Category Archives: grapevine

in memoriam

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.

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The Departure of DELUHI

With the slew of announcements regarding this or that jrock band’s dissolution bombarding our newsfeeds last year, it’s not hard to imagine that perhaps someone somewhere was relentlessly listing the names of jrock bands on a mysterious notebook while shouting “SAKUJO” with all the dramatic flair he could muster.

Well, whoever he is, he has struck again.

Teru Mikami

Having followed their progress and reviewed majority of their releases last year, I note with sadness DELUHI’s latest announcement that they are going to disband.

The whole thing felt surreal on 2 accounts:

  • when the band announced their hiatus way back in October, the reason was supposed to be to “further expand the band’s potential”. Leda even promised that when they return, “all of the members will have equal strength”.
  • secondly, the announcement was made on April Fool’s Day. No one should trust the internet on April Fool’s Day.

It has already been 10 days since and the shocking statement is still up on their OHP.

DELUHI is unequivocally departing. And it sucks. Big time.

My first encounter with the band is via their song REVOLVER BLAST. To this day, it has remained one of my favorite songs and when played with Wake Up!, another DELUHI favorite, I am given my much needed dose of energy.  And energy is one description that I will always attach to DELUHI.

DELUHI

Being a relatively young band, the passion and youthful exuberance are still very much palpable in their songs and performances. Even with just 2 mini-albums under their belt, DELUHI had already exhibited so much promise and versatility. Give or take a few more years, and DELUHI could have been spectacular.

DELUHI reminds me of the how girugamesh used to be, you know, before Ryo and the crew decided to become a lil’ bit radio-friendly.  In fact, I honestly believe that their last mini-album Yggdalive could fit very well into girugamesh’s discography. It fills the gap between the brilliant self-titled girugamesh and the experimental MUSIC.

Much like girugamesh before them, DELUHI had all the potential to blaze a blistering path before them. This made it even harder to fathom why that fire fanned out this early. So far, what we know is that bassist Aggy wanted out. All the band members decided then decided to disband as  “there would be no meaning in the DELUHI they continued with”. Fair enough. All that’s left now is to wish them good luck. Who knows, perhaps someday they’ll get together again after they’ve found their way back from that unseen destination. Just as they said in their portentous last single Departure, they will ask themselves in 5 years time “Do you still have the same dream?” Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to hear from them again.

NUlogy: Farewell to the home of nu (new) rock

good-bye NU

I interrupt our jrock revelry to bid good-bye to the radio station that has helped mold my musical preference.

As I begin typing this, NU107 is 30 minutes away from playing its swan song. The home of new rock, the ONLY radio station in the Philippines to feature an all-rock music programming is finally shutting its doors after 23 glorious years.

Speculations are rife that the station will soon resurface with a new format, a new sound that will cater to more mainstream fare, in other words, pop music.

This is indeed a lamentable moment. And the weight of matter feels heavier as I listen to each radio jock whose voices had accompanied me through numerous up and downs say their final words.

The folks at peyups.com summed it right: it’s the end of the world as we know it. FM radio will never be the same again.

In saying that though, I can’t help but feel a little guilty. And maybe a bit hypocritical.

To be honest, I have not tuned in to NU in a long, long time. Or to be more precise, I have not listened to the radio in a long, long time. It’s not that I have sworn off music for good. On the contrary, music has become an even more vital part of my existence with the passing of the time. What has changed though is that whenever I feel the need to block out the world, I reach for, not the radio but for my mp3 player.

Gone were the days when I had to wait for Remote Control Weekend just so I can be assured that my favorite song will be playing. Now, if I’m in the mood for some Stone Temple Pilots or Pearl Jam, all I have to do is tap a few keys.

That experience is clearly lost on today’s young music fan, who in the age of iTunes, Bit Torrent, and iPods, is more likely to be doing their homework with an IM app in a window, while listening to mp3′s of their favorite band, and viewing the band’s Facebook page in a browser, all at the same time. With all this going on, who has the time to listen to the radio? – Jim Ayson of The Ayson Chronicles

My sentiments exactly. So while NU107’s decision to re-format came as a big shock, it is not entirely a surprise. Noble as their cause may be, a radio station is still bound by the rules of economics. As mentioned by broadcaster Mike Pedero: “Radio is a business and if for several years, you just keep on losing and pumping in money without returns, until when are you willing to do it?”

NU107, for a time, was the embodiment of the anti-popular. It wasn’t just another radio station playing alternative songs. NU107 was THE alternative. But by being exactly that, it has limited its listeners to all but a chosen few. So now in order to stay afloat, major changes has to be done.

Reality just sucks like that.

Still, it was a good run. Heck, it was a marvelous run. You didn’t let us down, NU. Rather, it was the other way around. So here I am remorseful and at the same time, thankful.

Thank you for bannering Pinoy rock. Thank you for Stairway to 7. Thank you for Against the Flow. Thank you for the In the Raw. Thank you for Remote Control Weekend. Thank you for the Rock Awards. But most importantly, thank you for rocking it out like no other motherfucker could.

on jrock/kpop

When jrock-dedicated website Tainted Reality announced that they will be hosting a kpop radio show, the response had been fiery. While there are some who are ok with the idea, many, particularly the fans of each musical “type”, were against ‘”mixing the 2 fandoms” (check out the animated discussion here). I myself is ambivalent towards the whole thing. I approach it with the same wariness I had when Animax (a cable channel in Asia that features anime and shows about Japanese pop culture) began broadcasting Korean dramas. It just seem strange. Then again, it is really nothing to be surprised of. The Korean wave is smashing shorelines and this, this is barely the crest of it.

credits to abetterday in omonatheydidnt (LiveJournal) 

First, a little lesson in history. This so called Korean wave or Hallyu began during the late 90s and it refers to the phenomenal increase in popularity of South Korean culture not just in Asia but stretching as far into the United States, the Middle East and some parts in Europe. Today, Hallyu is a billion dollar industry that has boosted South Korea’s income from film and television exports, merchandise and even tourism. Triggering the wave was the huge success abroad of Korean soap operas. A most often cited example is the massive following of Winter Sonata starring Choi Ji-woo and Bae Yong-jun. The show was said to set record TV ratings in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Though the interest has on Korean soap opera has yet to wane, Hallyu seems to fortify its influence now via another medium.

Cue in the sounds of kpop.

Whilst housewives fawn over their Yonsamas and Byonsamas, their teen-age daughters (and perhaps even sons) are gawking at the likes of Se7en, Super Junior and SHINee. In the Philippines, the adoration for these Korean boybands and their female counterparts is reaching fever-pitch, it’s practically insane. Tune in to any local radio station and chances are you’ll hear a kpop song blaring. Check out MYX (the Philippines’ answer to MTV) and an hour will not pass without one or two kpop music videos playing. Records bars plaster Wonder Girls and 2NE1 posters on their walls alongside Lady Gaga and the cast of Glee. They are even invading the live scene. Just a few weeks ago, Rain and UKiss had fans trooping over to the largest concert outdoor venue in Manila. Super Junior earlier conquered the largest concert indoor venue. I repeat, IT IS INSANE.

Japanese pop culture also has it share of fans in the Philippines but it was never this omnipresent. Jpop/rock appreciation, while not necessarily underground, remain clustered among a chosen few. Sadly, our numbers or perhaps our presence, is not enough to warrant an actual visit from our favorite Japanese acts. (I still find it ironic that I have more chances of seeing say, D’espairsrRay of L’Arc~en~Ciel live if I move into another continent even though the Philippines and Japan are just neighbors.)

Anyway, back to the “mixing of the 2 fandoms” brouhaha. Personally, I find it strange because jrock and kpop are two very different musical styles. The only thing they have in common, in my opinion, is that looks play a very pivotal role. But looking at it from a purely musical standpoint, the 2 is akin to apples and oranges. Yes, it is possible to like both but it is just mildly amusing how fans of dark, gothic, and hardcore sounding jrock (via its most prominent form visual kei) could also exhibit the same level of adoration for the bubbly, well synchronized (with matching choreography to boot) sound of kpop. It’s like a Marilyn Manson fan professing love to the Backstreet Boys – quite possible but a bit strange nonetheless. And isn’t it more peculiar that it’s jrock that is being pitted against kpop and not jpop?

In conclusion, I would like to stress that in my opinion there is absolutely nothing wrong with kpop crossing paths with jrock. Liking both is ok and being loyal to one is just as fine. To each its own. And if fans would remain steadfast in their chosen type of music, then there is no need to fear kpop eating into jrock. Most importantly, as an Asian myself this increasing interest on both jrock and kpop is really commendable. Hopefully, it will also pave the way for other Asian music acts to penetrate the international market. Afterall, isn’t music supposed to be universal?

The Tipping Point* and the D’espa Mania brigade

A link to my entry regarding HIZUMI’s condition and possible treatments somehow ended up in the xxdespairsrayxx** community in Livejournal. What happens next is short of staggering.

Many said that they emailed the information to the address that came along with the official announcement. Some, if I’m not mistaken, reposted the link in their own journals. Two even went ahead and TRANSLATED A SUMMARY INTO JAPANESE before sending it out to Sword staff members and to D’espa’s Ameba account.

Wow.

This shower of support and outstanding demonstration of unity among D’espairsRay’s fans are mind-blowing. I am in high spirits in noting that not a few are also trying to help HIZUMI, even in their own little way. (The one who posted the link said she stumbled upon my entry while doing her own research).

If you, the reader, have some information that could be of some help to HIZUMI then I encourage you to share them with the community. A plan exists to compile them into one translated email to Sword.

With these in motion, we are together in hoping that the information would reach them soon. It may or may not be the answer they are looking for but at the very least, it should nudge them in the right direction. Even more so, we trust that all these efforts would convey our unwavering support and appreciation for the band.

I would like now to give thanks to these awesome people in the xxdespairsrayxx community: to owner999 for initiating the chain of events, to breadtoaster and crimson_deity for moving it forward and to everyone else who spammed forwarded the links to D’espa.

In conclusion, allow me to share an inspiring quote from one of the translators:

It’s great what fans can do together to show their passion for their favorite band, and doing this simply shows the power of uniting together to make something happen is much greater than trying to start something by yourself. Really, thank you for making your entry in the first place, and let’s hang in there together to wish Hizumi and D’espa a swift and epic return! – breadtoaster

Couldn’t have said it any better.

* the “tipping point” is a theory by Malcolm Gladwell which posits the existence of “a magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spread like wildfire”

** xxdespairsrayxx is for members only but I’m sure that any fan would be welcomed with open arms.

of HIZUMI’s dilemma and Steven Tyler’s incredible human machine

PART 1: HIZUMI’s dilemma

HIZUMI

“How many times did I shout your name in the storm? My voice’s drying out… I live because of you, so I believe…’close your eyes’. Therefore, this pain never heals…” – Infection, D’espairsRay

Considering the devastating news that has been released recently, the chorus of Infection seem to be a bit prophetic, won’t you agree? Here’s hoping though that the “this pain never heals” part won’t be real as well. Although come to think of it, the whole thing feels surreal. A lot, I’m sure are still in denial, but it is really of no use suppressing the truth any further: HIZUMI has vocal cord problems and as a consequence, D’espairsRay would be on an indefinite hiatus.

What makes it even more devastating is that in a span of barely a week, D’espairsRay was the THIRD to announce suspension of band activities due to the vocalist being sick:

Hearing about Jui and Isshi’s problems saddened me but it was the news about HIZUMI where I took the hardest blow. My first reaction was of course, shock. Then devastation (yes, this poor little fangirl shed some tears). Before finally, disappointment – with a tinge of indignation. But don’t mistake the latter two to be caused by the hiatus. On the contrary, I felt a little angry because it took them this long to finally go ahead and take a much needed break. THIS SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED A YEAR AND A HALF AGO, when HIZUMI’s condition was at its worst.

It was around April of last year when it was revealed that HIZUMI was having difficulties. D’espairsRay went on doing various lives and eventually released a critically-acclaimed album during the second half of this year. All seems to be well. The band is riding high on the crest of a major world tour and probably still nursing a hangover from celebrating 11 rockin’ years in the industry just a few days ago. Then suddenly- BAM! They let out that all this time HIZUMI has been suffering. “HIZUMI  has dealt with this rare throat condition for over a year, but the band’s busy touring and recording schedule hasn’t allowed him the time to fully undergo treatment,” the announcement revealed.

Let it be said that I have a higher level of respect bestowed to HIZUMI now for putting up a brave front these past few months. I won’t even attempt to fathom how difficult it must have been for him, physically and emotionally. Still, he gave it his best and I commend him for that. I salute his courage and determination but not his bullheadedness. The announcement further shared that at this point, “(they) have tried many treatments, but have not yet found one that has a high chance of success”. It went even as far as to ask fans for information regarding “promising treatment options, including those done overseas”. All of these indicate that HIZUMI’s condition is critical, even life altering. So my question now is: why the hell did they push themselves so hard?” Then again, that’s a stupid question to ask, right? Of course, they have to continue doing what they do best so everyone’s agenda can still be fulfilled. The band gets to do it for their fans while the record company gets their due. Well, bullshit. Look at to what that brought us all in. To think that they still want to continue with this year’s tour.

Odaijini, HIZUMI

If HIZUMI is really, really sick then he should take his rest as soon as possible. Not early next year as they originally want, not in a few month’s time but NOW! I mean, c’mon D’espairsRay. Please give us, your fans, more credit. Not hearing or seeing anything new from the band for a while would surely be a great void but if it would mean their well being then we would totally understand. WE’D RATHER MISS D’ESPAIRSRAY FOR A YEAR RATHER THAN TO LIVE IN CONSTANT THREAT that HIZUMI won’t be able to sing again, or that Karyu and ZERO cannot play their guitars anymore, or that TSUKASA have to let go of his drums. Bands take a hiatus for a myriad of reasons and theirs couldn’t be more valid. We get that. And we can live with that fact. Hopefully, so can D’espairsRay.

PART 2: Steven Tyler’s Incredible Human-machine

In the spirit of finding a ray of hope amidst despair, I did a bit of desk research on other singers afflicted with vocal chord related concerns.

Crude joke as it may be, HIZUMI, Jui and Isshi are actually in good company. My research has showed me that even the legendary Frank Sinatra had his career almost in jeopardy when his vocal chords were diagnosed with hemorrhaging.  Dame Julie Andrews of the Sound of Music fame is also another example. Her vocal chords were shattered because of a botched-up surgery to remove non-cancerous nodules. Examples that the jrockers would perhaps be more comfortable being associated with include Matt Tuck, vocalist of Welsh Metalcore quartet Bullet for My Valentine, singer Tony Kakko of Finnish melodic metallers SONATA ARCTICA and finally, THE Steven Tyler of legendary band Aerosmith.

As the name of HIZUMI’s actual condition is yet to be revealed, it’s hard to assume which of the abovementioned singers’ ordeal would match his. Based on their experiences though, HIZUMI best hope lies on a Dr. Steven Zeitels of the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is associated with two ‘revolutionary’ treatments on vocal chord related conditions: polyethylene glycol injection and state of the art laser technology.

The first option, polyethylene glycol injection is still experimental so I’d rather focus on the high tech laser surgery.

In the midst of their “Rockin’ the Joint” tour, Aerosmith was forced to cancel the 20 remaining concerts as Steven Tyler was downed by vocal injury. To get back into the action quickly, he agreed to take part in an experimental surgery. Based on the report by the Wall Street Journal (as reposted by Aero Force One, an Aerosmith dedicated site),

“(Tyler) was treated with a pulsed potassium-titanyl-phosphate (KTP) laser, the latest and most promising procedure to come out of Massachusetts General’s voice center. Quick bursts of green laser light, lasting just 15 milliseconds, zapped Tyler’s broken blood vessel, sealing the vessel without touching it.

The procedure is sounding a positive note for more successful and resilient recoveries from vocal disorders like Tyler’s. It has saved the voices of at least 14 other singers since 2005, including the opera star Carol Vaness.”

The whole procedure was documented in a National Geographic show called Incredible Human Machine.

Below is an interview with Dr. Zeitels. Annoying female newscaster aside, it is very informative. I hope it could be of some help to HIZUMI, Isshi and Jui.

re:vive (or how the granddaddies of jrock are getting their groove back)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just plain apathetic, you might have heard by now that two of visual kei’s utmost pioneers are making a comeback. THE X-Japan and THE Luna Sea have recovered from their respective break-up/hiatus/fallout/beauty rest and have announced major tours of their own. Both are determined to make their return to the music scene as high profile as possible – Luna Sea triggered interest by making fans stay up late last August 25 for an announcement about an announcement before revealing via an ‘urgent’ press conference in Hong Kong a massive world tour while X-Japan staged a highly-publicized performance in Lollapalooza coupled with Yoshiki doing the rounds in a number of US media outfits. Needless to say the stakes are high but if the gamble pays off then the profit would be much higher. Still, this whole scenario begs the question: could X-Japan and Luna Sea regain their former glory?Luna Sea Reboot tour schedule

X-Japan at Lollapalooza

Let’s face it, X-Japan and Luna Sea are mega-influential and ultra-famous…two decades ago. While it is debatable whether another band has since emerged that could equal their achievements, it is certain the visual kei scene is a lot more crowded now, the competition much fiercer. X-Japan and Luna Sea need to vie not just for popularity but for relevance as well. However, it seems that conquering the Oricon charts is hardly the top agenda, at least with X-Japan. It is blatantly obvious that Yoshiki wants more than reclaiming X-Japan’s spot as visual kei’s most seminal artist. He is hell-bent on conquering new shores and he wants you to know that resistance is futile. It’s world domination or bust, baby. Yoshiki is willing to exhaust all his resources just to have YOU screaming “We are X!” in no time. Their performance at Lollapalooza is just the tip of the iceberg. A big tour and even more media coverage is sure to follow. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if news that an X-Japan tribute episode on Glee gets out (but please don’t – just don’t).

Are you a Gleek?

But are lofty ambition, grim determination and tons of moolah enough? (Yoshiki’s interview with ABC News really cracked me up. If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s an exchange in it that went something like this – interviewer: there was a recording studio that you wanted to use but METALLICA already booked it so YOU BOUGHT IT/ Yoshiki: YES.) To the best of my knowledge, there has yet to be a Japanese artist, or even an Asian artist, to truly make it big in the US, much more lay claim on worldwide recognition. The only Japanese band I can think of right now who had moderate success on US soil is Shonen Knife. Despite singing about banana chips and flying jellies, this ultimate girl group counts Kurt Cobain as one of their biggest fans. They joined Nirvana on tour and got to record Top of the World for a Carpenters tribute album but they have since went under the radar. Now enters X-Japan. The press has trumpeted that Yoshiki is Japan’s answer to Bono. But is the English-speaking audience willing to embrace an equivalent when the real Bono himself is still very much alive and kicking ass both in the music charts and on the concert trail?

What makes this even more of a herculean effort is that X-Japan is part of a music sub-division that is struggling to stay afloat. While visual kei fans are lamenting that VK IS DEAD, the bigger picture are giving off indications that ROCK IS DEAD. Ok, so maybe I’m getting too far ahead. Let’s start at the microscopic level. Back in their homeland, X-Japan and Luna Sea (lest we have forgotten about then already) must contend not only with contemporary visual kei bands but also with the likes of pop divas, idols groups and gaijin tarentos imported from Korea and kami-sama knows where else. And speaking of contemporary VK bands, a few have been ‘experimenting’ with a more radio-friendly sound just to remain competitive. If they are already struggling, then it’s interesting how an older act would fare now. Zoom out next into the global arena and it’s a whole new battlefield. X-Japan would have to compete with other rock acts who are in general trying to barely stay relevant in a music landscape more interested in Lady Gaga’s latest antic and in guessing which teen-age pop tart would hit the slammer next (my vote goes to Miley Cyrus, by the way).

Then again, who knows? X-Japan may just be the innovator that the rock scene is now desperately thirsting for. I may not be a fan (should I have let this out of the open earlier?) but I still hold reverence for them as pioneers of a genre that I have come to love. I sincerely wish X-Japan and of course Luna Sea the very best. And may their efforts pave the way for other notable Asian bands as well.

Gambatte ne.