Gargoyle – Misogi – 4.5/5
Five Metal Classics you’ve never heard of: Number Three
In the year of thrash; Slayer brought out “Seasons in the Abyss,” Megadeth “Rust in Peace,” Bathory’s “Hammerheart” and Acid Drinkers’ “Are You a Rebel” all in 1990. By any measure it was a good year for the genre, and in the shadow of the ultra-aggressive and punk-filled chaos came the wave of Japanese thrash lending their own brand of insanity, this debut filled with slow emotional solo’s, classical interludes, neo-classical shredded guitars, groove-laden bass-work, flailing drums and nonsensical falsetto rasps; like an old school thrash version of ‘Diablo Swing Orchestra,’ this is thrash but not as you know it.
Saxophones and jazzy guitars, piano interludes and randomly interspersed female backing vocals (once from the lips of a small child), sombre violins and whispering flutes complementing the emotion-laden guitars in a rare absence of vocals only to be abruptly ended when the vocalist becomes aggravated about the lack of gas (apparently). To really get a grasp of what is presented here is not easy to concisely describe; even the vocals sound unlike anyone else I can care to name, perhaps an odd combination of ‘Gama Bomb’ and ‘The Mighty Mighty Bosstones,’ if they both happened to be Japanese. The thrash resemblance at times wearing extraordinarily thin, it is nonetheless the only safety line this band seems to have in creating a coherent song, often settling into mid-paced rhythms only to go off on a tangent at a moments notice.
The bass prominent in creating the rhythm, it performs a vital duty in maintaining the structure of the track (because none of the other three musicians are going to) allowing the guitars to do everything from swaggering chords, jazz-like twanging tremolo-laden riffs and blues-like crunchy tones, excelling with further variety during the solos; from the slow and melodic to the slayer-esque shredding and malmsteem’s neo-classical, always somehow oddly suited to the track at hand. There is none of this muddy production either; of particular note is the incredible impact the drums manage to convey, unafraid of using the full extent of the drums before him, the cymbals never become overpowering and the toms never become lost behind the snare.
In some senses, this album feels so varied that it loses much of the coherency, only the distinct energetic vocals tying everything together and making them instantly recognisable through all the classical and jazz passages. They have broad influences and know how to incorporate them all in such a manner as to make bouncy, energetic and aggressive music that stands up to multiple listens. There really is nothing quite like them, and despite this unconventional amalgamation of styles boast a career spanning two decades, with only two line-up changes and a back catalogue without any weakness (to my knowledge), Gargoyle are unquestionably one of those unsung metal bands that deserved their name in lights a long time ago.
Highlight: Bala Bara Vara, Purple Heaven, 人形の森
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Basically, I realised many of this artists releases were ridiculously hard to find, both the UK and the US amazon stock a whopping total of two releases, and at a high import price. Even looking through the hmv.co.jp I could only find a handful of what you may notice is a pretty large discography. That being said, if any artist is worth showing some support then this would be it; unlike many big thrash bands, these guys have never taken a break and in 20 years have yet to release a sub-par album. That's impressive by anybodies standards. If you're stuck as to where to get going, whilst you can dive in anywhere and strike gold, I've marked it if its a personal favourite.
Kuromitten - (2009) - Link