Dir En Grey

All posts tagged Dir En Grey

I was recently asked to contribute to a book known as The Dig showcasing Japanese metal. I was initially approached by veteran journalist Takashi Kanazawa for an interview offering up one person’s western world view on Japanese bands, but he decided to take it up a level and asked me to compose an actual article. Published exclusively in Japan by Shinko Music, the issue came out at the end of June. The original English text is below.

Die-hard Japanese metal fans may be put off by the fact that I only mention some of the most popular / best known bands. Note that if I’d been given the space the story would have been a lot longer, and I would have paid worthy attention to many of the Japanese bands that fly below international radar a lot of the time. Fact is that Loudness, Anthem, EZO and X Japan were the building blocks for my interest in the Japanese metal scene; this is a story about that.

I am by no means an authority on Japanese metal, so take this as one fan’s tribute to that scene.

By Carl Begai

My love affair with Japanese heavy metal began as it did for the vast majority of western world metalheads: Loudness.

It was 1986, and during an episode of the weekly Power Hour on MuchMusic (Canada’s answer to MTV) the band’s video for their new song ‘Let It Go’ was aired for the first time. I was immediately enthralled. Everything about the song was magic – the guitar riff, the vocals, the melodies, the solos – and I wanted more. The next day I bought the cassette version of the Lightning Strikes album from Sam The Record Man in downtown Toronto and, during the drive home, I was introduced to a band that captivates me to this day.

loudness

Hell, it was because of ‘Let It Go’ that I decided I wanted to learn how to play guitar. After over 25 years of practice I can almost play the whole song. Almost.

It was the purchase of Loudness’ Disillusion album several weeks later, however, that made me a Japanese metal addict for life. I found the vinyl LP at the Record Peddler import store, unaware the band’s label Music For Nations had pressed Japanese and English language versions of the record. I didn’t realize until I put it on at home that I’d picked up the Japanese version. It was the strangest and most amazing thing I’d ever heard. As a Canadian I come from one of the most culturally enriched countries in the world, yet the exposure I’d had to Japanese at that point in my life never prepared me for the metal blasting out of my stereo. Everything about it was unique to my ears, and so damn heavy. Even the ballad. I was amazed, and I must have played it 100 times in the first month.

From the moment I dropped the needle on the record I was hooked, and the hunt began… Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Anyone who has spent time trolling around the metal world in recent years is aware of the Visual Kei movement. Consult the know-it-all realm of Wikipedia for a detailed description of what it entails, but in a nutshell Visual Kei is a full-on music-meets-image subculture out of Japan. Call it the Asian answer to the North American ‘80s glam rock / metal scene, only darker yet somehow even more flamboyant, with a hell of a lot more staying power. Unlike the Western world’s short run of guys-with-guitars-will-be-girls, which was snuffed out with the rise of Seattle’s grunge scene, Visual Kei’s origins date back to the birth of a “little” band called X in 1982, taking root in earnest with their 1989 breakthrough. With the recent international rise of countrymen Dir En Grey, Visual Kei migrated from Japan, going from foreign oddity to audio/visual trend in only a few short years.

Admittedly, I had no intention of tackling the subject. Introduced to X in 1993, I was blown away by their music and image, and they became a regular spin on my stereo. There was also a certain amount of I-know-something-you-don’t-know elitist pride in that the band was a non-entity to the general metal population. Fellow metalhead / co-conspirator The Rev and I had several conversations about the band at the time, agreeing that if North American labels had been aware of X’s existence (better known these days as X Japan) the band would have been signed in a heartbeat. Not that they ever needed a foreign record label to gain an international fan following or lay claim to millions of units sold.

Fast forward to 2010 and the Japanese melodic death metal band Blood Stain Child. Four albums young and working on a fifth, they made the surprise move of adding a female vocalist by the name of Sophia to their line-up. Adding to the unexpected news, she hailed from Greece and had an in-your-face Visual Kei look about her. Curiosity led to correspondence, which eventually turned into the opportunity for some unique insight on what is widely regarded as a cultural phenomenon.

A resident of Japan since August 2010, Sophia reveals she’s always had a focus on her current home. Her ongoing love affair with Visual Kei took hold long before she made the move.

“I grew up with Japanese pop culture and I’ve had a strange attraction towards Japan ever since I was a kid,” she reveals. “My mom used to buy me lots of Japanese stuff, take me and my brothers to Asian cuisine restaurants, and encouraged us to start practicing martial arts. Hey, even my first LP was a My Melody song collection (laughs). Moving to Japan came as a natural thing for everybody who knows even a little about me. I’ve always wanted it. The reasons are many, but the catalytic factor was, of course, Blood Stain Child.” Continue Reading

Okay, so it isn’t a monthly update as I’d planned, but feast your eyes and ears on some righteous noise news out of Japan… the island nation where I will one day spend far too much money on fattening up my metal collection…

Loudness recently contributed a song entitled ‘The Eternal Soldiers’ as an intro theme for the new anime movie, Mazinkaizer SKL. The single was released on December 15th with a B-side entitled ‘The Danger Zone’; both tracks fall in line with the band’s current thrash-oriented attack, as heard on their latest album King Of Pain. Click the following links for audio samples: ‘The Eternal Soldiers’, ‘The Danger Zone’.

The single is now available for order via CDJapan.com here.

Click here for look and listen to ‘King Of Pain’, the first single from the album. King Of Pain is Loudness’ second album with new drummer Masayuki ‘Ampan’ Suzuki. He replaces founding skinbasher Munetaka Higuchi, who lost his battle with liver cancer in November 2008. Continue Reading