Sound — 6
The Japanese music scene of visual kei may be distinct in its gothic glam aesthetic, but musically speaking, it's tough to pin down - one can hear the artsy and symphonic goth rock sound of Malice Mizer, the death metal heaviness of Dir En Grey, and the alt rock amalgam of Buck Tick all within this realm. The GazettE, in particular, took several pages out of Slipknot's nu metal playbook to craft their sound; especially evident in their fourth album, "Dim," from the downtuned hammer-on riffs and the turntable scratching, to frontman Ruki emulating a semi-harsh vocal style akin to Corey Taylor's style in "Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)." But after parlaying into a major-label deal with Sony Music in 2010, The GazettE started to reach in a number of directions for a different sound in their next few albums (quite prolifically, to boot, releasing three albums within three years), trying out things from alternative punk and hardcore like in "Shiver" and "Until It Burns Out," to a synth-driven industrial metal heard prominently in their 2013 album, "Beautiful Deformity." But with more singing vocals and less-intense guitar power, one could glean that this change in style was generally for the sake of striving for a more accessible sound.
Now on their eighth album, "Dogma," The GazettE staunchly appeal to their metal side once again, sounding heavier than they have in a long time. Though one can still spot a few Slipknot-style riffs in here (the main riff in "Incubus" sounds similar to the verse riff of "Disasterpiece," the main riff of "Blemish" has the same kind of bounce as the riff in "Liberate"), they at least continue to abstain from including kitschy turntable scratching sections, and Ruki's harsh vocals this time around surpass the semi-harshness of Corey Taylor's style - though Ruki does sound a lot like Dir En Grey frontman Kyo throughout the album, both in singing and in screaming.
For the most part, though, "Dogma" showcases a lot more metal tropes than the nu metal emulations of The GazettE's earlier work - whether one chalks it up to seizing new trends or not, it's a bit refreshing for the band's catalog. "Dawn" flaunts some stark metalcore chug riffs and breakdowns, "Lucy" has a nice groove metal feel to it and an even nicer guitar solo, and the piano arpeggios in "Deux" and the string melodies in the doomy titular song provide some decent symphonic metal flavors for the album. Following suit with this bigger appeal to a heavier, darker metal sound, The GazettE's synth elements have also been toned down appropriately from the commercial cheesiness of their previous albums and brought to a broodier demeanor, as heard in the proper industrial metal vibe of "Bizarre," the dark soundscape in the intro of "Ominous," and even the heavily-produced metal ballad of "Deracine" manages not to feel as hokey as the synth elements heard in "Beautiful Deformity."
Lyrics — 8
Being a Japanese band, The GazettE have actually included quite a lot of English lyrics in their songs throughout their discography, but there are considerably less English lyrics found in "Dogma" - with only "Rage," "Deracine," "Incubus" and "Blemish" containing a substantial amount of English lyrics, listeners who aren't fluent in Japanese are left with a spotty interpretation of the album. But when one translates all the lyrics (courtesy of https://tuneuplyrics.wordpress.com), the ongoing lyrical themes gravitate around the album's title. At face value, Ruki shows a sneering, heretical disdain towards Christianity in particular (from growling "All saints shall die" in "Rage," to a line in "Dogma" translating to "Degeneration of God, here, death is given"), but with a line in "Dawn" translating to "The answer that redefined love transform into dogma," the concept of dogma becomes a concept of post-breakup obsession, heartache and torment. This spans throughout the rest of the album, with smaller themes connecting the songs pertinent to this concept: the symbolism of a maze connects the distraught feeling of "Deracine" with the anger of "Incubus"; the theme of dreams and nightmares in "Incubus" are elaborated upon in "Deux" as a self-sabotaging desire (with some lines translating to "I wished for a nightmare" and "In the abyss of despair, reality wishes for it all to be an irreversible dream"), which is finalized in the outro song "Ominous" (with some lines translating to "Holding over my head a heavy sky / Dancing with a nightmare / I see you" and "Don't forget / Yeah, that dreams are reversed visions").
Overall Impression — 7
The chameleonic style of visual kei rock has excused The GazettE for taking a lot of liberties when it's come to derivation in sound. "Dogma" still shows the band suffering from fits of lackluster emulation, but after the more aimless and thinly-spread exploration that was seen in their last couple of albums, "Dogma" stands stronger by comparison. From its defined initiative of being a return, and elaboration, of the band's metal side, to establishing a cohesive arc of emotion throughout the album, "Dogma" is a much-needed display of focus for The GazettE's catalog after their last few albums that manically worked towards grasping catchy accessibility.