Review Summary: An interesting, and at times disturbing, release from the depths of Japan's underground.
Japan has indeed pumped out its fair-share of quirky avant-garde bands throughout the last 30+ years. With bands like Boredoms and Melt-Banana on the forefront of the scene, one band in particular blended a style of disturbingly bleak emo and extremely lo-fi alternative that somehow defied the seemingly impossible Japanese avant-garde label. That band would be Uri Gagarn, one of the most acclaimed bands in Japan's emo underground. But what makes Uri Gagarn different from their other Japanese emo peers is their knack at blending emotionally-draining emo, highly garage-esqued lo-fi alternative, feedback-driven psychedelic (similar to shoegaze in some ways, yet not nearly as dreamy nor haunting) and bloodcurdling, over-the-top post-hardcore. In March of 2004, Uri Gagarn released its first EP, "Souzou no Sanbutsu", and that album alone isolated the group into its own little corner, which the band appears to be more than comfortable in.
The album's opening track, "Mutant Case", starts off with a creeping bass line, before slowly escalating into a flickery display of extreme bleakness. The guitars are staticy, the vocals are beyond apathetic, and its apocalyptic-like tone sets the tone of "Souzou no Sanbutsu" just perfectly. The following track, "Resistor", is probably the album's most recognized moment, and its initial dark melody does wonders at luring the listener into Uri Gagarn's own little niche, before being clobbered with bits-and-pieces of emo, semi-melodious post-hardcore and just plain avant-alternative. "3Minute Sweety" is one of the album's longest tracks, and initially follows a loud, draining guitar for about three minutes, before toning down and coinciding with surprisingly melodious vocals from frontman Takefumi, before Takefumi eventually escalates to desperate wails and vocals that virtually border on insanity. "3Minute Sweety" does a wonderful job at working as a piece that reflects the day after Armageddon, with pieces swirled and shattered all over the concrete, alongside other atypical tragic doomsday imagery which is "Souzou no Sanbutsu". "5bangai" is another lengthy piece that is a rather straightforward post-hardcore track, with angsty guitars and aggressive bass lines whirled up into a hideously beautiful soundscape. Frontman Takefumi does a splendid job at vocalizing and channeling a sense of despair, before the group launches into its final track, the epic "Maron". At just over 12 minutes long, the song seems to bleed the imagery of a complete reincarnation of the shattered planet that was the majority of "Souzou no Sanbutsu", and is a piece that brings just brilliant and wonderful closure to such a tremendous rollercoaster.
Essentially, "Souzou no Sanbutsu" perfectly executes why Uri Gagarn have been on the cutting edge of Japan's ever-expanding avant-garde scene, with its continuous bludgeoning of numerous doomsday-reflective elements, all while maintaining a mesmerizing emo/post-hardcore charm. A wonderfully whimsical piece that somewhat reflects a global destruction and eventual rebirth, the album just borders on perfection, and should most definitely be checked out. Be warned, however, as Uri Gagarn have quite a reputation of being for a very select few, and as evidenced by this album, for real good reason.