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Extremely catchy, energetic and fun stuff - 86%

MutantClannfear, July 1st, 2013

I don't usually think of myself as the kind of person who listens to "fun" music. It's "awesome" music at best, but being entirely realistic I doubt most people who aren't me have "fun" with slamming wigger assaults like Epicardiectomy and related bands. I've never particularly liked music that most people describe as possessing outright bursts of energy and pizzazz and zeal, to the point where I outright dislike slam bands if they sound too cheesy and non-threatening for the sake of being catchy and light-hearted. This, though... eh, fuck it, I'll break my rule. この世の地獄物語 is a fun album and that's exactly what makes it great.

地獄カルテット play a weird style of music that I can probably best describe as a hybrid between power metal and groove metal, with thrash sprinkled in between to make the crossover between the first two styles mesh a bit better than it probably normally would. Their music travels through all the various spectrums of those genres, with the power metal ranging from blisteringly fast, energetic anthems to a ballad in the form of the tenth track, "狼少女の嘆き"; meanwhile, the groove ranges from relatively fast and well-integrated with the power metal to outright nu-metal-like jumpdafuckup riffs. Don't get me wrong, it's all executed well, but their interpretation of the genres at their disposal are surprisingly varied and don't reek of something gimmicky like "Let's take this one element of power metal and shove it right up next to single-minded groove/thrash!" Dynamics are never an object of concern either - 地獄カルテット's songs don't merely throw in elements and then try their best to work around the problems that arise from their use; rather, they use the elements of the genres at their disposal entirely for the benefit of a certain need in the song.

The average song on この世の地獄物語 can vary wildly - some are obviously speed-driven, while others place a greater emphasis on slower or mid-paced sections. They're all united in the same basic framework: a 40/40/20 mix of power, thrash, and groove, respectively. The power metal influences in the guitars make themselves most known not through the pulse-like streams of tremolo or the rhythmic, incredibly precise triplet patterns, but in the screaming leads that howl over the top of the music and rain epic melodies down upon the meat of the music. There's an interesting edge of technicality to the compositions, which mostly manifests in dizzying spirals of stop-start thrash metal tremolos that bring to mind Rust in Peace-era Megadeth. The groove metal is probably the weakest of the three main genres here, since it tends to borderline on cheesy, nu-metal-like spasming chugs at times (like on the first half of the ninth track, "朝の許しを待ちて"), but it's chaotic and melodic enough to avoid becoming derivative, at least. The groove influence redeems itself when it gets just a bit more metal-based and faster, like the kind that's spread in small portions all over "永遠の微笑". It's not quite neanderthal-brained enough to be annoying, and the aggressive tinge to it helps provide a contrast to the more beautiful, soaring power metal sections. The music is also prone to little dancy clean sections that pop up in bridges of the songs; I don't think I'd describe them as super-oriental in terms of the melodies used, but nevertheless they're worthwhile in the way they flourish over the music so beautifully.

All of the band's various elements are tied together by a vocalist whose performance is inexplicably charming. He's a great vocalist by most people's standards, no doubt. His timbre is relatively unique in how it sounds strangely young and youthful, he has an adequate range for the music underneath him, and when he wants to, he can make his vocal lines absolutely soar (when he pairs his vocals in full-flight with the power metal riffs it's...astonishing, for lack of a better word). But it feels like I'm taking even more enjoyment from his vocal performance than that. I really admire the way his voice seemingly fine-tunes to match the mood of the music: it's like the guy's sorrowful, mourning voice is wholly separate in execution from the aggressive yelling he uses on the music's thrashier parts, despite the fact that it's still obviously the same guy performing both with the same idiosyncrasies packaged with him.

I personally have more fun with the punchier, thrashier moments on この世の地獄物語, like the songs "幻の楓" and "罪と罰の戦", but essentially every piece of its running time ranges from good to great with only the occasional nu-metal-like section breaking that for me. Through it all, the music is just plain fun to me - 地獄カルテット display such unhindered vigor and enthusiasm towards playing their music that it's really kind of infectious. This doesn't really feel like a planned, marketed album as much as it feels like a group of dudes churning out inspiring, energetic tunes for nothing more than the sheer joy of creating it. While it's most certainly awesome, this isn't one of my favorite albums of all time. However, it may very well be one of the only ones to make me genuinely smile.