Review Summary: A magnificent translation from studio to live, Immortal is absolutely everything a fan of the band could possibly want.
2015’s I Am Mortal
, the lovechild of five accomplished musicians within the J-rock and visual-kei scenes, was (and remains to be) an absolute treat for fans of goth rock and post-punk. However, sitting (albeit loosely) within the visual-kei bracket means applying the music to, surprisingly, a visual representation outside
of an album’s packaging and marketing – and an album of I Am Mortal
’s complexity, one would think, would be hard to recreate in a live setting. The huge amount of effect play, supposèd layering and compositional nuances would, surely, have created a monolithic task for all concerned; for the band themselves, creating the music outside of studio jiggery-pokery; for the sound technicians, who would have to ensure the mixing was just so
, ensuring no instrument shouted too loudly over another; even for the event recorders, capturing the visuals as if one was there, while ensuring the sound is possibly even clearer. Amazingly, Immortal
rises above all odds, showcasing the live experience Immortal
deserved to those unfortunate enough not to be there.
For one thing, the music comes across with complete lucidity - impressively for a live performance, at any given point it’s possible to pick out any instrument being played. Vocalist Atsushi Sakurai is in his element, clearly relishing the opportunity to step in the footsteps of many of his heroes. His ability to flip between boisterous, full-throated power and heart-tugging vulnerability in both studio and live settings is well documented, yet it's wonderful to see him soak up the gloomy atmospheres with such passion, gesticulating and interacting with other members and the crowd like a gothic lord. Immortal
also offers a fascinating insight into guitarist Jake Cloudchair’s experimental streak. One can see him working in the background, switching between frantic shoegaze strumming, artsy fingerpicking, and on at least one occasion engaging in some theatricity of his own with an illuminated violin bow and his signature (frankly frightening) extensive pedalboard usage.
Normally, a band chooses to save one or two big hitters for an encore – something to get the crowd re-energised, leading to that feeling of gleeful exhaustion when the band says their final farewells. As it happens, The Mortal
choose to go almost in the opposite direction. Starting with three covers from their EP Spirit
, they pay homage to key influences of theirs (The Damned’s ‘Shadow of Love’, Siouxsie and the Banshees’ ‘Cities in Dust’, and Bauhaus’ ‘Spirit’) while implanting their own spin on them, to the point of translating some lyrics to Japanese. Instead of feeling bombastic, it feels very intimate, personal even; the refrain of ‘we love our audience’ at the end of ‘Spirit’, for example, is coupled with the band coming to the lip of the stage, arm in arm, singing to their cheering masses in unison.
is captivating in terms of its visual impact too. Lighting is used to maximum effect; cold, illuminating blues are used alongside dim pinks as a matter of course, bringing to mind bleak, seedy industrial zones (particularly alongside the scaffolding adorning the backstage) as easily as they do seraphic, achingly beautiful backdrops. There are some striking, more specific effects too – opener ‘Tenshi’ features an engulfing ‘light triangle’, which changes from mere wisps to blood-red coils as the track reaches fever pitch, while the haunting lead-up to ‘Hallelujah!’ makes use of empyreal beams on each member to create the desired, ‘divine’ atmosphere (only serving to make the track’s connotations to cannibalism even more horrific). Arguably the most affecting, however, is the stage shrouded in oceanic blue for main closer ‘Sayonara Waltz’; the delicate guitar and Sakurai’s trembling delivery are gifted the quality of a lullaby by the twinkling, cool milieu the lighting provides. One can also see semblances of nods towards their post-punk and goth ancestors in its camerawork, particularly in the post-production additions. Strewn throughout are cuts from the show, altered to look as though they’re straight from a knackered VCR with their white lines and granular, muted colours, and several shots presented in high-contrast black-and-white hark back to dingy goth videos from the 1980s.
sits in a sparsely-populated field of lives which are both aurally and visually (nigh-on) perfect. From the staunch appreciation of theatrics during the show itself, to the more relaxed air of its encores and the visual and musical nods throughout, one feels as though it’s as much for the band itself as it is for their adulators. It being unlikely that The Mortal will ever produce another album, Immortal
is also one-of-a-kind – a vignette of a band who, while possibly far too short-lived, came together in that one glorious moment to produce something truly exceptional. Bittersweet, yes, but in a way this makes it more poignant; and to be honest, I’m not sure how they could top it anyway.