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Live report : Alcest

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Sunday, September 30, 2012 - Shibuya O-Nest, Tokyo
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Photographer : Guillaume Catella




Tonight is the last date of Alcest tour in Japan, celebrating their first coming to the land of the rising sun, which is a part of a more global Asian tour going on with a few shows in Korea and China. Neige and Winterhalter answer for the occasion in exclusivity in video to our questions for Metalship, just before the show. Despite this first experience in Japan, Alcest benefits from a formidable attention and interest from the Japanese metal scene and tonight is a blatant success, as this last date in Tokyo was very rapidly sold out.
Tonight, three bands all defying preconceptions are playing on the narrow stage of the Shibuya O’Nest. I unfortunately regret that there is no space for photographers at the front of the stage, and I then apologize for the poor quality of tonight photos. It was even painful for the first line of spectators who were pushed onto the stage during the circle pits and moshing of Sigh show, for example. This has however allowed the crowd to be much closer to their favorite bands.





Vampillia

The difficult task of opening the show falls to Vampillia, the band organizing Alcest tour and accompanying them through all Japan. Originating from Osaka, Vampillia is a kind of musical UFO at the borders of Metal, with an heteroclite list of members, comprising 3 percussionists, 2 guitarists of which one does the female vocals, one bassist, one violinist, and the main vocalist.
Delayed by 15 min, the band begins with a long, soaring languorous introduction on the keyboards. Vampillia’s musical craziness then takes over the show with a succession of heavy riffs and blast beats, followed by atmospheric pauses, tortured and mad growls, female vocals without a word, and violin, alternately melancholic or frenzied. The overall music is directly in the fantastic vein of Japanese borderless originality and overflowing creativity. The mad whispers of one percussionist are followed by a burst of rage of the front man, and then abruptly by some funky break !
Vampillia musical universe is as loony as creative, and one might have difficulties to appreciate this music at first prime, but for anyone appreciating creativity with no limits, this live is a real delight. And for the ones that would have some resistance, this performance was at least intriguing and interesting.

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Sigh

The show then completely shifts to another genre with the arrival of Sigh on stage, an abnormal Japanese avant-garde Black Metal band, formed in 1990. The curse of Sigh interview stroke again, as this second attempt to interview the band (after a first one in 2010 in France, where I couldn’t receive the tapes) was again postponed, due to the delayed preparations and the turmoil in the backstages.

To try and reduce the unmeasured complexity of the band to a few words, Sigh played more conventional Black Metal influenced by European current in their early days, but then developed their own genre, melting different influences, with some madness, originality and love for zaniness. But as the band states in one of their albums “Every sound […] is deliberate, and if you find that some parts […] are strange; it isn’t because the music is in itself strange, but because your conscious self is ill-equipped to comprehend the sounds produced on this recording.”




And the band is as ‘original’ musically as visually. Indeed, Mirai, the lead vocalist, unveils his arsenal of the evil sorcerer, resorting to red chandeliers, flamed sword, skulls, dark ceremonial clothes, and a magic wand, the overall stuff looking a bit “kawaii” (cute) as Mirai strives to lighten his uncooperative candles or manipulates his cheap looking sword. But don’t get it wrong, it doesn’t seem ridiculous; on the contrary I take it as the Japanese mark of ‘tongue-in-cheek humour’, reminding Japanese movies such as “Ichi the Killer” or the more recent “Dead sushi”.

The beautiful Dr. Mikannibal doesn’t break with the visual originality of the band, simply wearing a babydoll and fishnet, showing her buttocks to the crowd. She will rapidly have it soaked in fake blood, pouring it from a cup in flames (and then joking “that was maybe too much”), before pouring hot wax on her body. Mirai will even joke around, saying he’s sorry for the people that came for a music performance but thought they instead attended a magic show. That will incidentally be the only talk of the show, as all 3 bands tonight are rather introverted and prefer interacting with the crowd with their music rather than with words.

Apart of the visual aspect, Sigh of course doesn’t forget to play good music and offers us a very intense and powerful show, much appreciated by the crowd which indulges in circle pits and moshing.

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Alcest

Now is the turn for the French band Alcest to get on the narrow stage (but now freed of all the stuff of the previous bands, and particularly the countless arsenal of Sigh).
After having let off the steam in the pit with Sigh, the audience suddenly and quietly gets back in order to listen carefully and focus on Alcest music, which seems plain and simple at first sight, but is actually subtle and sophisticated, opening our minds to this graceful journey of the soul (translation of the well named “voyage de l’âme”, recently released in January). While the lights during Sigh show were aggressively red, they now turn to warm and soothing blue and green colors, reminding the colors of the peacock, which incidentally decorates Alcest last record. Neige, Alcest front man and main vocalist, also wears his favorite pendant with a peacock feather that he now has used for nearly 3 years. The stage remains very sober, with no banner or flag, as is their interaction with the public, limited to the strict necessary, as Alcest prefers expressing themselves through their music stripped bare, with no unnecessary decoration.




Musically, Alcest performance is very well executed, and except a small Larsen effect there will be no incident whatsoever, and this last evening in Japan is a real success. The notes flow out gracefully and in harmony from the guitar; Stephane (Neige) and Pierre voices are precise and always in tune, and even Jean (Winterhalter) blast beats on the drums demonstrate no aggressiveness.
The French language seems to be strongly appreciated by the crowd, and is in harmony with this music imprinted with softness, and maybe even mysticism and romanticism for the Japanese ears.
Neige talks only a little, but addresses his simple but warm thanks to the crowd, in Japanese and in French, and swears to be back to Japan next year, for the release of their upcoming album (which will part with the Metal influences but will remain in continuity with Alcest music, as explained during the interview).




The audience was kindly and smoothly rocked and carried away by this nostalgia expressed in music, and an indescribable positive mood was gradually deployed on the venue, containing a certain magic or alchemy, a sense of silent and peaceful devotion to the band, even felt by them. Maybe was it due this unusual proximity with the band, without any barrier separating the crowd from the stage, or maybe was it because of this last appearance in Japan this year ? Anyway, this first Japanese tour was a complete success, and the band heads backwards to the exit and the airport, wishing to be able to spend some more time in this incredible country.

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on October 3, 2012 by NanoRoux
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