Weird Japan! Um, well, as opposed to what really? Normal Japan? No, you'll most likely find something genuinely exotic in almost anything from this country if you look hard enough. This time however the peculiarities are staring us right in the face from the start. Everything about this records just screams "Not for export! Gaijin need not to bother!" The simplistic yet beautiful b/w sleeve, the Japanese lyrics (not mixed up with the random English line as often is the case) and last but not least the music which - hand on heart - sometimes stray very far from what we would consider Classic Heavy Metal.
"Dancing Freaks" is the most blatant example, and placed as the opener of the album it has probably scared away plenty of HM fans and collectors with its tribalistic, Virgin Prunes/Savage Republic-sounding post-punk twang. Even if there's some Metal in there as well, the transition to pure Judas Priest'y Power/Heavy with "The Grail" is the kind of warped move that makes the album such a heady experience. It's both radical and seamless at the same time. At their best they let the heavier Metal take command and adjust the freak-faucet to about 2/5 a rotation. "Tyrannosaurus" is absolute masterpiece because of this well balanced diet of influences and when they doom they doom really well too, as in "The Return To The Great God Pan" and "Yayoi Izayoi Ginkochou" - it's sneaky, Black Hole'y stuff all the way. They also have this almost sleazy Hard Rock/Street Metal edge in songs like "Chatëau de Iris" and "Lycanthrope", but it sounds more like they're desperately trying to hide their alien, inhuman form with a 'normality-move' while small tears in their rubber skin whispers tales of an imminent invasion of lizard people.
By now I'm sure I must have made this release sound like the coolest left-field Metal release bar Worship New Gods, but there are some major flaws with the album that should be addressed too: The production for once is quite primitive, and not in a good way. It sounds very much like a rehearsal room demo/4-track product to be honest. The vocals aren't bad by Japanese standards, but the wailing, almost operatic voice of Z. Honjo can get a bit... much. And I haven't yet made up my mind if the mellow children background vox in "The Ballad of A Very Simple Man" is a strike
of genius, creepy or just silly. That goes for the whole album I guess...