Metal Shop with Mr. GrayMetal: Japan Rocks!

(Last Updated On: December 21, 2021)

Good morning, everyone, and welcome back. I’m Mr. Gray and get that straw out of your nose! This is Metal Shop class. Today’s lesson is desu kawaii, senpai uWu! I’ll be back after the break, and after violently vomiting due to writing that.

Today we dive into the world of Japanese heavy metal. There’s definitely not one single genre represented in Japanese metal, and really not one single genre can define some of these bands’ albums. Doing my research for this lesson has taken me on one hell of a journey, from stuff that is super bluesy to thrashy to the straight up weird. Regardless, I’m going to discuss three waves or eras: the 80s/early 90s, late 90s/2000s, and today. Let’s get into it.

Some of the earliest stuff out of Japan was spearheaded by Bow Wow. No, not the rapper, although that would be pretty funny with how much Nu-metal has taken up rent in my head lately. The easiest way to find Bow Wow’s music is to make sure you capitalize everything, like BOW WOW. Actually, that’s how most Japanese bands stylize their names. I would share some stuff off of their two earlier albums, but the titles are in Japanese, and apparently copy and paste isn’t a thing on Spotify. So instead I give you Must Say Adieu from their third album CHARGE, and We’re No. 1 off of their 1980 album GLORIOUS ROAD. Yeah, pretty much everything about these guys is big, so the gratuitous use of caps lock makes sense. “Must Say Adieu” kind of gives me a vibe of KISS playing punk. It’s got the edgy sound while also being a little softened? Does that make sense? No? Maybe? Whatever. “We’re No. 1” is pretty much just that; the band proclaiming they’re number one. They really are, too. Anywhere you look generally has them pioneering the genre in Japan. The song, however, sounds…decidedly non-metal. Like, there’s guitars, drums, all of the elements. But it sounds like something out of a 60s hippy commune. I’m using this song as a launching pad to spotlight just how goofy some of these bands can sound. That’s not a bad thing, by any means. It’s fun. It makes you smile, bop around, and just generally puts you in a good mood. Sometimes. There IS black metal, after all.

Moving on from the introductory band, let’s check out a couple of others from the earlier years. Loudness is one you may have actually heard of, even if you’re fairly oblivious to the scene like I was. Crazy Nights is the first look here. It’s hair metal. It’s heavy and fun. Legitimately what more do you want? Lonely Player is a whole other beast. I went with the live version on this one just to show how these dudes absolutely epitomize 80s metal. There’s thrashy bits, there’s bluesy bits, there’s just good fucking music. I really don’t know what else to add here. Next band! Here’s the song Week End. Hey, is that Mötley Crüe? Poison? Nope, that’s X Japan! What in the Tommy Lee Brett Michaels Vince Neil fuck? Ever see the Nick Swardson stand-up where he talks about watching a behind the music where it’s like “Nikki Sixx drank heroin from a fire hose.” This is what would happen if Nikki Sixx drank heroin from a fire hose. Seriously, if that isn’t just the biggest melding of every hair metal band into one, I don’t know what is. I’m also about 90% sure I’ve heard that song in an anime. Okay, let’s try Racin’ Rock. No, that isn’t Van Halen playing a Japanese version of Hot For Teacher. That’s the band Anthem. Once again, fairly prototypical 80s metal. It’s just stupid fun that gets you bopping.

Okay, does everyone have their fill of 80s metal? Good. We’re going to take a break so that I can actually fully change out of work clothes (I’ve been sitting here for 45 minutes writing in just long underwear and socks. Settle down), and into my usual basketball shorts and dad slippers.

Let’s move up a decade and/or two. My first 90s/2000s band is Maximum The Hormone. Yeah, just stick with me here. We’re moving from crazy hair metal to crazy band names for a bit. Anyway, their first entry is a song called What’s Up, People! Apparently it’s associated with the anime Death Note, so there’s some mainstream action going on here. There’s some growls, lots of heavy instrumentals, etc. Sure, great, good reach, but it’s once again a song that gets you bopping. So keep that one fresh, because here comes the same band with Chuchu Lovely Munimuni Muramura Prinprin Boron Nururu Rerorero. Say that one time fast! HA HA HA. Seriously though, they can do it. So do it. Whatever, it’s much more of a punk thing, complete with phlegm. I legitimately enjoy the fuck out of this song, and it’s on my Heavy Faves playlist on Spotify. It’s got a deeper meaning (it’s a sarcastic rant against pedophilia and sexualizing minors, amongst other things), but just like anything else, if you don’t really look into the lyrics, it’s just good fun! But seriously, think of it as a Japanese version of Sublime’s Wrong Way.

From dark to darker, we’re now going to look at Church of Misery. The song that strikes me from them is Filth Bitch Boogie. So, this band’s catalogue mentions a few criminals; mostly murderers. Okay, lots of mentions of serial killers. Very distorted sound; I’d call it Misfits meets Butthole Surfers, but with maybe a dash more Danzigness added. Seriously, Danzig is a weird motherfucker. Also, please don’t tell him I wrote this, because he will probably try to unalive me somehow. HAHA HI GLENN, JUST KIDDING, YOU’RE AWESOME!

Alright, moving back to the insane, our next band is *checks notes* yep, Sex Machineguns. Folks, I’m not this creative. These are real. Here’s GS Boy. It’s ridiculous how much this reminds me of St. Anger era Metallica with the kinda weirdly tuned snare. I must remind you all that that’s not a bad thing to me, SINCE I AM LITERALLY ONE OF FIVE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY REALLY LIKED ST ANGER (the other four being Lars, James, Kirk, and Bob Rock, because no, Robert Trujillo did not record bass for that album). Ahem. Anyway, it’s good. I like it. Next up is Bathtub Shitter. Okay, who in the god damn fuck is naming these bands? So yeah, they sing about poop. Here’s Shit Fly. Not a huge fan of these guys, but here they are! Last look I’ll give you from the era (because I legit don’t know how much more of this shit I can take) is Blood Stain Child’s Mystic Your Heart from the album of the same name. I had a very vocal reaction to this song. I still vividly remember it. I was riding home in a van from The Paris Of Iowa, Creston (Dear Creston, fuck you. Love, me). We were passing through Chariton (soft C, just…don’t get me started. I have a whole schtick). I started this song on Spotify. As soon as the vocals kicked in I blurted out “What the fuck? This is god damn Kidz Bop Cradle of Filth!” I scared my engineer, and also the van driver. They asked what I was on about, and I explained that it would be a long story. But seriously, it’s Kidz Bop Cradle of Filth.

Now, after one last break, because my ass bone hurts from this shitty hotel desk chair, I’ll move onto current bands.

So a pretty big trend in the current Japanese metal scene is women. That sounds like a stupid sentence, and believe me, I sat here for about ten minutes trying to figure out a better way to write it. I guess a better description would be that there’s a melding of J-Pop and metal that has become wildly popular. Either way, searching out current bands gives you names like Lovebites, Band-Maid, Aldious (whose video for “Dominator” looks almost like a carbon copy of In This Moment’s Prayers), and Babymetal. The music is good, the vocals are all VERY upbeat, and the costumes are a thing. Literally all of this is Otaku fanboy kawaii bullshit, and I don’t mean that as a bad thing. It’s literally called “Kawaii Metal.” Bands that seem to favor pageantry over their music usually gets me in a tizzy more than anything, but you know what? They’re absolutely not sacrificing their sound in favor of the pomp, i.e. just to look a certain way, or to perform their choreography. In fact, this is where you get a lot of enhancement out of those very things. I also SUPER LOVE WOMEN IN METAL! Maria Brink, Otep, Christina Scabbia, and my absolute favorite metal vocalist (PERIOD) of all time Angela Gossow. So is it a little weird and a little different? Yeah. Many people have come to expect a certain sound from their metal, and this is certainly not the “usual.” But all of these bands are thrusting women into more prominent roles in heavy metal, and I am so fucking here for it.

Now if that’s not your thing, there are some other bands out there that subscribe to a more “traditional” aesthetic (as in they’re men, they scream, don’t dance around so much, etc). Crossfaith might sound like a youth pastor’s side project christian rock band, but they’re far from. Monolith is popular, and it’s easy to see why. The band is characterized as metalcore, and I guess this kind of fits the bill, but there’s a lot of dubstep shit going on here, and I really dig it. It’s different. That’s the same thing that draws me back towards the aforementioned bands of the modern era. It’s different. Finally, we’re going to go to one of my current favorite bands, with one of my current favorite songs. The band is Dexcore. Now, Wikipedia says that Dexcore is a “visual kei alternative metal band.” Whatever the fuck that means. It means they’re fucken good. Allow me to gush with a few ear pearls. Your warm-up round is Brain Washing. Round two is Self-Hatred. Semi-Main is Dragout. And now, your final boss fight. A song that captured my immediate attention back in early October, and hasn’t let go. I call it trap metal. It has, I fucking shit you not, what seems like about EIGHT different breakdowns. I give you EARTHWORM.

I’ve given you all quite a lot to digest in this entry, so homework will be light, (no it won’t, that’s an absolute lie) and I won’t drone on too much (LOL, yeah right). Obviously, listen to Earthworm until your ears bleed. Because fuck yeah. In a secondary role, I’m going to shove Autumn Lies Buried down your throat with Brothel. This track is SO FUCKING GOOD. I follow the vocalist on Tik Tok, and he is angry as fuck. Give them all of the listens. Do it here, Spotify, Apple Music, anywhere you can stream. Fuckers deserve as much visibility as we can get them. Third up, this band has gotten some pretty good visibility already on Liquid Metal, but I have to bow down to sweet drums. Give it up for Slaughter to Prevail’s Demolisher (and a bonus drum cover from one of my favorite Youtube personalities 66Samus. OHHH YURRR!). Go do your fucking homework. Throw horns, air drum, and growl responsibly. Until next time, I’m Mr. Gray. Class dismissed.

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