I don’t know about you– but they got my life in one.
Although they began as a pretty tough-nut Visual Kei band , since 2008 girugamesh has been making some major image changes– which is only natural. Think of just how often you change your wardrobe, hair-style, or blog-banner. People get tired of something and want to move on, expand, challenge themselves. It would be a bit cruel of fans to expect bands to stay exactly the same forever, regardless of changing perspectives and interests. Fans hoped this wouldn’t effect girugamesh‘s edgy, garage Visual Kei music too much, but with 2009’s release, it’s becoming apparent that they are indeed playing around with their musical style as well. The hardcore edginess of girugamesh and 13’s Reborn has been smoothed out quite a bit in their more recent work, and NOW is testing new waters completely.
Given that Crying Rain was such an excellent single, by the time I got my hands on NOW, I had already set my standard pretty high. Not being one to judge a CD by it’s album cover, I put the toe-head out of sight and out of mind, and banked on the lean 9 tracks to be follow-ups in quality to the perfect single and b-side that preceded it.
The album opens with now(intro), a quirky electronicky track that kicks things off with a positive message.
(Spoken) “Nothing begins. If you don’t love yourself….nothing begins. If you don’t take an action… so before you regret just follow us…NOW!”
The words explode into some mixed up thrasher riffs and technologicized bits and pieces that get steadily more persistent until they techno-out into the mixed up beginning beats of the second track, short shredder bit crash.
bit crash is a bit more like the girugamesh we expect. Although nothing original, the driving metal chords and Satoshi’s scratchily screamoed rap give the song some body. That established, however, the aforementioned body holds out for the rest of the (2:22 long) song without much variation, and feels like more of a continuation of the intro than the crash-and-kill first real song.
The progression of the songs is going nicely so far. Third in the lineup, NO MUSIC NO REASON has some more of that typical giru sound: steady drum, standard giru guitar with effects, and Satoshi’s irresistibly Visualistic vocals– flowing easily from more scratchy rap stuff to his characteristic full-on melodic rises and falls. The instrumental break isn’t breaking news, but has some seriously head-bangable solid riffs, connected by the intertwining DNA of turn-table mixing that will flow from beginning to end of the album.
NO MUSIC NO REASON sets us up for a nice chunk of catchy stuff. Fourth song, I think I Can Fly is kind of low-key, but really catchy and has some real charisma. The vocals and how they work with the bass and effects are the heart of the song, and the chorus, although simple, is interesting and cool. The piece has an energetic confidence and quality of suaveness that makes for an interesting and worthy experience. In my opinion, I Think I Can Fly is one of the gems of the album. All the grim swagger of Visual Kei with the “press-repeat-ability” of engaging rock’n’roll.
Gentle cymbals flutter our rockin’ wings on into BEAST. How to put this without sounding judgmental….okay, there’s no way, I just have to say it: the whole album is not nice. And by “not nice”, I mean that it is like one of those people who you meet, who really does nothing to make you like them. Or even want to like them. Although quite a few of the songs have an initial aloofness that may not lure you in at first, after several (or many, depending on how adaptable/desperate/unbiased you are) listen-throughs of the tracks, you can’t help but begin to feel attracted to them. Do you think this is similar to dating goths?
BEAST is like this. When I first heard it, I admit it– I skipped it. I wasn’t in the mood for what threatened to be a potentially annoying track. One of the heavier pieces, BEAST has some drive, but the woman’s voice addition turned me off in the beginning. Prepare to get over this and enjoy the track for what it is– more shameless headbanging material.
Wow, only four songs left. After BEAST we have nobody. Unto itself, nobody is a respectable ballady piece. Pretty much typical girugamesh fair as far as the moody melancholica goes, but it’s a decent song. The only complaint I have about it is that the guitar riffs, while being kind of unusual and interesting for girugamesh, are old-school the GazettE. The riffs are exactly the same as the acoustic guitar piece in album NIL’s intro The End. While there’s nothing particularly wrong or immoral about this (on that note, I don’t know anything about morals anyway, so I’m hardly a good judge of what is or is not considered immoral or unethical behavior. After all, being a writer and reader, I am quite well acquainted with the practice of the oh-so-denounced-yet-practiced plagiarism…I have never done it intentionally, that is, but I could name a hundred well-known authors who have [close call…].), I felt a bit disappointed by the band. Maybe they didn’t realize that they borrowed the same notes, or maybe they did. Until they tell us, we’ll never know. In the meantime I’ll just have to swallow my bitterness, enjoy my CD, and expect better from the giru gang next time. I know they can do it.
The final three songs that tie up the album are suiren (NOW version), DIRTY STORY, and arrow. Revamped ballad, powerhouse thrasher, and the finale, which starts out a disappointment, and halfway through hits home as quite a pleasant surprise–respectively.
Sure, it may not be the next best thing since Christmas, but it’s a terrific finish for the wishy-washy selection of pieces. It bridges the slightly awkward, hormonal and potentially angsty ballads and angry thrasher tracks really cleanly, with a moody melody that has a very rhythmic and cool verse line paired with a high-paced, tense instrumental backing. The solo/instr. break is heavy but tidy, back into a girugamesh chorus like the ones we like. The prize really lies in the verses, and the vocal switch that happens when there’s about 3o seconds left to the piece. The final chord is struck, and left ringing in our ears, the album closes.
Although there are some catchy tracks, such as NO MUSIC NO REASON, I Think I Can Fly, and the initially obnoxious but increasingly fun BEAST, the album has no real meat, no tension, to dig into. The mellow, easy pace of a good portion of the tracks really kept things low-profile, and scattered throughout those, the heavier tracks felt obtrusive and slightly raucous. NOW is fun, but has a faintly superficial, B-side feel.
To be fair– NOW is a lighthearted venture into girugamesh (if you ever thought such a thing was possible), and while it may not appeal to core fans, Jrockers may enjoy the “hardcore-lite” album and a dip into ballad-plentiful “pop Visual Kei” (you also thought that didn’t exist…admit it.).
I really enjoy what they’re doing with the mixing/scratching and tasteful essence of rap. Satoshi has indisputably cool and interesting vocals– he could sing anything (aside from maybe Christmas carols?) and we would listen. For all my strut and toughness with this one, really all I wanted was a little more creativity and something that felt fresh and bold. I’m glad I have the CD, and I will enjoy it as a decent disc of music– because when it comes down to it, that’s basically what it is. And that’s good.
Ultimate conclusion: With only 9 tracks, most of which don’t even reach 4 minutes long, and no real “meat” to bite into, NOW feels more like a fleeting instance in Jrock time than the defining moment of our existence on earth.
girugamesh official website [Jp, English]
girugamesh official MySpace [English, incl. blog]
Member’s Official Blog: CRAZY BLOG [Jp]