Unearthing the Metal Underground: The Japanese Metal Scene
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we’ll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. In the dawn of what some call “The New Wave of Asian Heavy Metal,” we have unearthed bands from countries such as South Korea, China, Sri Lanka, Singapore and India. This week, I will be showcasing metal’s biggest Asian supporters – Japan.
There is no doubt the metal scene is enormous in Japan. It is home to Tokyo’s Sigh and Chiba’s X-Japan, the latter of which pioneered the glam-rock movement known as Visual Kei and recently completed a successful first-ever North American tour. In addition, the Loud Park Festival is held in Japan every year and has featured bands such as Motörhead, Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, among many others. Also, there is a manga, turned anime, turned live-action movie (with a cameo by Gene Simmons) based on a fictional band named Detroit Metal City. (I highly recommend to Metalocalypse fans.)
Although there is a plethora of talented J-metal bands, I can only focus on a few this week. Here are three “ichiban” (that means "top" or "number one") bands worth checking out:
Blood Stain Child
Osaka’s Blood Stain Child formed in 2000 with vocalist Ryo, guitarist Ryu, keyboardist Aiki and drummer Violator. The Child, in its early years with the debut "Silence from Northern Hell," has been likened to melodic death metal bands Children of Bodom and In Flames; however, BSC has since matured and separated itself from the pack with its unique blend of electronica, industrial and trance, although still retaining some Gothenburg-influenced roots. The band recently recruited vocalist Sophia from Greece and drummer Gami to replace the previous members Sadew and Violator, and are expected to release a yet-to-be-titled fifth studio album in 2011.
Check out Blood Stain Child at its MySpace.
MyProof is a metalcore/melodic death metal band hailing from Tokyo. In a sub-genre where many bands are indistinguishable, this foursome manages to achieve the intensity of their European and American counterparts, but the lyrics are distinctly Japanese and they include some delicate piano work echoing the ballads of X-Japan. Guitarists Shimpei Tarumi and Kai Ohno dish out catchy riffs and solos, while vocalist Tohru “Thor” Watanabe peppers his death-metal growls with just the right amount of clean, J-pop-esque singing. The band’s latest EP, "Pupil of Astraea," was reissued in 2009 as a full-length album to celebrate MyProof’s tenth anniversary.
Sex Machineguns sounds like the humourous bastard love child of Judas Priest and 3 Inches of Blood. This Tokyo-based band twisted the name of punk legends Sex Pistols to imply that machineguns are more radical than pistols. The group proves its point with its brand of straight-up, ass-kicking speed/heavy metal. Since its humble inception in 1996, Sex Machineguns has released over half a dozen studio and live albums, and sold out numerous across Japan. How did these guys take over their motherland? Could it be the shredderific guitars? The extremely fast guitar solos? Vocalist Koji “Anchang” Ando’s Rob Halford/Cam Pipes-like screeches? The hilariously preposterous lyrics? Or maybe all of the above? Whatever it is, Sex Machineguns is definitely a band to check out.
Of course, there are many more quality Japanese metal bands in more genres than the three I listed. Please feel free to suggest on your favourite ones in the comments section below. Also, don’t forget to check back next Monday as we dig up more underground bands.
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