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Deathcore in Japan – Cutting Edge, Visual Kei and Kawaii Bands
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With deathcore on the cusp of a mainstream break out thanks to bands taking the genre in new and exciting directions, it should go without saying that the phenomenon has gone global. So with that in mind, why not take a look at some of the bands from a country that’s always on the cutting edge of trangressive entertainment?
The deathcore scene in Japan is unique because it’s a blend of musical and visual styles. No matter the flavor of deathcore you prefer, Japan’s probably got it. From traditional deathcore bands that sound and look like they’re stuck in 2009 to idol groups dropping some brutal breakdowns and everything in between, the Land of the Rising Sun’s deathcore scene has fully embraced the chaos.
Yet as with anywhere else in the world, some of it is great and some of it is mediocre, but is any of it groundbreaking? Let’s find out with this list of Japanese deathcore bands.
Crystal Lake are not what you’d classify as pure deathcore (though some tracks undoubtedly are), instead being a mashup of metalcore and electronicore with some sprinkled-in deathcore elements, though their impact on the direction of the genre in Japan means they shouldn’t be overlooked here. Starting out in 2002, the band made waves internationally with their “Apollo” video in 2017 and travelled overseas for a 2019 tour with August Burns Red. Domestically, their True North festival was a showcase for local and international metalcore and deathcore acts.
Move over, Dir En Grey, the new kings of odd are in town. Formed in 2015 by members of the band All Must Die, Deviloof take visual kei to the most macabre it can possibly get. Appearances aren’t everything though, as the band lays down some seriously violent and intense deathcore which matches their look as fittingly as The Undertaker and his “Rest in Peace” theme. To add another level of appeal, Deviloof’s videos are horror spectacles full of body bags and bloodshed. Look for their upcoming EP DAMNED coming out in March.
Visual kei bands adopting brutal sounds is known as “loud kei” and The Desperado blend the two seamlessly. Ex Deviloof guitarist Seiya teams up with vocalist Nero for this cunning, charming, dare I say romantic and of course brutal band, The Desperado. So, Tuxedo Mask decided to start a deathcore band? Honestly, that is the vibe I get from The Desperado, and I like it. They are also quite fresh, starting out in 2019, so here’s hoping for more brutal roses thrown to our feet from The Desperado.
Tokyo’s Nocturnal Bloodlust are a band who throw a lot of things into the mix and because they are quite talented and determined to create lasting impressions, they pull it off. Bloody visual kei, brutal deathcore, non-slacking ‘80s guitar solos, moments of clarity and reflection through clean singing and a cinematic presentation make Nocturnal Bloodlust a band that deserve more recognition that from just those who mainly listen to Japanese music. A European tour in 2016 expanded their outreach, though the bloodlust of getting bigger remains.
Forget what I said about Deviloof being the new kings of odd, that title goes to Qeddeshet. Japanese supernatural horror mingles with slamming deathcore with this band – vocalist Ren seems possessed by various demonic spirits, resulting in grunts and pig squeals and croaks straight out of The Grudge through a ghastly, expressionless face.
Djent. Visual kei. Deathcore. Electronicore. Dexcore throw everything into the pot, and surprisingly, it tastes good. Topically, the band attempts to vary itself as well, with songs like “Black Pig” condemning bureaucratic swine, while songs such as “Self-Hatred” contain uplifting messages before the breakdowns, “This is my worth.” For a full-on breakdown-fest, check out “Earthworm” featuring Makito from Victim of Deception.
The beauty and the beast are offered with Prompts. The beauty – obviously this band has some modelesque members – namely South Korean vocalist PK (who is joined by fellow Korean Piguri on bass) who joined up with Japanese members Ryuki Matsuno and drummer Heaven. The beast is revealed when the dark makeup is applied and the lows rise to the forefront. “Möbius” is a track that will charm you if you let it, featuring a guest appearance from former Crystal Lake frontman Ryo Kinoshita.
World End Man
Tiptoeing the tightrope of brutal death metal (but still retaining an aura of being a brutal deathcore band due to their penchant for breakdowns), World End Man bring the ultraviolence with songs straight out of the A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Tracks like “Silence the Neighbor” and “Whore Mutilation” and their accompanying videos are like mini true crime dramatizations or at times like snuff films set to music. For pornographers of filth, there is more where those came from, as the band recently released their new album Suffer Leader in late 2022.
Time to use tired phrases like “Divinitist goes for your throat” and “Divinitist are unrelentingly heavy!” But hell, it’s true. The Niigata-based band have been out since 2019 and have been brutalizing the world via Slam Worldwide via songs like “Imitator Ov Deities In False Genesis” off of the EP of the same name. Vocalist Ryu Miura, in addition to screaming in Divinitist, also has a channel and does covers of bands like Infant Annihilator, so once you’ve listened to every song the band has to offer, hop on over there for more brutal entertainment.
Inception of Genocide
Symphonic deathcore is a progression in the genre that is certainly hitting its stride these days. Formed in 2015, Tokyo’s Inception Of Genocide have been playing this style for a while, and though they may not have invented or perfected this form of deathcore, they are worth listening to nonetheless. Check out their 2016 album Do Not Despair and don’t despair if you need to pick your jaw up off of the floor.
Looking for a new theory from a dead man? Osaka’s Deadman Walking have also been around for half a dozen years and have released two EPS in that time frame. Their stylish video for “Rise” has all the edgy ingredients to have made the band stand out – cloaked band members, a blindfolded attractive looking singer with a noose close at hand, and at that pivotal break down moment, a bucket of blood tipping over and bathing them all. How are these guys not huge yet?
Victim of Deception
Victim of Deception are another tragic case in the annals of deathcore history, with vocalist Daichi Shimoyana passing away in 2017. With Daichi at the helm, the band showed great promise with well-structured songs featuring well-placed and memorable moments of all-out brutality. The band refused to be victims, however, and bounced back with 2018’s Godless EP, showcasing a more sophisticated, symphonic sound.
Mirrors are unfortunately not active anymore, though it would be amiss as to not mention them as they were one of the heaviest bands in the scene, gaining fans in the death metal community of Japan in addition to the deathcore crowd. The band would also go into black metal territory after a breakdown, while lyrically, they could go into near SDBM territory – with phrases such as “Your optimistic thought is slowly fading away to nothing.”
While Nigella haven’t been active since 2016, it’s fair to include them as an example of a deathcore band utilizing extreme female vocals found in Japan. The band has all the elements that made people latch onto deathcore in the first place – songs that build up to vicious crescendos accompanied by disgusting vocals and all-too-satisfying breakdown bits. It’s a little derivative, but they do it well.
Nagasaki’s Hotoke was formed during the tightest clench of American deathcore’s grip on the metal world, 2008. Perhaps due to coming out at the right time, the band has the sound and spirit of those early Suicide Silence and Whitechapel records many wish the bands were still doing. No clean singing, indeed, just a cleansing from Hotoke.
Betrayer Death Penalty
“Symphonic, progressive, death metal core” are how Osaka’s Betrayer Death Penalty describe themselves. Honestly, no other band I can think of has made this usually dissonant genre as relaxing sounding as Betrayer Death Penalty. The brutal elements intermingle with soft electronics and ethereal guitar playing to make the sound a quarter shoegaze, a quarter progressive djent, a quarter symphonic metal and a quarter deathcore.
When idols get brutal, the result sounds like Miscast’s “Giant Kong.” Debuting in 2019 and disbanding in 2022, Miscast took inspiration from the electronicore scene, getting production help from Sxon (Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas). They are currently known as MAZE. “Giant Kong” features guitarist Daiki, formerly of Her Name in Blood, and evolves the sound of both deathcore and idol groups (also check out Satanic Punish for a similar mashup). Will it catch on with overseas bands looking to expand their sound? Time will tell.
It’s Dying Today
No, not It Dies Today. It’s Dying Today, people. These youngsters released their first video, “ToBreak” four years ago now and not much has been heard since. Still, the song is an ode to those days of innocence when Bring Me the Horizon still had a brutal mindset. The video itself is a somewhat sensual, bloody ordeal that show the band as ruthless but somewhat romantic.
Collection of Weaklings
While Collection of Weaklings haven’t been active since 2016, it’s fair to include them as an example of a rather standardized version of deathcore found in Japan. Accompanied by Randy Blythey vocal techniques, the band play a downtempo, electronically sprinkled version of the sound. There is nothing fancy here, but nothing really exciting either – a tough, heavy steak but not very flavorful.
Bird as Omen
Bird as Omen are a hard band to understand. On one hand, they seem to want to create a grim atmosphere, with their songs going in standard directions heard from the first wave of deathcore bands. Then, they will change it up by introducing ill-fitting melodically sung parts, sounding like a different song altogether, before getting into breakdown mode again. It feels as if they should have decided to go all-in on one or the other, and for that they represent a disappointingly standard example of the genre.
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