Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Metal Briefs: Japan

I listen to a lot of metal music, but I don't necessarily have a lot to say about every single album. So, I thought I'd start to write some posts with several short reviews. I plan to center each of these posts around a single theme.

The first theme for the Metal Briefs series is Japan. The country is not particularly well-known for its metal bands, aside from Sigh. But it is home to some unique and interesting groups.

Gallhammer: Ill Innocence (2007)

Ill Innocence Not only are Japanese metal bands a rarity, but so are metal bands which are entirely female. (Drain STH and Kittie are the only ones I can name.) Enter Tokyo's Gallhammer, a doom/black metal band which meets both rare criteria. This makes it sound promising, but the result is not very interesting. The songwriting is uninspired, and at times downright weird ("Blind My Eyes," for example, has some squeaky vocals in it which are stereotypical of Japanese women). I give it 1.5 out of 5 stars. Here is the video for one of the better songs:

Gonin-Ish: Gonin-Ish (2000)

Gonin-Ish is also from Tokyo. In Japanese, they're called 五人一首, just in case you were wondering. This is a truly interesting progressive metal outfit, using both male and female vocals (the latter remind me of the score to Ghost in the Shell) and a style which incorporates traditional Japanese influences. They display originality, creativity, and technical proficiency, and I look forward to getting their sophomore album sometime. It's definitely worth a listen if you like the stranger side of metal. I give it 4 of 5 stars. Here is a live video for my favorite track:

Girugamesh: Music (2008)

Music Finally, we have Chiba's Girugamesh--probably the newest nu metal band out there. I guess the Japanese didn't get the message that nu metal is dead. They sound like a Japanese version of Spineshank circa 2003 (the year Girugamesh formed, and probably the last year nu metal could be seen as a viable genre). It's got a lot of catchy riffs in that vein, as well as industrial elements. The similarity is so strong, however, that it seems almost like Girugamesh copied them without adding anything original--though they do a great job of it. Obviously, it's not for anyone who has such a narrow conception of what it means to be "metal," but for those who would like to see nu metal live on, Girugamesh is a great option. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.


  1. Gallhammer definitely takes some getting used to. I might check out Gonin-Ish.

    Some other Japanese bands that are pretty good:

    King's-Evil: Thrash metal that sounds a lot like Kreator.

    Sabbat: They mostly play blackened thrash. There's also a UK band called Sabbat.

    Grief of War: Retro thrash metal band.

    There is also a couple of bands from the 1980's playing glam metal type stuff, like X Japan and Loudness.

  2. Dude, what? 1 star to some awesome crust, 3 stars to some sterile derivative nu-metal? Girugawhatever are even low tier in the plain old Jap visual rock scene, bands like Merry and Cali Gari run circles around them creatively.