Review: The Mad Capsule Markets thrill at Fuji Rock fest
By Craig Francis
NIIGATA, Japan (CNN) -- Discovering the Mad Capsule Markets is a bit like discovering a lost continent already far more advanced than the distant port from which you set sail.
The trio of Japanese Terminator look-alikes known as the Mad Capsule Markets have been around for more than a decade, sold more than a million albums, imprinted their logo on mainstream Japan and made some inroads into the enlightened corners of Europe and the United States.
One soggy Saturday night in late July the local heroes were making a long-awaited return to the stage that did much to launch them into Japanese folklore, performing at the three-day Fuji Rock Festival for the first time since its inception in 1997.
On a bill featuring the likes of Iggy Pop, Coldplay, Bjork, Massive Attack and Macy Gray, the Capsules stood out -- by name and deed -- as a group lurking somewhere on the lunatic fringe.
A good portion of the 100,000 Fuji Rockers had waded through acres of mud in the wooded valleys of Naeba's ski resort in the mountains of western Japan to see the manic fusion of flesh, blood and heavy metal that constitutes the Mad Capsule Markets.
The crowd, a slam-dancing, crowd-surfing mass, was definitely a factor in the absolute buzz of seeing this trio in action. They leapt and crashed into each other as if they had spicy hot wasabi smeared in their collective underpants.
But the real hair-at-attention thrill came from the Capsules' unforgiving hybrid of speed metal and psychopathic techno-punk mayhem.
In an era when nu-metal wannabes flout their unoriginal wares and thrash metal wastes away due to a dietary lack of irony, the Capsules deliver an eclectic live set as powerful as it is unpredictable.
They made their intentions known early, searing the heaving mass of waterlogged fans with the blowtorch-hot "Tribe" from 1999's breakthrough album "OSC-DIS."
The next few numbers were not so much played as unleashed. "Chaos Step," newest single "Gaga Life" and "Jam!" travelled the musical universe from the Prodigy and the Ramones to Rage Against the Machine and Atari Teenage Riot – often within a track.
People presume Japanese crowds to be a reserved lot afraid to be the last one caught clapping. But that's complete zaken-na (bollocks). The furious response to the show's closing fistful of tracks would have registered on the myriad seismographs dotting this earthquake-prone island.
Three of the last four tracks came from the "OSC-DIS" album, which was released in Japan in 1999 but took a few years to surface in the UK and the U.S. "Out/Definition" was a blast of guitar as raw as sushi with a drum beat nearing critical velocity.
Crowd favourite "Pulse" introduced itself as a Fat Boy Slim-type plaything before morphing into electric punk complete with an anthem chorus. "Midi Surf" was the gig's final wave and hit the crowd like a tsunami. Iggy Pop had his work cut out sending this crowd back to their soggy hillside tents any more content.
Lyrically, things with the Capsules can get a bit weird:
"Why don't you strike justify your mind, so coming tribe is absorber," goes Tribe, to cite one example. But, well, in the frenzied mosh pit, lyrical articulation just doesn't seem to matter.
The Mad Capsule Markets are in the studio producing their next album and expect to be touring early next year. Pay attention.