Other than Babymetal’s Metal Resistance, I don’t know if I had more eagerly awaited an album in 2016. In absolute terms, “meteoric” isn’t a great way to describe Yukueshirezutsurezure’s rise, but in terms of awareness (at least among our kind) and rapidly defining a sound and attitude, they ran a marathon in a short while, only just failing keeping up with their equally compelling big sisters in Zenbu Kimi no Sei Da in total releases.
So yes, I anticipated that this was going to be a definitive album. I had such high expectations of it that, like a former jock parent who just can’t let go, I’m probably being a little bit unfair to the work, which should always be taken as it is rather than as I or anybody else want it to be. Nonetheless, I gotta be honest: I’ve struggled with this one.
I had a really nice, postgraduate-level essay written about Tsurezure’s history and how they got to where they are, and that would’ve been great for almost anything other than this review. Suffice it to say that, for a group that started off doing this washed-out, yami-kawaii alternagirl thing, they’ve made big moves away from that root on this album.
We saw traces of that in the earlier releases, really going back to the Antino MIdeology EP, where the harder edge and Shidare’s harsh vocals started to come more to the forefront, but it’s an ambition that’s realized on this album. And the problem that I have is that I don’t know how to read it.
Even now! I’ve probably listened to Post-Catastrophe 20 times, going to and from work and while doing housework and whatnot. And I like it just fine; the questions are why and how much and to what end.
Because, in all honesty, this is a really dischordant (get it? “discord” and “chord” and … whatever) album. I was talking with somebody else who’s writing their review, and some of my weird feelings started to make sense — I called Post-Catastrophe “transcendent,” and not in the this-is-that-much-better-than-everybody-else way, but in the we-are-completely-through-the-looking-glass way; this is music that’s beyond idol, often beyond genre, sometimes even beyond sense.
Do you remember the film Michael Clayton? George Clooney in the lead? Tilda Swinton was in that one, too. Won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for it. And the reaction to her win was something that’s always stuck with me — people were like, “actually, I have no idea what Tilda was doing in that movie, but it was definitely acting.”
That’s where I am with this album. We could easily wind up remembering it as the fulfillment of prophesy put in place from the moment that BiS 1.0 first took the stage, its almost messianic realization of all of the innovations and cultural shifts being rendered in big, crunchy metalcore moments juxtaposed with ethereal, dream-like group choruses. It’s just that it gets a little unfocused and messy, usually from trying to do too much with the material — I don’t think there’s a bad track on the album, but there are definitely varying degrees of success.
So then what does it sound like?
What it sounds like is a departure from emphasizing the Yukueshirezutsurezure that debuted a year ago in favor of putting most of the group’s eggs into a much more obviously dark direction (crazy, I know). The commitment to genre-bending and musical diversity is there, but this is also at its root a heavy album that takes a number of familiar tropes — including from Tsurezure’s history and that of its sisters in Zenkimi — and distorts them, wrings them through madness, drop-tunes them and screams them in your face while a sweetly voiced Greek chorus narrates your wrongdoings.
This is music that can’t be pigeonholed; for every taste of contemporary genre metal, there’s an equal part of “this is Tsurezure” either in another song or even in the same track. One could be forgiven for getting worn out by listening to this. It’s ambitious and bold, even when it doesn’t all quite work.
Speaking realistically, there are two main moves on the album: A heavier, thrashier metal sound that is probably the dominant musical theme of the whole; and nymph-like vocal tinkling that sometimes carries the load of the voice work or blends back to allow the full emotional heft of the song to be expressed in the instrumentation.
There’s also a strong resemblance to material straight out of Zenbu Kimi no Sei Da’s playbook, as is evident in the title track, “Post-Catastrophe,” with its sing-song choruses and very denpa break and lingering up-tempo synths as the song’s themes resolve, and in “Chigiri Hirari” (契りひらり), which uses more vintage Tsurezure but takes a very hard pass through PassCode’s territory.
But of the two main musical thrusts, it’s the Traditional Tsurezure side that undergoes the most adulteration. “Psycho-Hi” is a great example, placing apposite group verses and choruses into opposition of Shidare on the warpath, or “the End of …”, which teases the kind of industrial-esque idol I’ve been waiting forever to get, only to dip back toward Tsurezure’s roots. I like “Word Flood Moment” the most out of these, as it sounds very Tsurezure but is ultimately overcome by an EDM influence with a lightly galloping beat that makes me think of Europop, like ADAM could have done a version of this song and had it not sound all that differently. And, of course, there’s “Six Fall Roar,” which retrospectively feels like the pace-setter for the album.
“Indie Skin” is a particular winner among the material. It does hew a little closer to the Tsurezure we all first fell in love with; it also honestly feels like a companion piece to Babymetal’s “From Dusk Til Dawn,” and may forces mortal and divine strike me down for immediately making that comparison. It’s ultimately a really nice song, though, and one that I could see them release as a music video specifically to reach broader audiences.
Flipping the script in using classic Yukueshirezutsurezure to break up what is otherwise fairly brutal material, are “Doppelganger” and its array of metalcore moves, and the sublime “A Drama with Nietzsche,” which never fails to leave me feeling like this is the song that we need to be showing other Westerners who dig heavy music.
Tying the album together is “Introduction to Death” (“Ki shi ni gairon” / 逝キ死ニ概論). It’s so delicious, the perfect closer for the album, a culmination of concepts in a record that tries to be a culmination of the group’s musical past (and, unintentionally, of alt-idol’s trajectory). Other than “Nietzsche,” it’s the song that comes the closest to seamlessly uniting Tsurezure’s sweet melancholy with raw, heavy power. I wish there were more like it.
While I don’t think that Post-Catastrophe is quite what it wants to be, the point remains that Tsurezure swung for the fences here and still managed to get to the warning track. It might not be a perfect album, but it does feel like an important one, and I’m very curious to see where the group goes from here and if the unique styling of Codomomental productions begins to rub off on more idols just breaking into the scene.
They have some really good role models to follow, either way.
Added to the Ultimate Homicidol Playlist: