Review Summary: An extraordinary, diverse album from an exciting alt metal band.
Back in the 90's, Kinniku Shojo Tai were one of the big dogs in the Japanese metal scene. Alongside X Japan and Seikima-II, Kinniku Shojo Tai were selling out arenas and winning over fans from all ages. What made Kinniku Shojo Tai extremely different from their opponents, however, was their overall unique style. Combined with the shrieked warcries of frontman Kenji Otsuki and an often switched-up style, the band were highly unique and irreplaceable. However, in 1999, the band was suffering from various cases of internal turmoil within the group. They finally split, and wouldn't reunite for nearly a decade. During this time, Kenji Otsuki started another group: Tokusatsu. Tokusatsu, essentially, were an alternative/nu metal band with the same sort of experimentation as Kinniku Shojo Tai, only not quite as boggling. The group, although not nearly as commercially successful as Kinniku Shojo Tai was, enjoyed a loyal, underground fanbase, with some minor success every once in a while. When the group debuted in 2000 with "Bakutan", the metal scene was at shock-and-awe at the sheer talent of the group, showing Kenji's definite potential without Kinniku. However, the album itself left a lot to be desired, and had a few empty, droning tracks in store. Later that same year, the group released their sophomore album, "Nuiguruma". The album, as a whole, was a major step up from "Bakutan", and, along with "Agitator", "Nuiguruma" serves as one of the group's brightest moments.
The album opens up with the brief introduction of "Nuiguruma -Joshou-", which essentially just consists of an announcer and an acoustic guitar playing. Then the album blasts off with "Tatakae! Nuiguruma". The track follows an aggressive outline, but has an intensely dramatic middle to it. The track has a nice powerful crunch to it, and it is definitely effective at showing the listener the magic of Tokusatsu: aggression balanced out with unsuspecting melody. The next track, "Geronimo", starts off with bizarre, semi-riffs, but then goes off into a pounding sound, balanced out effectively, this time, with an impressive piano line, coinciding perfectly with the aggressive roll of the song. The dramatic vocal style of Kenji Otsuki is the icing on the cake, and together, the song ends up being a dramatic, car-crash of melody, crunchiness and straight hostility. A tremendous track. "Bakudan Piero" centers around a hypnotizing bass line and a chant-like element embedded within the track itself. An intense track, and one that centers around a specific smash, while maintaining to be oddly intriguing. The distorted guitar solo is a nice add-on to the already chaotic track. "Barbarella", structurally, is a more melodic-sounding track, but it also ends up being one of the most freakish ones. The track starts off with a promising buildup, but then ends up in a trance-like spot, with spacey guitars, bubbly pianos and gentle drum lines. The track repeats this dizzying pattern all throughout the track, making it one of the most bizarre tracks on the album. However, with all of what's in store on this one track, it oddly becomes one of the most addictive tracks on the album. "Kikaku Butsu AV no Onna" has a nice, bubbly, sensual sound to it, with a mainly funk-influenced style. One of the more approachable tracks on the album, it serves as a nice break from the chaotically experimental style from "Barbarella".
And then, one of the album's brightest moments comes on shortly after "Kikaku Butsu AV no Onna" ... "Ketelby". "Ketelby" starts off with a drum roll, and then blasts off with promising piano lines and distorted, crunch-based guitar riffs. During the chorus, the listener is blasted into a remarkable mini-trance of operatic singing, galactic guitar lines, with Kenji speaking to an angel-like being. Without a doubt, one of the album's most impressive moments, and one that the listener will soon find themselves very familiar with. "Ai no Mokusei" is a brief, two minute track of a frantic, driving rhythm, with Kenji shrieking at the top of his lungs. A plain track, but since it's nice and frantic, it serves as a nice runner-up to the more collective sound of "Ketelby". The album's epica, "Love Tunnel", is a track that centers entirely on rhythm. With an impressive load of technicality throughout the track, it effectively battles both dark and light elements, as the track starts off with Kenji, surprisingly, crooning, over the chilled rhythm of the band. The track then picks up, and Kenji begins chanting, with the band churning out impressive melodic stabs that will linger within the listener's subconsciousness for a good while. A damn good track that uses its time wisely, and, despite being seven-minutes in length, it doesn't drone on at all, and has a tremendous progressive factor to it. "Azanaeru" is one of the album's most laid back tracks, and doesn't have Kenji shrieking at all. No panic, no real progression... rather, it has Kenji singing in a very formal and unfamiliar pattern. He sings along the straightforward, relaxed flow of the track. Despite being a complete left-turn in terms of style, the track itself is a phenomenal ballad-esqued track, equipped with a heartfelt, gravitating tone, which is something this album has yet to learn... until now. A fantastic track, and a splendidly well ballad-like track. The album's aggression then makes a slight return with "Zelda Fitzgerald", which follows an epic piano-centered sound, and has a fabulously done progression to it. The mystery and overall darkness of the track is a complete opposite of "Azanaeru", thus making it an even more interesting track. A fantastic track, with tons of progression and mystery in it. The album's final track, "Matango", then slowly comes on. An emotional piano-line leads the song in, before completely driving off the cliff with a sheer avant-garde metal bite. The track itself is an adrenaline melter, and will make the listener headbang alongside the chaotic breakdown of the track. A splendidly done outro to such an entertaining album.
In short, "Nuiguruma" is a true alt metal classic, with an overwhelming amount of progression and influences. The album is an enormous step-up from "Bakutan", as the tracks know exactly when to end, before droning on and losing its appeal. An album like nothing else, "Nuiguruma" serves as a fantastic example of one of the best Japanese metal albums in history, and is as much of an entertaining listen as it is a critically pleasing album. An all around splendid experience, and an album definitely worthy of a "classic" rating.