It is the fourth of May. After their great Sabbat on Walpurgis Night, the eve of Beltane, the dark spirits of winter have retreated before the signs of coming spring and summer, leaving the world to flourish and prosper until the following autumn, when tenebrous forces will once again hold sway. Or so traditional European thought would have us believe. Here in Osaka, Japan, the streets are surprisingly quiet, and lines of ebony-clad children of the night wait on a staircase that winds ever downward, deep into cavernous underground spaces where sepulchral sounds ring out from the darkness below. Those dark spirits are surely still abroad this eventide, which marks the 11th anniversary of the longest running Gothic club in Japan: Black Veil.
The event itself dates back to 2001, when a talented DJ and musician named Taiki decided that Osaka needed its own dark sanctuary to celebrate the Gothic and industrial music scene. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a sinister presence in Western Japan prior to the new millennium. Since 1996, Taiki has been the proprietor of a successful occult shop called Territory, where he purveys not only clothing and accessories sporting his own unique mystical designs, but also imported music CDs and a wide range of antique curiosities. Covering everything from Satanic art and jewelry to Freemason artifacts and relics from the Third Reich, the small shop serves as a veritable museum of the macabre, where a human-sized replica of Éliphas Lévi’s Sabbatic Goat greets those who enter and the hoarse croaks of Taiki’s pet raven, Damien, echo forbiddingly from further within. His predilection for the occult is not a mere superficial affectation, either. Having studied the Left Hand Path from occult leaders in New York City, Taiki has possibly the most extensive knowledge of Western magical thought of anyone that I know. Before personally meeting Taiki three years ago, I asked a good friend who is known as one of the movers and shakers of Tokyo’s underground club scene and a cyber-Goth fashion guru, DJ SiSeN, about the man behind the Veil. His answer was short and simple: “A god.” Having come to know Taiki over the past few years, I wouldn’t disagree.
My anticipation builds as I make my way down the staircase and recognize the throbbing hard industrial and EBM bass lines of DJ Bonzin’s opening set. Black Veil begins at 21:00, a full three hours before the standard Tokyo event (with the same entry fee), and runs until around 6:00 the following morning. This translates into longer DJ sets and shows, and the first guests often receive CDs that include some of the mixes to be played during the night’s proceedings. The music is worth mentioning, as these mixes are often very well-thought out collections handpicked for that particular night. Perhaps because BV is held on something more like a quarterly basis rather than monthly, the DJs each put a great deal of effort into making their sets as memorable as possible. One won’t hear single tracks played one after another with unimaginative (or nonexistent) transitions between songs. They are nearly always non-stop musical journeys that weave melodies and beats intricately together into a beautiful symphony of the night. I still remember certain combinations of songs played at these events even years after attending them, and they are usually from Taiki’s performances.
And speaking of Taiki, it isn’t long before I come across the man responsible for orchestrating this and other Gothic events in Western Japan. With long jet black hair flowing well past his shoulders, a neatly trimmed goatee and mustache, and his omnipresent fangs, he fits the diabolical image perfectly. Slim and short in stature, despite his soft-spoken nature he nonetheless commands a powerful presence. He greets me warmly and welcomes me to the event, assuring me that it will certainly be an evening to be remembered. As we speak, a live painting is in progress across one entire wall, depicting a massive Baphomet who leers devilishly at the club-goers as they pass by.
The attendees are all unique and interesting, flaunting a wide array of Gothic-inspired styles. Host and hostess Guiggles and his companion Rose de Reficul are bedecked in their typically elaborate 18th century-inspired fashion, looking as if they have just crawled out of a Highgate Cemetery mausoleum. A masked man covered in head to foot with black dances with another gentleman clothed and made up entirely in white. I even spot a decaying zombie and a couple of stray Black Butler cosplayers. I become entranced by the music, and as the midnight hour approaches, an ethereal artist named Yoko performs a special dark classical/tribal belly dance performance on the floor, creating a serene atmosphere in between the raging onslaughts of aggrotech and dark electro sound.
The witching hour has passed, and soon the lovely Mistress Midori of IDEA arrives, her elegant Gothic dress swirling dramatically behind her. As always, she is flanked by the beautiful young ladies under her employ at IDEA, and I am pleased to see my friends Iori, A-ya, and Night among them. The sinister vibrations of selections from units such as Hocico, Grendel, and Aesthetic Perfection fill the club as DJ Syarman plays the last of his set. At last, it is time from Taiki to end the evening in style. The dance floor becomes a rhythmic mass of bodies all moving together in celebration of life and the music that forms a part of their personal identity. Just as there are many ways of dancing to the same beat, I realize that there is indeed a common flame that burns within each of these people despite their incredibly diverse interests and lifestyles. And it is clear that Taiki has tapped into that Black Flame.
As the last note of Covenant’s “One World One Sky” fades into darkness and each person becomes still, Taiki takes up a large mirrored orb that reflects the entire audience. He says, “All of you are reflected together in this orb, just as we all share this Earth…Japan is in a time of crisis, but we will overcome these hardships together.” His words are a reminder of Japan’s current situation, but also a benediction following a celebration of life to affect change for the future. Through charity bazaar booths and other activities, Taiki and the people of Western Japan are also uniting to do their part to aid the swift recovery of the affected areas. As I step out into the brilliant sunlight of a new dawn, I recall Taiki’s words and look ahead to the future with confidence and hope.
See the video below for a view of last year’s anniversary party. RS.