The Queens of Metal reign supreme.
While heavy metal is normally regarded as a sweaty, hairy, blokey sort of genre, the headliners of the
first day of Metal Matsuri were the all-female metal band Mary’s Blood. Though they’re one of the longest running acts in Japan’s ‘girls metal’ scene, slightly surprisingly it’s taken more than ten years for them to get
around to performing in Europe. So, October 4th, 2019 was a pretty big day for Mary’s
Blood. They made their European debut with the Metal Matsuri headline slot, which coincided with the European release of their new album CONFESSiONS and to top it all off, it was lead guitarist Saki’s birthday
Mary’s Blood were one of five all-female groups at Metal
Matsuri. While some UK music festivals complain of their inability to put together line-ups that meet the target of 50/50 male and female representation, Metal Matsuri assembled a two-day festival where almost two thirds of its
performers were female. Refreshingly, nobody made a big fuss about it. Everybody was just there to enjoy the music.
Even though Mary’s Blood had a new album to plug, their set took a full spin through their back
catalogue, featuring tracks drawn from all five of their albums. Metal might be their thing, but they’ve always felt free to try other styles, and the first half of their set showcased their eclectic taste and flexible approach to making
Opener Bite the Bullet was the expected metal sound, but On the Rocks was a bluesy rock number, with raw, smouldering vocals delivered by Eye. HIGH-5, a new track from CONFESSiONS, got the crowd
bouncing with a dose of upbeat Ramones-style pop punk, which even finished with a singalong break.
The pop rock of Hanabi was followed up by the rock ballad Infinite Love. As they whisked through their opening five songs fans saw Eye’s range and power, switching from her hard rocking, rasping vocals
to the soulful emotion of Infinite Love. Proving that a true artist can turn their hand to anything, lead guitarist Saki saved the full-on shredding for later and her playing assumed the character of each of the songs, taking
on laid back blues, raucous pop-punk and an elegant rock ballad with equal ease.
There was a pause for Eye to greet the crowd and give the new album a plug before she let everybody know that it was Saki’s birthday, which set off
an impromptu and somewhat rough and ready rendition of Happy
Birthday from the crowd. They got back to it with Change the Fate, which set the tone for the second half of the show, a full-on metal blast.
It hardly seems fair to call Yashiro a support guitarist.
Much in demand, the unofficial “fifth member” of Mary’s Blood has performed alongside many varied acts, including another Metal Matsuri band, the steampunk-themed FATE
GEAR, as well as having her own solo career. She spent the first half of the set unassumingly tucked away to the left of the stage, complementing Saki’s lead lines. Then it was her turn to step into the spotlight and
flash some of her skills as Change the Fate ripped along at a breakneck speed and Moebius Loop saw Yashiro join Saki for a shred-tastic dual guitar solo. Fans of Japanese music are spoilt, really,
with the abundance of top notch guitarists plying their trade, but it was still a rare treat to see a duo like them matching each other in perfect harmony.
Eye and Rio hyped the crowd up, getting a chant going for Marionette and the fan favourite kicked off. Saki might have been wearing a swish cocktail dress, but it didn’t stop her headbanging like maniac. By
contrast, the rhythm section of the impossibly cool bassist Rio and drummer Mari was almost serene.
Counter Strike was a dose of their trademark superfast metal and the swan-like Mari hammered out the high-speed beats, calm and unruffled but going fifteen to the dozen below the surface.
They finished the main set
with Take a Chance, and it’s fair to say that Mary’s Blood indeed took their chance, leaving the Metal Matsuri crowd well impressed.
The encore chants started up and it wasn't long before Mary’s Blood reappeared, this time wearing their band t-shirts. Eye filled the crowd in on how they came up with their band name thanks to the Bloody Mary cocktail
and how, when they found out the drink was inspired by Queen Mary, they decided they wanted to be beautiful, brave women, just like Queen Mary, and who could argue with that?
These Queens of Metal paid tribute to their British fans with a cover
of Queen’s I Was Born to Love You, which was an unexpected surprise that went over well, before they finished with Arcadia from CONFESSiONS. It was a fitting end to Metal Matsuri’s first day, a surprisingly
varied bill of rock and metal bands, as Mary’s Blood absolutely nailed their headline set and intriguingly, promised they’d be coming back to the UK in the future.
01. Bite the Bullet
07. Change the Fate
08. Moebius Loop
11. Take a Chance
I Was Born to Love You