Wednesday, January 27, 2016

GOSPEL OF GARGOYLE: Gargoyle - Yaiba

XV: Blade

So Moderngoyle is in full swing now.  The goofball party songs and the flittery uplifting songs are either excised completely or weaker than ever.  So that must mean all the effort goes into the heavy songs now, right?  And logically they should be better than ever, right?  Well, sorta mostly.  All the bizarre out-of-left-field moments from the 90s era managed to be integrated in so seamlessly that the albums stayed cohesive despite all the different ideas going on (an album like Tenron or Natural looks all over the place when you're zoomed in, but in the big picture it was all one humongous unit where every moving part had a purpose and the albums sounded amazing as a result).  So these newer albums sound even more unified at a glance, and to be completely fair, they still run like a well oiled machine, it just seems like some parts need to be tweaked.

And that's what Yaiba does.

Had I been following the band since their inception, Ronpuu would have scared the shit out of me, because it seemed to signal the band trying less and less and finally just going through the motions, plugging in what needed to be plugged in order for it to sound like a Gargoyle album.  Thankfully, Yaiba corrects their first major misstep by once again focusing on essentially just one style of song, but making them fucking awesome again.

Right from the opening notes of "Jet Tiger" (another one of their "Best Song Ever"s), there's this feeling of overwhelming relief in how intense and catchy that opening sequence is.  That really was Ronpuu's major failing, it simply wasn't as ear catching as the rest of their oeuvre.  It was arguably one of their heaviest albums, but it lacked that inherent X factor of singalong togetherness that other unrelentingly heavy albums like Future Drug and Kemonomichi had in spades.  Yaiba throws all of that upbeat nonsense back to the forefront, and you'll find yourself unable to overcome the urge to hold back from pumping your fist and warbling "GOGOGO! GOGOGO! JET-TU TAIIIGAaAaAH!" like an unstable lunatic.

This album also holds possibly my favorite song from the Moderngoyle era right next to "Aoki Kobushi" and a few secret ones later down the line, with "Iconoclasm".  This one stands out to me for basically two major reasons, the first of which is that, while the band is fairly notorious for remodeling earlier songs by changing the riffs but keeping the general templates the same from album to album, this is one of the first songs I can think of that finally does that to what you might remember as my overall all time favorite Gargoyle track, "Shouryakukeitachi Yo" from Tsuki no Toge.  It starts the same, with a huge, punishing chug riff (even heavier than its predecessor, largely because of how far productions values leaped from 1994 to 2007) before breaking into an all out thrash frenzy.  Seriously, that verse riff is completely out of this world, modeling itself really closely to what that earlier classic laid down.  Katsuji even basically just blast beats during the first vocal section, and the venom in Kiba's voice is more potent than it has been in ages.  The aggression comes to a head in what comes to be the second reason this song stands out so much, the chorus.  The chorus in "Shouryakukeitachi Yo" is a sublime, commanding vocal line over triumphant guitar lines, while "Iconoclasm" distinguishes itself from it's primary influence by taking a completely different approach.  There's no soaring majesty here, "Iconoclasm" instead just goes for the throat and bellows out a vicious countdown backed by riffs so punchy that they actually gave me a black eye.  The climax of all of this is just as perfect as they've been at any point during their heyday, and it makes the whole journey of dirty destruction leading up to it completely worth it.  "ICONOCLA-SUMUUUAAAAHHHH"

So with those two major highlights out of the way, what else does the album hold?  Well, mostly just more awesome Gargoylian thrash.  Unlike the previous album, none of it is exactly disappointing, particularly because of the heightened catchiness.  "D.Exit" runs with some excellent stop-start riffage and ascending "whoa whoa whoa WHOAAAA" parts in the chorus, sounding like a choir of drunken Gorons making a toast.  "Idaten" sounds like, and this is going to sound like gibberish until you hear it, a character select theme in a fighting game.  The main riff is groovy and simple, looping just the right amount of times before the double bass and traditional thrash riffage crashes through the door to start spree punching children.  "Gokuraku Full Throttle" is a more melodic number with subtle power metal influences (essentially this is the "Kaze no Machi" of the album without an extended intro), "Last Heaven" is a more laid back track, et cetera and so on.  Yaiba is a great album because it runs the gamut of what it gives itself.  Earlier albums kept a stunningly high quality despite being all over the place, and this one keeps a much narrower focus, but still manages to bounce off of every self imposed wall.

Despite all the praise, I have to admit that this is one of my least listened to Gargoyle albums.  I'm not entirely sure why, basically all the songs are good, and the sticking power is much higher than the comparatively weak Ronpuu, but I guess the fact that "Jet Tiger" and "Iconoclasm" are so astoundingly great makes them overshadow the rest of the album.  Hell, I've been caterwauling about the death of the wacky horn filled party songs and yet this album has "Shippai R Ni Jou", which is exactly that kind of song.  It's basically a reimagining of "Doumushishubai" or "Baby Cat" but with beefier production.  I literally forgot this track existed, that's how often I listen to anything that isn't "Jet Tiger" or "Iconoclasm".  I'll admit that that is more my own failing than the band's, but it's worth noting at the very least.  I promise this time, "Shippai R Ni Jou" is the last overtly dorky Austin Powers swingers party song.  For real this time.

So yeah, it took me two and a half years to finish the third block of the Gospel, but I swore I wouldn't abandon this project, so here I am.  This is one of the more difficult eras of the band to talk about, so it'll likely end up as the least enthusiastic, but don't let that dissuade you from checking any of these albums.  They're all at least good, and that's the scariest part about Gargoyle.  Even their worst album is still "quite good".

RATING - 86%

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