What intrigues me so much about Sukekiyo is the band’s total rejection of classification. One song can transport the listener from airy, soothing piano through utter darkness and chaos, punctuated with spine-chilling whispers and screams. They are not just rock, they are not just metal- their music is soul-penetrating, spiritual, and beautiful- in its own twisted way. On September 18th in London’s O2 Academy Islington, a couple of hundred lucky listeners were treated to a staggering seventeen track long concert, showing off just how versatile the band is live on stage.
Starting from pitch black, the gig was rarely lit brightly enough to see the members clearly, keeping a strong sense of mystery throughout. Purples, blues and greens dominated, with shocks of red casting shadow across enigmatic vocalist Kyo’s face when he screamed. Beginning from the atmospheric ‘destrudo’, ‘aftermath’, and ‘elizabeth addict’, the band picked up the pace with ‘latour’. Moving effortlessly from traditional instruments to electric, often playing very different styles from song to song, the band felt like an unyielding creative force, working as a team on stage.
That said, Kyo tended to completely immerse himself in the music, often to the point of staggering about the stage as though nobody else was there- and yet each member was clearly watching the others. As the songs grew heavier and more chaotic, at last the audience (which had been stood, awed and static) began to move around. Tracks like ‘nine melted fiction’, with its fantastic dual guitar action, and ‘the daemon’s cutlery’, saw the setlist through its first section, before a short intermission and a surprise for fans- a new song!
Up next came the creepy ‘scars like velvet’, and ‘zephyr’ with its catchy riff and stronger sense of rhythm- which was welcome, as Sukekiyo’s songs can begin to blend together through their winding vocals and ever-changing rhythms. ‘zephyr’ held the audience captivated, with Kyo hitting some beautiful top notes, but it took ‘hidden one’ to get everyone really moving again, with a loudly sung (or shouted) chorus filling the O2 Academy to the rafters.
The guitar-led ‘hemimetabolism’ then took the mood almost into a hallucinogenic stupor, once again freezing us all to the spot, as the vocal exploded into experimental, often out-of-control patterns of screaming, crying, hissing, breathing and occasionally singing. So by the time the haunting piano of ‘uyuu no sora’ hit our ears, everyone had completely lost contact with the outside world. Looking down from the balcony as I was, the crowd seemed transfixed, barely headbanging or throwing themselves around at all! Signs of life reappeared when the opening cry of ‘vandal’ shot through our eardrums, and realizing the setlist might be drawing to an end, the energy levels rose through ‘madaraningen’, ‘304 goushitsu, shita to yoru’, and ‘kugui’. To finish off the main setlist, the band enchanted their fans with the emotional and faster-paced ‘mama’, after which Kyo left the stage. A lengthy session followed, with the instrumentalists playing off each other and building up some excitement for the finale. When Kyo returned, Sukekiyo played ‘in all weathers’ to round off an incredible concert.
With almost no audience interaction, Sukekiyo certainly puts on a show like no other. It was like looking in on a secret performance- a long session of jamming and creating- and it was fantastic. Each of the members brings his own style into the mix, resulting in the unidentifiable yet hypnotizing music that saw the band complete a successful first European tour- here’s hoping it’s only the first of many.
Words by Lauren du Plessis