Photography: Ku, Chiva, & K
Not for republication.
Saturday, July 14, 2012 –
It’s been three months since we last visited Royz at Aomori Quarter. It’s been only three months, and the ever-active band is already back in action on a countrywide tour, “The Space of ‘6’ HEAVENS”, spurred by their latest single, “Starry HEAVEN” (6.27.2012).
Despite such a short absence from the northernmost prefecture on Honshū, the venue started rapidly filling when the doors opened at 5 p.m., and kept on going until the show would begin at 6 p.m. The atmosphere in the venue was nothing short of high-tension, evidenced by the way the crowd started paying attention and even giving a few cheers when just the slightest sounds of tuning instruments could be heard on the other side of the curtain. Attendance was high for a visual kei live, and was in fact surprisingly higher than their last performance in Aomori in April.
The reason might just be what we witnessed last time – a 2-hour live full of non-stop action and energy from a very flashy, catchy visual band. In the world of rock music, it’s said that there are ‘studio bands’ and ‘live bands’, the former being bands which have a great sound on CD but may not be as impressive live, and the latter being the opposite: bands with a live sound which simply can’t be replicated on CD. Royz is without a doubt of the latter category.
Not surprisingly, when the high-powered SE cued the audience was captivated and joined in clapping loudly to the rhythm. All four instrumentalists entered simultaneously, perhaps to save time or perhaps to intensify the lone entrance of vocalist Subaru at the end, who immediately whipped the crowd into a frenzy of cheers from the moment he set foot on stage.
Subaru was nothing less than a commanding presence for the duration of the live, from start to finish, as he expertly pushed the crowd to cheer or clap or perform some of the band’s more complex furi. When Subaru beckoned, “Jump,” the audience didn’t hesitate. When not flexing impeccably clear vocals, he spent his time directing the crowd and interacting with his band mates, with a shoulder-to-shoulder pose here or a quick hug or kiss there. The band seems to be fairly well-known for these unabashed shows of affection and the fans eat it right up.
Royz’s opening songs were markedly active, upbeat, and generally cheery, though frequently laced with heavier sections. The first track, “Kuro Ageha”, was a powerful foot to on which to start. However, the fourth in the set, “cherry tree”, seemed to be a comparatively mellow song until reaching a harsh, head-bang-inducing double-bass section out of nowhere.
After the first playful MC and continuation of the set it was hard not to wonder how the band did not yet appear to have broken a sweat. Bassist Koudai in particular put such fervor into his head-banging and bobbing around stage that at any given time his head was little more than a pink blur, not to mention the fingers on his frets. And yet his energy seemed to stay as strong as his bass lines throughout.
“Prominence” was the next notable song, played just before a very short MC break, and the band did quite a good job of getting the most out of the audience before that break. The song began with Subaru motioning the crowd into what’s sometimes referred to as a ‘dog pile’ – audience members rushed the stage to pile and push up against each other, compressing the depth of the front rows of the crowd into a fraction of what it had been. Along with this, arguably the most vicious furi one would experience at a Royz live, the song itself was harsh, calling for backing shouts from all four instrumentalists to support Subaru, head-banging away on his crate at center stage.
Speaking of instrumentalists, Kuina and Kazuki, the respective lead and rhythm guitarists, together are one of the most alluring parts of seeing Royz live. Despite the fact that they generally play in very different styles no matter the song, their sections fit together beautifully, making up a large part of Royz’s characteristic style. Not only are their musical styles complementary, but their performances are as well. Kazuki played this live with a smile almost constantly on his face, hidden only from time to time when his head angled away during a solo. That isn’t to say that anyone was deprived of Kuina’s smile, but he, like Koudai, played so actively that he nearly knocked his microphone stand over at one point. These two really complete Royz’s sound and showmanship at every live.
The new song “Starry HEAVEN” came tenth in the set and was performed with enthusiasm from the band and the crowd alike. “joker” and “NOAH”, both fairly new and well-received songs, followed after to pack a solid lineup in the middle of their set.
“Ao Renge” and “Higanbana” were the next striking tracks played and, in my personal opinion, the highlight of the show. “Ao Renge” is an older album-only track with an unusually somber feel for a Royz song. It was slow and heartfelt, perhaps even sad, and the ever-lively members slowed down in their staging to suit the mood. Somewhere in the middle came a guitar duet – something of a rarity in Royz’s compositions – with breathtakingly complementary guitar lines played from each member’s own side of the stage. The set changed gears completely when “Higanbana” started and flooded the venue with an opposing intensity that such a ballad-like song couldn’t hold a candle to. “Higanbana” is a new B-side from “Starry HEAVEN”, though it could have been its own single. It was so heavy it only faintly sounded like the Royz we know, or rather, proof of the continual evolution of just that same Royz. This song, too, included a guitar duet, though a harsh and menacing one, as well as powerful vocals from Subaru which had the crowd at a standstill, perhaps out of respect, and perhaps in awe.
The regular set concluded with older favorites like “AREA” and left the crowd hungering for more before the members had even completely cleared the stage. As we’ve come to expect from Royz, when they did return for their encore, they engaged the audience in a long talk in which they wielded words of the locale’s dialect to amuse the attendees. There was a little poking and prodding, teasing and laughing, and then the band got to the last songs – with towels tied over their heads. Subaru sported a scarf decorated with words from the local dialect, whereas the other members simply used their band towels.
“ACROSS WORLD” was the final song Royz treated us to. All of the members, including Tomoya who was tucked away behind his drum kit, gave it their all until the end. Even the blonde drummer’s radiant smile could be seen anytime he wasn’t obstructed from view by one of his ever-in-motion band mates.
With a live presence many in the indies scene could learn from and an apparent, genuine love for what they do, Royz is virtually guaranteed to continue pulling in bigger and bigger crowds. I said it before and I’ll say it again – don’t just take my word for it. Get out there and see these guys for yourself.
1. クロアゲハ (Kuro Ageha)
2. sweet baby
4. cherry tree
7. プロミネンス (Prominence)
8. Reve story
10. Starry HEAVEN
13. 蒼蓮花 (Ao Renge)
14. 緋岸花 (Higanbana)
15. witch in the HELL
16. トカレフ (Tokarefu)
EN1 マーブルパレッテ (Marble Palette)
EN2 Autocracy~ワルツとナイフ~ (Autocracy~Waltz to Knife~)
EN3 ACROSS WORLD
Royz’s latest single, “Starry HEAVEN”, is easily attainable through CDJapan and other such international vendors.