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X Japan - We Are X album review

The bizarre history of a Japanese phenomenon

Cover art for X Japan - We Are X album

X Japan are probably the biggest metal band you’ve never heard of. Since 1982 they’ve sold 30 million albums, sparked their own genre – visual kei – and reached godlike status in their native Japan, despite remaining relatively unknown elsewhere. But you don’t need to be a superfan to appreciate this fascinating, brilliantly put together documentary. Narrated by band leader and drumming pianist Yoshiki, We Are X tells the story of the band from their early days challenging a conservative Japanese society with manga-styled glam metal, to their reformation and 2014 gig at Madison Square Garden. X Japan have experienced more trauma than most bands will in several lifetimes. The mysterious sacking and death of guitarist Taiji, vocalist Toshi being brainwashed by a violent cult, the band’s subsequent split in 1997 and suicide of enigmatic lead guitarist Hide less than a year later, not to mention Yoshiki’s numerous health battles, which make just getting up on stage a literal battle of life and death, We Are X is an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. Frequently disturbing and heart-wrenching, this is a compelling and deeply personal portrait of a band who have one hell of a story to tell.

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.