Daikaiju - Phase 3

Daikaiju - Phase 3

Daikaiju have been around for 20 years and in that time have performed... I'm gonna take a conservative guess and say 2000 shows. And yet in that span they've only released three albums. That isn't a suggestion that they should *do more*, because they're about as active as any band I know, it's just surprising. Truth be told, rarely during a Daikaiju show do I think "here's my jam!" because not only is it often loud enough to be hard to pick them out, but chances are between bizarre audience interactions, wild mosh pits, straining my muscles trying to lift a drummer's seat above the crowd, or FIRE, I'm operating in survival mode and just not taking in the melodies.

Their legendary and frequent live shows have positioned them as front line ambassadors of surf music, and I think they embrace that responsibility. They frequently partner with surf bands for shows, and they compiled the excellent compilation which showcased some of the heavier surf groups of the time. That said, I don't think they let that mantle control them. I was struck by how prog they could lean on their second LP Phase 2, released thirteen years ago (jesus, really?). But then again, most of the singles we've seen since then have been wildly aggressive and heavy stuff.

So Phase 3 starts with "Awakening the Gateway", a 7-minute spacey track that seems to reestablish their prog-rock leanings. Taken out of context, I'd probably place it next to Russian Circles before I'd think of a surf group. I admit I was a little wary. I reminded myself that this is a band that needs material to feed a live set, and that a track like this (one with long bits of relative quiet) are probably serving a better crowd control purpose than a glistening, drippy surf ballad. When standing near the front of a Daikaiju show, I feel like I mostly process loud, quiet, and a beat, so I trust that they've engineered and workshopped their songs to reach people operating on such a primordial level.

If the prog sound isn't your thing, hang in there because the familiar wild riff signaling the coming of "Spiral Serpent Strike" breaks through the silence and paves the way for the rest of the record. This appears to be rerecorded (the original is almost a decade old) and only seems to gain speed and intensity since we last heard it. Almost all of their singles from the past decade make it on here, though I'm not sure what's a rerecording or what's simply re-mixed or remastered. Some may lament having them instead of new material, but I delight in hearing them compiled into the context of a longplayer especially because each of them is fantastic. These also arguably take up the heaviest parts of the record (arguably because we're operating on very relative terms, the third least intense song on this could be the most intense song on another band's album). I'd say the big notable new "kaiju" track would be "Gullwing Rides Again", which I just love. It's got a little more surf DNA than you'd expect, particularly in some nice little breakdowns, but the refrain is so anthemic and fun.

Speaking of surf, "Kaiju Surf Team Rescue" is overtly a track for us dorks, with clear surftone and surfbeat. It's a funny one to listen to in context; by this album's standards it sounds restrained and kinda pleasant, but put it on a compilation with other surf bands and it would likely be a pounder. In any case it's fun and again, it's nice to see that Daikaiju embrace the surf designation.

The remaining tracks are similarly a bit more nuanced and interesting. "The Great Hyperspace Train Heist" definitely has progressive leanings, both in the drumming and their more freeform guitar lines, but also a lot of that bass rumbling that gives them their heft. "Magic Wanda" is friendly and warm without losing their aggressive nature. "Ten Thousand Years of Twilight" has a marching drum pattern but also mournful guitar that suggests a (cosmic) spaghetti western direction (despite another track being named Train Heist!). It's the only non-aggressive track on here and sets up the aforementioned "Gullwing" nicely. These all good tracks on their own, but crucially they also give a bit of balance to an LP that might otherwise be exhaustingly relentless.

Daikaiju didn't need a great album. Until they slow down (which I assume will happen some day, humans have limits), people will still come to Daikaiju shows and leave with an indelible mark on their being. But they did release a great album. They should do it more often, they're good at it.

It's on CD, vinyl, and internet. I love bandcamp, but they're probably playing near you soon enough (if you're in New Orleans, TONIGHT). Buy it from them there.


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