ZEROSHIKI at Metal Matsuri, London
Veteran metal band ZEROSHIKI kick off Metal Matsuri.
After more than a year in the making Metal Matsuri finally got underway at Islington’s O2 Academy. The first event of its kind outside of Japan, it saw ten Japanese metal acts perform across two days. It had never been done before, perhaps because nobody had been mad enough to take such a task on, but organisers Orion Live pulled it off and assembled a diverse line-up of groups from across the Japanese metal scene’s broad spectrum.
The honour of opening the festival went to twenty-year metal veterans ZEROSHIKI. Bass player Mugi is the sole remaining original member from the band he formed back in 1998, Hyakushiki. Changing
line-ups seems to be the curse of the Japanese music industry and in 2005, he renamed the group
ZEROSHIKI, signifying that they were starting again from zero. The core of the band is Mugi, guitarist Shou, who is known as ‘Chocchi’, and lead singer Dai, and the rest of the line-up is filled by support
Matsuri, and the quick two-date tour of Europe that followed, they were joined by drummer Hikari and guitarist Toki.
Our host for the weekend, the all-singing, all-dancing, cross-dressing, wrestling celebrity Ladybeard introduced the festival and openers ZEROSHIKI with his usual boundless enthusiasm and humour. If a strapping great hulk of bearded, pig-tailed wrestler dressed in a ‘kawaii’ pink maid's outfit demands you have fun, you really have no choice in the matter.
ZEROSHIKI kicked off the show with Reunion, which had more of a post-hardcore vibe to it than one would expect to open a heavy metal festival. Dai is not your typical metal singer either. He’s a still and stoic figure on stage, barely moving from his spot in the centre as he delivers clean, emotional vocals – none of your death metal screaming here. The crowd was restrained in its polite, head-bobbing-not-quite-banging. Maybe they were just not ready to rock at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon; maybe they were all still feeling a little bleary eyed after the VIP party the previous evening.
At the risk of stealing ZEROSHIKI’s thunder it’s worth commenting on the Metal Matsuri VIP event. The subject of VIP packages probably deserves an article in its own right, discussing their value (or serious lack thereof) as many gig VIP deals seem like little more than cynical cash grabs. Without naming any names, they’re often poorly organised and all you get for your money is a quick “handshake – next!” experience before being hustled out the door clutching your bag of cheap and tatty merchandise. Metal Matsuri’s organisers, Orion Live, perhaps sensing this unsatisfying trend, instead went all out, offering a VIP package worth the name.
It’s the VIP’s additional contributions that make this sort of event financially viable, and it was good to see fans treated as valued participants, rather than mere wallets to be plundered. As their reward, Orion hired out a bar in London’s West End and threw a party for all the bands and the VIP punters. Everybody had the chance to chat with the musicians and get first dibs on the merchandise, while host Ladybeard put on a DJ set that resulted in some impromptu karaoke from band members as their own tunes came on. Everybody seemed to have had a good time – even the band member hoisted aloft by Ladybeard while he was showing off a few wrestling moves – and hopefully this event sets the bar for others to reach in future.
Moving back to the show, ZEROSHIKI dialed up the heaviness with In Flames and Frontier. The crowd responded to the more aggressive sound, livening up and starting to jump around. Mugi jumped around more than anybody. The barefoot bassist hopped about the stage, head-banging and flipping his long tailed hair all over the place.
Then the band's latest single Rou got an outing, giving Hikari a chance to shine. He let rip with some epic high-speed drumming. Chocchi took a moment to show the band’s appreciation, both for the chance to be a part of Metal Matsuri and for the crowd’s response to their set. He paused briefly, maybe having a bit of an emotional moment, before repeating his gratitude. It was a common theme that ran through the weekend. Every band was thrilled to have the opportunity to perform in London; a chance that a few of them might have thought would never come their way.
ZEROSHIKI finished their set with Zero and they headed off stage to their well-earned applause. Opening an event like Metal Matsuri might be an honour, but it can also be a tough task. Their manful effort got things going on the right foot, particularly given some of the last-minute logistic, transport and sound issues that there were to contend with.Set list
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LIPSTICK, Mardelas, Mary's Blood, Rie a.k.a. Suzaku, ZEROSHIKI
O2 Academy Islington
The Metal Matsuri headliners talk about their new album "CONFESSiONS" and plans for the future.