Gokuraku Jodo or 極楽浄土 in kanji (when I google translated the meaning it said it means Paradise) are probably the most obscure Japanese band I have encountered so far. My dad actually discovered this band as he found a section of Village Vanguard in Kyoto playing their EP and he decided to purchase the album and we both love it! The EP is titled Ghost in the Well and consists of 5 tracks and was released in August 2017. Gokuraku Jodo are a completely new band to me as I had never heard of them up until purchasing their EP and I thought it would be fun to review their album as they are a really awesome band that not many people know about. When researching this group I found that a few metal forums have mentioned them and they are classed as a heavy metal/thrash metal band. I also found out their lyrics contain a lot of references to topics such as folklore and Buddhism which is interesting to know (I cannot speak fluent Japanese unfortunately so I did not know up until reading into them). Enough back story let’s get on with the review.
Now it is a little tricky for me to review a Japanese band the only reason being is I cannot discuss lyrical content but I’ll get around that problem. This EP certainly got my foot tapping and I cannot say I am disappointed considering this album was bought on a spur of the moment whim. One thing I loved on this EP was the traditional Japanese elements that can be heard at the beginning of tracks. For example the opening track ディッシュカウンターお菊 (Dish counter chrysanthemum when translated on Google) begins with what sounds like a flute of some sort and I love it when Japanese rock and metal bands bring traditional Japanese folk music into their sound as I think it creates a unique blend of old and new. Another example is耳物語 (Ear Story) which begins with crickets chirping followed by a brief strum on what sounds like the Shamisen before kicking off into a whirlwind of heavy distorted guitars and intense vocals. Another element I found interesting on this EP is the fact that songs such as耳物語 andカンダタ物語 (Kandata Jealousy) contain sections of a man (with a very lovely deep voice I must say) speaking as if telling a story (which makes sense if they discuss folklore and Buddhism) and find them pleasant to listen to even if I cannot understand what they are saying. Gokuraku Jodo play the perfect blend of both heavy and melodic parts in their music and mix elements such as growling and clean vocals really well. The guitars on this EP are also well balanced as they know when and where is best to have awesome squealing guitar solos and when it is better to have heavy chugging rhythmic patterns. The only real downside to Ghost in the Well is that it is an EP and not a full album and it is over in such a small space of time.
Overall I am very impressed with both this band and their EP and it has definitely made me want to go out and discover more of their music. I highly recommend this EP to anyone who enjoys heavy metal as I think they are a hidden gem within the Japanese metal scene! You can find this EP in Village Vanguard or on iTunes if you are outside of Japan!
Overall rating: 9/10