Some bands become known almost entirely by their gimmicks. Kiss had their make up and costumes. Twisted Sister came out in full drag in the 80s. Ozzy has his whole Prince of Darkness vibe going for him. So, it isn’t uncommon for groups like Band-Maid to come out and have a signature look to them. Its just that their look is based on Japanese maid cafes.
Metal bands have a long history of elaborate stage shows and costumes, but the important thing is that they have the skills to back them up. Fortunately, Band-Maid packs more than enough musical talent. This month, we’re celebrating one of the hardest working and hardest rocking bands in metal today.
The Essential Band-Maid
Band-Maid’s signature look came from Kobato Miku’s experience working in a maid café. She imagined a band with that kind of image but playing kick-ass rock music, juxtaposing the two seemingly conflicting worlds. Kobato soon recruited guitarist Tono Kanami, who in turn suggested that drummer Hirose Akane join in. Soon they’d also brought in Misa to play bass and the band’s initial line-up was complete. They played a few shows around their native Tokyo but felt that a change was needed. Shortly after they recruited singer Atsumi Saiki to join as lead vocalist alongside Kobato, who also played rhythm guitar.
This was back in 2013 and, despite an ever-changing world and a hectic touring and recording schedule, the band’s line-up hasn’t changed in the eight years they’ve been together. In those eight years, they’ve released seven full studio albums, which have spawned seven Top 40 hits in their native Japan. Throughout that time, they’ve also done numerous tours and performed both locally and internationally.
The group quickly gained attention for their unusual appearance. Calling their male fans “master” and their female fans “princess” while referring to their concerts as “servings”, they played up the unusual appearance for years. Even now, most of the group continues to wear their signature outfits, though Misa has shifted to a black dress in what she calls her “maid assassin” outfit while Astumi tends to don a more Gothic Lolita inspired look.
The real secret behind Band-Maid’s success isn’t their cute looks or their appearance. The secret isn’t really a secret at all: they are all incredibly talented musicians who play amazing music. Tono is easily one of the top guitarists in the world, almost effortlessly playing riffs that would make most people’s fingers bleed. Atsumi is another standout, with aggressive, soaring vocals whether she is singing in Japanese or English. And there are few bassists who can keep up with Misa’s rhythm skills.
If you’re new to Band-Maid’s sound or want to know where to start when getting into them, you can’t go wrong with YOLO. The song features an incredible guitar riff that really highlights Tono’s skills as well as the harmonies between Atsumi and Kobato’s voices. It was one of their first singles and remains a stand-out among their catalogue. High energy and forceful, this is a song that always goes down well live as well as from the studio.
If you’re looking for more of a ballad sound, start over is a great track that is a little bit slower, featuring a bit of piano to lighten the mood. You can really get a feel for Atsumi’s vocal range in this song, which is doubly impressive when you realise that Band-Maid was her first ever band. She was only 19 years old when she joined the group but she carries herself and the microphone with the kind of confidence most don’t until they have spent decades on stage.
Finally, if you’re looking to get an idea of what the band sounds like these days, they just released a new single in October of this year. Sense is every bit as dramatic and soaring as the best metal bands, but it also has the honed skills and chemistry that Band-Maid has gained after playing together for almost a decade. It is a fantastic track and hopefully a precursor to a new album on the horizon.
If you can’t get past the cute aesthetics of Band-Maid, then that is a you problem, my friend, because you’ll miss out on one of the best bands in the world playing the music they love and having a huge amount of fun while doing it. They are frequent additions to the Rice Digital Spotify Playlist so you can always catch them there.
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