Broken By the Scream – Whitewater Park (Tokuma Japan Communications)Wednesday, 20th September 2023
One of the most intriguing oddities from the Japanese metal scene in the last decade, Broken by the Scream launched in 2016 and have three full-length albums to their credit, not to mention a few EPs, of which Whitewater Park is their latest. Utilizing the ‘kitchen sink’ approach in the most loving of ways, Broken By the Scream has a sound that’s admittedly going to be quite jarring to many, and probably cause some first-time listeners at least a few, ‘what the fuck?’ moments as they hear the band swing from low growl/high scream (not unlike Carcass or goregrind acts) blastbeat-ridden segments to all-out jpop idol madness in the same track. But for those who have grown accustomed to the band’s somewhat divisive sound, or those seeking out something far off the beaten path, Whitewater Park serves as a strong example of what can be accomplished outside of the box.
Opening track “Rising Sun” is as good as any to give a proper dissection to in order to lay bare the wild and off-kilter swerves in sound that Broken By the Scream not only pull off convincingly, but to the point where the tracks will earworm their way into your mind. Starting off with some frenetic thrashy riffs and blasting drums, the dual scream/growl vocals interplay off of each other to the likes of something you’d expect to hear from a death metal band. Add in some elegant blast-augmented cleans in the open and it’s bound to grab the attention of any ears listening casually. The urgency of it all, complete with no lack of space given to the hammering drums, is playful and punishing all at once. As the song continues, it will switch over to some more melodic jpop moments, as well as some more intricate djent-y riffing. What’s surprisingly, at least perhaps to anyone following more of these jmetal idol bands, is how much space the music is given despite having four vocalists at the helm. Fiery guitar solos, melodic leads, and buzzing riffs highlight and enhance the vocal infantry, backing off for a more pop-driven chorus but never really going away entirely.
There’s a strange yet impressive sense of balance to the band, jumping between near-grind to metalcore to djent and pop in the span of 4-5 minutes. The extreme change-overs feel like they could have easily left the entire release a giant mess, but given the band’s longevity, they’ve had plenty of time to learn how to smooth out the edges. “Areta Kairo Wa Kimibiori” features some of the most shining, upbeat jpop idol moments of the release in the chorus – the sort of thing that will make you want to get out of the chair and start dancing to – but they ease away from it with a playful solo that ups the intensity before diving into a barrage of drumming and more extreme vocals. Rumbling bass at points takes the music in a more progressive direction, firing off a flashy solo in its wake with plenty of guitar hero theatrics before swinging back into an EDM enhanced, bouncy chorus and metalcore-esque grooves. “Kagerou” also offers up some melodeath inspired riffing and rolling grooves, jumps into more proggy moments, and settles into another kawaii chorus that meshes up with some djenty riffs.
Truly, you won’t find another band that’s occupying the same niche sound that Broken By the Scream operates in. While it may not appeal to everyone, those who have been following the band will no doubt be thrilled by the ‘all-in-one’ package that hits so many different notes, and does it with extra style points. Musically all over the map without sounding like a mess, they continue to show that they are a unique force that hits a fresh sweet spot many newcomers won’t know they needed. Unfortunately, two of the four vocalists are set to ‘graduate’ (leave the band) in November of this year (original member Ayame Yabusame and long time member Kagura Uriin), so one can only hope the band is successful in finding some worthy replacements as it sounds like the band wants to attempt more international touring/shows in their future.