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A Hidden, Uncut Gem - 90%

OzzyApu, November 17th, 2009

Gargoyle, man; they just keep getting better and better. Three albums thus far, think about how many classic bands couldn’t make it without dipping in quality… GARGOYLE GETS BETTER WITH EACH ONE! Since the late ‘80s, the band has constantly been thrashing their way past the best bands of the genre. Aggressive, straightforward thrash metal was always something the band was able to offer, but the progressive (other-genre-encompassing, really) personally kept me coming back. Aratama pushes these extra elements even further with more melodic playing and tracks that show a deeper, emotional side to things. The band knew this one was going to be a gem…

Vocals here border death growls when Kiba’s doing low barking, but he’ll get some high ones in there and go apeshit like usually does. His style hasn’t really evolved much since the first album, but that’s the beauty (to the extent that beautiful can define Kiba’s vocals) of them, for one. They sort of adapt to the music, which blossoms on its own, especially here where the band attempted tracks that aren’t thrash songs. Well, some are metal and some aren’t, but the metal ones aren’t the thrash you’re used to hearing and certainly not the kind you’re imagining right now. You’ll notice it by “Open Sesame” with the ghostly background vocals, but “Hito No Tame” kicks it off – it’s not thrash, but it kicks ass anyway. It’s a fun, groovy track that’s accompanied by chicks shouting and Kiba probably riding Toshi’s bass lines as he’s singing: “AAAYEEEEEE!!! AH TAH!!!” The bass I love in this particular track, because you can make out every little bit of it rupturing with style – that’s how you utilize your bass player!

“Cogito, Ergo Sum” was featured as the last track on the debut, and it was insanely dark compared to the rest of the songs on that album. After such a fun track preceding the song on this album, Gargoyle added a little more to it, toned down the atmosphere, and made the track into more of a ballad. The lead carries the song as it drives forward, but it’s an emotional experience as Kiba’s singing is filled with sorrow and guilt. It’s the first moment thus far where he almost sounds like he’s about to cry, and that guitar / bass combination sounds too heartbreaking. The variety thus far is killer, and the way it’s pulled off brings you closer to the band than ever before. The debut was cold and historic, the sophomore was fun and delectable, and this one shows us the melodic and tactful side of the band.

The latter half of the album doesn’t discard the progressive tendencies, but it’s more of the crafty thrash they’ve been known to throw at us. The solos in each one bear marks second to Iron Maiden, but the bass lurks in the depths of the charging riffs, with wave after wave of them crashing toward you before Kiba himself jumps out ready for a chomp. Gargoyle managed to fuse some traditional heavy metal on here with their progressive thrash and made a mockery out of the bands beyond Japan's shores. Hear the first three albums in chronological order and you’ll see this band grow from a one-island sensation to a real beast from the east.