Today I remember how in 2008 I was in desperate need to satiate my jrock fix. My favorite band L’Arc~en~Ciel has just announced their hiatus and I needed a new band to fill in the void. While scouring the jrock section of the Ongaku Society forums, I stumbled upon the thread for this band that was described as “sounding like the old Dir en Grey”. I took a chance with one of the recommend songs, Grudge. I failed to note the Dir en Grey influence but my interest was indeed piqued. I listened to another song then another. I watched a clip of them performing Tatoeba kimi ga shindara live and was amazed how the vocalist seemed to sound even better than the recording. Then I switched to their performance of Screen during the Spiral Staircase tour. The lights were low, the sound even lower. The vocalist started his verse. The music built up. The vocalist hit a high note as the guitars screamed. The lights went up and I knew right then and there they would have me for life.
I remember listening to Squall for the first time and having goose bumps. I remember reading the lyrics for in vain and how I laughed when I got to the part with all the Xs.
I remembering finally being able to watch the complete performances from Spiral Staircase and being mesmerized. I’ve watched my favorite parts over and over again. Sometimes, I would play it in the background as I write. More often that not, I end up setting aside whatever it is that I’m doing and just glue my eyes to the screen. I have seen numerous recorded performances since then but those from Spiral Staircase would always be my favorite. If only Hizumi’s voice didn’t catch a snag during Squall then everything would have been perfect.
I remember writing my second attempt at writing a formal album review right after I got my own copy of their third full-length album, Redeemer and how it became the first of the many articles I would soon dedicate to them. I remember raving about MONSTERS and how my review found a kindred soul in another blogger’s own assessment of the album. That became my initiation to a network of bloggers whose common passion was jrock. I remember being dead-tired because it’s already past 3am and I’ve been analyzing data the whole day but then I saw gacktpause has just posted his live report. Naturally, the Sandman had to wait. I remember spending too much time backtracking notafanboy’s posts for anything and everything about D’espairsRay. I discovered her journal in my search for translated interviews. Lucky for me, her journal turned out to be a treasure throve for translations AND live reports.
And then there was that one time I messaged CDJapan on Twitter regarding the release date of MONSTERS. Lo and behold, I got a tweet from the band’s official account. The message was rather snobbish and it really bothered me. Toshi of CDJapan assured me that it was all just a translation error. Nevertheless, I messaged @despairs back asking whether it was just a bad day for them hence the rudeness. Whoever was managing it answered back with an apology and came up with the ludicrous excuse that s/he forgot to add a smiley to the first message. Yeah right. Like that would change anything.
I remember asking my friends if it’s sane to pay a huge chunk of my salary for a DVD. Every single one of them was against it. “But it was the 10th Anniversary live!”, I counter-opinioned. Plus it comes a shirt. A shirt! And a mini-photo book. And cellphone strap. And did I already mention that it comes with a shirt? Nevermind if the design looked like rainbow vomit safari.
Then one afternoon, I got shaken to the core when I read the news that D’espairsRay would be on an indefinite hiatus. The announcement said that Hizumi was very sick. I remember immediately tearing up. Our office manager, whose cubicle was near mine, saw me crying. I can still vividly recall the way her forehead crumpled as she tried to comprehend that I’m crying because some strange band would be pausing activities. I remember that it suddenly rained very hard that afternoon and I remarked that the weather was sympathizing with me. The whole afternoon saw me in a daze. When I got home, I immediately put into practice everything I know about google-fu in search for a cure. I ended up not getting any sleep that night. I pored over dozens of articles and speed-read numerous reports. Then I condensed them into 1 post. The next day, I was so disoriented I ended up accidentally locking myself up all alone in the office. I literally had to wait for someone to come in the morning to set me free.
The day after my post got online, I noticed an unusual activity in my blog. Visitors were pouring in like mad. By mid-afternoon, the numbers have reached 3 digits already and that’s just for a single post. Come midnight, the count had exceeded the number of visitors I could ever hope for in a quarter of a year. I then found out that someone mentioned my post at the largest D’espairsRay community on Livejournal. I checked the thread and was rendered speechless. Two members of the community have translated parts of my post into Japanese and sent them to any available channel to D’espairsRay. Not a few mentioned that they too would do their own research. Everyone was thinking how to best show our support for the band during these trying times. The show of solidarity was just so overwhelming. At that moment, I was at my very proudest for being part of such a dedicated and unselfish fanbase.
During the hiatus, I did not go in search of another band to dedicate my attention. On the contrary, I sought the company of other mania. Twitter has become my refuge. And in it, I found people who share my longing. Together, we reminisce. As one, we look forward to Hizumi’s swift recovery and D’espairsRay’s triumphant return. I also found another proof that indeed, the world is flat. Sometimes, I do get bewildered when I realize that the people whom I’m discussing with the merits of Karyu’s method of baking a cake are scattered all over the globe.
Finally, I remember that just a few hours ago as I was about to attend an important project briefing, I saw a tweet bearing bad news. It contained just two sentences, 3 words and yet it felt that like a ton of bricks when it hit me. I went thru my meeting. Had dinner with a colleague. Did my grocery. Navigated thru the Metro traffic.When I got home, I dumped my things. Slumped on my bed and just let go of the tears I’ve been holding up for hours. There’s no triumphant return to expect. D’espairsRay is no longer coming back.
It’s again past 3am. D’espairsRay made me ditch the Sandman one more time. But then again, this could also be the very last. The last time I’m losing sleep for them, the last time I’m writing a post about them. To paraphrase Neruda, though this be the last pain that they made me suffer and these the last verses that I write for them. And yet, just as it was said in the very same poem: my soul is not satisfied that it had lost them.
Every fiber in me refuses to acknowledge that this is the end. I vow then to remember this day. I will recall all that was said and all the emotions it entailed. And then I would enter Yokohama Blitz and I would rock my heart out with the crowd as we all welcome back D’espairsRay, reunited.