Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gauntlet - Birthplace of Emperor

Derivative But Good

Not to be pretentious, but these days I find fairly straightforward music hard to get into. Not that everything needs to be experimental or avant-garde, but rather I like it when some band has a unique quirk that makes their material unmistakably theirs. In comparison to most of what I listen to, Gauntlet is fairly standard. For once, I can just file Birthplace of Emperor under "power metal" without having to scratch my head over genre hops or result to the bullshit "jrock" tag. Despite the normalness of the music, the group does bring some interesting things to the table.

After listening to 5 seconds of Beyond the Wall, it's pretty obvious which band Gauntlet is aping. Birthplace of Emperor sounds a lot like the first two Galneryus albums. Ripping off of Galneryus isn't exactly easy, and they do it rather well. The glorious, victorious feeling is there. There's a strong presence of keys, but it's never overbearing since the focus is the riffs. Even Yu-ta basically sounds like a higher-pitched version of Yama-B. He can let out some really nice wails and carry choruses with the necessary over-the-top delivery. Those sensitive to bad English might want to stay away. As the album title suggests, there's bad grammar and mauling of the English language everywhere in this album. For me, Yu-ta's accent is so bad that I have no idea what he's saying 99% of the time anyway, so it comes off as a foreign language anyway which really ends up being a good thing. Overall, I find his vocal performance to be quite impressive, and some of the notes he hits are pretty far up there.

But let's not kid ourselves here. The main reason why Gauntlet works is the guitars. One of the reasons why copying Galneryus is hard is because you actually have to be really damn good at guitar. Fortunately, Task and Yasu are a textbook example of an awesome power metal duo. The two play crazy riffs and leads together in the typical melodic, shredding style. All of the solos here are really well-executed, and there's no shortage of impressive guitarwork on the album. As icing on the cake, Yoshio, the bassist, occasionally joins in on some of the solo and lead work by adding in some tapping parts or a good bassline. I would have liked a lot more from the bass department, but it's better than nothing.

Unfortunately, Gauntlet is just not nearly as good as Galneryus. Perhaps this is my fault for listening to bands that genrehop all the time, but Gauntlet plays exactly the same style for the entire album minus the short ballad at the end, and it gets a little stale. Galneryus always knew how to mix things up and keep their albums from feeling tiring despite the fact that they often clocked in well over an hour. Birthplace of Emperor is admittedly pretty one-dimensional. With the exception of the intro track and the ballad, everything here is extremely fast power metal with riffs and leads everywhere. Don't get me wrong, they pull it off really well, and I totally understand anyone thinking I'm crazy for trying to call this a fault. But honestly, I just find it all to sound pretty samey near the end. I doubt throwing in a random jazz track would help anything, but variation is the biggest thing this album lacks.

Rating: 70/100

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