For a band that were active for just nine years, Visual Kei outfit Malice Mizer endured a rather turbulent existence. Founded in the summer of 1992 by guitarists Mana and Közi, they languished in relative obscurity until 1995 when recently-departed frontman Tetsu was replaced by a little-known singer named Gackt. Their breakthrough album Voyage ~Sans Retour~ followed in 1996, released through Mana's own Midi:Nette label, and landed them a deal with major label Nippon Columbia. Their 1998 release Merveilles peaked at #2 on the Oricon Albums chart, spawned a run of hit singles, and a sold-out national tour, including a two-night run at the legendary Budokan arena. Alas, what looked to be the fairytale beginning to a long (and lucrative) career wasn't to last. On January 1st, 1999, Gackt announced his departure from the band. This forced the group to leave the Nippon Columbia label, but there was worse still to come, with the sudden death of long-time drummer Kami from a brain hemorrhage in June that year. He would never be officially replaced.
Reduced to just two guitarists and a bassist, the band went quiet until the new millennium with the release of EP Shinwa, featuring songs written solely by the late Kami. Then, still lacking a singer or drummer, production began on the band's fourth (and to date, last) album Bara no Seidou. For the subsequent tour, the band recruited session vocalist Klaha as their new official frontman, and he took on lyricist duties for the four non-album singles that would be Malice Mizer's last original releases before the announcement of the band's indefinite hiatus in late 2001.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a Visual Kei band, Malice Mizer were just as famous for their elaborate costumes and onstage theatrics as their musical output, and encompased a vast array of different looks throughout their career. The general styles of these costumes can be roughly divided by singers' tenures. Early on, the band embraced the VK penchant for Androgyny (or full-on crossdressing in Mana's case), before shifting, with the arrival of Gackt, to a look inspired by 1700s-Europe period dress. Then, following the annus horribilis of 1999, their look took a turn for the seriously gothic, whilst retaining some of the historical elements of the Gackt-era outfits.
The band's musical style followed much the same pattern. Originally a Dark Wave band, they lost all sense of genre with Voyage ~sans retour~ and Merveilles, liberally mixing their Darkwave sound with elements of pop, electronica, classical, and industrial metal. Things stabilized somewhat with Bara no Seidou, but remained eclectic, mixing heavily distorted guitars and vocals with female sopranos and extended organ and harpischord solos.
Despite their 'indefinite hiatus' leaving the door open for an eventual reunion, there has been no official mention of this possibility, and had seemed increasingly unlikely with the success of Mana's band Moi dix Mois and Közi's various solo projects, plus both Yu~ki's and Klaha's apparent retirement from music. However, with the recent involvement of Yu~ki with both Moi dix Mois and Közi's band ZIZ, hope springs eternal.
- Mana - guitars, synthesizers (1992-2001)
- Közi - guitars, synthesizers (1992-2001)
- Yu~ki - bass (1992-2001)
- Klaha - vocals (2000-2001)
- Kami - drums (1993-1999)
- Gackt - vocals, piano (1995-1999)
- Tetsu - vocals (1992-1994)
- Gaz - drums (1992-1993)
- Shu - drums (2000-2001)
- Kazune - keyboards, synthesizers (2000-2001)
- Memoire (1994)
- Voyage ~Sans Retour~ (1996)
- Merveilles (1998)
- Shinwa (2000)
- Bara no Seidou (2000)
Tropes applying to Malice Mizer:
- Attractive Bent-Gender: Mana. If you didn't know he wasn't a woman, you would never be able to tell. Not helped by the fact that you don't often get a chance to hear his voice.
- Breakup Breakout: Gackt. Mana, Közi and Klaha have all enjoyed varying degrees of success since the band's demise, but their accomplishments are dwarfed by Gackt's, who has gone on to become one of Japan's biggest-selling artists.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Közi wanders in and out of this as he pleases.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Not always a trenchcoat, but when offstage, Mana does have a certain look that could be described as 'Spy-chic.'
- Color-Coded Characters: Although costumes varied greatly, each of the members stuck to a certain color. Mana's was blue, Kami's was pink, Közi mostly wore red, and Yu~ki dressed in yellow or orange. Gackt's color never quite settled, but he was often in black.
- Elegant Gothic Lolita: Mana's widely credited with helping launch this particular brand of fashion — he owns one of the more popular EGL clothing companies, and he has had it since the late '90s.
- Evolving Music: The backing music, rhythm, and occasionally even the lyrics of Tetsu era songs have been changed to accomodate Gackt or Klaha's vocals for live performances.
- Fan Nick Name: "Mana-sama," and Yu~ki as 'The Count.'
- Genre-Busting: The members all had different styles. It showed.
- Gratuitous English: Some of the lyrics and song names.
- Gratuitous French: The band name is derived from French, as are some of the album and song names.
- Impractically Fancy Outfit: Enough of them to clothe a small country.
- Industrial Metal: Their final album.
- Mind Screw: "N.p.s N.g.s:" The lyrics are notoriously difficult to extract a true meaning from, partially because the English half of the song wasn't all that brilliantly translated, resulting in a minor case of Word Salad Lyrics. This is complicated further by the best known live performance, in which the members dress up in WW2 regalia and fly the Imperial Japanese flag across the stage, despite the fact that the song doesn't contain any lines that undeniably refer to war (although it does admittedly have a few that could be interpreted as such). Also "Gekka no Yasoukyoku" (Lyrical subject: Man finds clowns, clowns are cursed lovers, clowns come temporarily to life) and many of the Merveilles era music videos.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: What led to the Genre-Busting.
- New Sound Album: Bara no Seidou.
- Obligatory Bondage Song: "Illuminati."
- Rapunzel Hair: Half the band in the early years, but Kami is best known for it.
- Rock Me, Amadeus!: If people could have personal tropes, this would be Mana's. A lot of the music he wrote for Malice Mizer — especially in the final album — feature classical excerpts. This trope is also heavily present in Moi dix Mois.
- Stage Names: Everyone in the band goes by a moniker or nickname, and to this day, only a few members' real names are known.
- The Stoic: Mana. Also see The Voiceless.
- Soprano and Gravel: Most of their last album consists of this.
- The Band Minus the Face: Despite not being a founder, Gackt was immensely popular amongst the fans, and his departure prompted their departure from the Nippon Columbia label.
- The Voiceless: Whether it's because he doesn't want his man's voice to mess up his image or whether he just thought it would be a cool idea is anyone's guess, but throughout his career Mana has refused to speak or emote in public, maintaining a fully blank facial expression and communicating mostly by whispering what he wants to say into the ear of the person next to him, who then translates. Not counting the occasions in which he has provided distorted backing vocals, he has only ever slipped up twice.