Photography: Evan Clark
Not for republication.
Every time Royz makes their way up to Aomori I’m impressed. I’m impressed by the ever-growing turnout, by the evolution of their sound with each new release, and of course by the boundless energy put to good use on stage. It wasn’t a hard decision to spend Halloween with the band at Quarter knowing that everyone would be in for a good time – and given the holiday, I could only speculate how the live might be different from their typical one-man show.
Before the band took the all-too-familiar stage, a voice came through the PA system posing as staff with announcements to the crowd but it was soon realized that is was none other than Kuina addressing the fans. For a mere couple of minutes he chatted it up and included another member or two before allowing the venue to get back to the atmospheric backtrack that always plays before Royz goes on.
When they did, it was in pairs darting onto the stage before Subaru’s usual solo entrance, and right into the first song they went. “Kuro Ageha”, which tends to appear early on in the set list, was the opener again just as it was at the show in July. Koudai and Kuina in particular put an impressive amount of energy into the song despite it being their first, the latter spending almost the entire song on the front edge of the stage. Red lighting was used in heavy doses, making the band’s crimson costumes glow as they all head-banged together – even Tomoya while he drummed.
“Marble Palette”, the second song, matched the first as one of the band’s oldest in the set, but then things changed. B-sides from the latest single “INNOCENCE” were sprinkled evenly throughout the set list, and the first to appear was “Depression ~Dress to Ring~”. This track fell in line with the band’s recent trend of catchy songs with some serious heaviness to them, though once or twice the track descended into an unexpected handful of all-out death metal sections. Skeptics may argue, but as-played there was no question about the intensity plopped into the middle of the song. Tomoya’s participation continued to impress especially during this number, while Subaru slowed down just slightly, possibly to conserve the energy he was certainly going to need for the rest of the show.
The first MC was short and sweet with the band vowing they have been studying the local dialect since their last trip up north. Then, it was to the song they almost always seem to play at one-mans—and perfectly—“JOKER”. After great audience participation, we were introduced to another “INNOCENCE” B-side.
“SHADOW” begins with a simple bass drum line that quickly turns into something quite complex. Though the song was lower-tempo than most played so far it was laced with brutal “death voice” pieces that led into the chorus and undoubtedly compensated for the difference. The composition of this new song once again gave the impression that Royz is growing up. Focusing on each member’s lines one at a time revealed complexity all-around: instrumental lines that could stand on their own even if they were pulled out of the rest of the song. Subaru’s harsher, lower-than-usual vocals met with these smartly-layered instrumentals to form a song that sounded like multiple genres at once without being jarring.
After the following MC came another showstopper. “Higanbana” blew me away back in July when I heard it for the first time, and it did just about the same this time around. While it’s an absolutely stunning song during which the audience can’t help but stick still in awe, it might have trumped the tour’s title track as the highlight of the show. Its performance was that breathtaking.
By this point in the set it was time to turn the tempo back up. The following songs grew faster, harsher, and had the members turning their energy up to eleven. Kuina and Kazuki began frequenting Subaru’s crate for a little playful interaction, and all stringed instrumentalists threw in some powerful backing vocals for the next several songs. Tonight, there were also more and more tapping sections in the selected songs for Kazuki to power through, oftentimes while head banging all over his side of the stage.
“Heartless” was soon upon us with Subaru killing the high notes while Tomoya peppered skilled drum fills into the verses. And of course, we were treated to even more of Kazuki’s glorious tapping. It was a contrast to the follow-up, softer song, “still”, which filled the venue with the green glow of Royz’s light sticks held by audience members.
The song we had all been waiting for finally reared its head in the home stretch of the set list: “INNOCENCE”. Don’t let the title fool you; the guitar riffs sound like the band took a page from—dare I say—Dir en grey. Royz laid down some serious metal with Kuina and Kazuki as foundation, reinforced by Tomoya’s outstanding double bass drumming on the bridge, not to mention the rest of the song. Without the synthesis on Subaru’s voice that can be heard in the recorded version, even his pure, sweet vocals sounded heavier, stronger.
After the high of the new song we only had two older, familiar tracks to go before the audience was calling for an encore. It was Halloween after all and Royz has something of a reputation for donning costumes any chance they can get.
“This is Halloween”, the famous theme song from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, began to stream through the speakers and the crowd cheered for the band’s reentry. Each member returned in costume: Tomoya as a skeleton, Koudai as a Santa girl, Kuina as a witch, and Kazuki as the happiest Dracula ever. The four then called out for Subaru together, who strolled in (almost) head-to-foot in a huge gorilla costume, carrying the mask under one arm and nibbling on some English toast.
The encore that followed contained a trio of fast-paced songs set to wear the crowd out, along with towel-twirling, dog piles, and more guitar tapping than you could shake a stick at. Subaru’s comically baggy costume bobbed around as he pumped his fist or head banged, and Tomoya’s hood fell in his face but didn’t seem to interrupt his rhythm. They played a solid encore and sprinkled the crowd with water, guitar picks, and drum sticks.
But Royz isn’t a group to clear off the stage quickly. They linked hands for a timed jump with the audience, Subaru finally wearing his gorilla mask much to everyone’s delight. Even though they began to clear equipment after their farewells, they milled around on stage for several minutes entertained instead: while Koudai waved to his fans, Kazuki scooped him up bridal style and threatened to dump in into the crowd. One by one each member filtered out, but Kuina wandered back to his microphone to leave the fans with a parting message, and his hopes to meet again.
1. クロアゲハ (Kuro Ageha)
2. マーブルパレット (Marble Palette)
3. Depression～ドレスとリング～ (Depression ~Dress to Ring~)
6. sweet baby
8. 緋岸花 (Higanbana)
9. Witch in HELL
10. トカレフ (Tokarev)
11. ハートレス (Heartless)
13. ACROSS WORLD
Royz OHP: http://royz.pya.jp/pc/