Sunday, March 15, 2015

Guest Post #1 - Stench of Lust's Joe Henley

March 7th, 2015: Raw Noise Attack @ Okubo Earthdom
with Abigail, Anatomia, Coffins, Terror Squad, Bazoöka, Stench of Lust

I always have a sense of dread about playing in Japan. Not because I don't enjoy it; quite the contrary, in fact. No, it's because bands in Japan, resolutely and without fail, don't fuck around. Bushido is still very much alive and well in the metal bands of the Land of the Rising Sun. It seems they'd rather commit seppuku than put on a half-assed show. So, the pressure is always on in the best possible way. If you want to avoid getting blown off the stage in Japan, you'd best bring your A-game.

I'd been to Japan twice before for short weekend runs, but strangely never played Tokyo. In 2011 I was over with Revilement for a quick three-city tour with our friends in Defiled. That tour was supposed to end in Tokyo. However, the first date of that tour just happened to be March 11th, and if you're reading this blog centered on Japanese heavy metal, chances are you're familiar with the near apocalyptic earthquake that struck the nation that day. Understandably, the Tokyo gig was canceled, though remarkably the Nagoya and Osaka gigs went ahead. Yusuke Sumita of Defiled treated us like family, and was probably more concerned for our safety than we were at the time. I've never forgotten that.

The second time through was just a few months ago, in July of 2014. Makoto of Hiroshima death metal legends Baked Bomb invited Stench of Lust over for Hiroshima Death Fest, and we used that as an excuse to head to Osaka and Nagoya to meet up with friends in Deathtopia and Clandestined for a couple more shows. Through both of those experiences, it was the camaraderie of the Japanese bands that really struck me. Everyone seems to know each other, even if the bands are separated by wide expanses of highway or even inhabit different islands of the archipelago. At Raw Noise Attack Tokyo, this perception was only cemented further.

It didn't help my case of nerves that RNA Tokyo was to feature some of my favorite bands not just from Japan, but of all time. I've been listening to Coffins and Abigail for years, and became a recent convert to the Church of Anatomia when they came over to Taipei late last year. The same goes for Terror Squad, who came to Taipei not all that long ago as well. Getting to meet all these guys, some for the first time, others with whom I'd shared the stage with before, was a true privilege.

We hung out in the bar area of Earthdom in the hours before the gig, some of us having a few drinks, buying up each other's stocks of merch, shooting the breeze. The friendly nature of all the bands on the bill eased my nerves, though the mickey of Johnnie Walker might have helped a bit too. Terror Squad went on first and, as expected, set the bar just about as high as it could go for the remaining bands. Those guys are ageless. I hope they never quit, and why would they? Then it was time for Abigail, and as fast and loose as they play it, I don't think there's a band out there that does blackened punk n' roll any better than they do. Anatomia slowed things down next, and their sludgy brand of death metal is something I find particularly mesmerizing, especially now that they've added some atmospheric synths into the mix. Coffins was up next, and they leveled the place, as expected. Unfortunately I spent the bulk of their set backstage, ostensibly to get warmed up, but really I was just nervous as hell, trying not to throw up.

It's not often I play on a bill where I literally look up to every band. I wondered how our particular brand of goofy slop grind would be perceived in relation to the other bands; how we'd be remembered, if at all. We went for our typical subtle approach in that regard. Nick donned his usual luchador mask, this time complimented by a frilly black tutu he picked up on a drunken walk through Harajuku the night before. He may have also flashed his new tattoo, which happens to be comprised of the numerical “666” on one ass cheek, and “Satan Rules,” on the other. Many have asked, and yes, it is real. As for myself, I figured why not go full Rollins and ditched my clothing for much of the gig, subjecting the masses to more pasty white man flesh than they likely bargained for. Not something I usually do, but hey, we had to stand out somehow. The crowd responded warmly to the 22 songs we blasted through in around 30 minutes. It was a warm first welcome to Tokyo that I immediately couldn't wait to relive.

After the gig all the bands went out together for many more rounds of beer and food, and for me this is always the best part about playing Japan. Sitting around, talking shit, enjoying the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Japanese scene. Japan really, at least in my untrained eyes, seems to have something special going on. Bands support each other. Bands take their craft seriously in the most relentless capacity I've witnessed anywhere during the course of my music-related travels and touring. I can't wait to come back. Arigato gozaimasu, Tokyo. Until we meet again.

*Photos courtesy of Apan Death Studio*




Stench of Lust

Terror Squad


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