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.
They reunited at last, for a one-off concert in September 2018, in honor of the band’s 25th anniversary. Only time will tell if they will do anything beyond that...
- Mana - guitars, synthesizers, rare backing (distorted) vocals, lead (whispered) vocals on “Saikai no Chi to Bara” (1992-2001) (2018)
- Közi - guitars, synthesizers, backing and distorted vocals, lead vocals on “Color Me Blood Red” (1992-2001) (2018)
- Yu~ki - bass, occasional backing vocals (1992-2001) (2018)
- Klaha - vocals (2000-2001)
- Kami - drums, backing vocals (1993-1999)†1999
- GACKT - vocals, piano (1995-1999)
- Tetsu - vocals (1992-1994)
- Gaz - drums (1992-1993)†2017
Unofficial and Support Members:
- Shu - drums (2000-2001)
- Kazune - keyboards, synthesizers (2000-2001)
- Sakura - drums (2018)
- Shuji - vocals (2018)
- Kamijo - vocals (2018)
- Hitomi - vocals (2018)
- Memoire (1994)
- Voyage ~Sans Retour~ (1996)
- Merveilles (1998)
- Shinwa (2000)
- Bara no Seidou (2000)
Tropes applying to Malice Mizer:
- Animal Motifs: Butterflies and spiders in "Saikai no chi to bara". Butterflies symbolize both Kami and the concept of Butterfly of Death and Rebirth, while spiders represents Kami's death from Subarachnoid Hemorrhage.
- 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.
- 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. Klaha also wore black virtually exclusively.
- 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. Justified Trope due to Tetsu’s voice being much, much higher and rougher than that of either of his successors.
- Fanservice/ Fan Disservice: The infamous Illuminati PV treads the fine line between “kinkily sexy” and “pure and unadulterated Nightmare Fuel”. Helps that the amount of clothing worn by the band members in the video tends to be inversely proportionate to the disturbing quality of their scenes.
- 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. Along with Gothic Metal, Dark Wave, and enough genres to take up their own page. (And it’s their least genre-screwy 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 puppets, puppets are cursed lovers, puppets come temporarily to life) and many of the Merveilles era music videos.
- New Sound Album: Bara no Seidou.
- Obligatory Bondage Song: "Illuminati." The PV takes it up to eleven.
- 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.
- Uncanny Valley: Invoked semi-constantly by both guitarists, to often frightening effect. Let’s see...
- Mana—especially in the band’s later days—often looked less like a person and more like a Creepy Doll, due to barely moving (and going for stylized, theatrical gestures when he did) and his aforementioned stoic and voiceless tendencies. And add the highly convincing crossdressing to it all.
- Közi was easily even more unsettling. His very liberal usage of Marionette Motion and Sad Clown persona are already extremely creepy without the Thousand-Yard Stare and violent imagery. Did I mention that he also tends to look like Cesare? It’s to the point where a fan might be more creeped out by the rare moments when he acts and looks human on camera than by his usual act, due to how unreal those moments seem.