This is too obvious to ignore, so I'm just going to come right out and say it: what in the unholy fuck is up with this album cover? I mean, holy lord. I mentioned it offhand before, but I really, seriously think that the theme Gargoyle used for their album covers was brilliant in its simplicity. Stylized kanji album title in the center against a relatively simple background. It's an easy theme and is very recognizable, especially for the people most likely to read these reviews I'm doing (aka: not people who understand the language and live in the country). And then this, Tsuki no Toge, happened. I mean, I kinda get it, there was a big personnel shift with She-ja exiting and opening the door for the young and spunky Kentaro and the original pre-Misogi guitarist, Yotaro, to enter the fold, but that doesn't mean you should slap their hilarious hairdos on the cover of your new album. Really, it's like they're taunting me. I know the internet wasn't really a thing at the time, but it's like they're saying "Hey kid, have you been listening to us on the internet and blissfully unaware of our image? Well here, let's advertise to you the fact that you would totally bend Yotaro over the hood of your car and take him to Pound Town because don't fucking lie to me you know you would too holy shit he's gorgeous". Gargoyle's eccentric image and over-the-top stage show is a huge part of their identity, but I've been doing my best to avoid talking about it because all that really matters in the scope of this review series is the music itself and how awesome it is, but Christ on a cracker, just... jeez.
So anyway, Gargoyle did indeed have a shift in personnel, and that rightfully suggests there was a shift in sound down the pipeline as well, and while they wouldn't quite tumble headlong into their ballsy new ideas quite out of the gate, Tsuki no Toge does indeed give a brief gli-
OKAY SERIOUSLY I CAN'T GET OVER IT. LOOK AT YOTARO, HIS HAIR IS TALLER THAN HIS FACE, HE LOOKS LIKE HE'S ON HIS KNEES AND LOOKING UP AT YOU AND ABOUT TO CALL YOU 'DADDY'.
*shakes head furiously*
Okay okay okay... Tsuki no Toge does indeed give a brief glimpse as to what the future would have in store for the band, while still keeping the furious thrash and fist pumping heavy metal at the forefront. I know it's the most cliche thing in the universe, but most transitional albums seem to fall into two categories. They're either awkward or "best of both worlds". This is Gargoyle, and I'm a big stupid blubbery idiot who loves everything they touch, so of course I see this as the latter. Yeah, I harp on the stupid cover for this because it's probably the most ill fitting album cover of all time. Despite this being a somewhat transitional album and featuring some more accessible and poppy numbers, it's still goddamn heavy in places, and features a few of the best thrash songs the band would ever write, but I'll get to those later. What stands out to me most may be the more traditional and heavy songs, but the more experimental and oddball songs to be found here are absolutely no slouch either. I love Toshi's funky slap bass on "Dokoka De Jimushi Ga Naiteita" and "Karappo", and the more ballady track in "Kuroi Hana" is surprisingly very good as well (surprising because this is an inherently energetic band, so the more laid back stuff doesn't always work as well), probably because of how dark and haunting it is. "Yakusoku no Chi De" doesn't strike the same chord, and ends up being the worst song on the album to me (ironic because it seems like this is a signature song for the band, closing several shows with it). I feel like "Fukyo" is probably the worst song for most people, but I love it for the same reasons I love "'Gi'", "Propaganda" and "Wa ga Tousou". It's a really short, obscenely bizarre and heavy song. The vocals mainly consist of Kiba grunting like a gorilla, but it works in some strange way.
Like always there are some standout behemoths, like the goddamn honorary Nile song title in "Senzaiteki Genkyoukaku Musabetsu Kakusei Kin Kansenshea" (which translates to something along the lines of "The Insidious Crazy Sense of Vision of One Infected with Indiscriminate Awakening Bacteria"). The buildup for that one is insanely massive, and the explosion with the damn near death metal riffage and blisteringly fast drumming make it more than worth it. The soloing section deserves mention as well, as it shows that She-ja need not be missed, as his replacements are more than competent enough to shred as fluently and melodically as he was able to do. Despite the silly glamness of the cover (those seven words pretty much encapsulate the entire overarching feel of the album as a whole), "Senzaiteki..." shows the band still hasn't forgotten how to be dark and heavy while also being adventurous and interesting. On the lighter side of things we have one of the best closing tracks the band would ever pen, "Catharsis". This is a much more melodic track in contrast to the other standouts, but it retains a fiery pace and a very urgent heavy metal underpinning. The leads and melody are very triumphant sounding and, dare I be pretentious, beautiful. "Catharsis" sounds like just that, a purging of negativity and reveling in a beam of light as your trouble just melts away. It's one of the most positive and uplifting things Gargoyle would ever write, and it's just so goddamn triumphant and strong that it makes a hard man humble. The fadeout during the outro solo accomplishes the same feeling that Skeletonwitch's Beyond the Permafrost does in the sense that it rounds out the album and ends it on a very positive sounding high note, leaving the listener with a smile on their face, feeling very proud, optimistic, and pleased with the journey they've just completed.
But really, the two best heavy songs are, without any real competition, "Piichiku Paachiku" and "Shouryakukeitachi Yo". This isn't because the rest of the album is not great, but because these two songs are just so flawlessly executed that they blow everything else out of the water by merely existing. "Piichiku Paachiku" wastes absolutely no time in ripping out some of the best riffs since the legendary "Ounou no Goku", and oddly enough, it's probably the most "normal" thrash song the band would ever write. There aren't many weird twists and turns, the harmonized solos aren't particularly bizarre nor are there any from-left-field violin shredding like I love so much, but there's really nothing at all wrong with this song. It's just unrelentingly intense and surprisingly brutal. The first two riffs are just face meltingly fast and melodic, thrashing like a maniac during these segments is less of a possibility and more of an encouragement (but most accurately, an inescapable demand). And then "Souryakukeitachi Yo"... oh man. I've looked up the lyrics, I've seen accurate transliterations, it is still just absolutely fucking impossible to follow along. He shouts these verses so fast, it's incomprehensible. He's like a Japanese Sean Killian, it's ludicrous. It sounds like he's just shaking his head side to side really fast and making noises as his cheeks flop off his teeth and lips.
Tsuki no Toge seems to be one of those albums that all Gargoyle fans agree on, and I'm no exception. The best songs are leagues ahead of the rest of the album, which is saying a lot because even the rest of the album is damn good. I'll find myself listening to a certain three songs ("Shouryakukeitachi Yo", "Piichiku Paachiku", and "Catharsis") far more than any others on the album, but it doesn't diminish the accomplishment of the album as a whole. It's greater than the sum of its parts, and that is quite impressive considering how great the parts are. Believe it or not, I wouldn't consider this my most recommended album (that title would go to Furebumi and one or two of the future albums down the line), but it undoubtedly has my most recommended tracks, and despite anything, is easily one of the best full lengths in the band's history. Look past that fucking stupid cover and find out why everybody clamors to worship at the altar of Tsuki no Toge.
RATING - 94%