and big names online were a few agencies, the largest being Hololive.

In 2020, Hololive debuted their English division, and amidst the inaugural crew of five in HoloEN was one idol by the name of Calliope Mori.

In Hololive, each of their respective talents play the role of a character with their own unique theming. Despite this, the personalities of the ladies playing the characters tend to bleed through.

In the case of Calli, she’s death’s very own apprentice; in other words, a grim reaper in training.

Even before taking on the persona of Calli, the lady behind her voice (referred to herein as Kalli for the sake of anonymity) was no stranger to the realm of music production and writing, operating under another alias and specializing in rap with diverse and unorthodox beats.

HoloEN was a runaway success, and Calli’s music was no different. Every year, she typically releases a new, short EP at the beginning of April to coincide with her birthday.

That was until this year when Calli announced that 2022 would see the release of “UnAlive”, her first-ever full-length album.

The album itself was unleashed digitally on March 21st with the premiere of the music video for its titular piece, “UnAlive”.

Her music is typically quite personal and the lyrics often discuss either her in-character life and duties as a reaper or Kalli’s swift rise to fame and the struggles she experienced both before and after.

One piece of hers that this is very apparent in is the single “End of a Life”.

The following is a brief track-by-track breakdown of the album, along with some light analysis of the messages present within each piece.

Calli kicks the album off on an energetic note, and a long one. Much like her other work, this song touches upon Kalli’s life—specifically subjects like moving to Japan along with a renewed sense of drive and purpose from joining Hololive. “In Death, I’m somehow more alive” - It feels like despite everything Kalli left behind and the sadness she experienced, pressing forward with her journey in Hololive made it worthwhile. It also features the highest and lowest notes Calli can reach.

“Q” feat. Gawr Gura
This piece is pretty fun and sees Calli and Gura, her genmate, in a sort of back-and-forth exchange, as amplified by the visually enthralling music video released for it prior to the album’s release.

Something worth noting about this—adding to the “fight” nature of the track—is that all of Calli’s lyrics are in English while Gura’s are in Japanese.

“Dead on Arrival”
The very first of Calli’s in-character tracks, and a strong contender for the album’s best. Right away, listeners are hit with a hectic, high-energy beat.

The entire vibe is that of Calli being the sinister boss of a literal underworld casino, making for an absurdly fun piece that feels very unique.

“Graveyard Shift” feat. BOOGEY VOXX
Another in-character track with an insanely fun vibe. Lyrically, it’s mainly Calli rapping about how much she enjoys her job as a reaper and the feeling of freedom it seemingly gives her.

“Lose-Lose Days”
This one is distinctly upbeat, both lyrically and instrumentally. Predominantly, this piece is a big “thank you” to Calli’s genmates for their unwavering support and love for her.

“I’m gonna’ smile and make you guys proud”

“HUGE W” is, ironically, a weaker track on this album. It ebbs and flows, amplified by a distinct techno influence. Calli revels in her “harsher” side while spitting some bilingual bars.

“Resting Power”
This is debatably the most emotionally-charged track present on “UnAlive”. It delves into how becoming Calli essentially saved Kalli’s life, and the latter reflecting upon it.

“The brightness, in crisis, she saved my *expletive* life”

It then seems like Kalli struggles with who she is because of it, mentioning an identity crisis earlier on and then admiring Calli for her strength and basically being the most realized version of herself.

“A transient shield, she’s what the real me could never be”

“Aren’t you ever sick of pretending?”

“Scuffed Up Age”
This one is another chiller piece.

Calli reflects on the sorry state of the world and initially laments that everyone presses on while struggling with it.

It then turns optimistic towards the end with Calli taking the stance of somebody who chooses to live a life of enjoyment instead of bereavement.

“What’s your reason to stay?
This shining world led astray,
Won’t leave it all to decay,
I choose to love it anyway”

This is easily one of the most unique tracks on the album.

The delivery makes it feel like a fairytale and legitimately sounds like it’s been ripped straight from a Disney movie. In fact, it sort of tells a story about Calli.

Of course, it’s capped off with a sentimental nod to either her genmates, her fans or both.

“I’m learning how to stand, For the smiles I swear to defend”

The album closes with the Japanese and instrumental cuts of “UnAlive”, respectively.

Overall, Calli outdid herself with this one. She’s notorious for being a hard worker in Hololive, and this album really shows it.

While pieces like “HUGE W” and “Ouroboros” are undeniably good, they’re overshadowed by this album’s staggeringly excellent highs, like “Dead on Arrival” and “Resting Power”.

“UnAlive” can currently be streamed digitally.

Rating: 8/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Songs: "Dead on Arrival" or "Scuffed Up Age"

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Songs: "HUGE W"

Jonathan Ross is a fourth-year telecommunications major. He can be reached at jmr7304@psu.edu