Japan has a fair amount of interest in western culture. As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that there is a Japanese metal scene. In fact, it should be mentioned that said scene can trace its roots to the 1970s, which was when the Flower Travellin’ Band mixed metal with both psychedelic and progressive rock. Since then, a lot of Japanese metal bands have come and gone, with some having managed to stand out from the rest.
The fun thing about music is that every scene is its own particular thing, meaning that the same genre can still give rise to some very divergent bands. For instance, Babymetal is the pioneer of kawaii metal in the early 2010s, which is a genre that likes to combine metal instrumentation with J-pop influences. It seems safe to say that the band is more than a flash in the pan, seeing as how its releases were still doing quite well as recently as 2020.
9. Flower Travellin’ Band
Flower Travellin’ Band started out as a side project of the singer Uchida Yuya. He had visited his friend John Lennon in the mid 1960s, with the result that he had also become acquainted with other acts such as Cream and Jimi Hendrix. Uchida wanted to bring that kind of sound to his homeland, thus resulting in his formation of what would become the Flower Travellin’ Band. Initially, it was a cover band. However, it want on to release its own original material starting with Satori in 1971. Uchida passed away in 2011, but the band’s influence can be seen in how the surviving members continue to perform its songs with other musicians.
The 1980s saw Japan’s first extreme metal bands. One excellent example would be Sabbat, which has managed to become relatively well-known in Japan as well as beyond Japan. Moreover, said band has a lot of staying power. This can be seen in Sabbat’s huge list of releases, which include collaborations with a wide range of other metal acts.
Onmyo-Za has a very distinctive look. This is because the band has based its aesthetics on Japan’s Heian period, which was a time when Japanese art was coming into its own. Indeed, it should be mentioned that Onmyo-Za is a reference to the magic system onmyodo that was prominent in those times. In any case, Onmyo-Za has earned a place for being one of the most successful Japanese metal bands in recent decades, which has influenced a lot of Japanese women to get involved in Japanese rock as well as Japanese metal.
6. Dir En Grey
Dir En Grey is a band that started up in the late 1990s and has continued to the present time. It is interesting for a number of reasons. First, its line-up has been very consistent. Second, its music has seen numerous changes, so much so that it is difficult to classify Dir En Grey as anything more specific than some kind of metal. Something that speaks of continuous evolution over time. Third, the members of Dir En Grey are famous for their dramatic looks, which is perhaps unsurprising when they were once in visual kei. For those who are unfamiliar, visual kei is a musicians’ movement rather than a musical genre that makes extensive use of makeup, elaborate hair styles, and flamboyant outfits, meaning that it is more than a bit reminiscent of glam rock.
Earthshaker was extremely successful in the 1980s. It was metal, but it was a more pop-influenced kind of metal than a lot of its contemporaries. Regardless, Earthshaker broke up for a time in the 1990s, but since then, the original lineup has reunited with the result that the band is still going strong.
For those who enjoy a bit of humor with their metal, there is Sekima-II. Visually, the band was inspired by Kiss, which explains much about its fondness for makeup and pyrotechnics. However, Sekima-II is also notable because of the band members’ commitment to their fictional backstories as demons from a futuristic demon-world seeking to propagate demon worship through metal music. Even now, the true identity of the band leader remains unknown even though he has remained very active even after the band’s prophesized disbanding at the turn of the millennium.
3. Bow Wow
Bow Wow can claim to be a very influential name in the Japanese metal scene. After all, it was one of the first bands in it, having been founded in the mid 1970s. Moreover, Bow Wow was the first from the Kanto region, which would be the part of the country centered upon Tokyo.
Sometimes, music acts can have very straightforward names. For proof, look no further than Loudness, which has managed to remain strong for multiple decades. Of course, it couldn’t have managed that if people didn’t like its music, though judging by the fact that it has had more than 20 studio albums, that is definitely something that it has well in hand. Loudness is one of those bands that have seen numerous line-up changes over the course of their existence. However, it is interesting to note that it is currently featuring the original line-up with the exception of the drummer who passed away in 2008.
1. X Japan
X Japan formed in the early 1980s. Originally, the band was a mix of power metal and speed metal. Later, X Japan moved towards progressive metal with a particular emphasis on ballads. On the whole, it has had a huge influence on the Japanese metal scene, which makes sense because it is one of the first bands of its kind to find mainstream success. Moreover, X Japan hasn’t just managed to find mainstream success, it has managed to keep it. Something that can be seen in how it has managed to sell more than 30 million records. In any case, if people are interested in a more specific example of X Japan’s influence, consider the fact that the band was one of the pioneers of visual kei.