Posts Tagged ‘ Gothic Rock ’

Album of the Week 28-2017: Buck-Tick – Juusankai Wa Gekkou


Buck-Tick is one of the most influential bands from the Japanese visual kei scene. Singer Atsushi Sakurai has one of the most distinctive, appealing voices of that scene and yet, their classic material never appealed to me much. Their earliest work was a bit too upbeat for my taste, while most of their nineties output has strong electronic overtones that I find somewhat abrasive. ‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’ solves both of these issues by being a dark, gothic monster of an album with a pleasant, organic production. It turned out to be a unique entry in Buck-Tick’s discography, both stylistically and quality-wise.

While the gothic label ‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’ often gets is not entirely inaccurate, especially regarding its lyrical themes and horror-like imagery, the sound of the album is better characterized as a relatively dark post-punk band discovering how lively their songs can sound with a more organic sonic approach. As such, the album really plays to Buck-Tick’s strengths. Always the band’s main attraction, Sakurai’s voice is front and center and he obviously knows his way with the album’s atmosphere. However, the “less is more and every note counts” approach of guitarists Hisashi Imai and Hidehiko Hoshino deserves a lot of praise as well.

Those who are used to the virtuoso approach that even more accessible J-rock bands like Luna Sea and L’Arc-en-Ciel employ might be surprised at how the musicianship takes a back seat to the songs and the atmosphere here. The songs are pretty low-key and even the climactic outbursts are not very bombastic. As a result, ‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’ is a slow burner and in order to enjoy the record, it is imperative that the atmosphere absorbs you. That does not mean the musicianship is not important. The amazing ‘Doll’, for instance, is characterized by a brilliant, teasing guitar line as much as by the atmosphere and Sakurai’s performance.

Remains of the band’s electronic approach can be found in the spooky ‘Muma – The Nightmare’, which – despite the fact that it’s followed by two more tracks – sounds like the climax of the record. The electronics are just a bit less “busy” than on the material they released in the decade prior to ‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’. The impeccably arranged ‘Alive’ is another standout track, due its memorable and strategically placed chorus. ‘Passion’ is one of the darkest, most horror soundtrack-inspired moments of the record and therefore, is best not listened to in the dark. It does capture the creepy mood exceptionally well though.

‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’ is by no means a perfect record. At 78 minutes, some fat could have been trimmed, especially from the intros, outros and interludes, while ‘Seraphim’ and the vaudevillian ‘Diabolo -Lucifer-‘ stand out like a sore thumb due to their relatively upbeat atmosphere. Their main purpose seems to be to emphasize the darkness of ‘Muma – The Nightmare’. Despite those minor complaints, ‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’ has a consistency that some of the most popular Buck-Tick albums lack. It is easy to sit this one out, as this is one of those albums that refuses to let you go once it gets a hold of you.

Recommended tracks: ‘Alive’, ‘Doll’, ‘Muma – The Nightmare’

Album of the Week 17-2017: The Gazette – Dogma


The Gazette is one of the most popular Japanese rock bands even outside of their native country. Save for a couple of songs, they never appealed to me much until they released their most recent studio album ‘Dogma’. For this dark monster of an album, the goth factor in the band’s familiar alternative metal sound is turned up considerably, resulting in an immersive atmosphere that works surprisingly well alongside the downtuned riff work. Despite being recognizable as an album by The Gazette, ‘Dogma’ is – thus far – a unique entry in their discography and truly takes their sound to a new level.

People who like The Gazette less than I do are prone to dismiss them as a Dir En Grey clone. And while they share a dark aesthetic as well as a preference for the downtuned mayhem of the American nu metal scene of the mid-ninties, The Gazette has always had a sound closer to J-Rock, though on ‘Dogma’, the J-Rock sound is mainly limited to Ruki’s baritone. The electronic experiments of recent albums are still there, but less prominent in the mix. This is a good thing: while the electronics made The Gazette stand out, they feel much more like an integral part of the sound here.

‘Dogma’ definitely excels most during its more atmospheric moments. Sure, the extremely heavy riff work by Uruha and Aoi – as well as their massive, crushing guitar sound – makes for pleasant headbanging on tracks like ‘Rage’, ‘Deux’ and ‘Incubus’, but if it wasn’t for the darker material, I may have taken a pass on the album. The fittingly titled closing track ‘Ominous’ has a subdued, brooding character that doesn’t really sound like anything the band has attempted before. The transitions are a little sudden, but it works remarkably well. Its finale is excellent.

Even better is ‘Deracine’. The guitar interaction in the verses – a pronounced riff with background atmospherics – is incredible, Ruki’s vocal melodies are fantastic and its atmosphere, which at times feels like a relatively heavy J-metal band covering Killing Joke, is impossible to escape. Another highlight is ‘Wasteland’, which brings together all the extremes of The Gazette’s sound. The guitar layering is extremely tasteful and the song flows very pleasantly. ‘Lucy’ is a little more straightforward and probably would not have stood out as much on a different album, but its effective main riff and huge chorus are great. The title track serves as a perfect introduction with its dark, gothic verses.

Before ‘Dogma’, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with an album by The Gazette altogether, but the fact is that it’s a strong, well-rounded album that doesn’t easily let its listener go. It also sounds less like a band trying to emulate its American influences than some of their early works, opting for a sound of its own instead. This is a development that I can only applaud and as a result, ‘Dogma’ is definitely worth hearing if you like your music heavy, dark and atmospheric. I’ll be honest: I never knew they had it in them.

Recommended tracks: ‘Deracine’, ‘Wasteland’, ‘Ominous’

Album of the Week 07-2017: Dool – Here Now, There Then


‘Listen Without Prejudice’ may have been the meaningful title of George Michael’s second solo album, in some reversed kind of way, the phrase also applies to Dool’s debut album ‘Here Now, There Then’. Singer and guitarist Ryanne van Dorst will be known to most Dutch music fan for the punky rock ‘n’ roll she made under the pseudonym Elle Bandita, but I sincerely doubt if anyone familiar with her earlier work would have expected something like ‘Here Now, There Then’: a dark, bleak, unsettling, brooding and ultimately downright beautiful rock album with an atmosphere that is guaranteed to absorb you completely.

First single ‘Oweynagat’ blew me away when it was released a couple of months ago, but nothing could have prepared me for this masterpiece of a debut album. Monolithic riffs, haunting vocal harmonies, pounding drums and chiming atmospheric guitar parts are all over the record. It helps that the band makes full use of the fact that they have three guitarists – Van Dorst, Nick Polak and Reinier Vermeulen – and the rhythm section is highly versatile. Drummer Micha Haring moves from brute doom metal hammering to more swinging rock rhythms with incredible ease and the fact that the song material requires him too is one of the album’s greatest assets.

As versatile as the record is, the atmosphere is consistently dark and reminiscent of early goth rock and post punk bands like The Sisters Of Mercy, Bauhaus and early Killing Joke. The massive doom metal atmosphere of opening track ‘Vantablack’ certainly is the bleakest beginning of a record I’ve heard in a long time. But it’s exactly that feel that makes it beautiful. It takes you in and won’t let you go until it’s over. In a way, the track is more than just an opening track, it’s an opening statement.

Even though that doom metal sound doesn’t reappear until the brilliant ‘The Alpha’, Dool delivers when it comes to every type of dark rock music they attempt. The aforementioned ‘Oweynagat’ shines due to its vocal harmonies, the dynamic drum work and its amazing chorus, closing track ‘She-Goat’ has an incredible build-up towards its climax, the seventies-ish ‘Golden Serpents’ is full of beautiful guitar parts – including a fantastic twin solo at the end – and ‘In Her Darkest Hour’ gallops along below its awesome riffs very nicely until it hits some unpredictable rhythms in its chorus. ‘The Death Of Love’ is a little more subtle, but no less impressive and highly dynamic.

It’s been a while since I was impressed this much by a debut album, but it’s a fact that Dool produced a remarkable piece of art with ‘Here Now, There Then’. This is a record that is so strong in the message and the atmosphere it’s trying to get across that it’s almost impossible to not feel it. Combined with the musical craftsmanship within its lineup and Van Dorst’s excellent compositions, there is very little reason left not to check this downright mindblowing album out. It may be a little dark, but don’t let that keep you from missing out on what may just be the best debut of the year.

Recommended tracks: ‘Oweynagat’, ‘The Alpha’, ‘Vantablack’

Album of the Week 38-2016: Kreator – Endorama


‘Endorama’ is Kreator’s most controversial album for a reason. It’s just not a very good reason. Sure, it’s not the Thrash Metal that the Germans are known for, but flirting with New Wave, Postpunk and early Gothrock influences has made the record unique, both in Kreator’s disography and in the European metal scene. People might think you may have to look for rifs between the atmospherics, but ‘Endorama’ is still very much a guitar driven album. A rather memorable one at that. Only the fact that their masterpiece ‘Coma Of Souls’ was released in 1990 keeps this from being Kreator’s best nineties record.

Maybe the presence of former Coroner guitarist Tommy Vetterli has left people with the wrong expectations. Instead of bringing the complexity of the Swiss geniuses with him, his Kreator debut ‘Outcast’ is the band’s simplest record to date. Here, his influence is most felt in the production. The shoddy industrial leanings of the previous three records are exorcized in favor of a more atmospheric, layered approach that feels a little like what Coroner did on ‘Grin’. The main difference is that ‘Endorama’ borrows from the Goth scene, bringing to mind The Sisters Of Mercy, Bauhaus and late eighties Killing Joke.

Admittedly, the low budget video of suited-up frontman Mille Petrozza in a nightclub was a little awkward, but ‘Chosen Few’ is actually a really good song. The rhythm may be borrowed from Killing Joke’s ‘Love Like Blood’, but it’s effective. In fact, never before or since has Jürgen ‘Ventor’ Reil’s drum work had so much swing. Petrozza’s surprisingly intimate vocal performance also works wonders. Another highlight is ‘Shadowland’, probably the most “Metal” song on the album. The main theme is excellent and memorable, while the riff work gives the song a vibe somewhat reminiscent of Nevermore.

Easily the most Gothic moment on the record is ‘Passage To Babylon’, with its strong focus on Christian Giesler’s bass line and the piano part. Petrozza’s voice has a somewhat tormented quality, which really adds to the dark atmosphere of the track. The subtle orchestral samples in ‘Everlasting Flame’ are also something that could only appear on this Kreator record. Closing track ‘Tyranny’ improves upon the ‘Outcast’ formula by better dynamics and a really strong melodic theme, while the remarkably upbeat, catchy opener ‘Golden Age’ could at the time have been a minor hit for any band without Kreator’s prominent Thrash Metal history.

While the album does wane a little bit towards the end – ‘Soul Eraser’ and the relatively riffy ‘Pandemonium’ aren’t quite as strong as the rest of the record – and more variation in the tempos may have made it even better, ‘Endorama’ is a record full of well-written songs, strong performances and an excellent production. Petrozza is rightfully still proud of the record. And that’s a good thing, because I hate it when musicians try to cover up their willful experiments. If you’re not a Thrash conservative, give the album a chance. Just forget that the band ever recorded ‘Pleasure To Kill’ and let these amazing songs work their magic. It’s well worthy of your attention.

Recommended tracks: ‘Shadowland’, ‘Chosen Few’, ‘Passage To Babylon’