Shion [Bonus Tracks]

by: Mucc

The 2000s became a time of prosperity for Japanese hard rock bands that don't invent anything new, but combine the old styles in inventive and enjoyable ways. Of those bands, Mucc are one of the most interesting, being both highly proficient in the noble art of writing a simple knockout riff and able to diversify their sound without losing sight of their main goal (i.e., delivering said riffs). Unlike others of this ilk, for instance, D'Espairs Ray or Nightmare, Mucc are more of an industrial than nu-metal band -- that is to say, they know how to use synthesizers and dance rhythms to enhance the songs in a variety of ways: "Fukurou No Yurikago" is reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails and "Fuzz" has a disco beat, as well as a killer harmonica intro and the distinction of being the best song on the album. There are other cuts on Shion that sound as if a pop/rock band had to share studio space with the guitarist of Fear Factory, but Mucc can also pull out a proper darker song, be it the oppressive assault of the title track or the intense semi-ballad "Game." This versatility can sometimes work against the band, because of the huge mood swings from heavy pop to gloomy thrash, but every individual song is still good, and now and then they mix approaches with pretty amusing results -- see "Shiva," a larger than life speed metal pop hit with growling vocals in the middle. Granted, the band could pay a bit less attention to genre games and more to the arrangements, which sometimes border on superb (the touch of blues in "Fuzz" or the uplifting bridge in "Semishigure"), but are not explored enough. Still, there's plenty of good and open-minded songwriting on Shion, making it an interesting listen. [This edition includes a live version of "Libra" and an enhanced video of "Fuzz" as bonus tracks.] ~ Alexey Eremenko

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