Drums/Piano:
Yoshiki




Guitar:
Hide




Vocals:
Toshi




Guitar:
Pata



Bass:
Heath

X Japan is the one of the few rock bands in the world that can unquestionably be referred to as legendary. Quite possibly among the last of the larger-than-life rock bands of the 20th century, X Japan practically inspired a whole new generation of Japanese musicians. The most credited as the ones who helped give rise to the visual kei movement in Japanese popular music with their unique use of makeup, multi-coloured gravity-defying hair, outlandish outfits, and dramatic stage antics combined with hard hitting rock and awe inspiring ballads.

Their style could be described as classical metal. They mix highly epic and moving orchestral music with pure heavy metal madness. Many of their songs are beautiful ballads while the other half are heart racing rock anthems. The rest are a combination of both. Such duality in their music is is why even though they're a heavy metal band, they've achieved such widespread success in the mainstream. Still, no matter if the song is slow or hard, every song they play is a production of epic proportions. It's a style not unlike heavy metal of the late 70's and early 80's which all of its members grew up listening to. So even when they started out, their sound was starting to sound a bit retro by North American standards, but still increadible music like this is timeless.

All of the members are great artists in their own right. There's the square-jawed vocalist Toshi who has a somewhat raspy yet harmonious voice. His voice perfectly fit those early heavy metal songs that made X famous.

The pink-haired guitarist Hide who is the lead guitarist is a fan favorite with his fun-filled guitar playing skill and wicked sense of visual style. In my mind he is one of the greatest musical minds in the history of rock music (for more information on hide, check out my hide page).

Pata the rhythmic guitarist is much less flamboyant than the others prefering a more standard American rock style but is nevertheless one of the greats and a match for Hide's skill.

The bassist used to be Taiji who became one of the most revered bass players in Japan. His vision was very different than that of the band and his style was becoming increasingly reminiscent of American bands like Bon Jovi and Guns n' Roses. There came a point where Taiji did not agree with the direction X was heading at all and this caused many problems. I believe a turning point came after he went on hiatus for a few months and soon after left the band.

Heath, the bassist who replaced him, is excellent, but he's not regarded as highly as Taiji was. But that was back in '92 and Heath had been with X for pretty long while. I really believe he had shown his mettle. In all honesty, the bass of X Japan's music has always been rather tame, especially after Taiji. But I think that has more to do with the way most of the rock songs are written with lead guitars in mind and little consideration to bass.

Finally then there's the band leader Yoshiki, the mastermind behind most of their sound. Yoshiki plays a dual role on drums and piano. He's also the main composer of the majority of X Japan songs. He's a man so androgynous and and slender that you'd think he came straight out of a shoujo manga series. He looks frail by his mannerisms and appearance, but can really go into a berserk rage on the drums and alternately play with quiet passion on piano. He's really a melodramatic ham on stage which is an unusal match with Hide's crazy flamboyance. There are very few artists I respect as much as Yoshiki and wouldn't hesitate to call him a genius. He can often be an egomaniac and I don't agree with all of his career choices, but still I have treMendos respect for him as an artist.

In all of the years they have been together, if you don't count their indie stuff, they've really only released three major albums. Sure, there have been mini-albums, various special releases and their two indie albums, but esentially still only three major albums. But quality and not quantity is what has earned them such a die-hard following. Every song they've ever created is a masterpiece of modern rock. Also X Japan is more of an ensemble of great artists than a single unified group. Apart from their time as X Japan, throughout the years the members would take frequent hiatuses. During any down time they had, the members would concentrate on their own solo careers. The solo works are also very good and go to show what an integral part each member plays within the band.

X was a very visual band, but as the years went by, their look gradually evolved into something more normal. Toshi and Yoshiki cut their hair, the guys would stop wearing makeup and opted for a more regular rock fashion style, such as sunglasses, leather pants and the like. Even though he didn't look as odd as he once did, Hide is really the only one of them who kept a visual look going with his big pink (or red) hair and wild clothing. But I think the whole change is mostly a sign of maturation. Visual kei is fun for a while, but not everyone can keep it up for so many years without it getting tiresome.

Have you noticed that I've been writing most of this page in the past tense? This is because today X Japan is no more. Throughout the later half of X Japan's existance, the members began spending more and more of their efforts on their solo careers rather than the band and this lead to several internal problems. As of September 22, 1997 X Japan officially annouced their disbandment after more than a decade in the spotlight, but the breakup was an amicable one.
They played their final concert on New Years Eve of 1997. Chances for reunion are non-existant now that Hide is dead, Toshi has rejected the band and joined a cult and Yoshiki has given up drumming. Even so, we must realize that X Japan gave us fifteen years of awesome music to remember. For that the fans should be very thankful. Even now Yoshiki is still active in the music industry, but rather as a producer behind the scenes. Hopefully we will continue to see Yoshiki continue to create great music as he always has and perhaps one day return to the forefront.

Notes:

- You anime fans will probably recognize the name of X Japan from CLAMP's "X" anime movie. They allowed their single "Forever Love" to be used as the movie's ending theme.

- X Japan used to be called just "X" before they had the name changed around 1992. This was partly because they wanted to be more of an international band. But also I think the name was a reflection of the treMendos changes the band had undergone. They had changed bassists from Taiji to Heath, their music style was starting to mature and their image was changing from a somewhat demonic motorbike punk image to a more romantic one.

- X was actually formed back in 1982 by Yoshiki and Toshi when they were 12 years of age. They were a pretty popular teenage band becoming well known in heavy metal circles. It wasn't until 1987 that they released their first major single.


X, the glory days

 

Mason's Favorite Album
Blue Blood


This album, released over a decade ago as X's debut into the mainstream music scene was probably the most influential album to the current visual rock industry ever made. When today's visual rock stars are asked what albums had the greatest impact on their lives, Blue Blood is the name that comes up the most often. Although visual rock was around before this and would still be around today, it wouldn't be nearly as popular as it is if this album was never made. It's a great album of epic feel in the spirit of American glam metal bands of the past, only better. It contains their increadible first major single Kurenai which I consider one of the greatest metal songs of all time. Their second single is the ballad Endless Rain, which would pave the way for a slew of other ballads later on in X's career, was the huge hit that made X a household name. A beautiful piano ballad with an epic rock feel that appealed to both old and young alike and became a favorite for karaoke. The third single off the album Week End is an equally worthy rock song to the first two and is likewise one of their most famous hits. Other than its famous singles, all of the songs on this album are classics. One of my all-time favorites Rose of Pain is a 12 minute epic rock song that is not quite hard rock, not quite a ballad. It's somewhere in between and quite dark. It uses some wonderful hollow Spanish guitar stylings, strings orchestra and organ music that give it a gothic feel. The melody is unforgettable. Strangely I don't hear fans talking much about this song, but I feel it's one of their best. Could have been a single if it wasn't so long. Songs like Easy Fight Rambling and Celebration are more fun metal songs that break up all of the doom and gloom of the other songs. Of course it has a bunch of great head banging shouting metal songs like Blue Blood, Orgasm and X which is a theme song of sorts for the band. Xclamation is a nice two part guitar and bass solo courtesy of Hide and Taiji. They also threw in the World Anthem which used to be the instrumental piece they played at the start of each live show. The album is nicely ended by the second ballad Unfinished (which really was left unfinished in their previous indie album). Blue Blood mixes in the ballads nicely which are sparse and nestled at the right points between the dominant rock songs. This is as it should be since it adds a moment of serene beauty to the madness of the other songs. Not like their last album Dahlia which had five ballads. Ballads start losing their weight after having too many at once. I wish they kept things like they were with this album.


(1989/6/30)

1. Prologue (~World Anthem)
2. Blue Blood
3. Week End
4. Easy Fight Rambling
5. X
6. Endless Rain
7. Kurenai
8. Xclamation
9. Orgasm
10. Celebration
11. Rose of Pain
12. Unfinished



Mason's top 25 favorite X songs

1. Kurenai (midi sample)
2. Art of Life
3. Rose of Pain
4. Sadistic Desire
5. Silent Jealousy
6. Scars (midi sample)
7. Tears (midi sample)
8. Standing Sex
9. Rusty Nail (midi sample)
10. Endless Rain
11. Week End
12. Alive
13. X (midi sample)
14. Phantom of Guilt
15. Blue Blood
16. Miscast
17. No Connexion
18. Voiceless
19. Celebration
20. Forever Love
21. Dahlia

22. Say Anything

23. Vanishing Love
24. Orgasm
25. Crucify My Love

X Japan Links

TEAM V-S ~ Metal Zone - X Japan
Amethyst Purple
Yoshiki's X Japan
X Japan...Forever
Muchan's X Japan
Mark's Page: X Japan
Keiko & Korogi's X Japan
La page franšaise d'X-Japan (French)