GYROAXIA kicks off a new era with “Freestyle”, a pure show of quality, technique, and growth across a set of shredding rock tunes.
GYROAXIA consists of Jin Ogasawara (on vocals), Shinichi Hashimoto (guitar), Takumi Mano (guitar), Hiroto Akiya (bass), and Kousuke Miyauchi (drums).
Title: Freestyle Label: UNIVERSAL MUSIC JAPAN/Virgin Music Japan Release date: 23/02/2022 Genre: Powerpop/Punk-Rock/Rap-rock
1 - Freestyle
2 - DANCING PARANOIA
3 - Existence
4 - Dawn
5 - NEW ERA
Track by track analysis:
1 – Freestyle
Intense synths open the curtains for GYROAXIA’s “Freestyle”.
Right from the start, listeners will notice how groovy this song is. The bassline is massive and low in this track, with the drums adding a nice amount of depth.
The synths go hand-in-hand with the screaming guitars, creating a refreshing dynamic to GYROAXIA’s sound. As you can tell so far, this is not as heavy as previously released songs by the band. I dare say this is a song that leans more towards powerpop territory than it does to the band’s punk-rock roots.
Of course, this is not an issue because a groovy GYROAXIA is always a good GYROAXIA in my books even if their sound is more “commercial” or “easy-listening” like in this song.
The song smoothly transitions to the chorus and this one is addictive as hell. From the perfect balance between electronica and live rock instruments to Jin Ogasawara’s legato-filled “Freeeeeeestyle”, you’ll find yourself grooving and singing along to this track in no time.
A big surprise arrives in the 2nd verse, as the band briefly strays away from rock music to hip-hop, with Jin Ogasawara taking over rapping duties, and doing so with a relaxed flow, then smoothly reverting to his clean – even if slightly raspy – rock vocals.
The bridge has an awesome guitar solo complemented by splashy drums, something that you really need to hear to understand how pleasant it sounds.
Love how this mini-album starts with such intensity and versatility right off the bat.
2 – DANCING PARANOIA
A lot of electronica takes over as you’re welcomed into one of the heaviest songs in GYROAXIA’s repertoire.
This song is pure madness. MADNESS.
Guitars scream, the drums are hard-hitting (I love the sound of that snare, a bit tighter than usual) and insanely fast, the bassline is as heavy as you can get – I dare say even more than the drums – and Jin Ogasawara is going ballistic on the vocals, singing in an insane speed and with a clarity that will make your jaw drop in awe.
“DANCING PARANOIA” is one of those songs that deserves more than one listen just to find out all the interesting hits and bits hidden in the instrumental.
This chorus is going to be pure chaos in a live setting. And I’m honestly excited to watch this song come to life live. This song demands a moshpit. Fast.
The guitar work in this song is insane. If you’re a guitar player, you’ll either have your adrenalin in the maximum wanting to play it or already dreading how insanely fast everything on the guitar end goes. The main riff is explosive and really intricate to play, going for those high notes to serve as a contrast to the bass feast provided to the listener. And that solo? It pumps the listener with a lot of energy while shredding its way through the drums. That’s the kind of solo that is the perfect length to hype you up and release all the tension in the song.
If you’re a rock and/or guitar enthusiast, this is something that will blow you away.
Same thing for the drums. The constant changes in tempo going on in those – fast in the verses, mid-tempo in the chorus – and the work that makes the whole kit come to the spotlight are worth commending. The drums are the heart of this song, being groovy and aggressive at all times, never taking a breather.
With an instrumental with so much going on, you’d expect things to be a bit simpler for Jin Ogasawara but… things are actually pretty tricky on the vocal end. Constant changes in tempo, clean singing, screaming, high notes with head voice being a feature during the chorus, even rapping.
Is there anything Ogasawara isn’t doing in this song?
When you listen to “DANCING PARANOIA”, you’ll be blown away by the aggressive tone, the raw energy, and how technical everything is about this song and performance. Yes, this is paranoia in the form of a song, alright.
Easily one of the best songs in this mini-album.
3 – Existence
“Existence” cleans things up after the crazy ordeal in “DANCING PARANOIA”. And it does so by bringing a rock sound with influences of electronica, powerpop, orchestral, and hardcore (on the instrumentals only).
Yes, you read it well, GYROAXIA balances influences of all those music genres into this emotional, close-to-the-heart song.
The verses have a unique dynamic. For starters, the first and second verses sound nothing alike.
In the first verse, you have duality with shredding guitars as drums and bass go ballistic, and then you have a quieter second section leading to the chorus that brings punk-rock and powerpop to the spotlight. In this section, Jin Ogasawara goes for clean vocals mixing a lot of English with Japanese (with natural transitions between both).
The 2nd verse is quieter. Guitars are introspective for the first couple of seconds before making way for the shredding guitars + snary drums + punchy bassline ensemble. On top, creeping from the background come the strings.
And that chorus… Strings and synths (or sampled strings, it’s also a possibility) add an epic twist to this song, turning “Existence” into a rock anthem or stadium rock style of song. It demands the listener’s participation. Singing, screaming, and jumping along. Yes, that’s the feel. And Jin Ogasawara makes sure the energy and emotions never waver. The intent is clear, the passion is there and it is gripping.
Worth mentioning that the band doesn’t have a keyboardist yet this song has plenty of synths/piano parts going on, something I find quite interesting at the same that it is a fantastic addition to the song, not making it solely about being aggressive.
The way the guitar solo kicks off, with that screaming note got me excited. Then comes the technical, albeit brief, solo, and you’re left wanting more.
Still, it was perfect to build up that tension to the last chorus and outro, with the piano and strings joining in to make you want to scream along one more time. GYROAXIA needed its own anthem, it now has one and it is one hell of a track.
4 – Dawn
Dirty guitar riffs and a bass drum lead the way for “Dawn”.
Jin Ogasawara’s vocals are equally raw and dirty for the most part, making this song sound completely different from everything else in this mini-album.
The verses are tight and quite simple, having a freeing vibe to them. Yet as simple as those are, you can’t deny the groove that overflows the instrumental.
When you get to the chorus, guitars, drums, and bassline explode, letting Jin Ogasawara run free in what sounds like a performance he had a blast recording.
The bassline is massive in this song – shifting from slap bass to pick and fingerstyle technique -, creating the perfect stage for all other instruments to join in and play around.
The drums are also focused on the bass sound, with plenty of work done in the bass drum and toms as the guitars bring a mix of clean, overdriven, and reverbed riffs to the mix.
Jin Ogasawara’s vocals are a mix of raws, cleans, rapping, and manipulated ones. The transitions between raw and clean vocals at high speed are quite impressive, a show of Ogasawara’s growth as a singer.
I love the delicate way in which he says “Waiting for the sunrise” on the bridge. It feels like the aftermath of this crazy journey, almost sounding like “relief” mixed in with “hope”.
Another detail that I found quite cheeky to add to the song was the tongue click midway through the song. It adds, in a way, some attitude to the performance.
5 – NEW ERA
Wrapping up this mini-album is the statement song “NEW ERA”.
This song comes full circle, embracing yet again electronica, rap, and rock while toning down the tempo and aggression in the band’s sound.
The song kicks off with late 90s alternative rock/shock rock-inspired guitar riffs, leaving quite the big impression right off the bat. I keep hearing the main riff in Marilyn Manson’s “Mechanical Animals” (the song) in this intro although the tempo and key are a tad bit different.
This nod to 90s shock rock was unexpected but thoroughly welcomed as it is perfect to make a big impression as well as to pour out those emotions without being necessarily loud.
The verses are simple, devoid of instrumentalization at times, with toms-driven drums adding depth to the instrumental as dramatic, slightly forlorn piano accents play in the background.
On top comes Jin Ogasawara rapping yet again, this time around with a full rap verse leading to the chorus, in which he switches to screaming and clean singing (well, his singing is a middle ground between both after all). Do expect screamo before the 2nd chorus, something I believe will scratch that itch for fans of screamo and hardcore.
Those emotional screamo parts are countered by a simple, clean section in which Jin Ogasawara’s cleans shine on top of melancholic guitar riffs and a melodic bassline.
Worth mentioning that this song does have an outro and the guitar goes absolutely crazy in there.
“Welcome to a NEW ERA”, indeed.
Welcome back GYROAXIA and congratulations on changing music labels, attaining creative freedom while staying true to your roots, and aiming for the top.
It is safe to say that GYROAXIA is trailing an incredibly interesting path that, hopefully, will set them on a trail of success after success.
“Freestyle” (the mini-album) is a collection of pure rock bangers overflowing with energy, most made for the moshpit with a couple of surprises in the mix.
One thing listeners will, easily, notice is that the title track has a relatively easy-listening or “commercial” sound. This is the perfect track to introduce new fans to the band while still nodding at the sound the band has used its fans to in the last couple of years.
Going the commercial route for “Freestyle” (the song) was done without sacrificing the quality of the band’s sound or the vocals. What GYROAXIA shows in this song is that everyone has vastly improved and is ready to impress within rock music, exploring a wide variety of music genres in the process.
“DANCING PARANOIA” brought the genius of Penguin Research’s guitarist Kanda to the spotlight. Well, if you’re familiar with Kanda as a guitarist/composer, you’re aware he tends to go above and beyond to create the most complex – dare I say, insanely tricky to play – rock songs you can imagine.
This one is a certified banger that is pure madness from start to finish. Easily the most demanding song – performance-wise – in this mini-album.
“Existence” is the band’s newest anthem, a song that takes inspiration and shows influences of powerpop, hardcore, orchestral – albeit this is only noticeable in the accents and strings -, and electronica.
As a result, the track is heavy, loud, and intense from start to finish, trailing epic territory when the chorus kicks in. Just like in “DANCING PARANOIA”, drums and guitars are blasting throughout, delivering a memorable, high tension set of performances.
“Dawn” may come across as a song that kind of breaks the tension in this mini-album, toning things down, simplifying the band’s sound, being rawer and more straightforward.
However, it is a song just as intense but not as loud as all tracks previous to it within this mini-album. The chorus is a blast to listen to, having a freeing vibe coming from its fast punk-rock instrumental and energetic vocals by Jin Ogasawara.
And to wrap up comes “NEW ERA”, a song that ties up with “Freestyle”, making the mini-album come full circle (starting with a mix of electronica and rap-rock and wrapping up in the same note).
I was not expecting this song to go the 90s shock-rock route for its intro but honestly, the band absolutely nailed that feeling of emptiness and raw emotions that the genre is all about. It is loud and violent while being fairly simple, something that, after so many complex rock tunes, arrives as welcomed to change the pacing.
This is a song that arrives as a statement of the band’s dreams and intent with this new direction. It is intense, exciting, and fancy at times, with Jin Ogasawara’s mix of rapping and clean singing standing out.
In this mini-album it is safe to say that all members are shining however, I found guitar and drums work to be off the charts across all songs. Basslines were awesome throughout but when the guitar and drums are loud, you barely notice how tricky these were.
And, of course, Jin Ogasawara keeps on growing before everyone’s eyes.
Confident, with a powerful delivery, complete comfort shifting from cleans to screamo, shouting, and rapping. Although he still sounds like he’s straining a little bit his vocal cords when he is shouting, there is much more control in his performance that makes me think, that he is working on improving that in further outings by the band.
While “ONE”, the band’s first full-length album was impressive, “Freestyle” is more cohesive sound and performance-wise, something that makes this mini-album nudge past it as the band’s best CD to date.
All in all, “Freestyle” is a perfect mini-album, certainly a mini-album I’ll be talking about when the time comes to decide which are the best albums of 2022. This is also a fantastic display of GYROAXIA’s growth and commitment to always delivering memorable, engaging, and loud rock tunes that move their fans.
“Freestyle” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.
Freestyle is available for streaming on Spotify.
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