Wednesday, May 10, 2017

GOSPEL OF GARGOYLE: Gargoyle - Kuromitten

XVII: The Black Tome

Throughout my years of existing within this tiny and bizarre fandom of Gargoyle fanatics, one thing I've learned is that 2009's Kuromitten is generally seen as one of the weaker releases in their discography. And as the unofficial and self-proclaimed ambassador to most of the waking world in regards to this band, I make a spit on that notion.  Kuromitten fucking rules.  One of the big reasons I love it so much is going to sound like the dumbest thing in the world, but I'm one of the dumbest people in the world so bear with me throughout this next sentence.  Each song sounds like a character theme from a fighting game.

Yeah really.

It's probably only going to make sense to idiots like me who have spent an inordinate amount of time playing Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, but it fits because this is yet another milestone of Moderngoyle.  I've probably been sending mixed messages throughout this entire series as to what "Moderngoyle" actually is.  Is it bad?  Is it simple?  Does it strip all of the cultural oddities of Furebumi and Tenron away without replacing it with anything worthwhile?  Is it all just bare bones thrash metal?  The answer to every question is both yes and no and maybe and inconclusive.  Gargoyle's transformation throughout their career was extremely subtle, with each album telegraphing slow burning changes three albums prior to when they were fully realized, but I feel like Kuromitten is one of the few albums where the changes are somewhat abrupt.  Those changes are that the fun funky songs are finally and forever gone (though I've been foreshadowing this for ages at this point) and that the power metal influence is jacked the fuck up this time around.  It's always been there, I haven't forgotten that songs like "Shinpan no Hitomi" or "Kaze no Machi" existed, but the opening notes of "Shi Ni Itaru Kizu" just really hammer home how much more melodic they are going to be on this album.  The whole thing kicks off with this gargantuan lead soaring over fast single note riffs straight out of any given Europower band's playbook.  And yet at the same time, it's kind of the only song that really goes full out with it, almost everything else is the kind of brutally chunky thrash the band has been peddling since Kemonomichi.  I think the main difference is that Kentaro really starts cranking up the melody in the lead lines and prominent melodies at this point.  There are a lot of Iron Maiden styled harmonies flittering around at nearly any instrumental moment, and it rarely lets up.

So really, the newest definition of Moderngoyle is "Battle Gargoyle songs with a fuckload of melody", and if my pattern recognition is still up to snuff, I'm sure I'll change that definition a few albums later like I've been doing since the start of this series.  It's simply really damn hard to pin down the band to any one subgenre or any hybrid thereof.  The power metal influence is super strong in "Shi Ni Itaru Kizu", and it crops up again in "Zero Blood", "Enigma", and "Psychological Treatment", but then again "Zero Blood" has some amplified punk influence, much like the major key bombast of "Garapon", which is wholly different from the pummeling frenzy of "I am Joker", "Magma Kid", "Enigma" again, and "Bucchigiri Crash!", which itself is only ludicrously fast and crazy during the verses, otherwise starting on a supremely catchy midpaced riff, very much like "Memento Mori", which is to say nothing of the darkness found in "Psychological Treatment" and the trademark dirge of "Sora E To Tuduku Saka", which is nothing like the quite uplifting "Kaze no Shiro".

Do you get the picture?  There is a whole lot of stuff going on here.

Now that I've sufficiently wasted your time with that colossal run on sentence, we can finally loop back to my initial claim of everlasting nerdiness, the fighting game comparison.  What I mean is that, with all of these different ideas approached in different ways, they are all fast and heavy, they are all catchy and melodic, and most importantly, they are all succinct and to-the-point.  That's not to say the songs are on average shorter than they ever were ("Sora E To Tuduku Saka" is one of their longest tracks to date), it's that they're all hyper focused and they all stick with you after one listen.  Much like the soundtrack to Guilty Gear, it's a bunch of laser guided metal songs that show up, repeat a few ridiculously awesome ideas a few times, and then get out of the way in order for the next song to shine.  They can be listened to in random bursts of a minute or so, or they can be run through in longform the way they were presumably intended.  It's an album full of good ideas approached in wildly different ways, and it can be appreciated in wildly different ways as well.  Admittedly this is probably all just a personal quirk of mine, but this album is unique in that way to me.  Each and every song works as a great standalone soundtrack to punching colorful characters in the face, and that's all I really want out of music in the long run.

If there is a flaw that keeps me from listening to this album as often as some of the other classics, it's a rather unfair one.  Kuromitten doesn't really have an obvious Best Song Ever like "Shouryakukeitachi Yo", "Satori", "Aoki Kobushi", etc.  Now don't get me wrong, every song is great (barring "Kaze no Shiro" and "Garapon", which are a bit lighter and just inconsequential when compared to the other roaring anthems), but apart from maybe "Shi Ni Itaru Kizu" and "Enigma", there really aren't any tracks that define the band as an entity like those previous monsters.  Their trademark oddball riffing is still all over the place, there still aren't any other bands that really sound like Gargoyle, but despite all the subtle variation, this is still one of the more easily forgettable albums to most people purely for the fact that it doesn't have an obvious future classic like "Ruten Yo no Nite" or something.  It's an unfair criticism, and I get that, but it's the best explanation I can give for why it's somewhat buried for most people.  If anything, it only goes to show how phenomenal their discography truly is.

There's really no great place to put this, but I've mentioned several times that it's really hard to pin down Gargoyle's influences, since their riffs are so off-kilter and unique.  It's as if they exist in their own little universe where they exclusively influence themselves.  However!  It is well known that Kentaro is a gigantic Metallica fanboy, and it is quite noticeable here since the opening riff to "Enigma" is the bridge from "Creeping Death" pretty much note for note.  You can't fool me, Kenny!

So yes, Kuromitten is a consistently killer album that stands as a Moderngoyle classic alongside Kemonomichi.  "Sora E To Tuduku Saka" is probably the best "Ruten-like" song they've put out to date, surpassing the amazing "Fukaki Rurou To Hateru Kagerou" from the aforementioned album, sounding like a weary journey through the desert with those awesome dreamy twangs.  "Enigma" and "Memento Mori" contain some of the best riffs yet in the Kentaro era.  "Shi Ni Itaru Kizu" breaks newish-old ground by putting the power metal melodies in the forefront with such prominence for the first time since "Kaze no Machi" way back on Natural.  Apart from a somewhat weak back end (which has been a problem since Wa), this is a kickass album that deserves more love than it gets.

RATING - 89%

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