An extreme sport requires an extreme score, which is exactly what Kazuki Koga has accomplished on The Summit of the Gods. The name for this sub-genre is Gorge, described as “an experimental and electronic interpretation of rock climbing/mountaineering.” In composing this score, he thought of the adrenaline, the danger, the struggle, the chance of death; as well as the failures and achievements that have paved the way. Some of the titles are shared with famous films, including “K2” and “Touching the Void,” but the music is more rugged than that found on either score, prone to sudden surges and slips. The latter is driven by drums that rush headlong into a static-filled crevasse, while the former starts with a crack: something one never wants to hear on the ice.
The opening brass sets the tone, reminiscent of Akira Ifukube’s 1956 Godzilla score, a comparison underlined as large beats enter with a tribal cry. Men seek to be giants as well. The percussion of “Absolute Strength of Will Demands Sacrifice” sounds like an attack: Taiko-esque drums, electronic machine gun spatter, smashes of yells and bells. This war is not between humans, but humans and their own wills. One needs energy to endure, to push beyond one’s limits. Once on the mountain, the time for contemplation is over; the spirit enters survival mode. “Inevitable Dedication” offers the perfect dynamic, toppling from ambience into live, boisterous drumming. The mind is made up; from this point forward, there will be no retreat.
The album’s primary strength is its visceral power. At no time does the artist relent. There is no base camp here, no water break, only the summit above and the climbers below, hoping to beat the storm, to avoid the avalanche, straining forward when every logical human being would turn back. The gods wait at the peak, offering triumph on top of transcendence, in light of the fact that while few will reach the top, all will be transformed. The cries at the end of “Lhotse” sound like victory, while the choral backdrop hints at the heavens yet remains foreboding; after all, the climber will still have to make it down. Was it worth it, live or die? The most dedicated claim that it is: losing fingers, losing toes, losing friends, hearts pumping at the chance to do it again. (Richard Allen)