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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Jpop: Heavy metal by tiny girls

One might be forgiven for thinking that all contemporary music in Japan is jpop. A lot of it is, but there's a large rock scene, punk has never quite gone away and there are a surprising amount of metal bands. What is peculiar is the recent rise of entirely female metal bands.

Aldious look like the resultant offspring of Louis XIV shagging an exploding wedding cake factory. No one appears to have told them the cardinal rule of metal (look sodding miserable all the time) and everyone seems to be having a delightful time, except the singer. Seemingly composed of an endless parade of guitarists, I think there are actually five of them at the moment but it's jolly hard to tell as at least two of them were (and perhaps still are) simultaneously in another all-girl metal band called...

G∀LMET are a more guttural metal band with a lead singer who does that weird shouty throat roar so beloved of Napalm Death and their ilk. I really don't know how these bands choose their names, but there does seem to be a real trend among Japanese groups at the moment for characters that aren't on a computer keyboard (I've lost track of the number of bands that have a star in their name - not an asterisk, an actual five pointed star shape). G∀LMET are like the cheaper, sluttier and noisier version of Aldious which is odd considering how many members they have in common. The singer's bloody terrifying though.

It does make me laugh that there's an Australian range of anti-corrosion products with the same name.

Onmyouza are actually quite easy to listen to and perform a more conventional type of metal, often combining traditional instruments and folk music. Probably the most outstanding thing about them (which first drew my attention) is that they dress in clothing from the Heian period which is jolly nice to see. This is probably the period when Chinese influence was at its strongest and so I very much enjoy their costumes. Oh and their name translates literally as "a gathering of yin and yang" and all their songs are about Japanese folklore (dragons, lake monsters, ninja, etc) and the duality of the cosmos. What's not to like?

Flagitious Idiosyncrasy in the Dilapidation deserve a special mention just for their name alone. Managing to combine the art of looking very normal indeed with grindcore shouting, they're not a band for the faint of heart.

I had to look up flagitious to see if it's a real word and it apparently is:

fla·gi·tious [fluh-jish-uhs]
1. shamefully wicked, as persons, actions, or times.
2. heinous or flagrant, as a crime; infamous.
Origin: 1350–1400; Middle English flagicious  < Latin flāgitiōsus,  equivalent to flāgiti ( um ) shame, scandal

Yellow Machinegun manage to combine noisiness with really cheap video production to ensure that the resulting mess is as difficult to watch as it is to listen to. And their name's entirely composed of actual words that people actually use, so I've no idea why they're on this list.

Exist†trace might just be the ultimate Japanese metal band:
Dress like homeless French nobility? Check.
Name includes untypeable character? Check.
Band made of guitars? Check.
Actually look miserable? Check.

Oh but there's one other group that have to be mentioned in any article about Japanese metal. I almost feel the need to apologise before showing them to you. Let's start with a short interview as you'll probably want a close look at them. Brace yourself.

If your first thought was "What the fuck? Are they like twelve or something?" then you're absolutely right. The ones in black are indeed twelve years old. The lead singer is fourteen. And what the fuck is indeed an appropriate reaction. In fact I'd posit that it's the only reaction possible.

BABYMETAL is made up of SU-METAL, YUIMETAL and uh... MOAMETAL. They're a sub-group of Sakura Gakuin (whom one of them mentions in that interview) who are going down the Morning Musume / AKB48 route of amassing a literal army of members. Whilst it may appear that they're doing the standard devil's horns (or whatever it is) metal gesture, they're actually doing it the other way round to resemble a fox because foxes are way cuter (kawaii!). And that's pretty much symptomatic of just what BABYMETAL are about. They're a bizarre mish-mash of the most bubblegum of jpop with metal.

Okay, now I suppose you're going to need to see one of their music videos. I'm going to have to end this article here. They are much, much worse than you might imagine...

I secretly quite like them.

1 comment:

  1. I made the mistake of clicking through to a further BABYMETAL video, いいね! (loosely, "Great!"), which manages to collide not only dance-metal and J-Pop but, God help us, hip hop.

    Actually I rather approve of this sort of genre-raping madness, even if the result isn't quite what I would prefer to listen to. My main problem with BABYMETAL is a repeated vision of the 12-year-olds producing large knives and advancing with distinctly humourless expressions...

    Of the others, most of them were no worse than Evanescence, so perhaps we shouldn't be too critical.