Even for bands that have a consistently awesome output, there are sometimes moments that the stars align just right. Japanese experimental Thrash monsters Gargoyle have had quite a few of those moments, but ‘Tenron’ is arguably the pinnacle for the original recording lineup of the band, which dissolved shortly after the release of the album. It’s one of those records where every song hits just the right notes and where the first listen is every bit as enjoyable as the umpteenth one. A masterpiece of Thrash Metal that is as vicious as it is melodic, entertaining and sometimes even surprising.
Very little subtlety kicks off the record when you hear Kiba’s gruff bark introducing the chorus to the spectacular opening track ‘Shinpan No Hitomi’ a capella. It pulls you right into the album – by the throat – and doesn’t let you go until it’s over. Sure, Gargoyle has a tendency to take Thrash Metal far beyond its traditional boundaries and with such an amount of variation, some tracks are bound to please the listener more than others, but as far as consistency goes, ‘Tenron’ is one of their better works. Even the goofy track ‘Amoeba Life’ (with a Country guitar solo!) is amazing.
Stylistically, ‘Tenron’ isn’t even that remarkable of a Gargoyle album, but everything that makes the band work is just turned up to eleven. The traditional funky track (‘Doumu Lullaby’) is more intense than its earlier counterparts, the slower, doomy track (‘Hikari To Yami No Monogatari’) is incredibly atmospheric and has just the right riffs in the right places (not to mention a downright amazing guitar solo courtesy of Sheja) and while it just barely misses out on the genius of ‘Cogito, Ergo Sum’ (the original) and ‘Yakusoku No Chi De’, ‘Inochi Yukashi Inochi Nagashi’ is a fantastic, brooding ballad with amazing guitar work.
However, Gargoyle is at its best when they’re firing on all cylinders and churning out Thrash grenades like the annihilating closer ‘Haretsu Ganbou’ or the mind-blowing ‘Ame Ni Mo Makezu’, the latter being responsible for making me the rabid Gargoyle fan I am these days. The aforementioned ‘Shinpan No Hitomi’ fits that category as well, although Sheja’s neoclassical flourishes and Toshi’s remarkably catchy bass lines put the song in a more melodic league. ‘Gekka Ranshou’ brings all of the influences together in an epic Heavy Metal track with a haunting guitar intro and a myriad of pummeling riffs and soaring melodic themes.
‘Tenron’ is definitely a fine place to start if you want to get yourself acquainted with the crazy world of Gargoyle. I think it would be fair to warn you that their world is highly addictive though. Especially because their music has more depth than it may reveal initially. There’s the exploration of styles, there’s a bassist that plays unconventional bass lines, but somehow makes it work, there’s a barking singer that holds his own remarkably well even in ballads and beneath all the riff and lead guitar violence, there’s one of the most vicious Thrash drummers in the world. And so – again – a Japanese band has lifted a traditionally western art form far above its accepted limitations.
Recommended tracks: ‘Ame Ni Mo Makezu’, ‘Gekka Ranshou’, ‘Shinpan No Hitomi’