Tuesday, October 12, 2010

One Of Kind Monster: X Japan's Heavy Metal Rocks NYC

X Japan's lead singer Toshi at Roseland Ballroom. Via.

In the immortal words of Metallica frontman and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield, "Adrenaline starts to flow/Thrashing all around/Acting like a maniac/ Whiplash!" It can only refer to one type of music: Heavy Metal. Born in the UK in the early 70s, metal became a global phenomenon in the 80s with various sub-genres and a penchant for booming vocals; loud, fast, distorted guitars; pounding bass lines; and blasting drum beats.

Japan was by no means left out of the heavy metal revolution in the 80s and still has a thriving community of metal fans ranging from high school students to salarymen who unashamedly love this brand of subversive music in a country where so many outsiders perceive conformity to be status quo.

Arguably Japan’s most popular and successful heavy metal band, X Japan  just finished their first-ever North American tour at New York’s Roseland Ballroom last weekend. Notes Consequence of Sound in their enthusiastic review:
There are times when a person can get an inkling of what they’re in for with a concert before the show even starts. X Japan’s gig at New York’s Roseland Ballroom, their last stop on their first North American tour, was one such example. As we approached the venue, we noticed something peculiar about the line to get in, which was already moving. It wrapped around the entire block. Twice.
What separates X-Japan from other metal bands? Some people regard Japan as a country that takes a lot of influence from the West and "Japan-ifies" it. But X Japan took the sounds of several metal genres and an image even more over the top than the glam metal bands coming out of the West Coast in the 80s and pioneered a uniquely Japanese form of rock and metal known as Visual Kei, Japanese for "visual style."

Visual Kei is best summed up by one of X-Japan's early slogans: "Psychedelic Violence Crime of Visual Shock." In Visual Kei, image is emphasized as much as the music. Similar to American glam, the look consists of heavy make-up, flamboyant hair and costumes, and the occasional dip into androgyny. One could take this unique musical image to be a reflection of the surroundings under which the band formed and grew. American bands such as Mötley Crüe, Ratt and Poison arose from the Sunset Strip in LA where image was everything, whereas X Japan  sprang from the Kanto region, home to such wild and cutting-edge shopping districts as Harajuku and Shibuya.

X Japan can be said to have raised the bar on imagery and theatrics with their unique style and sound, and nearly 30 years after inception, they completely rocked the locals in New York City. Our heads are collectively banging and our horns respectfully thrown. Rock on. \m/


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