Saturday, August 24, 2013

GOSPEL OF GARGOYLE: Gargoyle - Misogi

I: Ritual

It's time.

I mean it, I'm actually going to do it.  I'm going to review every, single, goddamn, fucking Gargoyle release worth covering.  Now, all that really means is that I'm going to tackle only the full lengths and notable EPs (Kaikoroku, Junreiin, Bushin, and Super Battle Gargoyle), and not necessarily every live video, compilation, demo, and single.  But still, that's sixteen full lengths and four EPs.  That's twenty fucking reviews, but really, unlike my oft-cited but never undertaken project of reviewing all the Running Wild albums, Gargoyle manages to load each and every album with so many different things, and each album is so wildly different from one another while all being similar enough in quality to clearly be from the same band, that I feel like it'll be much, much easier to talk about all of them.  Ergo, no constant repeating myself and writer's block like I always faced with my Running Wild saga.  And honestly, I already have a head start by having a review for Kijuu already done and posted, so really I'm already 5% done!

Good lord I'm only 5% done...

But really, like I mentioned in the Kijuu review, it's practically impossible to write about Gargoyle without constantly referencing everything else the band had done up to that particular point in time.  Reviewing a Gargoyle album is akin to describing a smell, you simply cannot do it without referencing another smell to give some sort of base to work off of.  That's why the Kijuu review was more of an experiment to see if it was possible to review an album in its own little microcosm.

The other reason I'm undertaking such a monumental endeavor is because, honestly, I feel like despite the few very (VERY) vocal fans that the band has on MA here, they really do deserve all the exposure they can get.  Somewhere nestled into the southern portion of Grorious Nippon, there has been this unbelievably unique and hard working metal band whose efforts have gone completely unnoticed in the grand scheme of things.  They have a respectable fanbase in Japan, but clearly the band has absolutely no plans to globalize and spread themselves further than they're comfortable going, which is unfortunately nowhere outside of their home country.  As an American, physically obtaining any of their music requires the ability to navigate through confusing webpages littered with naught but Japanese writing and absurd import costs, or using some sort of shady back alley dude who probably steals the albums off the corpses of prostitutes he murders.  So whatever I, as a mere internet music critic, can do to spread the gospel of Ga-Goiru, I will fucking do it.

And with that preliminary shit out of the way, where else to start other than the heralded debut, Misogi?  When it comes to the band, this seems to be their most visible album by a long shot.  When first seeking them out, this is the easiest album to find a working download of, and it's the most reviewed album you'll find anywhere on the internet.  And this is weird to me because honestly, this is in the bottom third of Gargoyle releases for me.  I mean, on one hand, this is pretty much the archetypical Gargoyle album, since it introduces pretty much every single little trademark quirk the band would carry throughout their career, and it's extraordinarily varied and carries a couple absolute classics with "'Gi'", "Ever Green", and especially "Destroy".  But on the other hand, it's easily the most repetitive album in their repertoire and despite the wide array of song styles on display, their writing is still pretty flukey in the sense that some of them just fall flat on their faces. 

I feel like the band was still trying to find their footing at this point in their career, and while this is certainly close to being amazing and definitely solidifies their signature sound right from the get go, I can't help but think tracks like "Purple Heaven" and "Mushikera" just go on and on and on and on.  It's ironic because the only two tracks on the album to breach the five minute mark ("Destroy" and "Ever Green") are pretty handily my favorite tracks, and they both sport a wide array of ideas and creativity that keep them from getting stale, while the more mid-length songs feel like they're seven minutes long because the same sections repeat so goddamn often.  "Certain Feel" would have this problem as well if not for the awesome several minute elephant solo that leads the track out.  But take something like "Purple Heaven", it's a neat, mid paced, crawly track with a cool, creeping main riff and some awesome choir-like vocals in the background for the chorus, but each segment repeats what feels like five or six different times throughout the song and it just feels like it never ends.  It reads like a collection of random ideas that the band had and just looped them a few times. 

And while that little quibble of mine does encompass the stretch of songs between "'Gi'" and "No Gas" (though "Ningyou no Mori" is a bit of an exception, being a soulful instrumental ballad with a pretty poignant emotion), the two bookends of the album are fucking incredible, and pretty much set the tone for the band's career.  It seems a little strange that a guy like me, who is very obviously a huge fan of the band, could shirk the more bizarre songs on the debut, considering songs of that nature are one of the reasons the band would stand out so much as their career went on, but really I would be lying to you if I said the band's strength was in anywhere other than fast, hooky thrash songs and gigantic guitar theatrics.  Of the five songs I'd consider thrash on the album, four of them are obscenely energetic and fiery, while the last one, "Ever Green", indeed carries those same qualities, but has a much more poignant essence of fun intertwined with (and maybe this is just me, but) unsettling creepiness.  I dunno man, there's just something about those childish backing vocals that send shivers down my spine, but it's juxtaposed against major melodies and triumphant lead lines and the absolutely awesome chorus of "Yummy yummy yummy yummy yummy gay Kool-Aid".  But really, that quality is understated, it's really all about the jovial fun.  Misogi as a whole, despite the dark cover (by the way, I fucking adore the simple theme behind Gargoyle's album covers) is a very lighthearted album.  Those odd songs I'm not really in love with are all for the most part entertaining and goofy, and even one of the classic heavy songs ("'Gi'") can't really be described as anything other than "goofy".

I do feel like I need to take some time to talk about one track in particular, "Destroy".  According to people more familiar with the band's history, fanbase, and setlist history than I, "Destroy" is to Gargoyle what "Angel of Death" is to Slayer.  It's their "One", or "Hammer Smashed Face", or "Ace of Spades", it's their trademark song.  Honestly, while there are other songs down the line that I like more than this one, I can completely understand why.  It's far and away the standout track on Misogi, carries itself with some of the best riffs the band would ever lay down (simplistic as they may be), and has what I feel is hands down the best soloing section in the band's history.  Honestly, it goes on for something like two or three solid minutes, features a repeating harmonized running section, incredible dueling leads (despite She-ja being the only guitarist in the band at the time), plus sections devoted to traditional Japanese instruments and fucking violin shredding.  The entire middle section of the song just throws everything at you and all of it hits bullseye.  Toss in the fact the song has two fakeout endings coupled with ear catching, blisteringly fast palm muting riffs and some of the most memorable vocal patterns in the band's history, and "Destroy" is just tailor made to be an instant classic.  "'Gi'" follows suit in a way with how simplistic and catchy it is.  It's a simple theme, Kiba spells out a word and the band then shouts it.  That's it, that's all there is to it, but it's awesome.  Sesame Street should take notes.

Despite Misogi being clearly flawed and one of my less favorite albums, you'll see this still comes out with an incredibly favorable score.  That should give you an idea of what's in store for this band.  Kiba, Toshi, Katsuji, and whichever of the three guitarists they're employing at the time have some sort of mythical Midas Touch unlike anything metal has ever seen.  We know how much I sperg over Running Wild, but you'd have to be delusional to think their initial run went out with anything other than a whimper and that their current Giant X albums are anything other than a complete embarrassment.  Gargoyle on the other hand has a grand total of three releases I'd put at less than "great", and spoiler alert, they're still a ways down the line.  Misogi stumbles a bit with the middle section dragging a bit and with the weird ideas coming off more awkwardly than they would in the future, but the good parts are so good that it still ranks up as a great album worthy of pretty much any metal fan's curiosity.  There are weird cultural quirks all over the place and a slew of guest musicians and atypical instruments (including a very helpful "crazy guitar"), but the base is still bare knuckle thrashing with an interesting Oriental twist for roughly a little over half of the album.  This pretty much laid down the base for what Gargoyle would expand upon and pretty much own throughout the rest of their career, so even if the songs all sucked (which they don't), this would be worthwhile for the historical significance alone.

RATING - 80%

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