Japan has always had a love affair with heavy metal music. This has been true ever since bands like KISS and Judas Priest, and it continues on to this day with artists like Arch Enemy, Slayer and tons more. The Japanese love heavy metal music. Although the country might not totally be aligned with every aspect of Western Culture, metal is indeed part of the mainstream culture, and unlike in America it is accepted and embraced so much nowadays that it is frequently incorporated into pop, rock, and Visual Kei, a Japanese style of fashion, elaborate costumes and stage shows and music, heavily based on androgyny and youth. With literally hundreds of bands in all sub genres of metal to chose from, we narrowed it down to come up our list of the 10 Best Japanese Heavy Metal bands.
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10.Church of Misery
This is doom metal at its finest. Formed in 1995, Church of Misery's musical style and lyrics are obsessed with morbidity, serial killers, mass murderers, and other dark, bleak subjects. Heavy, buzzing and distorted riffs are key components in the music of Church of Misery, with swarms of heavy bass lines and disturbing samples that are thunderous and full of anguish. They take influence from bands like Cathedral, Black Sabbath and Witchfinder General, and the hypnotic pounding percussion leaves listeners short of breath.
9.Maximum the Hormone
With equal parts death grind, groove rock, jazz and alternative metal, the band uses lots of traditional Japanese melodic pop interludes, with both clean singing and growling. Imagine the sounds System of a Down, Napalm Death, Lamb of God, Faith No More, and fast Japanese spoken word fused together to create a sound like no other. Visually, the band's off the wall and insanely trippy videos only add to the mystic and exhilarating sound and image that defies any classification.
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8.Dir En Grey
Somewhere between metal, hardcore, alternative, hard rock and prog, Dir En Grey was formed in 1997 out of Osaka, and has in its career recorded nine studio albums, and dominated the rock/metal scene in Japan, with music that resonated with tons of fans, whom have grown with the band's evolving sound.
Over the past decade, the original line up the band has remained intact, and the band has toured with everyone from Killswitch Engage to Korn, and got to perform across Europe and North America. The band's career seems to be only beginning as they are full of energy and tour almost constantly.
A band full of technical, talented musicians, Sex Machineguns are a heavy metal band that began in 1989 as an indie rock band, but soon got into punk and rock, to eventually perform a form of metal that borrows from glam power metal and loud hard rock. The band's sound is epic, bass heavy and fueled by fast riffs and speed drumming with erratic singing and a dark, twisted sense of humor.
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6.Blood Stain Child
Another band to originate from Osaka, formed in 2000, Blood Stain Child fuse together melodic death metal song structures, with heavy notes of electronica and trance music. Utilizing both demented, monstrous growls and clean vocals, the band's powerful implementation of a furious, yet orchestrated sound gives a nod to such death metal bands as Dark Tranquility, Soilwork, In Flames, Hypocrisy and Children of Bodom, but adds the subtle hints of dark rave music, which is simultaneously dark, and uplifting; but can be enjoyed by both dancers and moshers.
Hailing from Osaka, this band came into existence in 2006, and have constantly poured a youthful energy with a semi-punk attitude into the music, which is a skillfully crafted mix of metal core, nu metal, and electronic dance music. Imagine mixing The Prodigy with Pantera. This exciting amalgam of electrified, industrial dance metal has earned the band millions of fans around the world, along with a reputation for partying and intense live performances. The band's career has included touring and opening for acts such as Hatebreed, Bleeding Through August Burns Red, Machine Head and many more.
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Formed in Tokyo, in 1992, this band's sound captures the primitive, raw, extreme metal, a style of black thrash and death, all buzzed into an evil, chaotic yet homogenous sound, that fans of bands like Sodom, Hellhammer, Venom, Mayhem and and Bathory will enjoy and appreciate. The band's five albums have progressively gone more into the realms of morality, mortality, sexuality and evil, including 1997's Intercourse and Lust, 2005's Ultimate Unholy Death and the band's 2009 offering, Sweet Baby Metal Slut. Abigail prides itself as being the most evil metal band from Japan.
Formed in 1981 in Tokyo, by guitarist Akira Takasaki and drummer Munetaka Higuchi, Loudness is a traditional heavy metal band, with a strong glam rock and power metal influence that has stayed with the band over the course of its career. Loudness was the first Japanese metal band to be signed to a major label in the United States, and has toured the world, performing at numerous major music festivals across Asia and Europe. Loudness have released well over 20 studio albums, but only five in the United States. The band has shared the stages with everyone from Ozzy to Annihilator, and still tours to this day. Be sure to catch them in a city near you soon!
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Known as one of the very first black metal bands to emerge from Japan, Sigh was born into its dark musical destiny in 1989, as Tokyo musician, song writer and vocalist Mirai Kawashima formed the band, and from the onset led it to possess a dominant place among the early extreme black metal bands, who at the time were mainly based in Norway. In 1993, the band's debut record, Scorn Defeat, was even released on Deathlike Silence Productions, the label owned by the late Mayhem guitarist Euronymous. Mirai Kawashima is also active in the metal community, having been a member of the band American underground cult extreme metal band Necrophagia, as well as having made guest appearances with bands such as Abigal, and the Red Chord and many others.
Over the decades, Sigh has become much more than just another typical black metal band. The roots of the music are clear: dark, abstract, extreme and at times eerie, and terrifying. But Sigh's approach has always been outside the box, and they have composed music based in black thrashy death metal riffs, and blast beats a but in addition the music has been layered with percussion of jazz, keyboards, horror movie soundtracks and samples, orchestrated choir singing, and heavy elements of classical, progressive rock and experimental, Sigh's music will leave headbangers in mesmerized in a daze. With 10 diverse, ambient, eclectic, yet heavy albums, including the band's catalog showcases the possibilities of heavy metal's infinite sound and evolution.
With a career that began over 33 years ago, five full length studio albums, and a new one due early 2016, X Japan has sold over 30 million records world wide, making it, arguably the biggest metal band from the country. The band's foundation has been built upon symphonic power metal and melodic speed metal, but eventually it also began to add progressive rock, glam metal ballads, arena rock, and even Japanese Pop and a Visual Kei style to the music, in both sound and appearance. Despite going through numerous line up changes, break ups, and reunions, X Japan still rages on to this day, as one of the most successful rock bands from Japan, with millions of adamant fans all across Asia and the world. The band's style is very appealing and showcases a special connection it has to the youth of Japan, rock music fans who love the sentiments the band brings that inspire rebellion, individuality, musicianship and freedom.
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.