We Are X is a new documentary about ultra mega superstar metal band, X Japan. Never heard of them? Well, to say they’re big in Japan would be an understatement. Having sold 30 million singles and albums combined since starting in the early 80s, these guys are the biggest band in Japan ever.
The film explores the origins of the group, its tumultuous and often tragic history and centres round X Japan founder/drummer/pianist, Yoshiki, and his own personal struggles, goals and sacrifices as the band prepares for a 2014 reunion concert at Madison Square Garden.
It’s visually stunning stuff, if only for the chance to see the band members’ vibrant and high reaching spikes of hair and outrageous stage costumes worn over the decades. Footage from concerts in packed venues (usually stadiums) suggest adrenaline fueled, tinnitus causing rawk ‘n roll bliss.
Cameos of compadres and peers affirm X Japan’s upper echelon status as rock gods. Stan Lee, Gene Simmons, Sir George Martin and more all have something to say about how awesome these guys are. There’s photos of Yoshiki slumming it with the likes of David Bowie interspersed with scenes of screaming fans squaring off against police to be ever nearer their idols.
I enjoyed sitting in on a recent press screening. There was one disappointment though: I didn’t feel the actual music of X Japan was well represented. Clips of performances, the soundtrack, scenes with band members jamming or rehearsing all seemed too short or too overlaid with dialogue or other noise. I didn’t walk out of the press screening humming a tune or trying to shake a catchy melody – and Japan X is known for its melodic metal sound. There were no earworms, no opportunity for folks unfamiliar with the band to really connect with their work or for fans to revel in the music they love.
But X Japan neophytes viewing this documentary will for sure get a strong sense of the scale of the band’s success, its insane rollercoaster timeline, and the lengths its most ardent adherents have taken to express their devotion.
We Are X is produced by the team behind the Academy Award-winning film Searching For Sugar Man, Listen To Me Marlon and The Imposter: producer John Battsek (Passion Pictures) and director Stephen Kijak (Stones In Exile, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, and Backstreet Boys: Show’em What You’re Made Of).
X Japan is Yoshiki (drums/piano/composer), Toshi (vocals), Pata (guitar), Heath (bass), Sugizo (violin/guitar) alongside their fallen brothers Hide (guitars, 1987-1997) and Taiji (1986-1992).
We Are X will premier in the UK on 28 February and will be screened in cinemas nationwide 2 March. Find out more at wearexfilm.com.