The Gazette

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With its release coming just ten months after its predecessor Toxic, and with no singles to precede it, fans’ imaginations were left to run riot about the possible content of the Gazette’s sixth album -- and many of them feared the worst, expecting a collection of leftovers or, at best, a lazy rehash of Toxic’s themes. What they got was a stunning surprise: a fantastically well-rounded album which synthesized and expanded on the best of all that the Gazette had produced to that date. At first, the fears seem to be borne out, the album starting much like Toxic with a thumping, dubstep-influenced electronic intro before launching into a brace of grinding metalcore tracks with singalong choruses: so far, so familiar. It’s only when “Dripping Insanity” gets into its stride that ears start to prick up. On previous albums a title like this would have presaged three minutes of bludgeon, but here it’s a classic, mid-tempo Gazette number; while “Ibitsu” (“Misshapen”), whose title seems to promise a ballad, is a rollicking, instantaneously catchy rock song. This is just one example of the record's strength: the Gazette have dug deep, taking the opportunity to really flip the script, confounding expectations by playing with their tried-and-true formula -- but not so much that it alienates their listenership. The album’s middle third, with five Japanese-titled tracks in a row (Toxic had none), is the strongest and most interesting. The dirge-like “Yoin” (“Afterglow”) has a classic rock solo and a sorrowful refrain about “This rain which melts into my skin.” There has to be a heartrendingly beautiful ballad on every Gazette album and here that role is filled by “Kagefumi” (“Stepping on a Shadow”), unarguably one of the best songs they have ever written, which takes as its starting point past glories like “Chizuru,” “Guren,” or “Pledge,” but sidesteps the obvious melody of these songs for something which seems altogether different, more Western somehow, without losing that essential Japanese quality crucial to visual kei. It’s the song that seems to best complement the album’s dark booklet photography, featuring beautiful twins enfolded in one another’s arms as they sink silently into the depths of the ocean. “Kago no Sanagi” (“Caged Chrysalis”) is another near-perfectly judged blend of heaviness and beauty, pace, and melancholy, before the metallic fury returns on the aptly titled “Hedoro” (“Sludge”) and “Attitude.” The album closes on “Required Malfunction” -- another unique and strangely Western-sounding tune combining metalcore riffs, Auto-Tuned R&B vocals, and an insanely catchy chorus -- before a harsh, electro-industrial instrumental outro. This is probably the best album the Gazette have made to date, with a pleasing mix of all the different styles they have thus far dabbled in, and comes highly recommended both to fans and to neophytes wondering what all the fuss is about. [The Japanese-only limited edition splits the album into two discs with a different running order, two bonus instrumentals, and a DVD containing promo videos for a number of the album’s tracks.]

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