I’ll always love the classic rock of yesteryear more than anything. But over the last several years of my life, I’ve realized the unique greatness of contemporary Japanese music. In this blog I’ll discuss my favorite Japanese music artists.
5) Hysteric Panic
This spot was originally going to ONE OK ROCK. For all intents and purposes, ONE OK ROCK’s members are very talented, and very experimental-two qualities that I seek in bands. However, just going off of the sheer percentage of discography that I loved, Hysteric Panic is way better than them in my book. So why do I like this basically unknown J-thrash band so much?
I love Hysteric Panic because of their energy. They more or less only play thrash, but they’re so darn good at it that I can’t even complain. They also have a wide range of vocals, from a high-pitched, Axl Rose-sounding guy, to a guy who sounds like a constipated alligator. Regardless of if it’s multiple guys or the same guy, this wide range of screams makes Hysteric Panic stand out as a thrash band. Give them a whirl if you love Metallica or others like them!
4) MYTH & ROID
Led by TomH@ck of OxT, MYTH & ROID was originally my favorite Japanese band, and was in 1st on early drafts of this post. Although they are a solid prog-rock band that has more of an identity than most people in the ainsong industry, I realized that I find the artists in the Top 3 more irreplaceable. I don’t know if it’s because MYTH & ROID has way less discography or what, but them’s the brakes.
But hey, they’re still in Top 5 for a reason. MYTH & ROID has managed to craft a distinct style that basically allows them to do whatever they want, as long as they maintain one consistency: MAKE. IT. AWESOME. Out of all the artists on this list, I have always exclaimed “WTF?!” with every song of theirs the first time I heard it.
Recently, I have been exposed to music from the bizarro minds of truly eccentric people, such as DAOKO and Kenshi Yonezu. But at the time, I remember when I threw on Styx Helix because it was a Re:ZERO song, and thought it was a decent techno-chill song. I later noticed that they also did OP 2 of the same show. I put on that song, Paradisus Paradoxim, and it completely blew me away with how different it was. I fell in love with MYTH & ROID right then and there… and then fell slightly less in love with them over time.
While they are no longer my favorite, they are still a great band that stands out from the rest. I recommend giving them a listen if you’re tired of that mainstream crap.
Didn’t expect a pop group, did you? And an IDOL group on top of that?! Well, this entry was originally going to be the jazz-pop duo, ORESAMA. As great as their music is, their record label, Lantis, seems to not want anybody overseas to be able to support their artists, so I basically grew out of them.
However, one MyAnimeList article helped fill the ORESAMA-shaped hole in my heart: The announcement of Dempagumi.inc member, Mirin Furukawa’s, marriage. I immediately had to know what a band with such a weird name was, and sure ‘nough, they’re on Apple Music! One greatest hits album later, and I found myself- for the first time ever- unironically in love with a pop idol group.
Dempagumi’s gimmick is that they are otaku. A lot of their songs are about Akihabara and… well, I don’t know what else because they’re singing in a language I don’t know very well. Additionally, their singing reaches such outrageous tempos at times that it just HAS to have been artificially sped up in post!
Speaking of the tempo, Dempagumi’s main musical style is fully caffeinated J-Pop with tons of synthesizers and videogame sound effects. They try to get you hooked by messing with that pattern-recognition area of your brain that made you bee-bop to Gangam Style. What they do is start off with a fast, catchy beat, and then arbitrarily and abruptly shift into a different, faster tune altogether. This is best exemplified in W.W.D., one of my favorite songs from them. Since their style is designed to mess directly with your brain on a nueral level, you can’t not be caught off guard even if you’re expecting it. It’s science! They’ve been around for over ten years, and they still bamboozle me even during their newest songs. The only flaw with Dempagumi is that there are some songs that are a little more mainstream, and while those are nice and la-dee-da, they aren’t the Dempagumi that I love.
Seriously though, this group should be monopolizing the idol industry! I doubt that any of the members themselves are involved in the creative process of their songs, but whoever is involved… is a freakin’ genius. I highly recommend Dempagumi.inc to anyone who wants a twist to mainstream pop. Start with their greatest hits album: WWD Best Demparyouko, since, like I said, they’ve kind of been active for over ten years…
This is a band I literally found out of nowhere. Although they’ve grown substantially more popular with their most recent album, I was a fan since summer 2019- snug within the range of “before it was cool.” When I made the life-changing decision of subscribing to Apple Music, one of the first bands I got into was- no, not BAND-MAID- but Passcode. Passocde’s great and all, but in the similar artists tab, I couldn’t help but notice BAND-MAID. And the rest is history.
BAND-MAID, whose claim to fame comes from their maid cafe-like attire, is a hard rock band that skirts the line of metal, and a damn powerful one at that. One distinct feeling I get from their music is not something I ever feel in any other J-Rock bands: Classic Rock. Yeah, I know it’s an oxymoron, but a lot of their stuff reminds me of AC/DC, Van Halen, Dio… basically, all the rock bands of yore that I love. “You only like them because they’re mimicking Western culture, you traitorous lech!” you exclaim. Well… it’s true that they do come off as Western, but they’re excused because they still manage to have some sort of identity, despite how much they emulate those aforementioned artists.
If I have any concern, it’s that I don’t know what direction they’re headed in. Despite the fact that their newest album is objectively their most successful and important one, I feel mixed about it. It sounds a bit… lighter than previous records (I’ve only listened to the first half of it, though). I won’t fault them for trying stuff; in fact, I love it when artists try stuff. But I don’t know if they’re merely trying stuff, or if they’re trying to pander to the masses. If it’s the latter, they’d likely abandon the metal music identity they’ve spent the past five years building.
But for the time being, BAND-MAID is a ludicrously good group. Apple Music doesn’t have their very first album, but it has everything else. I personally started with their third studio album, Brand-New Maid, but you can honestly start anywhere.
It shouldn’t surprise me that Japanese-American singer nano wound up being first on my list. After all, she is one of the few people in the anisong industry who really has a true style that is entirely their own.
nano generally does very aggressive hard rock and metal tracks, but also throws in electronic, or even in the case of one particular song, combines rock with traditional Japanese instruments. I find her older stuff to be rough around the edges, but from her album, Rock On, and onwards, she’s gotten better and louder. Her albums are one of the best showcases of the evolution of an artist that I’ve ever heard. A lot of credit goes to whoever produces and mixes the music in order to bring out the best of her powerful voice and the instruments that her buddies play.
nano’s music is divided into two distinct types: Regular J-rock that’s used as assets for anime and such, and straight up Western-influenced hard rock. The latter is typically used in albums, as the designated filler songs. However, I find those to be some of the best filler, and often times among nano’s best songs. I recommend going through all of her albums, or at least starting with Rock On and going chronologically from there.
Overall, Japanese music is freakin’ great, and I don’t get why it’s not more popular. I get that the Japanese generally like to keep to themselves, culturally, but most of this stuff is as easily accessible on big-name streaming service as their Korean competitors! It’s… it’s THERE! Well, whatever. Hopefully, this post will raise just a little more awareness for the stuff. I highly recommend you follow these artists, and whoever else you find interesting, on Twitter. Most of the Tweets are in Japanese… but… it takes only two clicks to translate their Tweet… so just follow them already!
Honorable Mentions: Passcode, RAISE A SUILEN, Burnout Syndromes, ASCA, ONE OK ROCK