Thursday, September 5, 2013

GOSPEL OF GARGOYLE: Gargoyle - Future Drug


And as the second block of the Gospel of Gargoyle draws to a close, I find myself sitting in front of another lightly colored album with an English title and break in the classic album cover theme.  So yeah, flashbacks of the bizarre and experimental Natural are flooding through my head.  And really, Future Drug?  If that doesn't signify a headfirst dive into longwinded progginess and outright fucking weird song choices, ballads, and psychedelic jams, then I don't know what does.  I wouldn't put it past them, Gargoyle is certainly not afraid to toy with new ideas and outside, non metal influences.  You know, maybe they can do the tripped out proggy thing pretty well.  I mean, "Ruten no Yo Nite" is a great song, right?  I've been comparing every single long and proggy song they've done since 1992 to that one.  Though then again... that means none of them have been nearly as good as that one.  Maybe I'm being unfair, I'm just going to brace myself for a very experimental, and very, very different Gargoyle.

*listens to the album*

This is the heaviest, most straightforward, and motherfucking brutal Gargoyle album ever.

Seriously, Gargoyle hurls knee-buckling curveballs at me so effectively and frequently that they're essentially the Sandy Koufax of thrash metal.  Really, Painkiller is for Judas Priest fans who wished every song was "Freewheel Burning", and Future Drug is for Gargoyle fans who wished every song was "Piichiku Paachiku".  Of course I'm being somewhat facetious, as there are two light ballads and yet another "Ruten no Yo Nite" type song (although the one here is the closest they've ever come to replicating the brilliance of that song), but really, of the fourteen tracks found here, over half of them are searing thrash classics, and the remaining four or five are no slouch either.  I don't know what happened here, maybe they got all the weirdness out of their systems with Gaia, maybe some sort of tension within the band lead to a much heavier and more focused album like Persistence of Time or Painkiller (this WOULD be Yotaro's last album, so who knows? (yeah yeah, he got married and decided to focus on his new family, shut up)), maybe they had another off-the-wall wacky album written but Kiba didn't have his morning cigarette when recording started and in his crankiness he wouldn't stop shouting all of his lines like a whacked out hobo, so they just rewrote the riffs to be heavier and had Katsuji just take the Immolation route and try to play his entire drumkit at once, I have no idea, I just know that the heavy tracks here are by far the most consistently ferocious they've ever penned, and the intensity has never been higher.

Because of some label buffoonery and Gargoyle finally just taking shit into their own hands and releasing this album the way they intended after starting their own label, this "complete version" features a whopping 14 tracks, and amazingly none of them feel like filler.  It takes a lot of skill to pack an album full of so much content and keep it interesting for such a startling length of time.  The time is somewhat padded by the longer, more traditionally odd Gargoyle songs being in the middle of the album, with "Mandara no Tami" being the first time the band really managed to emulate another long, psychedelic, spaced out chunker like "Ruten no Yo Nite", and this 8 minute plus dirge would be the clear standout on an album like Gaia, but when it's stacked up against "Open the Gate", "Future Drug", "B.B", "Ese Gari", "Genom", "GUSH!!", "Zipang", "It's Battle Time", "Gaki Teikoku", do you get the picture yet?

Look, I'll just up and say it, nothing sucks here.  Even the slower, lighter ballads like "Kakera Reincarnation" and "Sakura Mankai" come off as eclectic and dreamy as opposed to flow breaking and boring like "Natural" and some others in the past had come off.  They're good, but they're just completely overshadowed by the overabundance of energetic metal songs.  From start to finish, Future Drug shows that the band is still quite fond of just doing whatever the fuck they feel like doing, but it just so happens that they're a lot saltier this time around, and thus loaded the album up with bone breakingly heavy grooves and lightning fast, neck snapping riffage backed by thunderous rhythms and layered over with frenzied leads.  Really, Gargoyle was never necessarily a band all about DUH RIFFS, and no Gargoyle fan was only here for DUH RIFFS, but goddammit, Future Drug is all about DUH RIFFS.  It's a huge, stomping, swagger-filled album, bursting at the seams with over-the-top machismo at an urgent pace. 

Take something like "B.B", which starts off with these huge chants and Anthrax style stomping riff before breaking out into one of the best riffs off the Kentyotaro era (I mean, it's no "Satori" or "Shouryakukeitachi Yo", but goddamn is it close).  Remember waaaay back in my review for the BlazBlue soundtrack (wait... I used to review non-Gargoylian things?) where I said "Gluttony Fang" surprisingly carried one of the most legitimately awesome riffs that metal had produced in years?  Yeah well that's because it sounds like the main/chorus riff of "B.B".  It's hard to describe it, because most bands don't write riffs the same way Gargoyle writes riffs.  They're very twisty while being instantly memorable and simple, they're oddball and maniacal while at the same time fast, rough, and decidedly Japanese in flavor.  I'd love to sit here and list awesome examples of this album's brilliance all day (and I could, not as a Gargoyle fanboy, but simply as a metal fan, seriously, this is God Tier stuff), but really, take your pick.  Pick any song and I'll tell you why it's awesome.

"Gaki Teikoku"?  At no point during the song does the bass ever follow the guitar.  It takes a blisteringly fast thrash song along the lines of "Haretsu Ganbou" and then throws in the relentless slap bass of "Karappo" and ends up making the two clashing styles blend together majestically.  "It's Battle Time"?  Well is starts off with an extended intro utilizing one of my favorite folk instruments of all time, the shamisen.  For those who don't know, a shamisen is basically a square banjo with a four foot neck that you play with a putty knife, but it sounds so goddamn awesome.  Once that part makes its exeunt, it launches into a very Tenron-esque ripper with optimistic, soaring lead lines (think "Shinpan no Hitomi" or "Kaze no Machi").  "Kakera Reincarnation"?  It's a bouncy, gypsy-like choon with ethereal backing vocals complementing a distorted, manic yell in the verses.  The chorus is one of the most soothingly poppy things the band would ever write as well.  "Toki no Kaze"?  It's a short interlude, but it's the most soulful and heartfelt soft song the band has written since "Ningyou no Mori" way back over a decade prior.  It surpasses even "Taiyou no Tsubasa" in the realm of heartbreakingly romantic songs, despite there being zero lyrics to translate.  It's in a language that everybody can understand, and it just oozes longing and remorse.  "Ese Gari"?  It rides on a very punkish, Motorhead style riff and unbridled aggression.  For all the different influences and the inherent undertone of thrash, it's impressive that this is the first song I can feel comfortable describing as "punky" in any way, and even then it's only the first main riff.  Basically Gargoyle knows only how to rock, they don't really give a fuck how it gets done.

I could do this all day, but I'll just wrap it up by saying that two of the band's best songs close out the album.  "GUSH!!" and "Open the Gate".  This is going to be weird, because as much as I say Gargoyle is a band that sounds only like Gargoyle, "GUSH!!" (yes, it needs to be in all capitals with the exclamation points... every time) can actually be compared to other bands for a change.  That opening stomp is very reminiscent of "No Remorse" by Metallica, and the fast riff that follows it up is definitely in the vein of Agent Orange era Sodom.  These aren't bad things, because Gargoyle makes these things their own with minimal effort, and the rest of the song is full of Kiba's trademark yodeling gibberish, light leads, and more awesome violin sections, all without ever slowing down.  "GUSH!!" is one of the most consistently heavy and interesting songs the band would ever pen.  And then "Open the Gate", man there's only so much I can say about it.  The main theme of running on natural harmonics is very creative and memorable, the chorus is contrastingly light and melodic against the maniacal frenzy of the verses, and it's just an all around very memorable and furious track.  It's certainly a marvelous closer to a marvelous album.

See, it's hard to really do justice to Future Drug, and I'm amazed that this is the first review for it, because it is just jam packed with quality material from front to back, managing to be one of the more varied and simultaneously most focused albums in the band's career.  To me, Future Drug is the best intro to the band.  If this huge discography intimidates you, if the fact that there are 16 full lengths feels like scaring you away, consider this the definitive statement.  This was not my introduction to the band, but after listening to so much of their material for so long, I feel pretty confident in laying my reputation down by saying that Future Drug is the album you should look to when beginning your journey.  It features soft songs and a "Ruten no Yo Nite" type dirge, plus their most impressive and consistent array of fast, heavy, thrash songs ever.  Furebumi stands as the definitive Gargoyle album, Tsuki no Toge has their best song, but Future Drug is, from start to finish, the best album.  I don't care if that's a spoiler for the second half of the series, this is their high point.

RATING - 96%

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