Gargoyle – Furebumi (1990)
This is probably one of those cases where information about the band is sparse because they write and perform in Japanese, which is actually quite rare in the metal scene. Other Japanese bands, like Loudness, Abigail, and Sigh tend to write in English to varying degrees of competency, which makes it more accessible to foreigners like us. Had I discovered this in 2008 or so, when I was more willing to delve through Japanese culture without the required language proficiency (like Nicovideo crawling and Google Autotranslate odysseys), it would’ve blown my mind, but it might’ve taken me a long time to determine the link between this band and the rest fo the metal world.
You see, Gargoyle is like Mac OS 7, which is arguably where Apple peaked in ‘coolness’. That OS (and therefore Gargoyle) provided a significantly different seeming experience than your average computer (band) of the time. When you look at the underlying hardware and design decisions, you eventually find that things actually ARE fundamentally different. In Apple’s case, they’d lost Steve Jobs to NextSTEP, booted Jean-Louis Gassée for “55% or Die”, introduced some low cost models, but remained fundamentally incompatible with IBM PCs, expensive, and prestigous. I don’t know if I would’ve bought a Mac had I been an adult in the early ’90s, but they were definitely more interesting machines than today’s glorified PCs with anodized aluminum and iDevice peripherals. But I digress.
How does Gargoyle compare? Well, in the late ’80s, they were obviously listening to some extreme thrash metal like Slayer and Kreator, but on Furebumi, as well as later albums, I can also hear the influence of early power metal, like Helloween and the country’s own X Japan. Of course, Gargoyle also came to the decision of playing every genre known to man on their albums at this point, several years before Sigh decided they wanted to do the same thing on their 1997 album Hail Horror Hail. Still, Furebumi is, at its base, a mixture of thrash and power metal, with various genre bending moments. Amongst other things, we see acoustic rock style picking on the otherwise extreme “Djirenma”, funk on “Naitzukushi”, symphonics on “Ryuuten no Seinite”, etc. Relative to their later albums, the genre bending wackiness isn’t all that pronounced, but the defining trait of Gargoyle is that they distill these elements down and make them fit in the core – when they don’t want to or can’t, they just write a ballad or hard rock song to fit it in.
As thrashers, they certainly excel – take for instance, the aforementioned “Djirenma”, which actually incorporates some playing techniques generally associated with death metal, like blastbeats (technically just extremely fast regular ‘thrash polka’ drumming) and especially fast tremelo picking. It also incorporates a ripping solo after the acoustic break – technically, it’s more conventional with attention to melody, and no Trey Azagthoth type whammy shenanigans. It’s still intense. The power metal influence generally results in more melodic songs – the two preceding (“Ounou No Goku” and “Tokimeki”) have a great deal of guitar leads over simpler, more tremolo oriented guitar riffing, and a later one, “Algolagnia” uses a relatively large amount of guitar strings to create a song that reminds me of Rage’s 1988 album “Perfect Man”. The key here is that the band excels even when they’re not drawing on outside influences, and is certainly worth your time if you’re into that sort of thing.
P.S: Gargoyle generally pulls out at least one crazy ‘funk rock/metal’ song per album. Here, it’s “Naitzikushi”. Other albums bring us such gems as “Renaniuyuji”, “Samurai Dynamite”, “Doumushishubai”, “Karappo”, etc.