Category: Event reports


Despair @ ElectrockAs I sit in an Internet cafe on the outskirts of Nagoya remembering Electrock from a couple of days earlier, I must say that I liked it. I liked it a lot.

[b]UPDATE![/b] [url=http://www.jgoth.com/modules/myalbum/viewcat.php?cid=3]Pixies are up Die!!Die!!Color!! and Despair![/url]

[b]Rushing to get there[/b]
So I finished washing and preparing the ferrets for the annual road trip to Nagoya and raced off to catch at least half the Electrock show. Sure the Electrock is not about Goth, but 1) electro-rock is pretty cool, 2) [url=http://www.despair-nation.com/]Despair[/url] put in a performance and 3) Jude did his debut for Despair on the ax-board.

[url=http://www.urga.net/]Urga’s[/url] space is kind of nice and cosy. It works out pretty well regardless of the crowd density so a quiet night is okay and a packed night rocks. Tonight it was quite packed so it was rocking nicely.

[b]Kwick Kick Mummy Lee[/b]
First up (when I got there) was a remix performance from Kwick Kick Mummy Lee. Lively and enjoyable affair with KKML with some successful (if mild) moshing going on upfront and even a couple of crowdsurfs by the mixer. Not bad at all. He also distinguished himself by being visually entertaining while doing the performance – something that most of these remix artists fail to do. Worth looking at again.

[b]Die!Die!Color![/b]
Die!Die!Color! were hot with some psyched digital rock. The instrumental-side would be speedy hard rock/metal traditional with extra elektro layers. However, it is the vocals that give this band something extra, with Hiroaki doing male attack screeches and Anna ripping out great power femme. Lots of energy onstage and a sound that keeps making me think “Fight Club.” Die!Die!Color! have balls. I will see them again.

[b]Despair[/b]
Despair just keeps sending shivers down my spine. There is something otherworldly about this unit when they’re onstage. Just a total aural assault with Rieu and Ana fighting for their lives to subdue the machine noise. The band sported a blonde gaijin on the ax-board tonight called Jude! Yes, Sins of the Flesh’s lead vocalist (and many other things), and JGoth.com’s Kansai chief, was doing a special spot for the band, putting in his 100% to keep the band running at its regular energy level (i.e. fucking overdrive!). Nothing can touch Despair when it comes to total industrial and that is why I will go to every performance I possibly can.

The last band I saw was Far East Eclipse. They had a good live sound suited to Electrock’s theme. A technical glitch hit them half-way through the set, which took a while to fix (and lost them the moment I think), but they were good live rockers.

Overall, Electrock is definitely worth seeing for some good live rocky sounds and I’ll be adding that to my list of regular events to mention here. I loved Die!Die!Color! and Despair, especially with two power femmes back-to-back.

And happy new year from Nagoya, origin of the Mangakiss.

The night closed with DJ Violet speeding away on a scooter in full Victorian dress. With blue ringlets spilling from under his helmet and a smile of pure delight, Violet shot down the deserted street into the heart of Shibuya. Just eight hours ago the Goths of Tokyo, and beyond, had poured into Deseo for an underground event like none other. Welcome to Tokyo Dark Castle.

Tokyo Dark Castle 101
Tokyo Dark Castle, for those who just dropped in, is Japan’s leading Gothic event. The creme de la creme of Japan’s darker side come here to perform everything from the hardest industrial overdrive to the sweetest neo-opera sounds. For six hours guests are treated to the total Goth package. The night is filled with the best-dressed Goths, Gothic-Lolitas, metallers, glam-lovers and more. Imagine a night where Marilyn Manson would sweep through unnoticed in the crowd.

TDC’s Halloween
The October 29 event was doubly special as it celebrated Halloween and the 25th Anniversary of Auto-Mod, who have been at the helm of Japan’s dark underground scene for a generation and whose lead singer, Genet, is responsible for bringing Tokyo Dark Castle to the people. The pure creativity of Auto-Mod cannot be underestimated in Japan’s narrow mass market. In an environment where institutions like Johnnies and the Morning Musume industrial complex have produced bands and music that hold to a very thin template of J-Pop, Auto-Mod is one of the standouts who have led Goth and underground rock sounds since the 1980s.

Let’s have a party
Deseo’s not a small place and previous forays have left me with enough space to scope things or bounce with abandon, but tonight the dark lords and ladies arrived en masse filling the entire space with glorious visions of phantsy wherever you looked. There were also many new faces in the crowd so it was full of surprises. Igor felt pretty normal in his loafers, but thankfully people overlook the underdressings of foreigners here and we could all have a good time. The shops had all kinds of displays, but it was hard to concentrate on the pretty things on the tables, when you’re surrounded by it! I did manage to pick up a new Auto-Mod CD though – thanks to my audacious dancing skills (or lack thereof) the Auto-Mod crew member remembered me and gave me a nice discount (you see, it pays to lose yourself from time to time). Everyone was so friendly (as always) and once you find one new person to speak to, you’ll discover three more and so on. This is one aspect of all the Goth events that I have found – people really are open. It’s something that I have never found at any regular night spot in Tokyo – the bridge is so much easier to cross.

But let’s get onto the sounds.

DJ’s Voilet & Chihiro & VJ Kihito
The DJ’s were cooking some great stuff tonight. Often overlooked when they do there job right (and Chihiro and Voilet are good) I would just like to give a quick w00t! to them for keeping the night on pace! As always, Kihitio kept the visuals rolling smoothly with all kinds of great footage mixed in.

Calmando Qual
Because the line outside Deseo was long (and I grabbed another chu-hi beforehand) I missed the first act, Calmando Qual. Technically, I think they are in the visual kei crowd, but as I have come to learn not all visual kei is popsy-cute Shazna wannabes – actually there are a couple of pretty hard mutherfuckers around in the visual scene. One thing about Calmando Qual is that they know how to get it on! Definitely a band worth catching and seem to be doing a lot of places that would not usually get Goth bands (like Fukuoka). So keep tabs on them.

Auto-Mod
Genet and his boys went fell knell for over an hour! Slamming out some great classics that us recent visitors may have missed this year and drilling them into our skulls. It was the full deal tonight with theatrics reminiscent from earlier years’ events intersticing the songs and guest appearances abounding. Tonight was one special show and if you missed it – shame on you! With dark dance and performances in the mosh area, and Selia’s haunting support vocals and the vampire visuals from Genet and co. it was a very special performance.

BAAL
Oh, god. These guys were hot when I first saw them and they just get better with each performance. Solid new generation industrial-rock, this stuff is heart-beltingly good. Between Mikito’s all-too-cool demeanor grinding his axe and managing the mix, U-Tarou’s total vocal attack and Chihiro’s manic drumming, these guys are one tight unit. If you like rock, industrial, or just plain dark stuff, these guys should not be missed! Capping off tonight’s performance was an invasion by Destruct System’s Kohki who just took things up one more peg. Ripping stuff.

Despair
You want audio assault? These guys are it! Industrial sounds mainline straight to your brain with the vocals driving their voices into the mix. Every time they are on it’s a crazy, mad, sexed-up sound that takes your breath away. All three players have their stage craft working full tilt for an exhausting set of hot industrial sounds.

I’m spent baby!
After that madness it was time to relax. I should feel bad for not checking out the performance sets of the night, but the triple hit with the bands just took me out of action. Auto-mod got me going hard, Baal took me to overdrive, Despair hit me like a train on Chou line!

So, for a couple of hours we could enjoy the slow approach of dawn, catching up with friends and discovering what was going on from people coming out. It was chill time at the end of a great night. And as I wound down with friends – punters like me, musicians, DJs and more – I realized just how many friends I have found here at TDC and beyond. In all my 8+ years in Tokyo this was the first time I felt “at home.” Thank you.

It was a night of magic in many ways, but there’s still one more to go!!

Tokyo Dark Castle Xmas!
The final Tokyo Dark Castle for the year (and the last one at Deseo) is set to be explosive. With 12 bands prepping take you to nirvana and back on Xmas eve. And what great freaking bands!! Auto-Mod (the lords of underground), Destruct System (hell yeah!), Jubilee (legendary Osakans), Agent Murder (psychotically great), Phantasmagoria (darkly sweet sounds), BAAL (industro-complex attack), Vexation (Sisters Grimm), Seirenes (siren Selia & Violet), Gadget (great retro harsh rock), Euthanasie (hard elektro), Aural Vampire (sexy & dark elektro) and Cut the Crap (hard rocking mofos with “the bassist”)! Man, book with one of them bands and support the cause (and save one drink on the entrance fee!). December 24 :: 23:30~ @ Shibuya Deseo (3,000/3,500 yen).

Two words describe this event… totally bitchin’. Brain Scan Laboratory’s inaugural Junk Children event was an awesome night of hot-core industrial sounds on stage and in the DJ box. This is just the beginning of something special.

I know I bluster. I w00t! with an abandon that could shame Molly Meldrum (nah, he ain’t got no shame), but hells bells, there’s some stuff out there that takes all my hyperbola and beats it to death against the amps, and Junk Children is just such an event. This event lived up to my expectations and more and I think all who turned up that night will agree it kicked ass with army boots.

Tight Focus
Anyone who has met the main players of the night know that they are all focused on building the total package. It’s an exceptional attribute in Japan’s underground live scene, where compromising with a general act or splitting the night between underground and general indy is tempting for getting the numbers. BSL went balls out to bring a total dark industrial night to the people and they won with an incredible show and quite a big turnout. In a nutshell, BSL went for gold and they got it.

Marz
Marz is a great little split-level space and nicely placed in Shinjuku area. Anyone over six feet should take care at the back of the bottom level, but otherwise there’s good space. Capacity-wise, I guess it could squeeze in around 100, so it worked nicely with the approx 80 people who joined in. The top level is kind of cute offering a full view of the floor below where most of the craziness takes place. The bar ran on tokens, which was a bit of an inconvenience for those of us who didn’t think to bring change for the token machine, but overall it worked pretty well. The deadly drinks were fun-tasting little concoctions, but I lacked the horse-kick I was hoping for. It’s a small quibble, but next time I hope the bar tender is a bit more generous with the shots.

Scene
The industrialists and the Goths were out in force. These guys and gals were dressed in line with Tokyo Dark Castle standards. From the dark lords and ladies to the goth-loli swooping across the dance floor it was pure eye-candy. There were a few street-cloven people tonight, but they were in the minority (yes, yes, Igor’s in the minority, but I’m a state-of-mind dreg).

Bands

Scorpions Death Rock
I saw these guys back in 2004 and they had an awesome power-metal performance with amps going up to eleven (report here). It was brutality incarnate with some of the hardest stuff I have ever heard in Japan, and it was great! This time they had totally changed to an incredibly sexy rock-industrial set in perfect sync with the night’s vibe. There is no mistaking it, these guys know how to deliver exactly what the crowd want. The lead vocalist had total control at the front had the crowd eating out of his hand. Great songs and great delivery, these guys are quality. Definitely a band worth checking at any event.

Demonoid 13
The Nagoyan live component showed that hard Goth rock is alive in central Japan. It was also fucking loud! Doom Spider has a powerful, guttural voice and took the central role onstage. The straight Goth-rock direction of the set was a bit different from the other acts during the night, but Doom Spider’s aggressive delivery and energy got most of the punters jumping. It would have been nice to see more of the other players getting into the fray at the front, but it was not a bad set at all and showed that the Nagoyan Goths have a lot of madness to deliver.

BAAL :: Baal on MySpace.com
What can I say – great delivery of some fantastic new hard industrial-rock sounds. Baal doesn’t hold back its performance and all the players know the craft well, making them a band you want to catch over and over again. U-Tarou’s femme vocals are powerful, splitting the anger with the sorrow and seeing her tear through the set is a sight to behold. Mikito’s calmly focused throughout the set with his axe and mixing the synth deck to pull the sound-scape together. Then there’s Chihiro on the drums (YES!), who’s got controlled madness in getting the percussion heard. It’s a grand mix of talents pulling off an aural attack that will excite anyone who likes industrial or tripping the darker side of rock.

Despair :: Despair on MySpace.com
Utter madness with an industrial sound assault delivered with the precision of a master craftsmen. Every time I see this band on stage (or off), I see a leading force in Tokyo’s industrial scene. The band is raw energy with Seiji on ax-synth tearing apart the air with an orgy of sound, and Rieu and Ana fighting back with vocalizations that will raise the dead. The sound drills right through you and the visuals are just as exciting with all three members getting lots of front time. Totally mind-blowing, totally exhausting, totally… just freakin’ TOTALLY!

DJs
A special mention goes to the DJs for mixing some great stuff. DJs Doom Spider (Stigmatic in Nagoya), 666Fox, Undermine (Despair’s Rieu), all kept the spirit of the night going between sets with their different flavors of sound.

Conclusion
Totally kicking. It knocked me out. It will know you out. Despair, Baal & company have pulled together a fine night of hot-core industrial event and rest-assured the Brain Scan Laboratory promotion is here to stay. Welcome to the start of the next-age…

Baal and Despair will both be appearing in October 29th’s Halloween edition of Tokyo Dark Castle.

Links to more information:

Event:
Brain Scan Laboratory

Bands:
Despair’s site
Despair on MySpace.com (samples!)

Baal’s site
Baal on MySpace.com (samples!)

Demonoid 13

Scorpion’s Death Rock (HELP! I can’t find them!!)

DJs
Stigmatic (DJ Doom Spider’s event in Nagoya)

Castle-master, Genet, took TDC to a new level with the best mix of live Goth-flavorings yet!

Despite the Osakan invasion from Midnight Necropolis, the Goths were out in force @ TDC and they were the best-dressed, most-dressed Goth’s I have seen. The crowd was larger than the last two events and the punters had decked themselves out in costumes you wouldn’t believe… except Igor, who’s really just a nerdy dreg capable of sleeping in a dumpster when required. But I digress.

Execution of tonight’s event was superb. Past TDCs have been great, but TDC 13 was just damned slick. All the sets were nailed tight and the night moved with a feline grace. This level of quality shows TDC as a true international-class underground event that SHOULD NOT BE MISSED. There should be tours for this.

Gaijin invasion
Between the regulars, the irregulars, the new arrivals, and an Australian guy with a very big camera, the foreigners were a major minority @ TDC 13 and the gaijin/local mix looked fantastic. Maybe around 20 or so exquisitely dressed and painted Gothic gaijin were igniting the landscape throughout the night.

Bands!
There are good bands out there that will never get a night at Tokyo Dark Castle, but TDC is the quality-assurance sticker for Japan’s Goth scene. Any band making it to TDC is worth seeing – not only at TDC, but wherever they play. So, if you’re looking for some J-Goth and not sure where to look then you can’t go wrong with the bands who have done a tour or two of the Castle.

Tonight’s bands were on fire. Hell, they were infernos from start to finish. No flubs, no anarchic over-runs, no worried looks, just plug it in and rip through the f*cking set. It was a Hell Yeah, kind of night folks.

Satanyanko
These Osakans were back for revenge after their first blooding in Tokyo saw them stuck in a distinctly non-Goth club event. Taking the first slot Satanyanko let rip from the start. The band has forged itself into a moody, lively punk group who work the stage with aplomb. It was great to see the axes getting it on and lead-kitty Rie-nyan putting out some great femme angst in her vocals.

Auto-Mod with Tamaki Carmilla
Tonight’s set was driven hard like a rivet to the forehead. True veterans of the business, Auto-Mod know their craft and can deliver any night of the week, but tonight they were playing like a band possessed. Great dark rock sounds from the Goth-Daddy and his crew. It’s sad to note that tonight was Tamaki Carmilla’s last performance with the band – her dark femme voice added an extra dimension to the band.

Destruct System
It’s great to finally hear these guys as I’ve heard such good things about them. They had a lot of aggression going from the start and were obviously seasoned performers – very smooth delivery of the hard stuff. I bet they must have been shocked by the foreign gothers madly seeking to buy their CD (selling CDs is usually a very tough part of the business).

Cut the Crap
Igor was too busy socializing outside to catch these guys, but when the other Gaijin came out they were totally fucking pumped. Why? The tiny bassist had blew them to bits. Man, why do I always miss out on the legendary bits? Now, I have just got to get my ass to one of their gigs. More CD hunting could be seen after their set.

Jubilee
Oh, these guys know how to work the crowd during a set. The veteran Glam-gothers from Osaka got going at a nice pace, then cranked it up to another level mid-way through the set. Good sound throughout and the mid-set ignition was great.

Selia
Ah, it was time to enjoy the more ambient/classical sounds of Selia. Truly a siren of the night, Selia had all sitting to appreciate a voice that could make you cry…

Unfortunately, my night drew to an early close thanks to a phone call. After a quick exit to take the call, Igor found himself talking to some drunk who had the wrong number. The drunk was looking for his friend, but ended up befriending Igor and scoring himself an impromptu English lesson in the process…. Alas, the wind was taken from my sails, my wings were clipped. It was such a shame as I was looking to catch…

Euthanasie!
I missed them (DAMN!), but let me just do a short spiel, because they are one hot electro-industrial band with a mad dose of sex appeal. They do a mighty set working a slick delivery style into their sounds and building the energy the whole way through. Definitely worth catching wherever they play. Sorry Andro!

Ah, a lovely night. ‘Twas a pity it was cut short by that most peculiar phone call…

Tokyo Dark Castle #14 :: October 29
This takes place on Halloween and you know what that means?! A Goth parade through the streets of Shibuya before the night kicks off! The event promises to be just as good, or even better than TDC 13 and will be the second last TDC of the year. Check Tokyo Dark Castle.

Fancying a different flavor for the night Igor hunts down some good Indy sounds in Akihabara’s Club Goodman.

Preparation
It was a tough decision, but one must accept that man does not live by Goth alone. Also, Igor is a bit of a lone-wolf type (does that mean I’m anti-social?), eager to find funky new things in the nooks and crannies of society.

Scoping the night’s events in the local sites, I discovered that some rock and punk sounds would be emanating from Club Goodman in the early evening.

Having made the choice, and with a map in one hand and 500 milles of chu-hi in the other, I trawled past the electronics shops to get to the club area.

Club Goodman
Goodman has some interesting acts and I first heard about the club when Goth-kei psychedelics, Adenosine Tri Phosphate appeared a few times in recent months (ATP scored kudos after a quick US tour earlier this year).

The club is located adjacent the Kanda River in a quieter part of the Akihabara area. Goodman’s layout was very smart with the drinks bar placed within easy reach of the entrance and lots of space for the punters to enjoy the sounds and bounce with abandon. There was nothing cramped about this place and could has a comfortable capacity of 60-70 people.

Punters
Friday’s gig had around 50+ people, which was well matched to the club’s capacity. Everyone was there for a good evening so all were dressed in street clothes and the age range from 20s to 30s. It was an easy-going atmosphere and everyone was really down to earth.

Bands
Once again I missed the opening acts (zannen), but since I only get out of work after most events start there’s not much I can do about it.

The first thing that I noticed upon entering the event space was the absence of DAT tapes. Yes, this was 100% live. There was no hiding behind electronics. Hell, all the bands had real axes, bass and even real drummers. They also had a lot of energy invested in their sets. The sounds ranged from garage punk, summer rock, some pumping pop-rock (NOT J-POP), some beat-influenced rap and more.

Nhhmbase and Core of Bells
Apologies to Nhhmbase and Core of Bells whom were finished before I arrived…. m_(_ _)_m

Inkakugoten :: Unkown
As I slooked into the main space, Inkakugoten was getting it on with energetic garage rock and punk. Led by femme vocals Madca, with screaming and funky commentary by bassist Makoto “little” Maekawa, ax sounds from Futaketa and Mikinyan (she might have a Gothic lining), plus Jun Misugi on drums, this band had a real good summer rock sound coming out. Mixing in grunge, youth punk, garage rock, plus a few classic rock riffs made for an enjoyable set. After the set, the band was very convivial and Igor was made very much at home by the band members and their friend, Shiho (who interestingly knows Goth make-up artist, Rodem) – thank you for the great hospitality guys! I would be happy to hear them again… and soon.

Passion
I have always been impressed with the bands from Osaka and Passion are no exception. Goodman described them as unpredictable (the shows keeps changing), and Passion certainly had a something sublimely cool tonight mixing up melodies with rock undertones and spitting out a some beat-styled rap poetry in the second half of the set. Definitely worth a look for some avant-guarde sounds.

Idea of a Joke
These guys were ass-kickingly good fun and worthy of the penultimate set of the night. Mixing up rock rhythms, tunes and melodies, Idea of a Joke knew how to put on a show to get the crowd bouncing. The lead singer, Atsushi Morikawa, backed his singing with some great gesticulating a la Midnight Oil’s Peter Garret (except with more control). All members knew how to turn a good set into a fun time for all – worth catching again.

All-in-all it was a great night and Igor must declare the experiment a success. The bands were good, the sounds fresh and the people very friendly. If you have a bit of an appetite for hearing some Indy bands you might want to check out BadBee, a resource for general underground/independent acts.

The operative word for Agent Murder’s Adultery, was FUN! It showed a lighter side to Awi, whom I had previously seen at pure Goth events, like Tokyo Dark Castle (see TDC12 Report) and another much darker show earlier this year. It was a night for appreciators of good, live performances to get together and enjoy.

Urga Space
Firstly, let me just say that the Club Urga has a nice, well-laid out space. The club is relatively easy to find and one simply descends the stairs to the club. The bar and obligatory sales tables are nicely tucked into the entrance alcove allowing a comfortable capacity in the main area of 80-90 people. The amps’ sound quality seems to be much better than some places I’ve been to. Yep, definitely a nice space.

People
The space was filled to a pleasant 75-85 people. Most were female and they certainly were into the live experience. They were here to see their bands of choice and also listen to the other acts during the night. The bands seemed to enjoy an even pull of fans so you could always see 20-30 people right in front of the stage getting into the music of the moment.

Mamono
I must admit that I didn’t catch much of Mamono’s set, but they seemed to be getting it on with the crowd. The first thing I noticed was this freaking inflatable shark being thrust into the audience. It was two meters long and the band was having a loverly shark play with the audience as it bounced back and forth during the closing stages of their set. From the two minutes that I heard them, I could sense a nice J-Rock sound and was impressed to see they had a full band, including a real drummer! I had some positive vibes about these guys and am sorry I did not haul ass to the event sooner – sorry guys!

2 Bullet
Oh YES! This band is HOT! 2 Bullet churned out military-industrial sounds that just kicked! Agent Murder’s ax-man, Dee Lee, also does the ax-work for this outfit, and what fine work he does too! A funky mix of keyboards and hard guitar, along with impressive vocals with some cutting lyrics to boot. I think they won a lot of fans that night, including Igor. Was Igor excited? Yes, very damned excited! I picked up their CD soon after their set, which is great value – featuring 50 minutes for just 1,500 yen. I fully recommend catching them on September 19, when they’ll be playing with Aural Vampire @ Live Inn Rosa (I’ll post that later).

最鋭輁E(Motoki?)
Well, I didn’t go up to the front for this, but Motoki (or Maki?) had his fans eating out of his hands. It seems he has quite a reputation for his shows. It was a playful set as one man (in a three-piece white suit) and his guitar entertained and interacted with the audience. It was quite amazing hearing the calls of “Maki! Maki!” throughout the second half of the set! Not Goth, dark or industrial, but entertaining and a polished performance.

Agent Murder
Ah, Awi and the boys were having fun tonight. I’ve always enjoyed Agent Murder’s sets and this was no exception. The amps @ Urga brought out the vocals (grocks and screams) really well tonight very crisp sounds indeed. The performance was tempered a bit to appeal to the varied audience base, but that didn’t reduce the entertainment value for dark followers like Igor. A very solid performance plus some really neat spot-work ensured everyone had a good time and enjoyed their introduction to Awi’s style of Goth.

Taiheiyou Belt
A nice pop-visual performance. While the recorded music played in the background, the performers got into their vocals up front. They had jaunty sailor costumes and were unabashedly enjoying their time on stage. Igor was slooking around the back during this set, but it was plain to see that this trio could warm the audience’s cockles for a nice night out.

Special Session
Oh, it was special, very special, but in a way that you wouldn’t expect. I could tell you (hell, I got pictures!), but the dark-walkers will chase after me with rivet guns if I ever revealed the truth…

Final Comment
It wasn’t the kind of event I was expecting, but it was a very enjoyable night and had a lot going for it. Essentially, it was about bringing together a range of good acts and their fans together so we could all get a taste of some different sounds. Like Genet’s Jail League series, it was taking the live Goth scene to a broader audience. Genet’s metal nights bring in more guys. Awi’s mix brings in more girls. In both cases the quality of the acts were good so anyone, regardless of the band(s) they came to see, would enjoy the entire night and might find a new sound they want to follow deeper. From the dark-walker perspective, this is the kind of show that helps introduce people to bands in the Goth scene and hopefully pull them into the dark scene proper.

Remember kids, MORE GOTHS = MORE GOTH EVENTS = MORE FUN!!

Igor enjoyed the night and the acts. While not all the acts were my cup of tea, I’ll definitely continue to follow Agent Murder and have become an instant follower of 2 Bullet. I also want to see Mamono again to catch their full set and find out what the deal is with that freaking blow-up shark!

The dark side is sexier, and it doesn’t come any sexier than Tokyo Dark Castle. Mixing the cutest gothic-lolitas with the harshest industrialists and everything in between makes TDC a dark fantasy like none other in Tokyo. The twelfth rendition of this hallowed underground event was huge delivering the hottest mix of bands covering Japanese Goth, darkwave, metal and industrial styles. Quite simply, TDC 12 hit the sweet spot right from the start and held the pace right through the night.

Fashion and space
TDC 12 was a tour de force of Japanese underground fashion. Gothic-lolitas were very well represented at the night’s event, showing off the most amazing (and amazingly matched) outfits that I have ever seen. There were even small knots of gothic-lolitas who matched co-ordinated outfits with each other to the point you started wondering if they were twins, triplets or even goth-loli clones. There was even a cutter-lolita to be found amongst the shadows, sporting bandages to cover her ersatz wounds. However, the most amazing ensemble in the gothic-lolita stakes on the night was a guy dressed to the nines and make-upped to within an inch of his life. Even his day-luggage was cute, with furry purple spikes sprouting from his backpack!

Of course, the darker side of Goth was exceptionally well-represented with slick black vinyl, leather and much more mixed in with lots of silver. And the boots! My god, the footwear was to die for. Custom-colored contact lenses, custom face and body make-up, corsets and so much more. It was pure dark fantasy the entire night.

Not everybody was dressed to thrill, but that would be only a few people. Igor felt very average as he skulked along in his basic black, but Igor is not a dressy fellow.

The space is well organized and people free to go outside for a breather anytime during the night. The entrance space is goodly-sized and suitable for mingling. There’s a video-projection running on one wall and a bar in easy reach – rum and coke please. The merchant tables had various items on sale from CDs (I picked up a 60-minute Gadget CD for 1,000 yen), gothic wear, some silver & pewter jewelry and one table that had things that looked suspiciously like claw-shaped treated ginseng roots. There was not a lot of business going on at the stalls, which is a shame – I quite like browsing the event markets.

Oh there were bands too!

The quality of the bands at TDC 12 was superb. This is to be expected as TDC is the biggest regular Goth event going in Japan (Kansai has the Kobe Underground Festival, but that’s only once a year). However, Genet outdid himself this time by pulling together some of the hottest bands from Japan’s underground scene from Goth-rock to metallic- and electro darkwave (is that the right way to put it), industrial, extreme industrial and retro-psychedelia. The night’s quieter offering of the night delivered a mix of classical and dark narration that captivated the audience to the point where everyone sat down to listen to the sisters Grim weave their spell. There were no misses in tonight’s line up.

Genet’s Auto-Mod with Carmilla Tamaki

It’s great to see the master is not afraid to take the always-difficult first slot. The audience is still milling around and the mood hasn’t sunk in, but the 25-year veterans got in and did the job damned well. The performance was silky smooth as Auto-Mod delivered their brand of Gothic-rock and it got the audience bouncing right from the get-go. I’ve got some old Auto-Mod from the mid-1980s and that stuff still has more grit and balls than most of today’s heavier mainstream groups. I particularly enjoyed Mind Suicide, a higher tempo number that does strange things to my mind and makes me want to mosh!

Agent Murder

Awi and co. returned to TDC with a vengance, taking the audience screaming through the set. Agent Murder exploded from the first song and then cranked up the dark energy the whole way through. Tonight’s mix started with Earth of Hypocrisy, an industrial-electro piece laced with screaming harmonics (I love that one). Thank you to Lee for letting Igor scream into the mike a bit! Agent Murder were possessed tonight, nailing each number with manic perfection and moving the audience smoothly from lighter electro sounds at the start to harsher splintered-metal numbers towards the end.

Sins of the Flesh

What could be better after Agent Murder than an electro-industrial attack from Sins of the Flesh. Originating from the UK in the late-80s, SOTF have re-ignited in Japan to bring new audiences into their world of angst-laced musical world. The sounds got everyone bouncing, the lyrics came through crystal clear, and the femme dancer was just incredible as Jude and his crew took everyone to the next level. At one stage the dancer was having her way with a blow-up sex doll after donning a codpiece onstage! To top things off, Awi climbed out from backstage to join Jude and the crew in one song! Totally awesome mix of sound and visuals.

Despair

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, in comes Despair. These guys aren’t industrial, they’re freaking nuclear! Returning from Wave-Gotik-Treffen, where they blew audiences away, Rieu and crew did the same again at TDC 12. They are totally industrial and you will be drowned in Despair’s flood of sound… and you’ll love every minute of it. Rieu had flashlights strapped to his wrist and mike, spotlighting the audience as he erupted during the set. Both Rieu and femme screamer, A≠A, powered their voices through the orgy of noise. Totally freaking awesome – a must-see for anyone with a penchant for industrial, hard electro, noise and any harder styles.

Vexation

And then it was time to chill and enjoy the romance of the night! Featuring classical keyboards, operatic vocals and strings, Vexation has enough of a macabre twist with its dark narration to remind one they are indeed Gothique. They captivated the night’s adrenaline-drenched audience immediately. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) sat down on the floor like school children ready to listen to a story read by their favorite teacher. That kind of effect (especially after Despair!) says a lot about how good they are at what they do. They’ll be releasing a CD at the end of this month too, which Igor plans on picking up.

Gadget

Oh, they may be relatively new to Tokyo Dark Castle, but Gadget has cultivated a sound with wide appeal. The band’s retro-psychedelia along the lead singer’s raw energy and charisma make them well worth catching at any event they play. They connected with the audience (especially the girls, notes Igor) instantly and didn’t let go. I picked up the 60-minute CD they had that night and it is damnable cool. Photographers please take note: When Kenzo is gesturing madly that he’s gonna dive into the crowd it might be wise to take heed! Great young band with a lot to offer… and you can bet there will be more in the near future.

Chronotrigger [Editor's note: now called Baal]

The night finished hot with this amazingly together three-piece metal industrial outfit. Chronotrigger is the yin to Despair’s yang with lead singer, U-Tarou, riding through her deep vocals to power over the industrial sounds. Mikito worked a storm with his ax-grinding and mixing to give an amazing industrial sound-scape. Finally there was Chihiro who held the beat together on his kit. U-Tarou was dynamic and visually stunning working her space on the stage. Mikito kept the balance with his own stage work throughout the set. A fresh, harsh industrial group who’ll blow you away.

DJ’s & VJ

Lest we forget, DJ’s Chiharo and Violet and VJ Kihito held the night together with great sounds and visuals between sets. The choice of mixes was good and the continuity consistent with few skips. It is always good to know the sounds will keep coming the whole night and these guys did a fantastic job. Kihito’s range of visuals on the screens has expanded quite a lot since the last TDC too. I can’t wait for TDC 13.

Quibble

A couple of bands seemed a bit concerned about going over their allotted time towards the end of the set. It is a small thing, but it would be nice if there was a clock or backstage helper giving the band a five-minute warning. Also, I wish I wasn’t such a wallflower. I wanted to run up to Awi and say that tonight was freaking great, but I was too shy to say hello… Sorry.

Finally

This was easily the best party I’ve seen in Tokyo. The caliber of the players combined with the dress-sense and enthusiasm of the audience was just plain great. I’ll look forward to more skulking at TDC 13.

Tokyo Dark Castle 13 on September 3

Less industrial than TDC 12, but a great line up of experience and quality new blood. Bands will include veteran Goth-Rockers Auto-Mod, Destruct System, Neo-Glam flash from Jubilee, electro from Euthanasie, Neo-Punk from Satanyanko, operatic Selia, and Cut The Crap (need to check them).

Pineal returns to AREA this weekend with another night of of grand darkness (Sat. June 4 2005)! Igor has pulled out his report of the original Pagan event from the archives so you can get a first-hand account of Pagan Portrait. Pagan Portrait 2 is on a Saturday, which is when it should be! And on top of the core bands from Pagan 1, Pineal has managed to get 101A – very cool heavy retro sound with strong femme lead. Anyway, on with the report on the original event…

It was a chill night on November 5, when Igor and his partner in darkness took off for Takadanobaba AREA, to bear witness to Pineal Presents Pagan Portrait. The event started at an early 6:30 p.m. on a Friday, meaning Igor missed the opening act and only caught the last parts of the second, but there were three other bands lying in wait as the tardy night crawlers sluiced in from their day jobs. Walking down to the basement I was surprised to be among the oldest of the crowd. Goth seems to be a young person’s game in Japan with society reabsorbing the dark youth somewhere around their mid-20s. Locating the actual stage area was a bit of a challenge, with all doors painted in the same matte black and all looking like emergency exits to hell. Opening the door emitting the greatest noise, Igor and co. stepped inside to discover J-Goth….

What can I say, all the players had pretty polished performances and blew me away. The four bands seen each brought their own style to the party for a multifaceted journey through Japanese Goth music. From the dark Buddhist chants of Candy Spook Theater, to the death screams of Scorpions Death Rock, to the seductive shock-rock of Mushi and finally the dark theatrics of Pineal, the horned one himself, it was a very entertaining night.

First though, lets talk a bit about why I chose this event. It comes down to Pineal’s flyer and Web site, both stylish pieces of art in themselves. Obviously, this guy takes his stuff damned seriously – I couldn’t go wrong. Well, I posted a note on his site (in my terribly Japanese) talking about how great the site was, and Pineal/TAQV posts back in English saying We play on NOV 5th. Come our Live show, if you like….. Alright! So I swooped down to the local Lawson and picked up a couple of tickets from the convenience store’s Loppi station (convenient ticket pickup is a big plus) and got prepped for the show.

Now the location of the show is suitable for avant guarde events, located in the basement of the building sporting dark decor throughout. The arena is decked with black ceiling to floor curtains, a black and while vinyl tile floor and a rush-hour capacity of around 150 people. Finding the bar was a bit harder than expected located just behind arena entrance. Being our first time there we also had problems finding the event-area’s entrance. Our first choice was the biggest door in the foyer, where my partner in crime found herself backstage. No groupies before performances…. We adjusted our senses and sought the door that led to the loudest noise and viola, there we were. We turned up too late for the first act (sorry to Radiostrip) and missed most of the second, but there were three more to go.

So we after discovering the event space we slid up to the bar, collected our drinks and went into the arena just in time to watch the end of Candy Spook Theater. Now these guys have taken Buddhist chanting and turned it into punk-metal fusion. The lead, in his white mad scientist outfit, was punking it out quite well, interspersed with the obligatory screams (we cannot forget the screams). Towards the end of the set the keyboardist, dressed in a china-doll costume and a white mime mask, stepped up to do her prayer moves, which looked dangerously like a Gothic rendition of La Macarena (trust me, it was kind of cool to see). There were actually quite a few people in the audience, with neon cylumes in hand, mimicking her moves – evidently this band has quite a loyal fang-base.

Then it was time for a break before the death metallers of Scorpions Death Rock came out. Scorpion Death Rock are three guys dressed in black leather with a penchant for LOUD. I swear, these guys had hiked Spinal Tap’s amps (you know… the ones that go up to 11), and jacked them up to max. Good hard sound delivered with a flourish, Scorpion Death Rock knew how to play loud. The only thing I might suggest is bringing your earplugs – don’t worry, you will still be able to hear them very clearly. They had a CD (Chemical Invaders) for sale at the end of the concert that I didn’t buy because I was running out of cash after picking up Pineal’s and Mushi’s CDs, but I felt like a heel when my partner later told me the CDs were only 300 yen. I’ll pick a CD up next time, I promise.

Third beer in and Mushi comes out for his set, sporting a cane a la Alice Cooper and a demeanor akin to Marilyn Manson. This was a refined performance by a seasoned veteran. The whole performance showed Mushi was a man who loves his art. The guitarists weren’t just playing, they were grinding their axes. Even when Mushi went a step too far backwards, bumping the taller guitarist, the guy didn’t miss a thing.

The last set was Pineal, armed with his orchestral baton and horned headpiece, leading the audience on a final performance. His deep, at times, guttural voice, along with the dark undertones of the music and well-choreographed moves showed this guy invested a lot in the total experience. It paid off, imbibing the performance with a sense of being at some pagan celebration, except the druids had discovered electric guitars and had better costumes – ;-) . There was a tall female guitarist in Pineal’s crew who was doing a fine job throughout, and then she started doing some backing vocals that totally knocked my socks off!

All-in-all, this was a very satisfying experience. After having the television bombard me with J-Pop, which varies from tolerable generic to ungodly cute, it was very refreshing to go out and see what is being brewed outside the mainstream in Japan. There is a lot of good stuff going on in and around the major cities that will go under the mass-media radar, alas. Step outside the box and discover something special.

Igor tripped off for some funk for the New Wave Junkies @ Ookayama Peak 1 on Saturday evening. The night produced quite an interesting show case of bands, remixers and keyboard brooders to keep you going through the evening. It took me about an hour to get to grand Ookayama, which is off towards the Kanagawa side of Tokyo.

Cruising in while sinking an extra-large chu-hi from the station, Igor caught the last few minutes of Dummy? Dummy? some serious neo-groove going on and is the kind of band that could be creating the scene for a long set in the mid-evening. I caught them the week before and they just delivered that groove like it was what they did every minute of the day.

I grabbed the night’s first official drink with my drink ticket and caught up with act two, Freak Child. Freak Child’s set was a solo this evening and quite a delicious piece of synth remix plus keyboards. The whole time I was there, I was thinking that if this guy was buried somewhere in the dens of iniquity on the Roppongi-Shibuya axis of ego, late in the evening, the mobs would drinking up the harsher sounds.

Lord aCid brooded over his iMac as he orchestrated his creation for the night, which included an OL-dressed singer with a voice that could tear your heart out and an ax-man handling two guitars (at the same time at times) during the performance. Lord aCid himself is not the star, but really the director, leading his creation through his iMac mixing and letting the players be the stars. And so they should! Not hard, not fast, but a haunting and emotional performance. Igor gives this one a w00t for matching the evening perfectly.

The night wrapped up with JLHA a remix duo with some really nice vocals. The remixing had old and new techno flavorings and the voice was very smooth. The set started a bit slow, but as it moved and the sounds got hotter and the singer took a more central role making for a very nice finish to the evening.

It was certainly a different night from other events I have been too. All the music was quite danceable to be sure, but there was more emphasis on the artistry and style than other nights. The place was quite a nice size for this kind of event, perhaps a comfortable capacity for 40 people, with enough space for a fair-sized stage and decent bar. Everybody was very friendly and it was indeed a night to kick back, take in the sounds and the alcohol and enjoy a kind of ambience not often found in Tokyo.

Alice in Wonderland meets Alice in Chains. Simply a magical night filled with leather angels, lacy devils, good music and alcohol – yes, always the alcohol. Igor buzzed in at one o’clock and kept buzzing until the end. Not a dull moment, and no angst that you might associate with a Shibuya night. Quite simply a devilish night of fun.

Deseo is easy to find and the maps (notorious for leading you astray) actually led straight to the club. Of course it was easy to spot with members of the crowd enjoying some light conversation outside the club between shows. They got a dressing room out the side, so now you guys know why people slinked off around the corner.

The costumes…. Oh the costumes! Imagine your copy of Gothic & Lolita Bible had burst open and all the models had spilled out onto the club floor. That would be nothing compared to TDC. The costumes of the girls and some of the guys were exquisite. Shiny, frilly, lacy, laced up, tied down, etcetera, etcetera. It was all there. The place was like nothing I’ve seen in Tokyo before, and this was the Golden Week edition of TDC! Imagine what Halloween must be like!

The entrance area was a nice coffee shop size. After thrusting my yen and proving I was over 18 years old (first time to show ID in 11 years) I received my re-entry stamps and a ream of paper. Ye gods, more fliers than you’ve seen in your whole miserable life. Great I thought and started ferreting the fliers into various pockets on my person noting with satisfaction the complimentary CD from Sins of the Flesh. Woot! Two drink tokens too. Double Woot! Another promo CD was received shortly after. Triple Woot!

I managed to snark the last part of the Euthanasie set, but I was just getting into things so I can only say I liked the sounds a lot.

Slinking closer to the speakers, I had a rather nice surprise. The amps must have been set at 9 instead of the Spinal Tap 11 that a lot of the smaller events tend to favor (especially if there’s some death metal to be played). It was quite refreshing to be able to enjoy the music without jamming plugs into my ears. Ahhh, bliss.

Euthanasie finished and it was time to get the second free drink. I enjoyed a conversation with a maid-cossied fellow while I was waiting for service. I must say he looked quite elegant in the straight maid costume. I wound up spending a little too much time outside (there was only one guy at the bar) and had to rush in for Genet’s Auto-Mod with Tamaki Carmilla. Genet’s the organizer of TDC and truly is the Goth-father of Japan’s underground music scene. He’s been in the business since 1979 (and I know his real age!) and is a polished performer, playing with the crowd and indulging in some witty repartee with Tamaki (the Japan underground’s answer to Elvira). Very polished the whole way through with Goth-rock, followed up by his new metal/neo-punk style.

Somewhere during this set as I slooked my way to the front, I managed to spill half the rum and coke all over myself. Didn’t matter, I was having fun and got a lovely shot of Genet’s boot.

More drinks then back inside for Agent Murder. I first saw the lead, Awi, at a Kichigai event at Bar Jap. The Kichigai event was mad! Essentially it finished up a blood/cutting performance. Anyway, TDC saw Awi getting pretty wild on stage and showing no signs of stopping. I enjoyed seeing the drummer getting up for a bit of a scream in the second half, but it would have been even cooler if another member took over the drums while he was screaming. That would have got a big woot from the crowd and saved us from programmed drumbeats.

He also gave a first-hand introduction into the sempai-kouhai (master-pupil) relationship by getting a little bit too crazy and receiving a boot up the patoot from the TDC sempai for his troubles. I was having a great time so not sure what the exact problem was (going waaay overtime, a bit of verbal castigation, too wild on stage, I don’t know). He even wrote an apology on the TDC Web site earlier this week. It just goes to show you that even in the hedonistic lifestyle of underground music, the traditional structures will hold strong. Before the end of the set, Awi kind of glud over the rails and I managed to support him from going splat (now I didn’t expect that).

More drinks then back for Gadget. These guys were the highlight for Igor’s night (yeah, I play favorites). Very cool performance and seeing the girl smacking the hell out of the drum kit was just hot. Loved the sound the whole way through. I completely missed the crowd leap by the lead singer, but I think there needs to be more people up front for a successful surf. Very lively band that I’d be happy to see again.

After Gadget, I was pretty vogued out, just swanning around. I got to take a photo of Genet and got to talk with U-Tarou and (maybe) Mikito of Chronotrigger, Jude from Sins of the Flesh and others. I picked up a bit of Phantasmagoria at the end of their set, but missed Falling You as I got into a quite an interesting discussion with Despair’s lead singer, Rieu (hey Rieu!). It was really amazing to get the chance to meet all of these guys and others during the night.

Alas I missed Selia’s operatic performance in the middle of the night and neglected the DJ sets due to my need to consume alcohol between sets (another bartender would have solved that problem). So props to those unsung heroes at the back, DJs Taizo, Chihiro and Violet and VJ Kihito.

A fantastic night, a fairy tale night, that sadly finished at 6:30. I walked out with seven CDs and fine memories of what went on stage and the people I got to meet there.