Monday, August 26, 2013

GOSPEL OF GARGOYLE: Gargoyle - Aratama

III: Uncut Gem

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.

The special mentions this time around go to "Dogma", for replicating "Destroy" in the sense that there's another awesome dueling shredding guitar/violin solo.  Really, why don't more non-folk metal bands do this?  I didn't realize it was the greatest thing ever until I actually heard it, but holy fuck it truly is the greatest thing ever.  The rest of the song is a metal thrashing masterpiece anyway, but goddamn that one section is just more than pure awesome.  And then we have the non-metal highlight, and probably the overall highlight of the album regardless, "Hito no Tame".  I wish I could explain what the fuck style of music this is, but it's the same style as the stellar "Naidzukushi" from the previous album.  It's the happiest song ever recorded, seriously, it's just overflowing with this upbeat funkiness, slap bass, jovial trumpets, super lighthearted backing female vocals, and this super catchy rolling surf motif that pops up throughout the song.  It reminds me of the music from the Casino Night Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 interspersed with the non-punk elements of ska, and it's just the smiliest, poppiest shit ever and holy crap is it great.  It's so catchy, it's so lighthearted, it's so... therapeutic.  Really, PTSD sufferers should listen to "Hito no Tame" while playing with like, six or seven puppies at a whack and they'll be back to functional in no time.  I can't stress enough how amazing this song is, I want to marry it.


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%

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