If the music documentary format has taught us anything, it’s that rock ’n’ roll is a serious business. It’s not all faffing about on tour buses and snorting coke out of a stranger’s cleavage, these guys are Tortured Artists. Tracing the history of Japan’s biggest metal band, X (or X Japan to the rest of the world), this film by documentary veteran Stephen Kijak (‘Scott Walker: 30 Century Man’, ‘Stones in Exile’) contains its fair share of eye-popping anecdotes. So, when one band member says that the lead singer ‘was brainwashed for ten years’, he means it literally. But Kijak’s willingness to indulge the band’s rampant self-mythologising can get tiresome.
The problem, perhaps, is that X Japan, who’ve been knocking around since the ’80s, are kind of awful. This is stadium pomp-rock at its blandest and most overblown (it says something that when the band reformed in 2007, one of their first on-stage guest performers was Wes Borland from Limp Bizkit). The lyrics are dire, at least the English ones – one memorable chorus involves singer Toshi bellowing ‘standing sex!’ at the top of his lungs. None of which is necessarily a problem. In fact, it probably makes the film more entertaining. But the absolute seriousness with which the band regard themselves – particularly drummer-songwriter Yoshiki, who’s so famous that Stan Lee turned him into a superhero – is never questioned by Kijak, resulting in a fitfully enjoyable but rather pompous fan film.