The End of the World

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Twelve albums into their career, visual kei veterans Mucc continue to lead the pack, looking backwards while moving forwards, running with the metalcore influences they developed on their previous album Shangri-La while creating another record jam-packed with varied musical influences and stuffed full of those unmistakable Mucc choruses. The album starts with the incongruous, raw, sloppy blues-rock boogie of the title track before bursting into brutally heavy trancecore on the fantastic single "Ender Ender"; the metalcore then continues on "Ms. Fear" (perhaps a conceptual twin to Shangri-La's "Mr. Liar"). Those surprised by the "poppy" latter-day Mucc's ability to play such aggressive sounds with such élan should not forget that this band spent much of their early career playing extremely heavy, sludgy, psychedelic rock and over the years have shown that they can adroitly turn their hand to anything. There's retro, funky rock on "Halo" (on which Tatsurou confusingly sings "Hallo"), and "Tell Me" combines balladic verses with funk-rock, reverbed tremolo guitar à la the Edge, and screaming leads on the middle eight. It's a perfect example of VK's blatant disregard for genre boundaries, and it works brilliantly. The ballad "Japanese" soars on a lush string arrangement and massive walls of guitar and has one of the album's most beautiful choruses, while the powerful, urgent "Hallelujah" (not a cover of the ubiquitous Leonard Cohen song) is cut from much the same cloth as "Ender Ender" but is no less commanding for that. The almost ska-punk "World's End (In Its True Light)" adds a welcome injection of fun. The album does take the occasional slight slump: "999 (21st Century World)" and "369 (Miroku)" are rather by-the-numbers (as it were), and closing folky ballad "Shin de Hoshii Hito" ("The People I Wish Were Dead") is somewhat throwaway. However, these missteps are still better than many bands' best moments and have plenty to redeem them; it's only their proximity to the really great tracks on the rest of the album that lessens their impact. Mucc are the very acme of the visual kei sound, uniting numerous genres -- metal, blues, rock, funk, reggae, electronica -- with total disregard for convention. But while the songs of other bands (even veterans like Nightmare) can sound a bit Frankensteined together, Mucc's mightily impressive chops mean that this fusion somehow just works and never sounds forced. While they are relatively well-known around the world, they are hardly a household name, and it is surely just the language "barrier" which is preventing them from being as big as, say, U2. This album should be enjoyed by anyone with a taste for heavy, melodic, well-constructed rock.

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