Review Summary: A pretty good, yet sometimes droning, album from one of Japan's biggest visual names.
Like it or not, there are very few names in the modern visual kei scene as big as Mucc. Mucc have been around since roughly 1997, initially playing cover songs of the (surprisingly) humongous pop rock band, Glay, as well as legendary punk band, The Blue Hearts. It wasn't until a few years later that Mucc began to play and write their own material, which, essentially, is a mixture of bitter alternative rock/metal, with roots in grunge and semi-goth rock. A few years later, Mucc played in Europe and the US, almost back-to-back, participating in both anime conventions and the legendary German metal festival, Wacken Open Air (who, in their extensive history, have housed humongous bands like Celtic Frost, Overkill, Napalm Death, Mayhem, Motorhead, Opeth, Cradle of Filth, among other huge metal acts from over the globe). By the time Mucc released their seventh full length album, "Gokusai", in late 2006, they were at their peak as far as international super stardom went, and various fans waited eagerly to hear what the Mucc boys had to offer this time around. Needless to say, the fans shouldn't be disappointed at all, as Mucc further experiments with various styles, while keeping their melancholic crunch in tact. Outside listeners, however, should be weary, as the album quickly starts to wear on that listener.
The album opens up with the hypnotizing opener, "Rave Circus Instrumental", before kicking off into the track, "Gokusai", which blends the grim outlook of the band, with a nice, crunchy metal kick. The surprising folk-like breakdown a little more-than halfway through the track adds a nice touch as well. "Nageki no Kane" pushes the metal feel of "Gokusai", adds an Caribbean influence, as well as a heavy nu-metal influence. One of the most interesting tracks on the album. The solo is impressive as hell too. "Utagoe" is a much more mainstream friendly track, which features an almost-pop like approach, while maintaining the typical Mucc sound. Another entertaining track, but it should be noted that "Utagoe" is not a metal track AT ALL. With that said, the track is a nice breakaway from the intense gloomy feel of the album thus far, and is a nice track by itself as well. "Gekkou" is a damn good track that, interestingly, mixes the styles that have been experimented on the album, and combines them all in one 4-minute killer of a track. The overall progressions and emotions expressed in the track make "Gekkou" one of, if not the best, track on the album. "Panorama" is a track that channels the style of alternative band, Plastic Tree, and is a much gentler listen, with Tetsurou's vocals as the main standout point of the track. The dreamy sound makes for, yet another, breakaway in the album, which (at this point) gets to be quite irritating. However, the track by itself is quite a jewel.
The metal sound is once again reinstated with the track, "Gerbera", which mixes various mainstream/alternative elements with the aggressive sound introduced earlier in the album. "Risky Drive" is possibly one of the most bizarre tracks on the album, as its disjointed rhythm and tempo coincides with Tatsurou's ranting vocals in the track. The next track, "Kinsenka", experiments with the more gloomy side of Mucc, but isn't quite a memorable track alone. "D-O-G" is a track that tries to save the album's potential, with a high-paced punk sound, and succeeds (to a degree). "Nijuugoji no Yuuutsu" is another track that shows off the more gloomy side of Mucc, and is a track that is chockful of melancholic despair and is a damn good and effective track. "Horizont" is a track that is not as effective as "Nijuugoji no Yuuutsu" by any means, and instead focuses on melody, which benefits the album in a unique way. "Yasashii Uta" is a decent track, but by this time, the listener is most likely beyond the level of boredom audio exhaustion from the overall sound of the album. "Ryuusei" wakes the listener up quite a bit, with a highly melodious and frantic track, which makes for one epic track that picks up the potential of the album for good, ranking with "Gekkou" as one of the best tracks on the album, and (along with few mentionable tracks) practically saves the album from being strictly mediocre.
All-in-all, "Gokusai" by Mucc is a decent listen, and one hell of a ride that can either nauseate or tickle the fancies of listeners. One could even make the argument that "Gokusai" isn't that much of a metal release at all. However, with all of the twisted breakdowns and styles experimented in the album, it is still quite obvious that metal is the main focus in the album (as with Mucc's career, period). The length of the album also damages the potential of "Gokusai" dramatically, as its extended length (stretching over an hour, bonus tracks included) makes the album long-winded at various points, as well as numbing the common listener's experience. However, if you are a huge fan of Mucc, then pick the album up. You shouldn't be disappointed.