So we were going to do an episode on this and I kind of wrote some notes for myself way in advance, so I’m just going to post it unedited here, since it does kind of pass off as a review, of sorts.
"Over the years The GazettE has shed its skin a few times. Originally, they were more or less in-line with some of their label mates like Cherry, Cuartet and Devil Kitty on Yayoi’s Matina sub-label Eternal, that if I had to find some words to describe, it’d be something like kote-osa, equal parts punk rock, street style and a really raw iteration of classic visual kei done on a shoestring budget. When Eternal imploded in the aftermath of the bursting of the visual kei bubble, they got picked up by Tomomi’s Peace & Smile Company, which was shaping up to be a big fucking deal. Progressively The GazettE grew sleeker and polished up its sound, but a decisive break with their older music happened somewhere around their major debut, between the singles Reila and Cassis, which begin to feature obvious influence from alt-rock and nu-metal in its B-sides Akai Kodou and Toguro. Since then they’d sort of be teetering back and forth between a stream-lined, updated visual kei pop rock approach and a darker nu-metal style. That was until 2009, when the band makes a big break with its past once more probably due to the surprisingly high sales figures of their DIM album. The lamestream was their next target, and the extremely poppy and meandering, poor man’s SID singles campaign follows, with a gig booked in the Tokyo Dome, which doesn’t go over so well. The band retreats a little back to a sleek, heavier sound that they teased during that singles campaign featuring new updated synth-work and metalcore techniques (HESITATING MEANS DEATH, CLEVER MONKEY), and then the rest of the 2010s are largely spent honing their chosen craft and aesthetic.
What’s the music like?
2021 sees The GazettE being extremely comfortable where they’re at. There is nearly, if not any development to speak of, and that’s not just musically, but visually we see the band relying on its established brand and visual cues, with the biggest change probably Ruki having changed blazers in between the NINTH and MASS photoshoots. And it’s not just that, but the band has even become self-referential. On NINTH the opening intro track was a collage of all the openers of their past, and this time the album art compiles the various symbols and objects they’ve previously featured. This is of course harmless fan service, but it does at the same time reflect their attitude towards who they are and what they’re doing.
Probably doing more or less the same thing for the last ten years has made them just about the tightest band in visual kei. Once it gets going, the riffs do roll over you like a tank, and some of the hardest moments in here are admirable — and this was the case with NINTH as well. Hard & heavy, cool & aesthetic according to its target audience at least, but what is different this time around is the synthesizer work: NINTH features kind of distorted, glitching sounds while MASS’ is a melodic wave gliding over the down-tuned chugs, a funny wonky sound that sounds like the lady they’ve always used for backing vocals. Ruki’s vocal coach has been putting in work now for what is surely a decade +; the rough stone has been long-polished; and although my Ruki of choice is from somewhere about 17 years ago, the fact that they got this out of that, is pretty impressive. Otherwise, if we’re sampling this one like we’re having a wine tasting, I’d say there some notes of Beautiful Deformity here, the acoustic guitar featured in the ballad MOMENT and the Limp Bizkit-sounding intro to BLINDING HOPE which sounds awfully similar to the intro in TO DAZZLING DARKNESS, but other than this I’d just repeat what everyone else has already said, that DOGMA-NINTH-MASS is a monolith, where you could easily see the tracks being shuffled one album to another with no one noticing.
It’s all at a high standard when comes down to the technicalities, and I guess that’s why I’d rather listen to this than something like Motionless in White, which are in their essence, similar. You won’t find a tighter ensemble in visual kei with a grasp like that on what they’re doing. I do wonder for how long we’re able to re-heat the same alternative rock before it spoils. Despite all the bells and whistles, The GazettE’s 10th album is, as an experience, something like what I’d imagine as the sound of Maximum the Hormone covering Breaking Benjamin songs under Ruki’s artistic direction, consisting of binging on two-year old issues of DAZED magazine while listening to posthumous Lil Peep songs."