Juusan-Kai Wa Gekkou

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Being a visual kei band, Buck-Tick have always had a goth streak, but on Juusan-Kai Wa Gekkou they decided to embrace the genre wholeheartedly, delivering something of a concept album concerning clowns and the number 13. However, they didn't let go of their pop-punk/industrial pasts either, and so the result is a sort of rock fusion between bombastic goth metal and gloomy alt-rock. It's not half bad, but far from perfect. The core of the album consists of semi-industrial riffs that are closer to Marilyn Manson or A Perfect Circle than Lacrimosa, and after almost 20 years in the game Buck-Tick have no problem making those convincing. But the music doesn't end there, because there's also a lot of theatrics on Juusan-Kai Wa Gekkou -- an orchestral intro, ambient interludes, and, most importantly, an abundance of menacing synthesizer textures, over the top singing, and dramatic melodies in the actual songs. And therein lies the problem, because rock groove and drama only go together to a certain point, after which they begin to pull the listener into opposite directions -- at least, they do on this album. Sometimes it all works out, with the result sounding like Fields of the Nephilim or very dark prog metal -- think Queensr├┐che's Promised Land -- but more often than not, when the "goth" moments intrude on the more straightforward rock parts, the contrast makes them sound maudlin and overblown. The length of the album plays its part as well -- it's normal for Japanese bands to release records over an hour in length, but Juusan-Kai Wa Gekkou is too saturated with emotion, and therefore would benefit from stopping around "13" (that being conceptual as well). Still, there are many nice bits here for aficionados of both alternative rock and goth music.

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