Gargoyle – Ryuu Kaze Ronpuu 2005 – 85%

The thing most impressive about Gargoyle is the consistency. Throughout the numerous songs I’ve heard from their 20 year career, one thing has stayed consistent: these guys fuck around without managing to fuck around. The music is always energetic, and nearly always aggressive and thrashy. With all of these things in the mixing pot, it would seem as though we’re assured to have a winner, right?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is a slightly more complicated juggle of yes and no.

While managing to produce memorable, heavy, and always entertaining thrash, there are definitely some factors missing in Ryuu Kaze Ronpuu that keep it from being completely awesome. Everything on here is done well. Everything! The guitar tone is sharp, lethal, and explosive, with the riffs to back it up.  Gargoyle’s key signature seems to be catchy choruses, and this album has no shortage of them. You’ll be able to sing many choruses by the second time you hear them. At times, this can make the music harder to take seriously, which is one of the main flaws of Gargoyle. Spark, while an album highlight and riffmonster, suffers from this syndrome.

Kiba’s vocals register fairly low, at times recalling the low grumble of Chris Boltendahl. I know this is a bit of an unfair judgment to make, but coupled with the sometimes silly and simple vocals, the Japanese never does much for me. I really can’t take them seriously. I find that the vocals drag down the music, despite being well done (like everything here).

While the riffage often ranges from good to an occasional excellent (about once or twice a song, at least), the solos are another story. For me, they’re the main draw. Whatever creative force some of the less entertaining riffs are missing, the solos more than make up for. Kentaro is an absolute jaw-dropping virtuoso. The solos are by far the most memorable and redeeming part of the music. Each solo bares a strong and thoughtful melody, that can’t help but conjure up a comfortable familiarity. Some of the most engaging solos are in Spark and Tabi No Dokeshi.

Gargoyle take themselves seriously, while still being loose and casual. Often times, this style is great for a band to maintain. Here however, a lot of the laid back and care-free attitude keeps me from enjoying the tracks as much as I should. While the musicianship is superb and fulfilling, everything is just under the plateau of total greatness. The way I see it is this: most of my favorite music has one or 2 things that are absolutely the best or coolest thing I’ve ever heard. I really can’t say that about any thing here, though an argument could be made for the solos. It’s like everything is good, but just not quite there yet.  With this and some of the other silly tendencies in mind, it’s difficult for me to take this 100% seriously.

Highlights include: Ikusa, 1.618,  Jidai O Shiranai Kodomotachi, Spark, Tabi No Dokeshi, Rakuen Ni Shisu

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