Easily one of the first things that made me fall in love metal was the community. Not just the sense of being together as a family and uniting for a love of music, but just how widespread that music was. In all my years in listening to metal, there is one particular scene that utterly captivates my eardrums, introducing me to new styles and sounds I was never even aware of.
That place is Japan.
I first came involved with the Japanese metal scene thanks to Bonten Records, a label that primarily focuses on doom, stoner, sludge, and psychedelic bands. Since then I’ve dived even further into Japanese metal, and am excited to share with ya’ll eight awesome bands you should be listening to.
*Note for this article – While I personally think Babymetal is a terrific band, they have not been included on this list. This list is to shed light on more underground acts that deserve just as much love.
I’ve been lucky to write about Sithter before, as they are one of my favorite surprises in recent years. Their harsh distortion that meets sinister sludge comes with immense Eyehategod vibes. Their latest record, Chaotic Fiend, rips with a violent haze, blending in sharp tones and an overall menacing atmosphere. The band’s song structure blends that line of acts such as Crowbar and Sleep, while creating something unique. Sithter come at the sludge game with such a dark and evil appeal (it really is some of the most fucking sinister stuff I’ve heard in a long time). What aids this idea is the grit and mucky atmosphere to the music, and how it clings with an emotional filth.
The noise, shoegaze, metal act is releasing their new record Dear after 25 years of creating music. It isn’t possible to lump Boris’ sound into just those three labels though (the band is truly bizarre in the most artistic and beautiful sense). The music carries a strong element of droning effects throughout each song. Within that droning comes the vast ability to create such intense emotion. There will be moments of dark ambience that floats about, the song rising in tension and distant clashes as vocals begin to emerge. That same track will then shift into a thunderous burst of distortion fueled guitar playing and beautiful singing (or even murky screams). It isn’t possible to predict the direction that a Boris record will go, or hell, even a song of theirs.
Maximum the Hormone
This is Japanese nu metal, but with an extra twist of fucking bonkers. The weird music videos match the band’s chaotic approach to speedy jams that are all over the place and bouncing with energy. Pummeling drum work is met with blistering guitar playing and aggressive vocal delivery. There isn’t really much I can compare to this band. There are small aspects of popular nu metal acts that are sort of similar, but Maximum the Hormone stands as its own. One thing that they’ll do which is really rad, is that in one moment, after a blistering outburst of pure metal angst, a song will drop into a poppy hook, coming right out of left field. This is a band that promises a brutal good time, tossing in plenty of surprises along the way.
Church of Misery
This is rock and roll with sludgy tones and distortion wild groove. Church of Misery create a killer stoner sound that jams on with wicked vibrancy. The material reeks with a thick dirty atmosphere: that of stale beer, sweat, and cigarette smoke. Whether the band is taking things to a crawl, or wilding it out with electric guitar movements, Church of Misery exudes an aura of “fuck you” punk mentality. The guitar tone can also reaches wonky levels of distortion that are hypnotic. This is another great factor about the band, that while they portray that biker bar aura, they can also get darkly psychedelic. There is such a drive in aggression and grit that fuel the music, creating a variety of work that intoxicates the listener. The blending of various styles is a dark hypnotic treat that will get folks wobbling, head banging, and lost in a beautiful distortion.
There’s quite a bit going on within the workings of Sigh. Considered an avant-garde black metal band, the group incorporates plenty of weird elements throughout their work. Every song comes with an undertone of sinister auras, even if the music uses bright instrumentals and vocal inflections. Weird electronic and poppy bits bubble and strike through the electric delivery that makes for a chunk of Sigh’s material. Their most recent record, Graveward, presents that of haunting guitar patterns that exude a gothic presence. Sigh deliver with straight forward brutality, still keeping things a bit off, allowing each track to be fresh and fast.
This is a rare gem that takes two such genres as metalcore and electronica, and combines them to make an explosive and poppy treat. Crossfaith keep a level of heavy throughout their instrumentation with crunchy breakdowns. However, what really sells the band is their terrific use of those brighter upbeat elements. When this combination is done correctly, you find yourself with work that comes with a massive appeal. Even when things are kept heavy, Crossfaith maintains a consistent drive that loops listeners in with mesmerizing speed. Keeping to the foundation of metalcore, the band is able to incorporate inflections of melody and rainbow-like electronic components into their progression. It’s easily some of the catchiest stuff around, and as metal heads, we can all appreciate a little bit of catchiness.
While these fellas may call themselves “street metal”, to me they sound like a good ole nod to blackened thrash. The music is rich of all matters centering around war, Satan, and death (your family friendly things). The band comes with pulse racing shredding and wailing vocals, giving off this feeling of classic thrash. The appeal is far beyond nostalgia though, for Abigail is a great band that knows how to rip it with savage guitar instrumentation. This style, along with the constant clash of metallic cymbals, create hysteric works of devastation. There and then you’ll find the band slowing things down, tossing in some droning black metal atmosphere. The music makes for a great work that builds on two sounds that play strong by themselves, but also able to play together.
This doom band lays down a punishing haze through its distortion. At the same time, the vocal presence treads the waters of catchy and mesmerizing (regardless of their approach in singing or yelling). Not a ton of music is under their belt as of this time, but from what they’ve created, BlackLab is showing to be one of the world’s most unique doom acts. At times playing to a gloomy atmosphere, to tossing in an upbeat rhythm, the duo sets themselves apart from other bands in the genre. Taking a more rock and roll element to their music, BlackLab will have a song droning in darkness and weight for some time, to kicking things into high gear and letting loose on the wild riffs. This makes for music that offers a plate of emotion and attitude, all while keeping to an ever changing formula.
In my time listening to Japanese metal, I certainly have picked up on some common themes. One particular theme is the use of heavy distortion that comes with sludge, psychedelic, and stoner sounds. This also comes with extravagant song structure and unpredictable styles of music, creating work that will always catch listener’s off guard. And these eight bands are just the beginning!
What bands here capture your interest? And what other bands from Japan should we be listening to?
We are looking for suggestions for the next Scene Report. Does your region have a great scene that people should know about? Email us at hatemail [at] metalinjection [dot] net with your pitch.
View previous Scene Reports here.