Beyond the Darkness

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Balzac formed in Japan in the early '90s, creating a brand of horror movie-influenced punk rock that has surface similarities to the likes of Christian Death and the other goth-punk American bands of the mid-'80s, but is far more musically interesting. For one thing, although their gory subject matter runs along the same lines as the black metal and splattergore sub-subgenres, musically, the band has more in common with the Ramones or Generation X. Indeed, one of their most striking features is the downright sweet, power poppy harmony vocals that decorate the surprisingly catchy choruses all over this album, not to mention the speedy gallop of the drums and the Johnny Ramone-style buzzsaw-bubblegum guitar riffs. Beyond the Darkness is a 2003 re-recording of songs from the band's first five albums in their native country, and it's a solidly entertaining overview of what they're all about. There's no reason why a fan of the Undertones, to say nothing of more obvious genre forebears as the Cramps, wouldn't get behind a song as skull-crushingly singalong-ready as "The Bleeding Light" or "Vanishes in Oblivion."

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