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Kyutai doesn't qualify as a foundation shaker, but it does a good job of keeping Mucc ahead of the J-rock/visual kei pack. Granted, the record begins better than it proceeds, but Mucc still have enough songwriting skills to even out catchiness and heaviness -- at least, much of the time. J-rock is a motley bunch of influences, which allows the bands a degree of stylistic freedom (provided that they take it); on Kyutai, Mucc use it to dabble in metal proper. "Houkou," the album's first hit, sounds like any old melodic death metal track, down to growling vocals -- and it's a song In Flames wouldn't be ashamed of; several other cuts go instead for the thrash/power combo. So far so good, but there is plenty of other stuff in the stew, too, and not all of the ingredients are on par with the best ones. No complaints about the obligatory disco-metal number, as usual -- only puzzlement over why J-rock bands don't make it their main trade if they're so good at it. But the Japanese scene also favors melodrama, and Mucc pay fervent homage to that, infusing their tunes with more Luna Sea-inspired ├╝ber-emo crooning than is good for them, because Luna Sea were the only band to get away with this. In Mucc's case, the dramatic bits just sound sappy, and don't really fit with the intense flow of the album, which is better off cruising through laconic and moderately dark heavy rock riffs than catering to Oricon substandards. But in the end, the sappy moments only crop up every so often, and some numbers on Kyutai have the potential to become fan favorites; for an established band, what's more to ask?