Just a few days after I returned to Japan, Tokyo Jupiter Records presented its annual JAPAMOSPHERE event on October 6th, 2019. What better way to kick-off the new dawn of EN.CORE ROCKS than with a fine selection of marvelous music? I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do to get rid of my jet-lag and throw myself back into the pit!
The festival started with the dooming, crushing set of Tokyo Post Black Metal band pale. The bright, cheering afternoon of Shimokitazawa quarter outside the venue doors was challenged the moment the quartet began to play. Visual and audible noise opened the gig, that had the capability of leaving scratches on the audience’s consciousness.
One song seemingly merged into the next with a flickering, abstract video projection being the only light source. At moments, soft, mellow guitar tunes promised a pensive gentleness, which then turned out to be nothing more than a calm before the storm broke loose once again. Describing their music as ›Blackgaze Melancholia‹, pale presented destroying emotions as much as longing sadness.
Of decay and sublime
With tranquil violin tunes, Of decay and sublime followed on the harshness of pale with a serene, recharging peacefulness. Post-Rock guitar waves carried us through the first, about ten minutes long song. The band’s instrumental soundscapes felt welcoming, caring, and tender and allowed the mind to wander.
At some point, I had the impression of walking through an unknown forest, embraced and protected by a splendid armor of music. Gorgeous guitars lead the way, sounding like alluring nymphs. Not missing out on some heaviness either, the drums pushed the music towards the end of the set. With their first EP Psalm, La Mar, which just dropped on October 4th, 2019, Of decay and sublime certainly secured their position on the Post-Rock map.
Vampillia, on the other hand, seem to be set out to create a new register on their own. It’s hard to grasp their style. Calm Post-Rock guitars opened their gig, live violin and keyboard melodies caressed our ears, but all this sweetness was soon smashed with an unyielding sound. The vocalist convinced in the best Hardcore manner, dived right in, and had the audience wrapped around his little finger in no time.
Time and again, soft melodies made you believe that the multi-membered band would offer a break. But only a few beats later, we found ourselves hit by the massive musical body once again. Experimental band Vampillia was wild and aggressive, approachable and emotional. What an experience!
Up next came the first international guest at JAPAMOSPHERE 2019, Swedish Post-Hardcore band Tengil. They played the final of four Japan tour shows and were about to head to China next. Yet, however promising the band sounds on recordings, the gig was quite uninspiring. The rhythm section played surprisingly monotonous and it often seemed like the band rather put on an act instead of actual feelings into their songs.
As a result, the atmosphere Tengil are surely capable of didn’t occur. It’s been a pity since the vocals have a great range from melodious and vulnerable to husky and defying. There might even be a great narrative skill in the lyrics to discover. However, the band regained their spirit and unity halfway through the gig, yet still weren’t fully convincing.
Any reluctance vanished in a blink of an eye when THE OCEAN were about to enter the stage. Their »Konbanwa, Tokyo!« into the dark was enthusiastically welcomed by passionate shouts of the fans, who must have been waiting eagerly for years to experience THE OCEAN live. With exceptional chemistry between audience and musicians, the German Progressive Metal band was all you could wish for in a festival headliner.
They started their vigorous set with a tremendous impact by simply skipping any form of warm-up or building up a connection. Vocalist Loïc Rossetti jumped into the thirsty crowd in the second song, returning over and over again throughout the show. Crowd surfing or kneeling on the audience’s hands, he created a second stage for his piercing presence.
In other songs, vocals and the dominant guitars took a step back, allowing keyboard and drums to build up a carrying atmosphere or bass-heavy tunes to press into the crowd. THE OCEAN gave us everything: Critical notions and crushing riffs, but also some pensive vibes with a stately tempo, all while maintaining their delightful heaviness. They were as intense and deep as the ocean their work evolves around.
It seemed like a dream had come true for the band as well. »20 years THE OCEAN«, said band founder and lead composer Robin Straps in the encore, »and we have never made it to Japan until now.« Beaming of joy, he invited the audience to the band’s solo show at Kōenji HIGH the next day.
The lights went on after the musicians had said their goodbyes, clearly signaling that the event had come to an end. But the audience stayed persistent for minutes until the musicians finally returned, granting us another, unscripted encore song. Utter rapture unleashed once more, eventually leaving the audience in a blissful satisfaction yet still thirsty for more.
Walking towards the station, I felt like I had truly arrived in Japan. It wasn’t until I returned to the Tōkyō live houses that I felt home for real. At the same time, THE OCEAN connected me with my hometown Berlin, uniting both worlds, the East and the West. And then there was that wonderful encore, which reminded me of why we founded EN.CORE ROCKS in the first place. The project is rooted in the passion of music and the gratitude for this incredible feeling of simultaneous saturation and an insatiable hunger for more.
Thus, JAPAMOSPHERE 2019 allowed me to return to the very beginnings and offered the wind to set sails to a new shore. Thanks a bunch! And dear readers, thank you for still being a part of the journey! Let’s continue to shout for encore together, shall we?