Japanese metal bands have been some of the best in the world ever since the ’80s, when the visual kei movement brought the world groups like X Japan.
Since those days, the scene has become one of the most diverse and successful in the nation, with several bands finding fans across the globe and touring with international festivals.
To make sure you always have enough metal in your life, I’ve put together a little list of some of the best Japanese metal bands out there right now. I’ve put a focus on more recent bands but some old favourites of mine might have snuck in there. So grab your headbanging wig and let’s get rocking.
Its tough to create a list of Japanese metal bands without including BABYMETAL. The group is arguably the most famous metal group to come out of Japan and has played on some of the biggest festivals and venues in the world. They count metal icons like Rob Zombie among their fans, giving this metal-idol group an air of legitimacy that should be enough even for the most hardcore of headbangers.
With their combination of cute outfits, expert vocal delivery, and some of the heaviest power chords you will find, BABYMETAL is something unique among metal bands. That is certainly part of their appeal, but it would be foolish to ignore the talent and skill it takes to deliver those vocals while dancing and looking that adorable the whole time.
Maximum the Hormone
Maximum the Hormone formed in Tokyo in 1998 and have had sporadic hiatuses during the last twenty years, but when they are together they create some of the most interesting nu-metal to come out of Japan. Within the same song, they are prone to switching between clean vocals, rapping, and shouting, each delivered by different members of the band.
This, combined with their ability to weave multiple genres into the same track and the tongue-in-cheek humour of their music videos, mean that there is a lot to enjoy about Maximum the Hormone. There are very few live music experiences quite like them, so they are definitely one to catch. Here’s hoping they can make another overseas trip in the next few years and make their way to the UK!
In a move that could only come from Japanese metal bands, this Tokyo-based group take to the stage wearing outfits straight out of a maid café, refer to their fans as “masters and princesses”, and play some of the most kickass metal in the world. Kanami Tono has come out with some of the best guitar riffs on the planet since the band formed in 2013.
If you choose to look past this group just because they have a gimmick (and one they look damn good in), you are missing out on some of the best metal music on the planet, Japanese or not. The maid café look is intended as a deliberate contrast between the powerful music they play and the innocent, subservient look that they take on stage and in interviews.
If you’re a fan of the dramatic, theatrical sound that often characterises the British metal scene, then LOVEBITES is going to be right up your street. They play a mix of power metal and old school heavy metal of bands like Motorhead and Iron Maiden. With powerful, sweeping vocals and one of the best rhythm sections on the planet, these young women from Tokyo have already made a huge splash on the Japanese metal scene since their formation in 2016.
LOVEBITES are one of the most Japanese metal bands in the scene today because no one in the world is playing music like they do right now. Their music videos are long and dramatic, with soaring vocals and guitar riffs backed up by pounding drums and bass. They are a metalhead’s metal band, so if you’re looking for something that mixes the old school and the new school, they are well worth checking out.
Got any favourites to share? Let us know in the comments, or pen us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page if you’ve got more to say!
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