Mardelas at Metal Matsuri, London
Marina screams the house down.
One of the oddities of the Japanese heavy metal scene is the continued influence of a band that never quite made it: DESTROSE. Many of the band’s numerous ex-members have gone on to form their own successful groups. A selection of those who found their way through DESTROSE’s revolving door made their way on to the Metal Matsuri bill. First up was singer Marina Hebishii, making her UK debut with her band Mardelas.
Our host for the weekend, the cross-dressing wrestler Ladybeard shared the results of his research for the band’s introduction. To summarise, he discovered that Mardelas are “awesome” and “kick arse”. As Mardelas emerged from backstage, joined by guest keyboardist Mao, the midi violin and choral tune Time of Tribulation - and opening track to their EP Ground ZERO - boomed out as intro music. Mardelas kicked off their set with Apocalypse and Cleopatra, two more songs from the EP.
Marina let rip with a huge scream, giving the audience a taste of what was to come from the singer’s ferociously powerful vocals. As the title might suggest, Apocalypse is all-crunching metal action. Keyboards in heavy metal may bring some head-bangers out in a rash, but it fits the Mardelas style that mixes hard rock and power metal. Cleopatra saw Mao and guitarist Kikyo Oikawa going back and forth in a frantic solo battle, the keyboard line cleverly echoing the sound of the high-speed shredding.
Things calmed down briefly for the intro to Bullseye as Marina switched it up with a soulful vocal, before the heavy, chopping guitars kicked in and the mayhem broke loose again, setting the crowd off head-banging. After this opening salvo, Marina greeted the audience. “We are Mardelas. Konbanwa!” she screamed and the audience yelled back. She kept at it, back and forth, daring the crowd to outshout her, but they couldn’t beat her piercing vibrato. With everybody’s voices warmed up, the crowd were issued singalong instructions for the next song, Rock On! and they gave a good account of themselves for the catchy, old-school rock number.
There was a pause for introductions at the show’s halfway mark and each band member got a moment to impress with a solo, starting with guest keyboardist Mao. Given the need for a quick turnaround between acts, every band at Metal Matsuri used the same drum kit over the weekend. Hideaki "HOT" Yumida added a little touch of his own though. Alongside the cymbals and snare, there was a saucepan that featured in his solo (it sounded like a cowbell, if you’re wondering).
Motoishi Hisayuki, the swaggering hairy pirate of a bassist, spanked out a surprisingly funky solo before Kikyo, foxtail swishing behind him, peeled off an extravagant burst of shredding that won cheers of approval from the crowd.
They headed into the home straight with Redline, a pedal-to-the-metal, full-speed blast of sound. Mardelas then eased off the gas with Phantasia. The song’s gentle piano intro led into a rock ballad that switched to driving heavy metal, showing that Marina can deliver emotion as well as power.
There was time for one quick last word as Marina thanked the crowd for being amazing and hyped them up for the big finish with a raucous scream. The set’s final two songs brought something old and something new: World vs Honour from 2018's Mardelas III and Daybreak from their 2015 debut album Mardelas I. There was plenty of high speed interplay from Mao and Oikawa while Daybreak even dished up some three-way shred action between guitar, bass and keyboards.
Mardelas brought things to a close with a fittingly loud crescendo. Marina’s huge vibrato scream was accompanied by crashing, bashing drums and a final squealing guitar lick. The crowd saw Mardelas off with a huge cheer. Ladybeard wasn’t kidding: awesome and kick-arse indeed.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.