On The Verge Of Destruction
Released: 1995, Sony
People talk about globalization and how inter-connected everything is but there are still those regional Metal bands that are so phenomenally huge in their own backyard but never make the jump outside their own borders. Nowhere is this situation more evident than in Japan. X-Japan has sold (according to Wikipedia) over 30 million albums and yet I’d argue that most Metal-heads in North, Central and South America, Europe and Australia have heard very little of this band. The band has been around since the early 80’s and has five studio albums and countless other releases but this is our first review of them here at Metal-Rules.com. I knew of the existence of the band for years, saw pictures of the album covers but that is it. I never read an interview, never saw a video, never heard a song. The first I really got to learn about them was the segment in the Sam Dunn documentary, GLOBAL METAL. I loved that segment and I made a note to check them out. Looking to buy X-Japan studio albums on-line was a challenge as they usually range in price from $50.00 and up, so fiscal realities made me have to wait. A few years later, I finally came across their first Double Live album called ON THE VERGE OF DESTRUCTION.
On January 7th, 1992 the band at the height of their power performed a sold-out show at the Tokyo Dome. Let me put that in perspective. The Tokyo Dome holds 55,000 people. They sold it out. 18 times in a row. That is not just label hype, that is verified. Based on album sales and concert attendance that puts them in the upper 1% of the most successful Metal bands of all time. Let that sink in for a minute! ON THE VERGE OF DESTRUCTION is the first of six Live albums to date.
The packaging of this Live album is an odd (by our standards). It is a double case, about the same size and thickness of a European/north American Triple CD box, but different in design. It comes with two albums covers and a gorgeous 22 page booklet printed on really nice paper. The booklet has an attractive gold and silver design but oddly enough no live photos, and no pictures of the band. It does have printed lyrics that (naturally) betray that the fact that English is not the bands native tongue.
Musically, as is most stuff coming out of Japan is recorded perfectly. 55,000 people sound loud on this album! The crowd is way up in the mix which I like, because it gives you that 'in-your-face' live feel. The band is not afraid to put on a show with drums solos, guitar solos, long ballads and great pacing. The 18 track, two disc album runs for two hours and and 27 minutes! I like how it is the complete show. Often live albums when released edit out the drum solos and inter-song banter, but this was the whole show, uncut. The band is not afraid to stretch out live with many long, long songs including an excellent 16+ minute interlude/drum-solo! It is all there.
The album starts with ‘World Anthem’ which is a giant introductory fanfare with what sounds like all 55,000 people going crazy! The band rips into ‘Silent Jealousy’, the title track from their (at the time) new third album. I like it when a band leads off a live concert with new material, it shows confidence in the new songs. The band goes through the various phases, some fast songs, some ballads and hearing the in between song banter in Japanese adds to the authenticity of the experience. Musically I can’t really compare how the live songs hold up compared to the studio versions, but I like what I hear. The songs are fast, heavy and guitar driven but not afraid to explore the sensitive ballad side of the bands sound. Hearing all of the concert was almost tiring, it is a pretty intense experience. The album has a sub-title, Psychedelic Violence: Crime Of Visual Shock, which sort of explains what happened to my ears. The band ‘Visual Kei’ style (which is fancy name for mixing Glam and Speed metal) is fantastic, and although unique to Japan (until recently) it is a fantastic sound that captures the best of both worlds and the imagination and hearts of Asian Metal fans. The closest I can come to describing the style for those readers who have never heard X-Japan would be a comparison to the hyperkinetic sounds of Racer X or maybe Mr. Big on speed. This is apt because both of those bands are, of course, as the saying goes, huge in Japan.
In a bizarre coincidence, I bought this album on the 22nd Anniversary EXACTLY to the day of this concert. It was my first X Japan release and I was pleased to find this Double Live album, used at a very good price. For a X-Japan rookie like me, this is the perfect start to investigate their catalogue. Even if it will cost me a fortune, based on what I enjoyed hearing ON THE VERGE OF DESTRUCTION, it will be worth it.