ACEN Live Review: Aural VampireMay 23, 2010
What does Anime Central mean to me? The only time of the year I get to see live music. And do otaku stuff. So when I heard they got Aural Vampire to perform, I was exited to see another Japanese band live even if I never heard of them. What better way to celebrate ACEN’s thirteenth anniversary. I guess vampires are in.
Aural Vampire is a Gothic electronic darkwave synthpop band who just released their debut major label album ZOLTANK via avex. They consist of Exo-Chika on vocals and RAVEMAN on electronics. They arrived on stage twenty minutes late in a barrage of seizure-inducing flashing lights. Exo-Chika donned a blood-stained white gown with prosthetic fangs and pigtails down to her waist while RAVEMEN came in leather, a cowboy hat, and a flashing helmet ala Daft Punk.
Blood stains aside (later she changed into a black gothic lolita dress), Exo-Chika was your typical J-pop idol. Vocals were in line with Oricon chart toppers and her dance moves were off just enough to make everyone think she was cute. For a vampire, I found myself thinking “kawaii” more than “ew.” But who knows, maybe the lyrics are about axe murderers and boys that sparkle like diamonds in the sunlight. Overall she was a decent frontwoman, even if her English was bad (both times she tried to introduce the band, RAVEMAN had to cut her off to mask the awkward silence).
RAVEMAN is kind of an enigma. And not just because of his mask. He spent about a third of the performance walking around with a joystick-synthesizer board, doing his best Omadaka impression. The rest of the time he spent walking around like a sick puppy dog–sometimes imitating Exo-Chika’s dance moves, or hovering over her shoulder, or just watching the rolling video behind him. I don’t think I saw him at his laptop station for more than two minutes. It’s a shame because his beats were far more interesting than the vocals. Exo-Chika gave him a great opportunity to show his stuff when she walked off stage to change. This was the moment to show off his DJ skills. But what does he do? Invite zombie cosplayers from the crowd onstage and film them (hey, I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera in). I would’ve liked to see him work his instruments more. I could set a boom-box on stage and stand around, too.
For a pair of people who have performed together since high school, I expected a little more chemistry on stage. It seemed like they spent more time ignoring each other. I guess vampires and “butchers” don’t mix.
Their music is not as creepy as you would think. I did enjoy their techno vibe and RAVEMAN’s beats had more than one middle-aged gentleman in the crowd pumping his fists. Exo-Chika’s vocals clicked for me later on when I listened to the CD. My favorite songs that I remember they played are “Freeeeeze!” and “Hot Blood Workout.” I also enjoyed their encore performance of “PNFPN” that featured strange video of a goat in the background. There was also one more song with a rap in it that I couldn’t find on either of their albums. The only reason I remember that song is because of RAVEMAN’s obvious lip sync fail when he tried to rap into the bottom end of a flashlight and gave up mid sentence.
Overall I was disappointed by their stand-offish stage presence. They came off as more awkward than frightening. I did watch some live videos on YouTube when I came home, and they definitely looked more into it than they did at ACEN. I’m hoping it’s because they just had a long weekend and not because avex crushed their souls. On their own, RAVEMAN is a great DJ and Exo-Chika could have a successful solo career (RAVEMAN already has Futon Disco). Their album sounds great, but I had to wonder why they were together on stage.
In any case, I did buy their CD after the show and got it signed. I’ve played it on repeat for the past week so I guess I like it.
Aural Vampire played on May 14 and 15 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, IL.