Hi there. Again, it's been a while since the A-Z has appeared in these hallowed halls of its birth. Never fear! It's back with another smattering of Japanese bands. Hopefully you'll be seeing five new bands profiled here every week. If that's not good enough for you, you can always check out the blog for the (usually) daily updates.
This week brings some vis-kei, hard rock and industrial in the form of 176BIZ, Asparagus, Blam Honey, Roach and an extended entry on super-duper group S.K.I.N.
Let's get on with it after the jump!
176BIZ (or "bizu ichi nana roku") is a somewhat vis-kei/hard rock band very much in the vein of Psycho le Cemu, at least musically speaking. This is mainly due to 176BIZ's singer Yu sounding and delivering very much like Daishi from Psycho. (No one can hold a candle to Psycho's visual style!) 176BIZ is a very young band, having only formed in 2005, releasing their first album in 2006. They were originally formed by ex-Panic Channel bassist Tara, who has since left 176BIZ as well. Their outward appearance is along the lines of a regular glam rock band, with tight jeans, torn shirts and poofy hair ala early Mötley Crüe. This fits well with their sound, which is much more rock oriented than your average vis-kei goth band. Like Psycho le Cemu, they have a rather positive, grand scope to their arrangements, but 176BIZ usually keep things rocking and very guitar oriented instead of slipping into dance/para para territory.
Members Vo- Yu Dr- Kasumi Gt- Setsuki Gt- Toki Bass - Tara (recently left the band)
Major Releases Atelier - 2006/09/27 Bleach Way - 2007/07/04
Asparagus are a Japanese indie rock power trio. Their sound is a mix of 9mm Parabellum Bullet's intense, unrelenting rock and Base Ball Bear's more upbeat, danceable style. Overall they're very bright and clean, with positive sounding melodies and feel-good vibes. Yet their music has much more of an edge than, say, Straightener, though they have a very similar sound. Their production is very clear, yet they're not afraid to let things get loud and overdriven from time to time. Thankfully they never stray into pop-emo-punk territory and manage to keep things strong, sharp and positively serious.
Major Releases Tiger Style - 2003 KAPPA I - 2004 KAPPA II - 2004 Mont Blanc - 2007
Just Go on
Blam Honey were a short lived Japanese industrial band. Formed in 1995, they didn't release an album until 1998, They followed it up with another in 1999 and then disbanded. This is a shame because they produced some quality stuff. While their look may make you think they're just another visual band, their music falls well outside of the genre. They list Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails as their main influences, and it shows. Blam Honey definitely has an early American style industrial sound. Think Skinny Puppy production with a Ministry vocal delivery (minus the distortion), samples and an overall gritty, dirty electro sound. Makes me want to break out some old Pigface albums!
Members Tatsuya (vocals, guitar, percussion) Ryonai (programming, percussion)
Major Releases Grandiose Delusion (1998) Typical Ingeniousness ~suggest~ (1999)
Roach is a new band from Okinawa, Japan. They've been honing their skills since 2003, releasing their first album in 2007. At first glance they sound like your typical screamo-nu metal outfit, but upon closer inspection one finds a much deeper store of genre invention. They are actually very poppy, yet very heavy. Singer Ta-ma effortlessly shifts from overly affected screams typical of screamy emo bands, to oddly traditional sounding, extended nasal crooning. The band follows suit, swinging from straight ahead pop rock to very heavy metal riffs. As someone who hates, hates the new breed of emo/screamo nu-metal sludge bands, I find a lot to like in Roach. They bring a much needed twist to the genre, adding a ton of melody to their primitive riff rhythms, as well as some unusual exotic touches, mainly in the drumming and singing. They often remind me of Coaltar of the Deepers, another band who likes to keep the listener guessing. Roach proves that they can play by packing each song with subtle flourishes, yet keeps things grounded enough so as not to scare away the more timid listeners.
S.K.I.N. is (or maybe was?) a group of four major stars of the Japanese pretty-boy rock scene. Gackt, the singer, was one of the original members of seminal vis-kei band Malice Mizer. After leaving them, he went on to build one of the biggest male solo carriers in the Japanese pop scene today. Miyavi, one of the two guitarists, has a huge fan-base following his solo career. The lead guitarist is former Luna Sea member Sugizo. The founding member and man behind the curtain is Yoshiki, former (and now current again) drummer and founder of one of the most popular Japanese rock bands of all time, X-Japan.
To date, the only appearance by the band has been a performance at Anime Expo in Long Beach, California on June 29th, 2007. They have not released a single single or album, nor even a video. The only material available of the band is bootleg video from the AX show and a very brief teaser from Yoshiki's web site.
Now, a bit of personal info here: I am a huge fan of this band. In fact, my wife and I drove over 5000 miles round trip to see them at AX. You heard correctly, "drove" and "thousand." Actually, I was covering AX for Japanator, but the only reason I made the trip was to see S.K.I.N.
I'm still full of questions about their appearance. Why did the biggest group of Japanese mega-stars make their first (and so far only) appearance in America and at an anime con? They could easily fill the Tokyo Dome every day of the week, yet they've only played one very small show in America.
Why haven't they released an album, or even a single? Again, even a CD single with only one song would sell like mad. Plus, many of the songs played at the AX performance were very English heavy. They are obviously making a push for American audiences.
Where have they gone? It's been almost five months since their grand unveiling, and there hasn't been a single tid-bit of information since the day of the show.
There has been a lot of criticism about their AX performance, mainly that it was very short. In fact they only played four or five songs, most of which was just extended soloing and one really crappy drum solo. Which, in my mind, is all the more reason to get an album out and start playing live.
Now, however, both Yoshiki and Sugizo are reuniting with their past bands, so it may be quite some time before we hear anything from S.K.I.N. again. Maybe if you just play a track from a Gackt, X-Japan, Miyavi and Luna Sea CD all at the same time...
Anyway, you can read my entire report of the AX performance (and the agonizing hours of waiting in line in the sun to get in) here on Japanator. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, there aren't any high quality videos from he show, so you'll just have to make due with some really horrible cellphone videos. Sorry.
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