There was a time when the only time you saw anything of Japanese culture was when Chris Tarrant was showing us yet another excerpt from that crazy gameshow Endurance. As far as we knew, the Japanese spent all their time put eels down their pants while simultaneously building cars we don’t like, making films about giant moths taking over the world, and playing guitar in a very strange looking and sounding Beatles covers bands.
It was the Beatles covers bands that concerned me the most. It appeared for some time that the Japanese could only take elements of Western Culture and copy it badly. Mind you, they took that idea and sold it back to the West in the form of Karaoke, that’ll teach us for taking the piss out of their game shows.
Of course this view of Japan is entirely misguided – if anything Japan’s musicians are creating some of the most beautiful and innovative music in the world at the moment. There are so many examples from .Boredoms, and Melt Banana, through Susumu Yokota’s ambient electronica, all the way to Merzbow’s disintegration of music as we know it.
The Mad Capsule Markets have established themselves as Japan’s biggest metal band, and this live album ably demonstrates why. There’s twenty tracks here, each of them taking Fear Factory‘s industrialized take on the heavier side of metal and totally updating it. If David Cronenberg made a movie about a band, then Mad Capsule Markets would have to provide the soundtrack. They fuse metal’s traditional elements (overdriven guitars, growled vocals, and bass drums that could break ribs) with samples and inhuman blips and squeals. It’s a perfect coming together of man and machine.
Unlike Fear Factory, Mad Capsule Markets do have a habit of adding some pretty quaint pop hooks to their songs. Good Girl � Dedicated to the Bride 20 Years After, and All The Time in Sunny Beach have choruses that would not be out of place on a Beach Boys album. Of course these choruses are sat directly next to hulking great slabs of metal. It’s the kind of mix that you would find a lot of metal bands shying away from. If anything it’s this juxtaposition in their songs that make Mad Capsule Markets such a great band.
As an album this is a pretty comprehensive �best of’ effort, for the uninitiated it’s a pretty good starting point. Live recordings can disappoint with iffy quality and poor mixing, but that’s not the case here. If anything some of the songs benefit from the live treatment, speeding along with what some might call �more intensity’.
The accompanying DVD that comes with the record shows just how massive Mad Capsule Markets are in their native Japan, as they play to an enormous crowd at Zepp, Tokyo. Put it this way, they have a light show that would make Pink Floyd weep, and if you wanted to, you could buy Mad Capsule Markets action figures. Of course at the moment they are relatively unknown over here, but the strength of the material on 020120 should start to make a few waves.