aec.snyk8115338.2 11/8/11 New

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Review Text The Gazette’s third album, Stacked Rubbish, firmly established them as international rock superstars capable of taking on the Americans at their own game, and while its follow-up, Dim, was a worthy and solid effort with a number of truly excellent tracks, it suffered from a surfeit of instrumental interludes and long, midtempo songs which gave it a tendency to sound somewhat baggy and bloated. This album seems a reaction to that, as the band deliver a set of mostly high-tempo, supercharged metallic rock. After a brief but sinister dubstep-influenced intro, the blasting riffage of "Venomous Spider’s Web" comes rocketing out of the blocks, and the album scarcely lets up til the finish line. The band bring their metallic hardcore influences firmly to the fore, and also seem to have been heavily inspired by the deathcore explosion. But while the heaviest songs here may start out sounding like typical tuneless bludgeon, they almost always redeem themselves by resolving into amazingly melodic, singalong choruses. The band are at their best when they revert to their now-trademark sound informed by more traditional alternative rock and metal, as exemplified on the excellent singles "Shiver," "Red," and the vicious, music industry-baiting "Vortex" ("I don’t wanna become f***ing garbage like you!"). Also worthy of particular note are the anthemic crunch of "The Suicide Circus" and the lurching, Marilyn Manson-esque tattoo of the lecherous "My Devil on the Bed." The album only lets up in the middle for two gorgeous, back-to-back power ballads: the plangent, chiming guitar and subtle electronic percussion of "Untitled" give way to the timeless combo of piano, acoustic guitar, and strings at the heart of "Pledge," guaranteed to moisten the eyes of teenage girls the world over. Vocalist Ruki’s English is still not the best, as can be seen in some of the album’s more ridiculous song titles ("Sludgy Cult"), but is much improved from his early efforts. Here, he switches effortlessly between vicious, guttural roars and a high, smoky, rather nasal baritone which many fans have unfairly maligned -- it might not be the best voice in visual kei, but it perfectly suits this music. Toxic’s last vocal track before its creepy electronic outro is the rousing, melodic "Tomorrow Never Dies" (possibly named after the Bond film) which carries a powerful and positive anti-suicide message. This is a very good album which stands with the best of the band’s work, if it takes a few spins to really sink in; and what it may occasionally lack in quality it more than makes up for in intensity and enthusiasm. ~ John D. Buchanan

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