I don’t know what it is about Japanese metal bands, but they steadfastly ignore the rules set down by their Western counterparts. Back in the day those rules of course state that you should never mix up styles over the course of an album and that you will never deviate from the well trodden (left hand) path.
If you must mess around with different styles then you should only do so as a novelty single (see Anthrax’s I’m the Man) or as a throwaway funk track at the arse end of your album (see Sacred Reich’s 99 Flavours – a track that heralded the funk metal crossover, and somewhat ironically, the popularity of Sacred Reich at the time).
Metallica of course went some way to singeing the rule book when they included a ballad on their Black Album. The fuss that Nothing Else Matters created was considerable at the time. Had Metallica ever made a record like Gokusai, straight after …And Justice For All for example, the fans would have been paying for them to see Dr. Phil.
In Japan, such rules don’t apply. If you should check out albums by MUCC’s contemporaries such as Dir En Grey or Mad Capsule Markets you will find equally diverse albums tucked away in their back catalogues.
Gokusai opens with Rave Circus Instrumental, a track which unsurprisingly sounds a bit like a rave in a circus. It also sounds a bit like The House of The Rising Sun. That is surprising.
Title track Gokusai follows and it’s full of rumbling bass, and frenetic guitar riffs. Nageki No Kane follows in a similar suit to begin with, although if anything it’s heavier and more claustrophobic, until it reaches the verse. Once that verse kicks in it suddenly becomes a ska tune. At the chorus it’s pure pop. Confused yet? Well there’s more as pounding double bass drums drive the guitar solo as it slowly morphs into the sound of a jet plane crashing into the sea.
After that mish mash of styles comes Utagoe which essentially is the kind of song that Japan would enter into the Eurovision Song Contest if they were from Europe. In other words, it’s a little bit shit.
This clash of styles continues throughout the album, right the way to the final track, a surf version of their own song, Gerbera. Normally this kind of disregard for genre rules and consistency would lead to a pretty confusing album with nothing at the centre as a unifying theme. Somehow MUCC get away with it.
Gokusai is actually fairly coherent despite the endless changes of style and pace (although the translations of the lyrics is anything but coherent). They don’t quite have the class of Mad Capsule Markets, or the brooding nature of Dir En Grey but nevertheless Gokusai makes for an interesting listen.