Western audiences aren’t often exposed to music from Japan, with only a handful of acts ever making a name for themselves in the west. But, that just means there is a wide range of new music for us to discover when we’re wanting to try something new.
Here are 10 J-Rock bands that you really need to check out, there is something in this list for everyone and you won’t regret giving them a listen, you might just discover your next favourite band.
LADYBABY formed in 2013 and are similar in style to acts such as BABYMETAL. Despite not reaching the heights of BABYMETAL, the band has released a string of very catchy songs in the style of “Kawaii Metal”. As of 2020 the band is on hiatus, but could make a return in the future so don’t count them out just yet.
Lovebites is an all-female Japanese metal band that was formed in 2016. Their third album, Electric Pentagram, reached number 9 in the Oricon chart in 2020. The band also won Metal Hammer’s Golden Gods Best New Band award in 2018, giving them a lot of exposure to western audiences. We will likely be seeing a lot more of this band in the coming years.
8. Dir En Grey
Formed in 1997, DIR EN GREY are one of Japan’s heaviest mainstream metal bands, finding success across the world. Their 32nd single Oboro was released in April 2021, and the band still enjoys success worldwide despite singing primarily in Japanese.
7. ONE OK ROCK
ONE OK ROCK and one of the best known modern Japanese rock bands, making a huge splash in the west during the early 2010s, touring as part of the Warped Tour and Knotfest. Since then the band has remained a top act, with their music videos generating tens of millions of views on YouTube.
HIDE is the former lead guitarist of the band X-Japan. From 1993 until his unfortunate death in 1998, HIDE enjoyed a successful solo career alongside his work in X-Japan, releasing three solo albums and taking part in numerous other projects. His music is fun and energetic and blends the hard rock style he’s known for in X-Japan with a more pop-punk sound.
VAMPS is a duo that consists of hyde from L’Arc-en-Ciel, and K.A.Z, best known for his work in Oblivion Dust and as part of HIDE’s solo band. Their latest album Underworld managed to reach number 2 on the Oricon charts. The band ceased activities at the end of 2017, but it is likely we will see the duo work together again in the future.
4. the GazettE
Have you ever wondered what Japanese punk music would sound like? Well, the GazettE is what it sounds like. Very fast and aggressive, the band could go toe to toe with any popular western act. The GazettE has many to remain relevant for nearly 20 years by constantly adapting their style, even adding more electronic elements during the early 2010s when the dubstep genre really took off. In more recent years they have begun making modern metal music, with plenty of downturned guitars, growls, and fast drum beats. The GazettE formed in 2002 and has since seen multiple of their 9 albums reach the top 5 in the Oricon charts. Their latest album, Mass, is due to be released on May 26th 2021 and will mark their sixth album released by Sony Music Records.
3. Luna Sea
Luna Sea has remained a top act in Japan during their 35+ year career. Their tenth album released in 2019 topped the Billboard Japan chart, showing the band is still as relevant today as they’ve ever been. Despite their long tenure, the band has kept the same lineup since it was formed, an impressive achievement on its own.
BABYMETAL are essentially the Japanese equivalent of an X-Factor band, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Despite being a manufactured band, their music is loud, it is heavy and very catchy. BABYMETAL is a very fun band to listen to and it is hard to be sad when you’re listening to three girls sing about chocolate.
Finally, we have X-Japan, the pioneers of the Visual Kei movement in Japan, very similar to the glam style in the west. Formed in 1982, X-Japan has enjoyed a near 40-year career, with a decade gap from 1997-2007. Unfortunately, the band has been plagued by tragedies including member suicides and the singer being brainwashed by a cult. But, in the words of Gene Simmons “If they were born in America and sang in English, they might be the biggest band in the world.” If that isn’t a reason to check them out I don’t know what is.