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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).