Ghost Cult is proud to partner with the purveyor of all things brutal, underground and evil, Blasphemour Records, to premiere the title track off of the upcoming EP from Funerals. ‘Human Ruin’ is a blistering cut that is going to cave your head in upon the first listen. Hailing from Portland, OR, Funerals is a band that creates a sound of hate-encrusted hardcore that will have fans of Integrity, Twitching Tongues, Early Graves, Dropdead going off in seconds. Human Ruin drops on Halloween, just a few weeks away. Originally self-released as a cassette and remastered by the legendary Brad Boatright (Sleep, Beastmilk, Nails) at Audiosiege, there are several cool limited-edition vinyl packages available forpre-order here.
From the press release:
The debut release from Portland, Oregon’s Funerals. 3 tracks of heavy, low-tuned hardcore that will appeal to fans of Disembodied, Integrity, Twitching Tongues and The Banner. Originally self released on Bandcamp and on a limited cassette, Blasphemour Records felt this album needed a proper release. Recorded at D-Wreckords Studio in Portland, and now re-mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, this album will leave you wishing this was a full length. Pre-Sales start 9/13/14 at 10:31AM EST.
Catalog #:BR009 Formats:7″ Vinyl and Digital Vinyl pressing information: 50 – Violet (SOLD OUT) 100 – Black (Only 15 left) 150 – Transparent Red (Only 40 left)
Second press coming out in November. 200 – White
Band Members: Vocals: Craig Guitar: Sean Bass: Sonny Drums: Gio
The Melvins new album starts off with a rather ominous question: “What was that shit you sold me?”, from the song the ‘Bride of Crankenstein’. Indeed, it is the question every fan of the long running act can ask freely. Those who love their music heavy, heady, obtuse and downright confounding for over over 30 years can attest that every new album from this band brings different flavors to table. They have never made the same album, or song twice. Buzz Osborne and his first officer on the Federation Starship Melvins NCC 1701-X, Dale Crover have influenced many more bands than admit it. They have evolved from the creative outliers of a budding scene (Seattle, in the 80s), into the elder statesmen of sorts for bands of their ilk. No wonder Hold It In comes from Ipecac Records, a label full of like-minded, talented crazies. Joining Buzz and Dale for this outing are Paul Leary and JD Pinkus from Butthole Surfers. The pairs of musicians are a match in every conceivable way chemistry-wise, creating some unsettling and special tunes.
As you would imagine when these guys get together to create, things get weird, and in a good way. Odd riffs, whimsical songcraft and brave arrangements dot the tracks. From the dismal heaviness and driving riffage of ‘Bride…’, to the bright garage pop of ‘You Can Make Me Wait’, the trippy-proggy ‘Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit’, to the twangy stomp of ‘I Get Along (Hollow Moon)'; the inventiveness of each band is heard. It is definitely a sound and a feel of a Melvins album, with contributions from Paul and JD. You can discern a “Paul riff” here and “a Buzz lick” there and imagine the energy in the room when these four came together. Some of the touchstones here are sick amounts of feed-backing amp fuzz, phantom interludes, a few amazeballs solos traded, Floyd-ian space-rock tone-poems, and a rhythm section like a terrifying monstrous beast at times. All the propensity for weird-assed lyrics, and bizarro vocal deliveries (including ungodly shrieks from JD) all come to the fore as well. A little bit of something for everyone.
When it aims to be heavy, this is one of the heavier albums the band has put out of late, which says a lot considering the Big Business collaborations. ‘Onions Make The Milk Taste Bad’ and ‘Sesame Street Meat’ (two of the better titles this year) are gnarly as hell; true rockers. Another great cut, ‘Piss Pistoferson’ reeks of glam rock greatness, way down to the production value. They are getting their classic Kiss jones out, and frankly a Kiss song hasn’t been this good since 1991 anyway. The angular album closer ‘House of Gasoline’ sounds like it was more fun than should be legally allowed to have when it was birthed. A jam among jams.
The only shame is Leary’s distaste for the road means this lineup will only tour as a trio with Buzz, Dale and JD. Still, in reference to the opening line of the album, whatever shit they were sold, I want to buy some right now and I suspect you will too.
Picture the scene. It’s a slate grey sky and a howling wind. It’s a Saturday lunchtime and you have a hangover straight out of the lower reaches of Hades. Going to watch a band might be the last thing on your mind. But this is what I’m doing at the UK Hammerfest Festival in North Wales. And what a great decision this was. The band in question were Hang The Bastard who proceeded to tear me and all the lucky souls who had clambered out of their sleep pits a proverbial new one, rip our collective faces off and send our hangovers back to their sulphuric origins. Marvellous stuff.
It’s these fond memories of face-ripping and adrenaline surges that preface the listening of this new opus and this fledgling band’s second full length album. The charmingly monikered Sex in the Seventh Circle (SOAR/Century Media) is as pumped up as a steroid doping muscleman, as gnarly as an old tree branch and full of gusto and effervescent promise. If you wanted a decent example of what heavy metal sounds like today then you could do much worse than land here.
Sex in the Seventh Circle is respectful of its heavy metal lineage but not to the extent that it is a mere facsimile of a Black Sabbath album; on the contrary, there are more riffs here than you can shake a particularly sticky stick at; riffs that Crowbar or Down would be very pleased to call their own but there’s loads more going on than praying at the Iommi altar.
On the opening track ‘Keeping Vigil’, the band conjur such a spectacular cacophony of noise and bludgeoning intent that you worry that by throwing everything, including (if you listen hard enough) the kitchen sink, into four minutes of throat grabbing attention that they won’t have anything left for the rest of the album.
Ye of little faith, listener. Whilst ‘…Vigil’ is a serious statement of intent, it is by no means the high point of the record. The aural swampy stew that is ‘The Majestic Gathering of Goetia’ wears its New Orleans sludge like a freshly inked tattoo whilst I dare you – I absolutely double and triple dare you – not to headbang during the glorious title track. There, I can see you doing it already.
It would not be responsible of me to pass up this review without making comment on Tomas Hubbard’s astonishing vocal performance. To say it is marmite is an understatement. It is probably the defining sound of the record but also the element that will enrage as many as it delights. From guttural roar through to black metal-esque screeching, one can be in little doubt that there are not many bands that sound like this. To these ears, that is part of this band’s charm. It would be really easy to put together a record with plenty of clean singing, big choruses and so forth but then Hang The Bastard would end up sounding like every other band around who have a copy of Never Say Die.
It is testimony to their self-belief and their ambition that they have created a record that sounds this distinctive and so self-evidently contentious. It’s clear that Hang The Bastard want to sound like one band only- and that’s Hang the Bastard. ‘Sex in the Seventh Circle’ has echoes of stoner, doom, sludge and classic metal easing through its grooves- so what? At the end of the day ‘Sex in the Seventh Circle’ is, labels aside, proper, heavy, grown up fun.
Mighty NOLA doom mashers Crowbar has released their new video for the song ‘Symmetry In White’. The track comes off of their recent album Symmetry in Black (eOne). Announcing a new throng of tour dates to continue to support that release. The band is fresh off a recent killer tour we just saw in September, and the next run of dates promises to crush just as much. They will be joined on the aptly named “Symmetry In Winter Tour” by fellow label-mates Unearth and Black Crown Initiate.
Sludge mavens CROWBARhave debuted an all new music video today exclusively through NOISEY MUSICfor their latest single, “Symmetry in White.” Directed by Mike Holderbeast of Cement Level Studios(GOATWHORE, HIGH ON FIRE, EYEHATEGOD), this is the second video Holderbeast has done for the band having directed their last video for “Walk With Knowledge Wisely.”
CROWBAR has also announced a new batch of tour dates with label-mates UNEARTH and BLACK CROWN INITIATE for December. Dates will kick off in Pensacola, FL at the Vinyl Music Hall and trek through the eastern half of the U.S. before finishing up in Longview, TX. View all dates here.
Symmetry in Black was released back in May and sold over 4,000 copies in its first week of release, the highest of any LP’s in the band’s 25 year career, beating out its predecessor Sever the Wicked Handreleased in 2011. Symmetry in Black has received quite the critical reception to boot. Metalsucks states,“It’s no surprise that it’s excellent, but what is a surprise is just how excellent it is.” With Windstein’s focus entirely on Crowbar for the first time since the band’s inception, the anticipation was higher than ever leading up to its release leading internet giants LOUDWIRE to declare, “Windstein’s singular focus pays off.”
Lastly, tastemakers INVISIBLE ORANGES go as far to say that the band “deliver their trademark style of passionate and despondent hardcore-influenced sludge metal with ruthlessness and grace, crafting a masterful album.” The crushing signature sound of Crowbar is at its peak on Symmetry in Black, the band’s most diverse yet cohesive release.
Over the weekend it was announced that reactivated melodic death metal legends At The Gates will headline the fourth annual Decibel Tour. They will be joined by Converge and Vallenfyre in what promises to be one of the most fierce tours of 2015. More bands will be announced.
Official Press Release:
The DecibelMagazine Tour has established itself as the extreme music destination of the spring, bringing metalheads a thoughtfully curated lineup that celebrates the genre’s proud and diverse global legacy. The fourth installment is no different, as Swedish melodeath legends At The Gates join forces with U.S. hardcore heroes Converge and U.K. death/doom supergroup Vallenfyre, with yet one more very special opener to be announced this December.
Last year, Decibelbrought you Carcass’ first sustained domestic tour in five years, as the reanimated death metal legends introduced North America to long-awaited comeback album Surgical Steel. In 2015, we’re stoking fans’ salivary glands again, offering the first live taste of death metal icons AT THE GATES’ incredible 19-years-in-the-making At War With Reality. Presented by Century Media, IndieMerchstore.com, Nuclear Blast Mailorder, Handshake Inc., Lace Music, Deathwish Inc and Profound Lore, the 2015 DecibelMagazine Tour will slaughter the souls of North American concertgoers for 15 unforgettable dates, offering a bounty of extreme trailblazers making their best music right now.
“Super-stoked at finally getting to be part of the Decibel tour!”enthuses At The Gates frontman Tomas Lindberg. “A great mag, with great people behind it! And finally being able to rip out new stuff in front of a U.S. club audience? Sweet! The bill looks amazing, too! The most relevant hardcore band on the planet and the fiercest old-school death metal band on the same night as us? Excited!”
Four-time Decibelcover stars Converge continue to not just push, but outright obliterate the boundaries of extreme music, most recently with 2012’s All We Love We Leave Behind. “We are excited to be part of this fantastic and diverse tour,”says frontman Jacob Bannon, who designed the tour logo and art. “For me, AT THE GATES are one of the most important bands in contemporary heavy music. It will be an honor to tour the country with them.”
Boasting present and past members of Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and At The Gates, old-school death-dealing supergroup Vallenfyre can’t wait to debut songs from 2014’s critically acclaimed sophomore stunner, Splinters. “This will be Vallenfyre’s first U.S. tour, and what a tour,”beams frontman Gregor Mackintosh. “I think this is the most diverse and exciting bill of any metal tour I have seen this year. Great to be a part of it. We will be injecting some British filth into your unsuspecting American ears. Cheers.” We know you can’t wait to GO to war with this lineup either, so here’s your chance to score a great deal and avoid standing in line. There will be a number of VIP premium packages available in each market, providing you with a limited edition T-shirt, 18 x 24 tour poster, “Skip the Line” pass, exclusive digital tour issue of DecibelMagazine, a coupon for 15% off a purchase on Indie Merch’s webstore, and free digital sampler from Century Media. The price of this package is less than you would spend on a ticket and a tour shirt at the show! More details, including ticket info, are available atwww.decibelmagazinetour.com
2015 Decibel Magazine Tour dates with AT THE GATES, CONVERGE, VALLENFYRE Mar. 27–Los Angeles, CA–The Wiltern Mar. 28–San Francisco, CA–The Regency Ballroom Mar. 29–Portland, OR–Roseland Theater Mar. 30–Vancouver, BC–Commodore Ballroom Mar. 31–Seattle, WA–Showbox at the Market Apr. 2–Salt Lake City, UT–The Complex Apr. 3–Denver, CO–Summit Music Hall Apr. 4–Lincoln, NE–Bourbon Street Apr. 5–Minneapolis, MN–Mill City Nights Apr. 6–Chicago, IL–House of Blues Apr. 8–Toronto, ON–The Phoenix Apr. 9–Montreal, QC–Metropolis Apr. 10–Boston, MA–Royale Apr. 11–Philadelphia, PA–Union Transfer Apr. 12–New York, NY–Webster Hall
Reaching seven albums in 15 years is quite the success story for Chicago hard rockers Chevelle, as they continue to put out strong records and winning over new fans everywhere they perform.
During their recent stop at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, CA, the band was on a West Coast tour behind their latest release, La Gargola (Spanish for ‘The Gargoyle’), in front of a packed house.
“It’s been selling out a lot,” said drummer Sam Loeffler, talking about their US tours. “The US is so big. We’re still opening up markets, especially if you haven’t been somewhere for four, five or six years. So in that case, we played a couple markets that we haven’t played before. We’re trying to go to Canada as we can. There are a lot of markets we’ve never been to or been to in a long time. North America is very big.”
They have been playing various songs off of La Gargola (Sony), which has been met with anticipation from their fans. While the public has grown familiar with their melodic hard rock sound, the band was up for the challenges of creating newer songs that kept their sound growing without being repetitive.
“This is album number seven. I don’t know if there’s necessarily a different mindset,” he said, talking about the making of La Gargola. “It’s just at this point we’ve published over 90 songs, so you’re only interested in writing songs that don’t sound like your other songs. So I think the songwriting process might be a little bit longer because you want to do something different. We’re a hard rock melodic band and still write songs like that because that’s what’s appealing to us.”
They worked with veteran producer Joe Baressi (Bad Religion, Tool, Coheed and Cambria) once again on La Gargola. Being familiar with his working style, the members of Chevelle got to experiment a bit more on this one and throw around different ideas this time around.
“We did Hats Off To The Bull with Joe as well. This was our second record with him. Joe is really an experimental producer. It makes things go fast because he knows what all of his gear sounds like. He’s got like 30 to 40 amplifiers, a bunch of weird instruments in his studio. The place is packed with instruments. So being with him, I don’t know how we would do it with somebody else at this point. The more we used Joe, the more experiments we have. It’s a perfect set up because that’s how we are. As a band, we don’t want everything to sound the same.”
“With Hats Off To The Bull, when we got sounds, for the most part we would mix up the sounds. It’s real consistent in tone – the guitars, bass and drums. Whereas this one, we really changed the tone on every single song. That was a lot more work. But we wanted to make each song sound completely different from the last one. I think they do.”
With Chevelle entering album number seven, they encountered the challenge of keeping ideas fresh and not repeating ideas from past material. Many bands who reach this point in their careers often face similar dilemmas, but Loeffler and the band were up to the challenge of dodging this obstacle.
“I think it definitely is a challenge. Pete [Loeffler, singer/guitarist] is our principle songwriter. He writes all the lyrics. I think a big part of it is he gets influences from all different kinds of places, just from what’s going on in the world. That helps makes a different thing for each song. He’s not just writing about high school relationships or relationships at all, for that matter. He writes about zombies and something he saw on television that is an accounting error. It’s all different topics that encompass anyone’s life rather than one simple thing. That adds to where the song’s going. “
La Gargola also marks the fourth album with bassist Dean Bernardini, who replaced their biological brother and former bassist Joe Loeffler, in 2005. With each record, Bernardini has grown with the band and continues to evolve within their sound.
“He’s always been important to us and am important person in our lives. When he joined the band, we were able to grow the way we needed to grow. Sometimes things don’t work between people, but in our case, we really work well together.”
“In that case, it improved the chemistry. I think most bands have leaving members – people coming and going. That’s just the reality of a business, not to mention a family. It went the way it was supposed to go.”
“Dean’s our brother in law. He does have a different last name but we are definitely like family. We are family in marriage. We’ve known each other for 22 years. We were friends and played in bands way before he played in this band,” said Loeffler.
Loeffler briefly looked back at the band’s career until today. “We played our first show as Chevelle, probably in 1993 or 1994. But our first record came out in 1999. So 15 years of recording and touring ‘professionally.’ “
“Seven records in 15 years is an amazing career for anybody in this day and age in rock music. I tell people all the time – your chances of having a successful rock band…you’re more likely to win $10 million in the lottery. People win that every week across the US, but two or three rock bands a year have some success. That’s a very defeating fact, but we need rock music. We need to good rock bands. Not to say there aren’t some now…there are, but we always need new ones. We’re interested to see who the next crop is.”
As for future touring, Chevelle will continue to move forward with writing new material and more touring in the near future. But in between this time, family life has been squeezed into their schedules, keeping their lives exciting in another way.
“Pete is about to have his first. My wife and I had our first ten weeks ago. Dean has a two year old and a six year old. Like anyone else, we’re at that age where you want to have a family.
You have to balance it all but this is our passion. We’re here because we’ve always been in love with music.”
The idea that metal has lost it’s roots is nothing new. I’m sure you’ve heard it too. The complaints that metal has become way too polished and stylized these days. A sound which no layer of grit on your latest vinyl can compete with. I understand why bands do it too, but if these people would just quit their whining, they’ll realize there are plenty of talented bands out there that strive for the same dirty ascetic of their predecessors, who just happened to have limiting recording options. Take the first release from psych doom stoners, Wolf Blood fromBurning World/Roadburn Records for instance.
Recorded at Sacred Heart by Jake Larson in Duluth MN, the band seems to be making waves in a cross section of scene, calling on the interest of outsiders from other niches. Result of hipster culture holding Wolf Blood in their filthy grasp? In this case, I say let them have it and hop on the Wolf Blood train with them. I was in Minnesota recently and trust me, despite the festivals that go through there and how it’s supposedly the origin of Thrash Metal in America according to some stoner dude I met on the street (not true at all,) they can handle a lot more metal culture inside the scene and out.
A powerful portrait is constructed in the first track ‘Witch,’ of a vengeful woman, tied to a cross and set a blaze. Lighting the precedent for this psychedelic, pagan blend of doom, Wolf Blood let the bass groves hang low and heavy, keeping the vocals to a happy medium. The solitary instrumental track, ‘Ochro Ologo’s’ menacing force pummels it’s way forward, paving the way for ‘Black Moon,’ which contains my favourite riff of the album. When you hear it, you’ll know. That driving force is relentless. If played to a different tuning, it could have been a Razor riff.
‘Dancing On Your Grave’ was catchy as hell and remains my favourite on the album. Brian’s bass is prominent and playful. Jake’s wavering vocals sound semi-submerged as he handles the kit masterfully. Each guitar break leaves just enough space for the the next verse to flow or your head to bang in perfect rhythmic balance.
6 tracks long and an athame blade deep, Wolf Blood’s self-titled debut will fulfill your every need for raw, honest riffage, bass heavy mystery and properly recorded drums that don’t sound like plastic over everything else. For fans of Electric Wizard, Uzala, Mala Suerte, Acid King, Dopethrone and Demon Lung, check this band out! I have high hopes for them.
I love sloths. Slow, easy living, tree-hugging, cute in a strange kind of way…That’s not this Portland, Oregon, trio though – bristling with a fulminating, ireful energy, Sloths’ sludgy brutality is tempered by streams of post-hardcore lead guitar twisting through distortion, whilst diseased growls and Nate Sonenfield‘s Jeremy Bolm-like harrowing screams express previously unspeakable agonies. Indeed ‘Void’, the second offering of the three-track EP Twenty Years (Independent), is Touche Amore from the swamps, with downturned riffs waking a lazy, pensive build; Kyle Bates‘ agonised post leadwork and Sonenfield’s screams overtaken by a jagged, rumbling crescendo, the cavernous riffs causing mountains to shake.
The at times frenetic drumming and tortured roars driving the unhinged new-wave of closer ‘Passing’ are again moderated by those moody, chiming leads; the accompanying leaden force and delicious time changes the final urgency of an intriguing sound. Three tracks is not easy to judge the overall potential of a band but the signs here are really promising with the sounds and feelings of pain, hatred and unbearable sadness portrayed bitterly and beautifully.
These guys might not be as cuddly as the real thing, but they’re bloody impressive. The EP is free through bandcamp, but Twenty Years is well worth some of your hard-earned.
.5: The Gray Chapter (Roadrunner) is an album of some significance.
Not just because this will be the most high-profile heavy release of the year (probably by some distance) from the biggest current relevant band in metal; not just because six years and two months have passed since their last, the under-rated but far from classic All Hope Is Gone; but because this album will have to answer the burning questions over whether Slipknot, this generations’ standard-bearers and the largest and most impactful metal band since Metallica, can still raise the flag and deliver following everything they have had to endure in the intervening period.
So, is The Gray Chapter good enough?
The answer to that, and the questions above, is emphatic. The Gray Chapter is a statement of intent, a mountain-strong collection of hate-anthems to stand with Slipknot’s best.
All Killer, No Filler, And then some. .5 punches hard, deep and long, undeniably their most consistent album since 2001’s Iowa, with ten of the twelve full songs clear and valid options to be elevated to a set list already packed full of classics.
The Gray Chapter explodes to life as the venomous ‘Sarcastrophe’ launches with a roar over a trademark downtuned ‘knot riff, like a rattling rollercoaster with drums and taut percussion slamming under DJ Sid Wilson’s scratching, sirens and whirls as a stomping anthem of violence is spat out. ‘AOV’ follows in the same vein; a spiteful, claustrophobic pounding that opens out into clever hook of a chorus, with impassioned delivery from ringmaster Corey Taylor. Next, the excellent melodic insurrection of ‘The Devil In I’ raises the level of the impressive start to the album, a track to rival a ‘Duality’ or a ‘Left Behind’.
And then there is ‘Killpop’, a milestone track; beautiful, dark, venerable and vulnerable, a song of gravitas and reflection that continues down the left hand path of ‘Vermillion’ and ‘Snuff’, that reminds that, amongst the clatter, this is a band with genuine depth behind it.
Having visited anger and reflection, it seems the band finally reaches acceptance at the midpoint with the songs most clearly about the tragically departed Paul Gray, the melancholy ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Skeptic’, a catchy uptempo riot with Taylor hollering “The world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you, The world will never know another man as amazing as you”. That expressed, it’s like a weight off the mind of the album and things tear off, starting with ‘Nomadic’ and its classic grind-and-click-into-huge-chorus Slipknot.
Reaching the conclusion of their fifth opus the band hit the “moving on” part of the Kübler-Ross curve, delivering two immense slabs of Class A Slipknot. ‘Custer’, with its “Cut cut cut me up, fuck fuck fuck me up!” refrain deals out a pounding that is half Slipknot, half Subliminal Verses, Shawn Crahan showing how important his percussion is to the overall sound by tying their new (as yet unveiled) drummer to the Slipknot groove. Meanwhile there are further daemons shown to be exorcized in ‘The Negative One’, a song that despite protestations has to be about Joey Jordison, and it stomps out a syncopated battery and buzzing migraine of a low-slung riff, before ‘If Rain Is What You Want’, a sombre and pained conclusion.
The Slipknot sound has long been established, their influence is inherent, but what .5: The Gray Chapter achieves is unity – a pulling together of all the relevant bits of Slipknot. It may not have the vitriol and face-ripping point-proving of Iowa but it does amalgamate everything else that is Slipknot into one tribute to their past, and to those that passed. If there is a criticism it is that development seems to have ceased, as this is an collating and re-presenting of their previous endeavours, but the ‘knot still completely and absolutely pwn metal’s mainstream.
Nine may have become seven, but if you’re five five five, then they’re (still) six six six.
As I said before, .5: The Gray Chapter is an album of some significance.
Experimental hardcore facemelters Tiger Flowers have been decimating stages since the release of their album Dead Hyms (Melotov/Deathwish) last spring. They have done a bit of touring in support of the album regionally, but also are the frequent go to band for a warmup act or a head-breaking headline spot in clubs in their native New York City such as the Archeron, Saint Vitus, The Knitting Factory, and Grand Victory and more. No stage or competing band intimidates these veterans of the scene, and their live shows are usually an explosion of energy and ferocity. They recently played the Archeron again, and were joined by another band we rather like, their tour-mates in Boston bred sonic miscreants Hivesmasher. Photographer Meg Loyal was on hand to capture the action for Ghost Cult with this photo set.
X Japan are, without a doubt, Japan’s most enduring and influential rock band. And yes, even though they are, by the by, a Metal band, their sound, their aura, and their tendency to do it big and loud, is very much based in the kind of spectacle rock at its finest is supposed to create. Taking on Madison Square Garden was the band’s dream concert since they began to see their dedication turn into liquid success shortly before the untimely death of guitarist Hide, who is, in spirit, still considered by fans and the band to be part of the action.
Untold amounts of anticipation could be sensed around the venue, sitting atop the historic Penn Station in the center of New York. Fans milled around, periodically erupting into the signature call-and-response warcry of “We Are! X!”, and judging by how much X Japan merch and hide/80s Toshi cosplay was to be seen, nobody cared about being ‘that guy’. To date, Iron Maiden or Kiss can get away with that, is how huge X Japan is as a force of rock history. With every minute that wasn’t 8:00 pm Eastern time, I swear my heart crept closer to my throat as the symphonic rendition of ‘Amethyst’ played over the speaker. Upon the fateful hour’s arrival, the grandfathers of J-Rock themselves stepped onstage, glorious as they ever have been, kicking off with a one-two hit of ‘Jade’ and ‘Rusty Nail’, pyrotechnics included, mercilessly hooking the already engaged audience with the mighty power metal number ‘Silent Jealousy’, which certainly got heads banging vigorously as Madison Square Garden has probably never seen.
Following a new song entitled ‘Beneath The Skin’ from an upcoming album -which I’m sure will be off the charts- entertaining guitar/bass duel where Pata and Heath demonstrated the chemistry that enables them to time and time again wow the general populace of the world with both spur-of-the-moment innovation and precision mastery. Loosing the more standard hard rock number ‘Drain’ before an epic violin solo by Sugizo, the time was ripe for ‘Kurenai’, a piece as invigoratingly metal as it is tastefully composed. Another new song, ‘Hero’, had Toshi inviting the audience -and Yoshiki too, but he said “No fuckin’ way”- to sing along with the chorus, complete with words on the screen. The guys in X Japan are nothing if not interactive. After the appropriately titled ‘Born to be Free’, the band takes a well-earned intermission while Yoshiki, composer extraordinaire, took the stage hitoride to grace us with a piano solo featuring Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’, and even ‘Star Spangled Banner’ made an appearance at one point too. So meaningful was this concert to the band, and just being able to finally give American fans the show they were waiting for, it was impossible to see this as hackneyed in the slightest, and I’m unpatriotic almost to the point of treason sometimes.
Yoshiki’s mindblowing drum solo, complete with symphonic backing, was a whole show in and of itself. Reaching and maintaining heights of climactic power I could have never imagined while his drumset hovered about on a glittering platform, and select wristbands throughout the audience did the same, it was a testament to the amount of time the band has spent in perfecting their art. Speaking of art, I cried at last when, after a moment to let Yoshiki cool down after his time as a comet, the band played ‘Forever Love’, displaying images of old concerts, them just hanging out, and enjoying all that rock allowed them to as the massively creative individuals they are. The real tearjerker was arguably Yoshiki’s telling the story of the band’s trials and struggles over the years, of his and Toshi’s nearly half-century of friendship, and their gratitude for having fans and professionals that cared enough to bring to life the event of which I type. Restarting the rock with their comeback song, ‘I.V.’, followed by the endlessly anthemic rager ‘X’, and plenty of throat-rending shouts of “We Are!” by Yoshiki, always to a louder and more impassioned response of “X!” from the crowd, they took leave of the stage once again, but no one was fooled. They still hadn’t played ‘Endless Rain’ or ‘Art of Life’ yet.
I’m sure you can fill in the blanks from here.
Ending with an acoustic version of ‘Forever Love’ over the speakers as the band pelted the audience with roses -to say nothing of the confetti, streamers, and fireworks- and Yoshiki’s body itself -they weren’t ready for that stagedive-, I was left in emotional rapture. I’d laughed, I’d cried, I’d screamed like a barbarian, I’d cried more, and I sure as hell cried a little more. Literally a once in a lifetime concert, among the best live music events I’ve witnessed, and, come to think of it, the only concert I feel funny about calling a ‘show'; it would seem blasphemous to ever think of X Japan as a gig I decided to see. It was more of a spiritual obligation. After all: