Before we dig into this one, a quick aside. Leading up to the Stone Age, there has been an endless debate by fans both old and new, music critics and general observers over the occasional controversial directions bands move in.
In order for an artist to make their next release or just their music worth your time and money they need to display progression; show that they’ve grown and improved. Sometimes this takes risks, leaving some fans alienated and attracting newcomers. In the end, however much you bicker and argue that the first album was better than the first album etc. it’s up to the music makers to make the music, and by going into unchartered territory they aren’t breaking from any predetermined plan or set path; they’re just doing their thing, and really you can’t complain about it…unless it’s utter shite.
This review starts with a rant simply because the album in question, GO, the fifth studio release from Japanese visual-kei band Girugamesh, may be exhibiting one of the most drastic stylistic changes seen for quite some time, which already has caused fair furore amongst Giru fans on all corners of the net. Whilst it can’t be denied that the band belong to a genre of music prone to constant alterations and uncertainty in its definition – one of its most famous acts Dir en grey have gone through so many ascetical redesigns that it’s near impossible to recognize them on appearances alone anymore –the four man act’s leap from point A to Q in terms of industrial music influence is massive and trying to assess it as a standalone piece is daunting considering what it presents.
The aggressive and rhythmic form of music that characterized debut album 13’s Reborn and the self titled second outing are present at times, but the dramatic drop into upbeat and immensely polished tones is jarring and maybe a little repellent. Listeners of more traditional metal have in the past been turned off by Girugamesh’s guitar work that’s overdoing the overdrive juxtaposed with vocals that are as clean as one of Japan’s endless army of male idol singers, and listening to GO they’re likely to be hanging up the headphones quicker than before.
Consistent with previous releases the album begins with an opening track meant to lead on into the first real song, except the aptly titled ‘Opening’ prepares the listener to actually move about over what metal heads define dancing. Track 2 ‘Destiny’ breaks off from the synthesised beat with a strange blend of high ended singing and grinding guitar work, with track three ‘Exit’s misleading set up becoming a standard for the majority of the record. It’s by no means poor music but if you are put off by the early songs you won’t make it through the full running time, but on the flipside if you dig its constant mix of looped guitar riffs, synthesized beats and swerving drum patterns that rotate tonal shifts like a J-rocker and pop artist stuck in a revolving door you’ll find yourself getting attached to the fifth track and first single ‘Colours’ disaccorded musical backing.
When it comes to playing ability the guys really don’t skip out; abundant guitar solos that seem to shine no matter what’s accompanying them, with the ever on form drumming and good mix of electronic input only aiding lead vocalist Satoshi’s genuinely strong singing that to date has always been the key appeal of the music. The redirected metallers grab for the mainstream may well be rewarded with tracks ‘Mienai kyori’s piano work and ‘Calling’s blended mix of notable elements making prime candidates for Japanese anime openings, and whilst none of it ever dips into depressing territory the lack of more morbid lyricism is a nice change from prior wording.
When I first popped the album into my Itunes and saw it classified as pop…well I’m still suffering from the shock to be honest. However after really giving some time to what’s here, as is perhaps required by any listener willing to give a second and maybe third chance, what stands out is a radically different album sure, but also one that boasts something a little unique and worth exploring the inner workings of. The band’s scheduled date in London on the 18th of March will let us see how they intend to show off the much maligned musical metamorphosis with the visual presentation so key to the kei.