Three albums ago Japanese rock band the GazettE – who hail from the Japanese underground “visual kei” scene, where artists are as concerned as much with looks as with music – moved from their independent label to Sony. In doing so they proved that a rock cliché is a rock cliché no matter what country you hail from. Yes, fans claimed their major label output wasn’t as good; it was all about chasing sales, relying on a formula. Sony wouldn’t have cared. If the Gazette were chasing sales, it was working, as their fanbase grew worldwide,
But with “Dogma”, their eighth album, the GazettE appear to be back to experimenting, innovating and trying to come up with something a little more audacious. Not that it all works mind you.
Instrumental album opener “Nihil” is an unfortunately brief foray into dubstep territory, giving way to a harpsichord and some satisfyingly crunchy guitar work. This segues nicely into title track “Dogma” which give us an indication of how versatile the GazettE can be, effortlessly mixing doom-laden riffs and sinister vocals with an almost catchy clean vocal bridge/chorus.
Follow ups “Rage” and “Dawn” up the heavy ante with some crushing guitar work, but vocalist Ruki still manages to show he can meld a catchy chorus into their midst.
Here the GazettE are at their best and most powerful, with front man Ruki growling over heavy riffs from axe men Uruha and Aoi.
Unfortunately this energy doesn’t carry over to the rest of the album. As we progress, Ruki’s growls give way to more clean vocals, and the guitar work lightens. The harpsichord remains a pleasant and consistent thread throughout but hints that maybe a touch more electronica may have made for a more memorable experience. Not until penultimate track “Blemish” do we return to the energy and drive of those opening tracks. Album closer “Ominous” at least lives up to its name, creepy distorted vocals and that harpsichord would be at home on the soundtrack of any modern horror film. At a little over five minutes it’s also the longest track on the album – most are comfortably under four minutes long.
Ruki’s range is impressive throughout, from a growling baritone to a screeching falsetto, mixing English and Japanese (although most of the clean vocals stick with his native Japanese).
Production is, as you would expect from a name like Jenson, slick throughout. Although maybe a little roughening around the edges could have helped bring some urgency to the proceedings.
the GazettE can certainly bring the heavy, but the disjointed nature of the tracks here gives a feeling that they never quite hit their stride. They could certainly never be accused of playing it safe, but perhaps if they stuck to growls and guitars this may have been a very different album. Scott Douglass
• Now available to download on iTunes and to buy in physical form from Amazon.