[Album Review] Merry - (2017) M-Ology - 9/10
#1
I guess you know the drill by now... The Sushi Times finally published my Dutch review of this album on this location. And I'll provide those interested with an English language version here:

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Artist: Merry
Release: M-Ology
Rating: 9/10
Label: Firewall

For many years, Merry has been just short of a big name in the J-Rock scene. Why that is exactly is not clear to me, as almost every J-Rock band has an obvious example or a small army of followers that blindly copy everything they do, while Merry has a sound that is completely their own. No Japanese band combines rockabilly, punk, ska, rock 'n' roll, alternative rock and metal, blues and jazz quite as energetically as Merry does. The band labelled it "retrock" themselves some time ago.

That retro feeling is prominent on their new studio album 'M-Ology', their ninth. Everything about the album seems to point out that the band has looked at what made their first couple of albums so strong. Even the title seems to point towards self reflection, but the more visual kei-ish look the band has on their new band photos - the visual appearance was mainly limited to singer Gara and drummer Nero in recent years - seems to signal something of a rebirth.

As long as the music is as it sounds on 'M-Ology', I don't give a rat's ass how they dress and look; this is their best album since 'Peep Show' (2006). Three years ago, I already said similar things about 'NOnsenSe MARkeT', but this time, the band definitely ups the ante.

More melodic and playful
Stylistically, 'M-Ology' sounds closest to 'Modern Garde', Merry's second album from 2004. That means that Merry still sounds loud and energetic on their new album, but the emphasis is not on the heavy stuff as much as was the case on 'under-world' (2009), for instance. Most notably, this can be heard in Gara's voice. He yells, screeches and growls less than before - nearly not at all, actually. Instead, he focuses on recognizable, melodic vocal melodies. But the rhythms are also a little more playful and while the guitars of Kenichi and Yuu are still heavily distorted, the dynamics in the guitar sound have improved.

The three singles of the album already indicated this direction somewhat. Heijitsu no Onna feels like a blend of a ballad and a light rock song, Happy Life is a delightfully cheerful rocker and Kasa to Ame was the song that made me most hopeful about the direction Merry would take on the new album. It does not sound like a direct copy of their old sound, but it has similar characteristics: the swing in Nero's powerful, intuitive drumming, a not too complicated, yet mood-setting bass line by Tetsu, while Yuu and Kenichi dance on top of that. It is one of the absolute highlights on 'M-Ology'.

Fresh
The class of this album is not limited to the singles though. In a way, it surprises me that Inugata Shinsei Masochist was not chosen to be a single. The song starts out with a fresh rock riff, after which the band works its way through an introspective first and aggressive second verse towards a convincing, goosebumps inducing chorus. It seems like Merry has such a song on every album: a song that one will love instantly. The last two albums had Fukinkou Kinema and Fukurou, 'M-Ology' has Inugata Shinsei Masochist.

The closing title track is another highlight. After a chaotic intro, in which the band is augmented by a violin and a cello, the band delivers a number of melancholic, yet hopeful melodies before ending in a beautiful climax. The melody at the end of the chorus is simply gorgeous. Other remarkable moments include the surprisingly upbeat Black Flag Symptom, the cool rocker F.J.P and the insane opener Mass Control. The latter is full of deranged circus melodies. This isn't the first time Merry employs those, but the last time they did was quite some time ago.

Spontaneous and trusted
For me, 'M-Ology' is the album I was hoping Merry would make for about ten years. All the elements that overwhelmed me when I first heard 'Peep Show' are plentiful here. However, while returning to an old sound is a trick to win back their previous audience for many bands, the sound of 'M-Ology' feels spontaneous and trusted at the same time. As a result, it feels like the album is exactly what the guys wanted it to be. Admittedly, Merry never drifted too far from the sound they had when they rose to prominence, but 'M-Ology' is just a tad more "typically Merry" than some of their other recent albums.

On the bonus dvd, one can find five songs from a show that was organized at, from the looks of it, the same location as where the 'Many Merry Days' dvd's were recorded. It is really a pity that the complete show is a privilege reserved for members of Merry's fan club, because the five songs that can be seen and heard here are filmed beautifully, executed expertly and mixed pristinely, making it the best bonus dvd to a Merry album thus far by quite a margin.
If you can't get enough of me giving my opinions without having asked for it, you can read more of it on my Kevy Metal weblog.
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#2
Greatly written review !

And if the singer growls less on this album, it may be the best one to get introduced to this band (as for me, at least) !
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#3
Merci beaucoup encore une fois, monsieur Smile

And maybe "growls" wasn't the right word for what Gara did, because they aren't particularly deep, but as a whole, I think this is probably their second or third best album to start with in terms of accessibility.
If you can't get enough of me giving my opinions without having asked for it, you can read more of it on my Kevy Metal weblog.
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