DEATHGAZE Bliss Out Mind Tour at Shinjuku Loft

Live Report

by Leela McMullen, Laura Cooper, posted April 8, 2011

Despite squishing in between the pillars, DEATHGAZE fans still managed to fill out Shinjuku Loft with an impressive one-third male audience. The background music gradually drifted from pop to western rock to something unintelligibly hardcore until a brief silence caused a collective gasp of anticipation. The music was cranked up, DEATHGAZE towels were raised in tribute, and fists began to beat to the rhythm as the voices of the crowd drew out the band.

Drummer Naoki, bassist Kousuke, and guitarist Takaki each stalked the stage before taking their places amid shouts which tripled in intensity with the entrance of vocalist, Ai, who wore a sexy black and white leopard print shirt over the black singlet. True to DEATHGAZE style, each member sported black ink oozing from his mouth and/or cutting lines down his chin.

“-1” hit things off with all the pent-up rage of waiting for DEATHGAZE to return to Tokyo. More than anything, the piece showed off the teamwork that makes DEATHGAZE great, the guitarists singing a melodic line while Ai alternated between singing and screaming. Throughout the subsequent songs, a fierce combination of hot pink with neon blue highlights lit the stage. As Ai screamed  “CRASH DOWN!,” which heralded a versatile mix of pure metal, the crowd entered the fray and responded to the roars of the title lyrics with “Yeah yeah yeah!” The outtro rhythm raced on as the vocalist worked the crowd up before greeting them at last: “Hey, Tokyo! Deathgaze here. It’s been a while!”

The next few songs, “Unchain Wing,” “MY DOPED BRAIN & SKIN IS DEAD” and “Killing Floor,” were a brain-damaging massacre. “Unchain Wing” opened with cymbal crashes puncuated by a grinding riff that filled the ears and the marrow. Ai’s voice was intoxicating, the fierce rhythms tempered by melody, the instrumentals competing not only with the vocalist’s cries, but those of the crowd as well. Fans loved “MY DOPED BRAIN & SKIN IS DEAD:”; Ai sung the meat of the number with snarls that sent shivers down the spine. In “Killing Floor,” Takaki showed off his guitar skills, taking over Naoki’s solo and moulding it into a duet after which Ai’s creepy wiggle of the fingers had the desired effect of enticing voices from the crowd to match their beating fists.

Ai’s silky falsetto during “CHILDREN” was definitely a highlight of the set. Voice effects transformed his tones into what sounded like a lethargic, robotic chipmunk with an anger problem. But don’t let the wording fool you—it was a downright awesome gimmick. Then the atmosphere of the set got darker with Ai on guitar during “Grave” and “Grace” and the crowd listened intently.

After “SORROW” swept its dark melody and heavy undertones over the crowd, Ai stripped off his guitar while the remainder of the band jammed. “Hey, having fun?” he asked, “Let’s see you bang those heads. It’s been ages. Ready?” “Paranoid Parade” heralded a return of thrashing heads. “Hey, jump,” Ai ordered, licking his fingers. Losing his shirt, he yelled the crowd into a frenzy with his natural Nagoya dialect.

During “Shi sakura” Ai let out “whoops” of excitement, which were echoed in the crowd: “Hey, don’t be holding back now,” he warned as they dived head first over each other in a domino effect. The delicate chorus, embellished with Takaki’s harmony, was darkened by Ai’s vocal tone and ripped in two by a roar that brought fists and shouts into play once more. The guitarist capped the number with both hands raised in triumph. “Rihitozoire” had the crowd going harder than ever before as Ai’s monotone vocals, sweet riffs, and shouts of “Move it!” spurred them to greater heights of ecstasy.

The announcement of “Genocide!” signalled the end of the evening with the signature final song of “Genocide and mass murder.” Kicking off with a short bass solo, the number soon had Kousuke and Takaki flopping over their instruments in rhythmic harmony with the opening instrumental. The crowd dove wholeheartedly into the music. Small as it was, the band roamed the stage in each varying section of the song, pausing as the crowd raised both arms in cult-like worship to the lyric “Genocide!” As the guitarists hopped about in circles, recoiling over their instruments, Ai poked two thumbs to his chest before the final destructive scream. “Thank you. Let’s meet again. Bye bye.”

Replacing the traditional chant of “en-co-re”, the crowd shouted a quick, rhythmic “DEATHGAZE” then switched to a call of “Naoki!,” anticipating the drum solo to open the encore as carried out throughout the tour. Their expectations were met with a brilliant rhythmic display that had multitudes of voices responding to every roll, crash, and carefully crafted silence.

For the encore, DEATHGAZE began with “IRIDIZE DREAM.” “Thanks for the encore. We’re still going,” said Ai, thanking and reassuring the crowd. Following the fascinating tug-of-war between sweet chorus melody persistent guitar that gave no ground, Ai announced that this was Deathgaze’s second time playing Shinjuku Loft and their first one-man in the venue. “We want to sing this song for you in hoping that your dreams will come true. If you like, sing along.” The statement was unexpectedly followed up with “BLISS OUT YOURSELF,” light in music but heavy on screams, despite the soft nature of the melody. “We’re gonna do this last song before heading home,” Ai offered next. “Scatologist” raised a wave of cheers, and Ai abandoned his guitar. The number frequently shifted into violence. Ai flipped off the crowd before raising that finger to his temple in place of a gun. Meanwhile, machine-gun drums had the crowd head-banging in half-time, unable to physically match the rabid pace, before the number ended with a fitting bass solo, Ai issuing a micless yell before he led the band offstage once more.

But DEATHGAZE wasn’t finished yet; the audience’s demands drew the band out one final time, the band resuming with “Abyss.” Ai surveyed the crowd under flashes of red, every other body in the venue wracked with spasms as heads whipped from side to side. “Come on!” he taunted, “Yeah, Tokyo! Let’s go for the last one!” “Yami ni ame, fuhai shita sekai” incited unrestrained chaos and Takaki and Kousuke exchanged glances that read “This is it!,” digging into the heavy instrumental. Ai was so pleased with the crowd that he granted a bonus performance of “I’m broken baby,” and just when it all seemed to be over, he launched himself into the crowd, disappearing from sight as a cluster of thrilled fans became his pillow.

DEATHGAZE’s set, which was made up  mainly of tracks from BLISS OUT and The Continuation, was a pure musical mind-fuck from beginning to end. If the Tokyo fever is anything to judge the tour by, then DEATHGAZE have Japan under their thumb!


Set List

  1. -1
  3. BLOOD
  5. unchain wing
  7. killing floor
  8. goodbye my earth
  11. grave
  12. GRACE
  13. SORROW
  14. paranoid parade
  16. shi sakura
  17. rihitozoire
  18. genocide and mass murder

Encore 1:

  4. scatologist

Encore 2

  1. abyss
  2. yami ni ame, fuhai shita sekai
  3. I’m broken baby

Leela McMullen is a strong believer in the philosophy "no music, no life." Having traversed the range of Japanese fandoms, she found her home at last in visual kei and has made it her mission to share what she loves most with the world. Leela completed her B.A. in Japanese language from Griffith University in Gold Coast Australia. She now lives and works in Japan, striving to bring you the goods, hot from the scene. Follow her on twitter for juicy hints of upcoming articles if you've got a bit of Japanese language under your belt!!/LeelaInTokyo

Laura Cooper started photographing rock and jazz bands at university. While completing a degree in English Literature, she was literary co-editor of the York University arts magazine and held poetry soirees with comedy jazz bands. Laura wrote for the now defunct UK Goth magazine Meltdown, as well as edited for an occult/spiritual website while she lived in York and London. She disappeared into the mountainous depths of Japan in 2006 and is now based in Tokyo, capturing rock bands in action.

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