After almost twenty years together already, MUCC have rarely fallen from its stronghold as one of the heavyweights of the J-rock world. Still maintaining their Visual-kei look, the band has also branched out to explore a very wide range of styles, as is clearly evident in their albums, which have grown increasingly strong over time- and I wondered if their last, SHANGRI-LA, would be their best. This year their big offering is entitled, ambitiously, THE END OF THE WORLD, hitting the shelves on the 25th of June. Having enjoyed SHANGRI-LA so much, my expectations were high.

THE END OF THE WORLD features eleven tracks, and shows off the typically experimental range of Tatsuro (vocal), Miya (guitar), Yukke (bass), and Satochi (drums)- from moments of screamo to elements of jazz, but what has always attracted me to the band is the powerful emotion they both display and provoke. Happily, there is no lack of it here! The title track opens the album, surprisingly, on quite the positive note, with a catchy piano accompaniment and plenty of impact in the chorus. Beating drums and an aggressive vocal from Tatsuro eventually build to an atmospheric instrumental and beautiful middle eight, before the big finish. ‘ENDER ENDER-Album Edit-’ is a new version of the recent single, beginning equally atmospherically with an electronic feel erupting into a dense, guitar-driven main riff that keeps the energy of the album running high, with another strong chorus and plenty of instrumentals and breakdowns to mix in a heavier tone.

After an opening that easily rivals their past work, the album goes on to some more diverse tracks that push into other genres, from the high-speed metal pitched throughout ‘Ms. Fear’ to the summertime sound of rock track ‘HALO’- which features a particularly catchy chorus and guitar solo.

‘Tell me’ has a smoother, thoughtful feel that seeps into every element of the music, from the consistent guitar and bass to the gentler vocal, and for funk fans there’s ‘369(Mi-ro-ku)’, with another great solo and cheery backing vocals. The album feels quite like SHANGRI-LA, but has a definite heavier edge, as even the mentioned softer tracks often feature moments of much angrier instrumentation and screams. For the power ballad, look no further than ‘Japanese’, jam-packed with orchestral accents, a heart-rending solo, and some huge vocals from Tatsuro.

For the loudest, proudest track, ‘999-21 Century World-’ takes the trophy, with constantly building tension and explosive moments of fantastic guitar from Miya, including a solo to match that of ‘Japanese’. Tatsuro gives a powerful performance, with fantastic control and plenty of attack, and Satochi’s drums also hit a high point, feeling more dominant than in earlier tracks.

However, the real standout songs are arguably the final three. ‘Hallelujah’, with its stunning choral backing vocals and addictive main riff, ventures into winding verses and my favourite chorus, before a breathtaking, pulse-pounding instrumental that makes this track my top recommendation for THE END OF THE WORLD. The penultimate track, ‘World’s End-In its true light-’, is an exhaustingly happy few minutes of very fast drumming and very big instrumentals, and finally MUCC gives us ‘Who I Want to Die’. Perhaps not the cheeriest title, but this one surprised me- being a ballad rather than a final ear-bashing metal track. Tatsuro’s vocal is beautifully written with some high notes, while the orchestra makes a last reappearance. And as for the solo, prepare to be blown away by Miya’s closing performance.

Their past releases left a lot to live up to, and after a listen through, THE END OF THE WORLD has definitely shown itself to be up to the challenge. With only a couple of moments where screaming seemed out of place, this album is near flawless. Their sheer mastery of so many styles, both in their music and their look, has made MUCC the widely popular band they are today, and this album is yet another triumph to add to their collection- fingers crossed for another overseas tour soon!

Words by Lauren du Plessis

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