X JAPAN is oft — and not incorrectly — credited for being the founding fathers of visual kei. But even the greats drew their inspiration from somewhere.
DEAD END was formed in 1984 in Kansai by its three original members who were young adults already somewhat versed in the music industry. The genre movement known as “neo Japametal” was gaining traction and DEAD END made the genre its own, and then some. They slathered themselves in makeup even beyond what other bands dared at the time and veered onto their own path. With their flashy looks, uncategorizable music, and unforgiving attitudes, the legendary DEAD END would soon inspire X JAPAN’s formation and rapid rise to fame. It’s often said that without this band, visual kei very well may not exist today.
Despite skyrocketing popularity, DEAD END’s career was short-lived; they disbanded in 1989 and subsequently shocked the industry with a triumphant return 20 years later, at JACK IN THE BOX SUMMER 2009.
It was only fitting that DEAD END would appear at LUNATIC FEST. They were the last band to rock the Shine Stage on Day 1, serving as sort of an opening act for the big two that were preparing on Moon Stage. A gentle guitar line greeted audience members before the three legends themselves took the stage. Joe and You proudly donned gaudy ’80s garb like they hadn’t aged a day, with raven-like Morrie taking the stage in black gothic fashion, bare-chested beneath his jacket aside from a smear of dark grease paint across his skin.
The set opened the same way the 1989 album ZERO opened, with I WANT YOUR LOVE, a song perfectly reminiscent of ’80s hair metal, and perhaps not just in Japan. Morrie’s voice went well with his looks: sultry and dark, with heavy vibrato akin to a certain ’80s rock icon from the Western hemisphere. You’s showmanship was top-notch; at one moment he took his guitar off to kneel and play with it standing in front of him.
1988’s Psychomania brought a groovy sound to the stage with Joe’s groovy basslines and You’s guitar sounding off like Western musicians of the same era. Sugizo and Ryuichi — kouhai to the band on stage — were called in during the MC that followed to join in on Serafine. Sugizo took to acoustic guitar while Morrie and Ryuichi’s contrasting vocal tones found perfect harmony.
Even as DEAD END carried into the last songs of the night, always at the forefront was Morrie’s swagger and flirty performance. He even threw in some smooth pelvic thrusting during Dress Burning to rile up the ladies in the audience. Joe competed by propping his bass guitar on one knee to all-out jam on his side of the stage.
The final song of the night was unexpectedly heavy. Devil Sleep closed out the set with uncharacteristic growling on Morrie’s part. Fans head banged most of the way through. And though You’s wicked power solo threatened to steal the stage away from Morrie, DEAD END’s vocalist retained his frontman title throughout the set. Regardless of age, regardless of sound or appearance, DEAD END has retained nearly impossible levels of charisma and is sure to keep going strong for a time to come.
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