Friday, 18 April 2014

Review: Memento Mori - "Zenryaku, Shinai naru Kiguruibito e. - Shibuya Jigoku Ezu no Maki -"

About the band: 見世物小屋演者集団「メメント・モリ」(Misemono Goya Enja Shudan “Memento Mori”), which translates loosely into Freakshow Performance Group “Memento Mori”, is what I like to call a Neo-Traditional Visual Kei band formed in 2010 by vocalist Ai, guitarists Tsubaki and Jin, bassist Yohan and drummer Yue (unfortunately, Yue has left the band since this performance for medical reasons). Wearing kimono, hakama, and sometimes even samurai armor, they use a mix of hard rock and traditional elements to create a unique sound all their own.

Packaging: As with many indie bands, they’ve kept the packaging for this disc pretty simple. The front cover bears their logo of an open fan reading Memento Mori in katakana on a background consisting of a hodgepodge of traditional patterns and brush-written kanji. The show itself is contained on one disc.

The show: The show opens with the five members standing still on a dark stage and a voice speaking formal Japanese (which I suck at, so I can’t translate) welcoming the audience. The venue is decorated with paper laterns and nearly every member of the audience is equipped with a fan. The band explodes into action with お七妖艶恋緋桜. Frontman Ai is truly the personality of this band. Jumping and writhing across the stage, tossing his head as he delivers acidic vocals, he gives the whole performance a manic, other worldly quality.

The changing of songs is signaled by the turning of a paper scroll at the back of the stage and they launch into 花魁蝶楼. In the middle of his performance, Ai holds up a bit of paper scrawled with kanji, waving it at the crowd before eating it. No, he doesn’t just take a bite of it and spit it out. He rips a piece off with his teeth, shoves it in his mouth, chews and swallows. A big piece. I think the man might be a bit mental.

We get a little break in the middle as they perform their ballad, 朱雀. Jin dons an acoustic guitar and the feel of the performance goes from crazed and frantic to calm and almost sad. Ai delivers a smooth, emotional vocal performance that should be impossible after the rage we just witnessed. Next, he retreats to the back of the stage, going about a bit of mysterious business hidden behind an umbrella. When he reappears, he is bound at the wrists with a red rope and blindfolded, reaching his hands to the sky as if begging to be saved. Thus starts another deeply emotional performance of 二月八日の失明.

The tension picks back up with 「所詮、私は迷子の花一匁」and the venue bursts into action again. At Ai’s instruction, the crowd splits down the middle and then rushes toward each other, reminiscent of the heavy metal ‘wall of death’, but without the…death part, and dissolve into a mass of hair whipping and fist pumping. I have to say, this crowd is intense! Not a stationary head in the bunch. Fans rise in choreographed dances for 菊ノ傘ト籠女唄 and at times it’s hard to tell who’s performing for whom. The show closes with 君影草 and the audience sings along, moving the band members to tears.

Overall, a great performance by a young band. These guys are, in my opinion, one of the more underrated new bands to come out in recent years. A unique sound coupled with an energetic stage performance makes them really stand out in a genre dominated by sameness. This is a band you’ll want to keep on your watch list.

By Kort Maguire

Purchase at CDJapan!
Also available at YesAsia!