Asunojokei - Island

06 Sep 2022 - Brayden

Blackgaze, Post-Hardcore, Screamo | Release date: 17 Aug 2022

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Blackgaze has always been a genre I’m not too fond of – I still harbor rigorous criticism against the sub-sub genre. Asunojokei have always proved themselves the exception to me: most other blackgaze artists are repetitive and melodramatic. Then there are the ones like Alcest, an overflowing well of unique ideas sewn together to craft something blissful counterpointed by metal’s endless ferocity; and then there is Asunojokei, who sits comfortably between these archetypes. Their debut album Awakening left a massive legacy that Island does its best to live up to.

Island is an album the Japanese quartet have been writing since their 2020 EP すべてか弱い願い (Wishes). It is here that their barbarity dampened in their strive for increased melody. The result was haphazardly dispersed blackgaze cliches with blaring references to Sadness; this was necessary in their development. For they have proved the former influences the latter with their references to previous works of theirs. Island actually has an even greater emphasis on melody, where its limitations are explored and not abused. “Chimera”, “Thunder” and “Diva Under the Blue Sky” unfold to further elaborate on the unique relationship that allows them to refine glowing, molten rocks; their pop is unhindered by their psychotic black metal dynamic. Even when Japanese alternative rock motifs dominate the limelight, it is in such a manner that even during the tender moments they are brutal; and when their ravening black metal plays, there is a certain elegance present within the chaos. This contradiction dominates the turmoil of “The Sweet Smile of Vortex”. At any given moment the song alternates between enthusiastic, almost danceable drumming to rumble into catastrophic black metal fits as it sinks into, and rises out of, the delicate shoegaze contrast; furious hardcore chugs and interplay between bass and guitar erect what is probably their most convincing drama. After exploding into a massive catharsis, its final moments drone out until only a whisper is left.

Here is an album that demands a sense of urgency, as if there is some global peril or doom looming over them, but there is hope. How they parallel the bitterness of black metal with the serenity of shoegaze, while phenomenal, is not new – but through the vehicle of their home country’s alternative rock and brainy hardcore have they cultivated something profound.