Thursday, May 16, 2013

Blood Stain Child - Epsilon


There are some little crutches I try to avoid in my criticism/everyday life.  Certain immature cliches just get under my skin and always have since high school.  Things like using the word "douche" as an insult more often than an onomatopoeia, or just relying on profanity or "zomg randumb" type stuff as a placeholder for actual jokes.  But one particular one is that I try to avoid using "gay" or "fag" as a general insult.  It's just... it's just fucking lazy and almost never used in a context that makes sense or is even effective in any way.  Yeah yeah, I know it almost never relates to actual homophobia when used in comedy, but it still manages to rub me the wrong way most of the time (hurrr).

With that said, Epsilon is gay as fuck.  Seriously, this is the faggiest album ever to be tied (however tangentially) to the metal scene.  And holy crap I love it.

Before even touching the actual music at hand, the aesthetics just have to be addressed.  Honestly, one look at the Final Fantasy XIII concept art on the cover should turn away most fans of both metal and Final Fantasy, but for me, a guy who made his name by making fun of shit, there was no way I could pass this up.  There's no way a melodeath album with such a goddamn dorky cover could be anything even approaching the realm of passable.  And then I saw the band themselves, oh lord the band themselves.  It's like Dir En Grey went to ACEN.  I mean, I know the visual kei scene exists, I know they could be so much more ridiculous.  Hell, even good bands like Gargoyle employ stunningly ludicrous stage attire, it's a Japanese thing, I get it.  But with an album cover with a 3D rendering of the newest Murakumo Unit and a lead vocalist cosplaying as Lili de Rochefort from Tekken 5, there's just no way this band could possibly be serious about their music.  I haven't the foggiest idea of what they used to sound like, but with a name as ill fitting as frickin' Blood Stain Child, I can only assume they slowly morphed into this bizarre Otaku mess over time.

And then I finally listened to the album, and... well I was kinda right, but I didn't expect to actually like it.  This band doesn't pull any punches about what they are, they're an electropop band that used to play melodeath, and that's exactly what they sound like and exactly how the music is presented.  It's full to the brim with both fast melodeath drumming, At the Gates riffs, and high raspy vocals, while at the same time employing dance club-esque synths and saccharine female vocals.  It's all done exceptionally well for how strange it is.  I'm not going to sit here and pretend that this is some misunderstood avant-garde genius, because I'm not so insecure about liking a pop album that I have to pretend that it's anything other than dumb pop music (something Lady Gaga fans were fucking notorious for a couple years back), but I acknowledge that the appeal here is pretty limited.  They're aiming for (what I assume (Japan is a scary place)) is a pretty narrow demographic; fans of light melodeath, trance, and Bleach.  This is less "two sides of one coin" and closer to "ten random sides of a d20", as the two big musical influences are rarely relegated to their own specific tracks ("Stargazer" being the exception, being entirely devoid of metal influence), and are instead cohesively blended into one another to create something I really don't hear all that often.

Take the first track, "Sirius IV", which is a pretty good look at the entire album in a nutshell.  It starts off with a fast stop-start double bass pattern with a throbbing trance melody in the background, and from then on will take fast melodeath riffs and syrupy female vocals and catchy trance melodies and throw it all together into one strangely cohesive beast.  It's almost never split up awkwardly, the two different styles normally blend together marvelously and create something that's both headbangable and danceable at the same time.  It's always so unabashedly fruity and light-hearted, I actually find it difficult to hate unless you generally take your music extraordinarily seriously.  How can you not grin during the completely cheesy bounciness of "Stargazer" or "Electricity"?  It's so jovial and harmless that I just can't help but want to give it a hug.

That said, there are still metal elements at play, they're just in the background.  The drumming pretty consistently stays firmly on the harder side of the band's dichotomy, even cranking out a few short blasts in "Forever Free", and the band as a whole can occasionally pull it together to pull out a really ripping metal section (most notably in "La+").  The metal sections remind me a little bit too much of In Flames for comfort, but unlike their Swedish neighbors, Blood Stain Child is clearly having a blast with what they're doing, and their enthusiasm carries over to the listener.  It doesn't work as effectively in the metal elements or the bizarre choice to end the album on a weak ballad, but on the predominately electronic tracks like "Stargazer" and "Dedicated to Violator", it works beautifully. 

Due to the shallow nature of the music, I've really already said everything there is to say twice already.  It's dumb and poppy an fun and yet still injects a few metal riffs here and there to keep it interesting.  The trance elements are pretty handily the best parts, so it tells me that the band's strength isn't in metal music in the first place, so the further away they move from wherever they started, the happier I'll likely be.  It also means that the metal elements end up pretty inconsequential in the long run, so there are parts of the album that sort of drag.  I don't view this as a metal album, because it really isn't.  It's basically a trance/electronic album with heavy guitars and occasional screams, but for what it is, I really like it.  The fact that they manage to blend the two styles together so well as opposed to just hackily splitting them up and not letting them touch really helps give the band an identity and a sense of confidence in the unorthodox (and frankly silly sounding) music they play.  It's infectious, and goddamn I can't help but love it.

Also, this was apparently released on a label named "Pony Canyon".  If you can think of a funnier combination of words than "Pony Canyon", I will buy you a boatercycle.

RATING - 78%

1 comment:

  1. Hey man, not sure if you've give it a listen, but "Idolator" is their best album by far, and it's far more melodeath than trance.