Apr 22

[live report] Ra:IN – FLYING CAT presents SUPER ROCK BOMB ~Hard & Soul~

Guitarist. Check.

Bassist. Of course.

Drummer. Absolutely necessary.

Keyboards and synth. Why the hell not?

Vocalist. None. And super group Ra:IN doesn’t need one.

Springing from the ashes of bands that arguably made Japanese rock in the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, Ra:IN brings forth a unique creature that modern J-rock enthusiasts may find otherworldly. Names like PATA (X Japan) and D.I.E. (hide with Spread Beaver) might ring some bells in the heads of visual kei fans across the board as the musicians who inspired acts like Dir en grey and the GazettE. More far-reaching metal fans might recognize the names of bassist michiaki (TENSAW) and drummer TETSU.

But Ra:IN’s sound hearkens back even further to the days of rock operas, eight minute solos, and a whole lot of polyester. It was a time when a band could not only do without a vocal melody, but could also get away from the typical verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus that supersaturate just about every pop and rock song released today, good and bad. Most of us (including myself) might be so brainwashed into thinking we’re dependent on the pop-rock formula that we find any disruption in the structure odd or even offensive. And admittedly, I was hesitant.

Bands like Ra:IN need to be seen to be believed when it comes to fully appreciating the breach of our comfort zones. And nothing gives this kind of music a more authentic feel than seeing it up close and personal in the sanctity of a live house.

Ra:IN was one of three legendary acts at Shibuya O-EAST in Tokyo March 27 for FLYING CAT presents SUPER ROCK BOMB ~Hard & Soul~. Along with the Spinal Tap of Japan (Spinal Tap in a good way), SEX MACHINEGUNS, and the band that is hailed as one of the most influential acts of Japanese metal, BOW WOW, Ra:IN was in superb company. After a phenomenally hilarious yet skillful set by SEX MACHINEGUNS in which vocalist and guitarist ANCHANG gushed over the bands that were about to follow them, Ra:IN strolled on stage. Michiaki raised his beer can before strapping on his bass and taking his place in the middle of the stage. PATA came on almost unnoticed if it weren’t for his multi-colored, psychedelic suit. The setup was rather foreign to me, but when I saw several fans raise their drinks and one bold fan start to conduct the introduction music, I knew I was in for a good time.

Almost immediately, there was a sense that this would be different, even contrasting from the sets of their peers performing that night. Without lyrics to mold the audience’s emotions one way or the other, I worried about what would tell me how to feel. I was so used to lyrics bemoaning the ills of the world or describing a beautiful love lost but never forgotten. Was I supposed to rely on my own imagination and feelings based on instrumentals to construct a story like Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf or the cult classic Heavy Metal?

Involuntarily, I did. And the story turned out to be quite metal.

With a menacing wail of the guitar, a heavy metal dragon woke from its slumber to the song “Circle”. Wrought with dreams of destroying man, it broke free from its iron cage, stomping to the rhythm of the bass. The villagers tried to distract the dragon, sending angry wasps conducted by PATA’s precise and impossible guitar solo in “Thrillin’ High”. The villagers cried with D.I.E.’s shrieking synth, but all to no avail. When all hope was lost, a chivalrous knight appeared, bringing light as “Within You” played from the heavens. The battle was long and arduous, but the heavy metal dragon was soon dead. And as the battle-weary soldier dragged his ax into the sunset, the villagers rejoiced to “Bombay Boogie”.

Ok, so I’m no Tolkien. But the whole set was operatic, inciting nothing short of the classic story of good triumphing over evil superimposed on a heavy amount of head banging.

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