Right off the bat, Aratama shows itself as a different beast from the already spectacular Furebumi. Where "Destroy" and "Ounou no Goku" eased you in to a very exciting romp through the cultural oddities and nut windmilling intensity of Gargoyle's inimitable brand of melodic thrash, "Shin Ou" starts off with Kiba yelling at the top of his lungs while the rest of the band just rips into an irresistibly moshable, rip-roaring thrashfest. Straight away, Aratama attempts to cement itself as an even wilder version of the band that we've already grown to love, and for the most part it succeeds.
For the most part.
Now don't get me wrong, Aratama is still a great album (as evidenced by the mere fact that Gargoyle released it (you'll be a fanboy too someday, just you wait)), but I feel like despite the fact that it once again one-ups every aspect from it's predecessor, it's lacking that certain X factor that pushed Furebumi over the top. It's the same reason Hangman's Hymn and In Somniphobia are better than Scorn Defeat and Infidel Art. You'd have to be insane to suggest those latter two albums are anything other than great, but they lack the refinement that made the other albums that much better. I realize this is coming from a guy who prefers Painkiller over Sad Wings of Destiny, but I feel like it just doesn't work quite as well here as it could have.
But really, that unquantifiable intangible is pretty much the only thing I find myself holding against this album (that and the redone version of "Cogito, Ergo Sum" is kinda bland and lacks the mysterious splendor of the original), because everything else is just fucking awesome in every capacity. That completely unbridled insanity I had alluded to in the opening is fully realized on "Propaganda", which is basically just She-Ja riding on a creepy minor key riff at a very high tempo while occasionally interjecting wild dissonant guitar slides while Kiba rocks back in forth in a corner, rabidly yodeling like a mad dog killer trying feverishly to break out of his straight jacket. And of course we have "Gaika", wherein Toshi basically just puts on a clinic and morphs into the bassist of Hibria for a song. I mean seriously, the bass should not be this interesting and showy, it's just too damn cool. And like usual, there are a couple bona fide fist banging thrash classics, like "Shin Ou", "Propaganda", and "Atama Ga Kowareta", the lattermost of which features yet another one of Kiba's most charismatic vocal performances, with his bizarre tics and manic delivery.
Overall, Aratama is a minor step down from the thundering Furebumi, featuring two redone tracks from previous albums and less metal than its predecessors. Gargoyle is usually pretty great at their non-metal experimentations, and most of this album shows that in spades, but apart from "Hito no Tame", all the best songs on Aratama are the more metal songs, so it's no coincidence that the minor backing off from them makes this album not resonate as strongly to me. But still, it's Gargoyle in the early 90s, as you'll soon find out, that's pretty much a stamp of approval no matter what.
RATING - 87%