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(づ。◕‿‿◕。)づ - 85%

BastardHead, May 3rd, 2014

I am a man who likes manly things. In my free time, I like to chop down trees and oil my beard (which is approaching three feet in length). I chew on car tires because it helps strengthen my jaws, which is imperative when I participate in my bi-weekly bear wrestling matches. Those fuckers may be strong and fierce, but it doesn't matter what species you are, a bite to the nipple is a bite to the nipple regardless. There are no real rules in underground bear wrestling circuits, it may seem like a dirty tactic, but there's no honor where your opponents are concerned, believe me.

And amidst all the grime and bear blood and Motorhead, there's Destrose, the cutest fucking thing I've ever seen.

I've long stopped caring about the outside perspective on my taste in music, and it's that kind of detached apathy that is almost required before delving into a group like Destrose. I've voiced my love of sugary Japanese power metal in the past, and Destrose's self titled first album is no exception, but unlike... say, Light Bringer, this is more than just sugary or light. This shit is... just... fucking cute. I don't know any other way to describe it, just look at the band members! They're all dressed like Rozen Maiden characters and have the most innocent faces I've ever seen, I had no choice but to fall in love at first sight. I want to buy all of them ice cream.

But pushing the obvious gimmick aside, this is an alleged metal album, right? Therefore, the music should be the focus, and it's clear from looking at the album cover that the aesthetics definitely came first with Destrose. Well... actually, I don't know how true that is, because the music contained is actually really, really good. I don't mean solely in the realm of giggly J-pop, because of course anything with heavy guitars would stand out (why do you think Baby Metal has been making such waves lately?), I mean standing alone as a heavy metal album, Destrose does an extraordinarily great job of letting the music stand on its own merits. You're not going to find any riffs as brilliant as on Don't Break the Oath or something, but everything here ranges from serviceable to great, and then amps everything up with a massive jolt of energy. For a band so clearly designed as a marketing gimmick, it really shouldn't even be allowed to be this strong.

Like most heavy/power metal, the melodies are the main attraction here. That's not to say the rhythm section isn't impressive, but they don't stand out nearly as much as the subtle keys and soaring guitar lines. The vocals are a huge draw as well, but if you take them away, there's nothing that would clue you in to the band's image or country of origin. Really, these riffs can get surprisingly dirty (check "Sword of Avenger", "Lifer 13" or "Hakai no Bara"), and there are big heaps of punkish aggression peeking through select songs, especially near the end of the album. Overall the band leans more towards the "heavy" side of "heavy/power metal", and it helps set them apart from the countless Nightwish clones of the world who think that a pretty voice can only be accompanied with light, easy to listen to music. The shredding solos sprinkled liberally across the duration are another huge plus for any fan of metal in general, as it keeps any given section from growing dull and shows that Mina has got some chops to go alone with that adorable visage.

I'm doing my damnedest not to keep mentioning the band's image or stereotypes associated with their country of origin, but dammit it's just too much of an elephant in the room to avoid. The vocals are very much that style of saccharine-smooth giggliness you would normally associate with J-pop, so even though the music is 100% hard and heavy, her voice will almost always be involuntarily knocking your mind back into that sparkly mindset that you really should do everything in your power to avoid. Despite that, she's still a damn good vocalist, with some killer range and a totally wicked vibrato. She has a shitload of control over such a powerful wail, and it's very impressive. It helps that her technical skill meshes so brilliantly with the music on hand. In another universe, Doro Pesch could be behind this album with very little changes (maybe a little less keys and a dirtier tone), but this girl instead commands your attention with a very clean, precise, and voluminous wail. Hell, she even gets in some Doro-esque snarliness on the "Hakai no Bara", so she's not only impressive and ear catching, but sports some unexpected variety as well.

Overall Destrose is an album that could (and likely will) be defined by western audiences by its gimmick of populating the band with the five most adorable women in Japan, but in a just world, the sharp hooks and catchy choruses would propel the music past the far too easy to criticize image. Alas, it's a very solid heavy metal album with a thin veneer of melodic power metal looming over the traditional riffage. It's admittedly a very niche sound it's catering to, but apparently I have just enough of the spirit of a little girl to be totally into it.

Also the bassist and drummer are so fucking cute I just wanna hug them and aaaaaaahhhhhh!

Originally written for Lair of the Bastard

Don't mess with the "Sword Of Avenger" - 85%

Liquid_Braino, June 22nd, 2013

There's a certain contingent of metal bands, particularly during the 1980's, that almost seemed to aspire for a singular top rank amongst the various aesthetics comprising metal music. I remember a long time ago seeing a sticker on Slayer's Live Undead vinyl cover proclaiming them as "the fastest band in the world", a boast a number of other groups back then could dispute. The sort of bragging rights associated with being the fastest, the loudest, the evilest, the most brutal or even the most "metal" of metal bands could give a band more infamy and recognition, although these days I would assume that the fastest metal band out there right now probably sounds like complete shit. Yet at the time when metal was just beginning to explore extremities in sound while pushing the boundaries, possessing a brief status as the 'fastest' or 'goriest' of metal bands was essentially a badge of honor. A much rarer and more obscure ambition was, and still is, to achieve the honor and glory of being the 'cutest' metal band. It may not seem as dignified an accomplishment as some of the more strictly music-related objectives, but it's no less a difficult crown to pursue, especially if you're a bunch of bearded bastards.

Destrose is without a doubt a prime contender for the admirable 'cutest metal act' tag, outpacing most of their contemporaries, including that disturbing Baby Metal project, while pumping out some pretty damn good music. Originally a black leather clad group, most of the original members eventually pulled a mass exodus and were replaced by women whose technical skills are matched by their penchant for outlandish girly doll dresses, cute hairdos and ribbons. The music reflected this changing of style in an ironic fashion, in that the band got meaner and speedier, as if to compensate for their "cuddlesome" image. It certainly turned out to be a winning turn of events as the band gained a larger fanbase, finally resulting in this high selling debut full length effort after eight years of existence.

Oddly enough, like their Deathless Memories single, this release begins in an awkward and unpromising fashion, with an intro that comes across like some kind of symphonic industrial metal spunk anchored by a terrible sounding drum machine. Then the "Headless Goddess" storms in neck first and alleviates those fears as princess Haruna assumes her rightful position pummeling away on her kit as her pigtails flail like a second set of drumsticks, pausing only to give that big fucking pinwheel on her drum-set a quick spin.

The overall production is organic and meaty, possessing a dirtier edge than the more crystalline presentation of similar sister acts such as Aldious or Cyntia. The rhythm section sounds thick with its prominent bass presence, while the guitars bear a warm tone that balances between metal and hard as hell rock.

Packing a strong punch, there's a gritty Motorhead vibe which meshes surprisingly well alongside the power metal riffs and melodies throughout the first batch of tracks, giving Destrose a snarly attitude I don't often hear concerning these sexy-doll bands. Toward the album's end there's also "Lifer 13", an absolutely ballsy punk-infused number, but the ultimate corker here is the final cut, essentially the ripping thrashy instrumental track from the Deathless Memories single revamped with spiteful vocals. Provocative singer Marina doesn't fuck around, showing off enough strong vibrato to garner technical accolades while delivering her lines with more venom than most of her fellow female power metal counterparts while not resorting to gruffness or screaming.

This release would be just about perfect if it weren't for the decline in quality during the album's mid-section before rebounding with "Fenixx". "Destination" and "Romancer" would've been forgettable if not for the notably cheesy synths in the background, lacking the more rebellious nature of the opening and closing numbers. It's not a lack of speed during the mid-portion of the album that's an issue. Hell, early cut "Sword of Avenger" keeps things at a medium tempo, but it's based around killer sleazy riffage that can induce boners as fast as the album's cover sleeve. But a song like "Romancer" is pretty disposable fare, and with a song title like that it shouldn't be a surprise.

Most of the surrounding tracks, though, are keepers, and there's not an obligatory ballad in sight. Bitchin', fast, hot and fiery, these tunes belie the general imagery of the performers, which is exactly their game-plan. It's been a long road to get where they're currently at, but overall, it must have been worth the ride as they can now wear their 'cutest metal' tiaras proudly. The music is pretty hot as well.