Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Seven hours of J-Rock and Metal

photo by Neil Miller, Jr.


(The J-Rock Revolution Bands . . .)

D’espairs Ray
The Underneath

Along with . . .

Idiot Pilot
Bullet For My Valentine
Avenged Sevenfold

"I'd think you guys would be sick of double bass drums at this point," Avenged Sevenfold vocalist, M. Shadows, stated. Well, to be honest, I most certainly was. After almost seven hours of nearly non-stop metal in all different shapes and varieties, it was a bit difficult to enjoy the headliner of the Taste of Chaos tour.

The night started off perfectly, though. A unique aspect of this year's Taste of Chaos tour is the J-Rock Revolution bands. Tour creator Kevin Lyman (also responsible for Vans' Warped Tour) thought it would be a good idea to bring three popular Japanese Rock bands Stateside after having a hand in introducing another successful Japanese act to us westerners, Dir en Grey. These three bands played first and had no trouble getting the audience pumped up.

The first act, D'espairs Ray, is considered to be a Visual Kei band - although this is mostly in sound and not so much image. Visual Kei is a sub-genre of J-Rock that typically includes bands with outrageous appearances (so much so, that bands made up of guys are sometimes mistaken for being girl bands - check out the androgynously good looking Versailles for evidence). The sound of the Visual Kei movement is very broad and usually encompasses many styles and influences of music. D'espairs Ray is a band that displays the best of the movement, combining hard, synth-infused rock with beautifully sung choruses. From the first few songs they performed, it was clear that they weren't strangers to all - quite a few people in the front row were actually singing along. This passion made it clear that J-Rock has already made its mark here in the U.S., even without any major press behind it.

As soon as D'espairs Ray left the stage, Washington natives Idiot Pilot took the stage. While obviously not a part of the J-Rock Revolution, this duo was extremely fun to watch - they gyrated and jumped all over their half of the stage to their spastic Electronica-Screamo songs. While the crowd didn't seem to get into them too much, I was thoroughly entertained by their stage presence.

Immediately after Idiot Pilot finished their set, the crowd's attention focused on an extremely tall Japanese man wearing what looked like a cross between a dress and really long kilt. The frontman of the Angura-Kei (which is a Japanese take on the American word 'underground') band, MUCC, worked the crowd into a frenzy that had members of the audience crowd surfing during their set. The musicianship of this band was insane - imagine if a nu-metal band like Korn actually had decent vocal melodies (in Japanese, of course) and the band members were on par with, say, The Dillinger Escape Plan; you'd be somewhere close to what MUCC was like onstage. They're the most popular of the three J-Rock bands and for good reason. Having been in the game for 10 years now, they've honed their craft to perfection and it shows in their energetic and highly entertaining live show.

After MUCC left the crowd dripping with sweat, the last of the J-Rock bands took the side stage. The Underneath has quite a bit of mystery surrounding them if only through being the only J-Rock band to not have a proper album released. Within the first song, it was clear why Kevin Lyman chose them for the tour. The Underneath can easily be the Japanese heirs to the Industrial Rock throne which Ministry is stepping down from this year. While they're a bit different from the other acts on the Taste of Chaos bill, the audience seemed to enjoy this band the most of the three Japanese bands. They had hooks to go along with their crazy spin on the Industrial genre and their forty minute set just seemed a little too short.

By the time the J-Rock Revolution was over, the crowd was teeming with anxiety and anticipation to see the main acts of the tour: Bullet For My Valentine - who sounded like a modernized Metallica (circa 1988 - if that's even possible), Atreyu - the metalcore band with a three footed drummer (or so it appeared from the three bass drums that sat atop the drum riser), and the headliners, Avenged Sevenfold (abbreviated often as A7X). Throughout A7X's set, I found myself constantly being distracted by the epically Pink Floyd-ian light show. I was having a really difficult time figuring out where sharp green laser lights fit into their melodic Hardcore music, but regardless, it was a sight to see.

All in all, this year's Taste of Chaos tour was probably the most unique so far. Featuring the J-Rock bands will hopefully set a trend for tours to come as they left no one in attendance dissatisfied. But a note to Kevin Lyman - next year, how about a little less double bass drums? Or in Atreyu's case - triple bass drums. - Neil Miller, Jr.