Japanese metal

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Japanese metal(Japanese:ジャパニーズ・メタル, Hepburn:Japanīzu Metaru) is heavy metal music from Japan.

Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic language family, and its relation to other languages, such as Korean, is debated. Japanese has been grouped with language families such as Ainu, Austroasiatic, and the now-discredited Altaic, but none of these proposals has gained widespread acceptance.

Hepburn romanization is a system for the romanization of Japanese that uses the Latin alphabet to write the Japanese language. It is used by most foreigners learning to spell Japanese in the Latin alphabet and by the Japanese for romanizing personal names, geographical locations, and other information such as train tables, road signs, and official communications with foreign countries. Largely based on English writing conventions, consonants closely correspond to the English pronunciation and vowels approximate the Italian pronunciation.

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.


1970s: Early acts

The Flower Travellin' Band were pioneers of heavy metal. Flowerknitting.png
The Flower Travellin' Band were pioneers of heavy metal.

Originally formed in 1967 as a cover band of British and American psychedelic rock titled "Yuya Uchida & the Flowers," Japan's Flower Travellin' Band have been credited as one of the progenitors of heavy metal music. After changing their name, having almost a complete personnel change and moving to Canada, they produced their first album of original material in 1971. Satori , which was released a little over a year after Black Sabbath's debut album, has been called "proto-metal" [1] and noted as having "traces of early heavy metal." [2] Their previous album, Anywhere (1970), included what is believed to be the first recorded cover of a Black Sabbath song, the self-titled "Black Sabbath". [3] Additionally, Satori and Flower Travellin' Band vocalist Joe Yamanaka and guitarist Hideki Ishima's work on Kuni Kawachi's first solo album Kirikyogen (1970) have been credited as "honing the formidable and ominous sound that would become the essence of doom metal." [2]

A cover band, is a band that plays songs recorded by someone else, sometimes mimicking the original as perfectly as possible, and sometimes re-interpreting or changing the original. These remade songs are known as cover songs. New or unknown bands often find the format marketable for smaller venues, such as pubs, clubs, or parks. The bands also perform at private events, for example, weddings and birthday parties and may be known as a wedding band, party band, function band or band-for-hire. A band whose covers consist mainly of songs that were chart hits is often called a top 40 band. Some bands, however, start as cover bands, then grow to perform original material. For example, The Rolling Stones released three albums consisting primarily of covers before recording one with their own original material.

Psychedelic rock Style of rock music

Psychedelic rock is a diverse style of rock music inspired, influenced, or representative of psychedelic culture, which is centred on perception-altering hallucinogenic drugs. The music is intended to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs, most notably LSD. Many psychedelic groups differ in style, and the label is often applied spuriously.

Yuya Uchida (singer) Japanese actor-singer

Yuya Uchida was a Japanese singer, record producer, and actor. With a career spanning six decades, he was a major figure in Japanese popular music.

Japanese heavy metal bands started emerging in the late 1970s, pioneered by Bow Wow (1975), 44 Magnum (1977) and Earthshaker (1978).

Bow Wow is an influential Japanese rock band formed in 1976 by Kyoji Yamamoto. They were one of the first Japanese metal bands. In 1984 they renamed themselves to Vow Wow, recruited vocalist Genki Hitomi and adopted a mainstream sound. Yamamoto was invited to record with the supergroup Phenomena in 1987, where he met former Whitesnake bassist Neil Murray who then joined Vow Wow.

44 Magnum are a Japanese heavy metal band, originally formed in Osaka Prefecture in mid-1977. They were one of the first Japanese metal bands.

Earthshaker is a Japanese heavy metal band that was formed in 1978 in Osaka. One of the first Japanese metal bands, they steered toward a poppier sound on later albums and dropped from worldwide view, preferring to record and tour in their home country. After a successful run, they broke up in 1994, but returned five years later and are still going strong today.

In 1977, Bow Wow supported Aerosmith and Kiss on their Japanese tours. [4] They performed at both the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and the Reading Festival in England in 1982. After some member changes resulted in a more commercial sound, they changed their name to Vow Wow and relocated to England. [4] Their 1989 album Helter Skelter reached number 75 on the UK Albums Chart. [5]

Aerosmith American rock band

Aerosmith is an American rock band formed in Boston, in 1970. The group consists of Steven Tyler, Joe Perry (guitar), Tom Hamilton (bass), Joey Kramer (drums) and Brad Whitford (guitar). Their style, which is rooted in blues-based hard rock, has come to also incorporate elements of pop rock, heavy metal, and rhythm and blues, and has inspired many subsequent rock artists. They are sometimes referred to as "the Bad Boys from Boston" and "America's Greatest Rock and Roll Band".

Kiss (band) American band

Kiss is an American rock band formed in New York City in January 1973 by Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley. Well known for its members' face paint and stage outfits, the group rose to prominence in the mid-to-late 1970s with their elaborate live performances, which featured fire breathing, blood-spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, levitating drum kits, and pyrotechnics. The band has gone through several lineup changes, with Stanley and Simmons the only remaining original members. The original and best-known lineup consisted of Stanley, Simmons, Frehley, and Criss.

Montreux Jazz Festival music festival

The Montreux Jazz Festival is a music festival in Switzerland, held annually in early July in Montreux on the Lake Geneva shoreline. It is the second largest annual jazz festival in the world after Canada's Montreal International Jazz Festival.

Although formed by schoolmates in 1977, Lazy saw a rift between their managers/producers, who wanted to create a pop rock idol band, and the musicians themselves who slowly took control and moved the band to the hard rock and heavy metal they always desired to play by their final album Earth Ark in 1980.

Lazy is a Japanese rock band founded in 1973 by young classmates Hironobu Kageyama, Hiroyuki Tanaka and Akira Takasaki.

Pop rock is rock music with a greater emphasis on professional songwriting and recording craft, and less emphasis on attitude. Originating in the late 1950s as an alternative to normal rock and roll, early pop rock was influenced by the beat, arrangements, and original style of rock and roll. It may be viewed as a distinct genre field, rather than music that overlaps with pop and rock. The detractors of pop rock often deride it as a slick, commercial product, less authentic than rock music.

Japanese idol young starlet manufactured and marketed for image, attractiveness, and personality in Japanese pop culture

An idol is a type of entertainer manufactured and marketed for image, attractiveness, and personality in Japanese pop culture. Idols are primarily singers, but they are also trained in other roles, such as acting, dancing, and modeling. Unlike other celebrities, idols are notably commercialized through merchandise and endorsements by talent agencies with the intent of maintaining a strong emotional connection with a passionate consumer fan base.


Loudness charted on America's Billboard chart several times in the 1980s. Loudness 2010 01.jpg
Loudness charted on America's Billboard chart several times in the 1980s.

In the 1980s, a plethora of Japanese heavy metal bands formed. Loudness was formed in 1981 by former Lazy members Akira Takasaki and Munetaka Higuchi. In 1983, they toured the United States and Europe and soon started focusing more on an international career. In a 1985 deal with Atco Records, Loudness became the first Japanese metal act signed to a major label in the United States. [6] Their albums Thunder in the East (1985), Lightning Strikes (1986) and Hurricane Eyes (1987) reached numbers 74, 64 and 190 on the Billboard chart. [7] [8] Loudness replaced singer Minoru Niihara with American vocalist Michael Vescera in 1988, [9] in an unsuccessful attempt to further their international popularity.

Loudness (band) Japanese heavy metal band

Loudness is a Japanese heavy metal band formed in 1981 by guitarist Akira Takasaki and drummer Munetaka Higuchi. They were the first Japanese metal act signed to a major label in the United States, releasing twenty-six studio albums and nine live albums by 2014 and reaching the Billboard Top 100 in their moment of maximum international popularity, as well as charting on Oricon dozens of times. Despite numerous changes in their roster, with Takasaki the sole constant member, the band continued their activities throughout the 1990s, finally reuniting the original line-up in 2001. This incarnation released a further seven albums until November 30, 2008, when original drummer Munetaka Higuchi died from liver cancer at a hospital in Osaka at age 49. He was replaced with Masayuki Suzuki.

Akira Takasaki Japanese musician

Akira Takasaki is a Japanese musician and songwriter. He is best known as the lead guitarist and sole constant member of the heavy metal band Loudness. He is also the guitarist of the band Lazy, with which he first rose to prominence in the 1970s.

Munetaka Higuchi Japanese musician

Munetaka Higuchi was a Japanese musician and record producer. He is best known as the original drummer of the heavy metal band Loudness, but first rose to prominence as a member of Lazy in the 1970s.

Seikima-II, with their kabuki-inspired makeup, and X Japan, who pioneered the movement known as visual kei, both formed in 1982. In 1985, Seikima-II's debut album Seikima-II - Akuma ga Kitarite Heavy Metal was released, reached number 48 on the Oricon album chart and exceeded 100,000 in sales, the first time for any Japanese metal band's debut. [10] In April 1989, X Japan's second album Blue Blood reached number 6 and has sold 712,000 copies. [11] Their third and best-selling album Jealousy was released in July 1991, topped the charts and sold over 1 million copies. [11] They released two more number one studio albums, Art of Life (1993) and Dahlia (1996), before disbanding in 1997. X Japan actually signed an American record deal with Atlantic Records in 1992, but an international release never happened. [12]

In the eighties few heavy metal bands had female members, like all-female band Show-Ya and Terra Rosa with Kazue Akao on vocals, both formed in 1982. Heavy metal solo artist Mari Hamada, who released material produced by Loudness drummer Munetaka Higuchi, [13] also saw popularity. In September 1987, Show-Ya organized, produced and presented the first Naon no Yaon(NAONのYAON) rock festival, featuring strictly all-female Japanese musicians and bands. [14]

Ezo's two studio albums, the self-titled EZO (1987) and Fire Fire (1989) were released in America by Geffen Records, with the first produced by Gene Simmons. [15] Dead End had their albums Ghost of Romance (1987) and Shambara (1988) released in the United States by Metal Blade Records. [16] [17]

Extreme metal

Notable black metal band Sigh. Sigh at Jaxx.jpg
Notable black metal band Sigh.

The 1980s also saw Japan's first extreme metal bands. The first thrash metal bands formed in the early 1980s. United, who formed in 1981 as a straightforward heavy metal band before adopting thrash, [9] later incorporated death metal elements as well. United's first international performance took place in Los Angeles at the metal festival Foundations Forum in 1995 and they had a few albums released in North America. Other thrash metal bands include Outrage (1982) and Aion (1983). Formed in 1985, Doom played a gig in the United States in 1988 at CBGB. [18]

Sabbat (1983) and Bellzlleb (1985), whose original lineup included female vocalist Atsuko Koizumi, both formed concurrent with the first wave of black metal. Another notable act is Sigh, whose debut album Scorn Defeat (1993) was released by Deathlike Silence Records, founded by Euronymous of infamous Norwegian band Mayhem. [19]

1990s and 2000s

Mucc were one of many visual kei metal acts to pursue international activities in the 2000s. MUCC-Montmartre-2009.jpg
Mucc were one of many visual kei metal acts to pursue international activities in the 2000s.

Notable doom metal acts including Boris and Church of Misery, both of whom have gained exposure outside Japan, formed in the 1990s. Bands with influence from nu metal also began to form such as Rize (1997), Maximum the Hormone (1998) and Head Phones President (1999). The late 1990s and early to mid-2000s saw many veteran acts reunite with classic line-ups; Lazy (1998), Bow Wow (1998), Earthshaker (1999), Loudness (2001), 44Magnum (2002), Show-Ya (2005) and X Japan (2007).

In the 2000s, many visual kei metal bands prospered and pursued activities overseas, such as D'espairs Ray, Mucc, Dir en Grey, Moi dix Mois and Nightmare. [20] D'espairs Ray and Mucc both entered the European market in 2005 and the United States in 2006. [21]

Likewise, Dir en Grey also entered the European market in 2005 with concerts in Berlin and Paris and a release of Withering to Death. . [22] The band and album visited the US the following year, which saw them join Korn's Family Values Tour 2006. [23] All of Dir en grey's subsequent albums have placed on several Billboard charts, the highest being Uroboros topping the Top Heatseekers chart in 2008. [24]

In 2007, X Japan drummer Yoshiki organized the J-Rock Revolution event with Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman, which saw metal acts D'espairsRay and Girugamesh perform in Los Angeles among others. [25] That same year, Yoshiki and Mirai Kawashima of Sigh participated in the Canadian documentary Global Metal , discussing the metal scene in Japan. The 2008 Taste of Chaos tour took Mucc, D'espairs Ray and the Underneath to more than forty cities across the United States and Canada. [21] Coldrain is also a very well known metalcore and post-hardcore band that has experimented with heavy metal occasionally. [26]

Symphonic power metal band Versailles gained a significant worldwide following soon after forming as their debut EP Lyrical Sympathy (2007) received a simultaneous European release and they performed in Europe and the United States the following year. [25] Their first full-length album, Noble released in 2008, was also released in North America in 2009. 2011 saw Versailles starring in their own television show. [27]


Self-described "kawaii metal" act Babymetal blend pop idol music with heavy metal. Babymetal-2014-01.jpg
Self-described "kawaii metal" act Babymetal blend pop idol music with heavy metal.

The decade is seeing a "Girls Metal Band Boom"(ガールズ・メタル・バンド・ブーム), with a large number of all-female heavy metal bands forming and gaining mainstream attention. Although considered the pioneers as the first to form in 2007, Destrose never achieved commercial success. [29] [30] Aldious have been cited as the initiators of the movement when their debut album Deep Exceed (2010) topped the Oricon Indies Albums Chart and reached number 15 on the main chart. [30] [31] [32] Another notable girls metal band is Cyntia, who are believed to have been the first of the movement to join a major record label when they signed to Victor Entertainment in 2013. [33]

The year 2014 brought the international success of self-described "kawaii metal" idol act Babymetal, through the viral YouTube hit "Gimme Chocolate!!". They were the opening act to five of Lady Gaga's concerts on her ArtRave: The Artpop Ball 2014 tour. [34] In 2016, Babymetal began a world tour at London's Wembley Arena, becoming the first Japanese act to headline the venue, and their album Metal Resistance reached number 15 on the UK Albums Chart, marking the highest ever entry by a Japanese act. [35] [36] They also made their US television debut by performing "Gimme Chocolate!!" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert . [37]

Band-Maid earned worldwide attention circa 2015 for their "submissive" maid appearance contrasting with their aggressive music. [38] [39] They began international activities the following year, including signing to JPU Records. [39] In 2018, Lovebites won the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards for Best New Band and became the first Japanese all-female heavy metal band to perform at Germany's Wacken Open Air. [40] [41] On October 4–5, 2019, the O2 Academy Islington in London hosted Metal Matsuri, the first all-Japanese heavy metal festival outside Japan. Headlined by Mary's Blood and Unlucky Morpheus, the two day event featured ten acts total including Fate Gear and Blood Stain Child. [42]

Related Research Articles

Seikima-II band that plays heavy metal music

Seikima-II was a Japanese heavy metal band, formed in 1982. Throughout their career they have had numerous lineups, with lead singer Demon Kakka the sole constant member. The group has sold over 10 million records in Japan alone.

Show-Ya is an all-female heavy metal/hard rock band from Japan, founded in 1981. The group disbanded in 1998, but reformed with the original line-up in 2005 for the 20th anniversary of their first release. The music of Show-Ya is deeply rooted in classic rock and they have covered songs from The Beatles, The Doors, The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and AC/DC in their albums and live shows. Their music evolved from the pop rock of their first offerings to the heavy metal of their most successful albums, Outerlimits (1989) and Hard Way (1990).

<i>Satori</i> (Flower Travellin Band album) 1971 studio album by Flower Travellin Band

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<i>Kirikyogen</i> 1970 studio album by Kuni Kawachi and the Flower Travellin Band

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<i>Anywhere</i> (Flower Travellin Band album) 1970 studio album by Flower Travellin Band

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