Editor's Rating

Dark goth pop masterpiece.

8.8
Unknown Pleasures Records

We recently reviewed an Italian band called Unruly Girls and noted that the Italian rock scene was both healthy and creative. And no better sign of this good health is Japan Suicide, whose new album, ‘Santa Sangre’ was released on Valentine’s Day last week. Citing eighties post-punk new wave influences like The Cure and Joy Division alone would be enough to get my ears twitching, but actually delivering something unique out of these influences would be too much to expect. Japan Suicide have done just that.

‘Santa Sangre’ has to the fore the kind of muscular rhythm section that made early The Cure so compelling – a bass spine that is melodic and vital, dancing over powerful, pounding drums and a wash of keyboards. But on top of this, there are vocalist Stefano Bellerba’s ominous, foreboding and operatic vocals that prowl like a panther on the edges of the visceral guitars. The guitars both chime and distort: they create a sometimes discordant nervous edge to the songs. The album has a consistency throughout, and yet every song has its own character ranging from lucious dream pop to walls of noise and emotion that leave you moved. Eighth track, ‘Rejoice, for example is both exultant and exhausting: a veritable blast like something from The Verve’s Northern Soul album that then leads you into the haunting and restrained ‘Thus Bad Begins’ like a nightmarish chill zone.

Witness the second track and first single off the album, ‘The Circle’, leading in with distortion and high hats into a veritable elephantine drone and unhinged shards of guitar:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgClNtqGHqE&feature=youtu.be]

The rather unnerving video was produced and directed by Francesco Brunotti with imagery similar to the film ‘The Wicker Man’, such as the procession and the sect, relating to the novel in a different way, transposing hi-tech dystopia into an ancient ritual.

The album opens with the short introduction ‘Santa Sangre’ that serves as a prologue to what’s to come: ominous, brooding and gothic guitar driven anthems. Third track, ‘Dealer’, highlights vocals that recall Matt Bellamy from Muse: urgent and emotive choruses arching over the rumbling and insistent rhythm section and histrionic guitars. ‘El Ritual’, an instrumental, again rests heavily on a hypnotic bass-driven riff.

“Blown Away”, track 5 on the album commences with a very Joy Division-like opening bass run but veers into the territory of pop sensibility with chiming guitars and an uplifting aura as Bellerba repeats ‘trying to be good’. ‘For Every Flaw’ has a Dinosaur Jnr flavour but at its heart it is a catchy, reverb soaked driving song. ‘Fate’ has shoegaze in its genes, with a ‘Faith’-era Cure vibe. The final track, ‘Carcosa’ reminded me of that obscure instrumental soundtrack The Cure wrote for a movie called ‘Carnage Visors’ with its brooding atmosphere.

Bellerba says the album was ‘…inspired by Alejandro Jodorowsky’s movie and Roberto Bolaño’s novel ‘2666’, all the while moving from echoes of British post-punk to a sound replete with more psychedelic and shoegaze textures. This is a delicate, but necessary step for us: we tried to match the quality of our previous album ‘We Die in Such a Place’, while also adding new sounds from our past work in order to achieve a condensed powerful opera and, at the same time, a sound that is capable of achieving different listening levels.”

The album is a brilliant, dark pop masterpiece: emotional, ghostly and haunting yet somewhat contrastingly enervating, sensual and exciting. It draws on its clear influences and expands on them, creating its own distinct canvass.

Japan Suicide hail from the Italian city of Terni, and comprise of Stefano Bellerba (vocals, guitar), Leonardo Mori (synth), Matteo Luciani (bass), Saverio Paiella (guitar), and Daniele Cruccolini (drums). They formed in 2010.

Track List:
1 Santa Sangre
2 Circle
3 Dealer
4 El Ritual
5 Blown Away
6 For Every Flaw
7 Fate
8 Rejoice
9 Thus Bad Begins
10 Lost Daughter
11 Carcosa


Photo by Luca Sola http://www.lucasola.com