So you like BABYMETAL? WONDERFUL! So do we. Ever since hit singles like Gimme Chocolate!! and Karate, Babymetal has taken the world by storm with their kawaii pop-metal fusion, selling out the largest venues in almost every country they’ve performed in. They’ve been praised by metal superstars and veterans, Dragonforce and Metallica. They have even been acknowledge outside of their genre, having been the opening act for Lady Gaga during the North American leg of her ARTRAVE World Tour in 2014. Odds are, if you’re an anime fan then you probably like Babymetal, or have at least heard of them.
Many fans might wonder why they were the first of their kind, and why no other group from Japan has tried going at a similar style. Well, truth is there are plenty that just haven’t gain as much recognition outside of Japan. So whether your waiting for Babymetal’s third album, Metal Galaxy, to be released this October, or just looking for a new song to scream while imitating Aggretsuko at karaoke night, here are a few Japanese metal bands sure to satisfy.
Originally formed in 2013 by former Akihabara maid cafe employee, Miku Kobato, BAND-MAID is an all female metal group from Tokyo that has since started to gain momentum in North America and Europe. Since then, the five metal metal maids have released five studio albums, and one EP under a side project as BAND-MAIKO, reworking their own tracks as well as original songs in a Kyoto style enka/metal fusion. Their concept of performing dressed as maid cafe servants and overly feminine is made to contrast their heavy output and masculine vocal style. Recently they made their anime debut as the performing artist of “Glory,” the fourth closer for Yu-Gi-Oh VRAINS!
Their sixth studio album, currently untitled, is slated for release this December in part with their Japan World Domination 2019/2020 激動 Tour. While they are a huge success in Japan, overseas tours tend to be very brief, usually only five to eight shows per continent in select cities. As seen on their live DVDs, shows are as energy fueled as their music, and yes — when they aren’t near screaming vocals they do talk in the signature cutesy maid cafe voice to the fans. Keeping up with the maid act, each male fan is addressed as “Master” while all female fans are referred to as “Princess.”
Noteworthy Songs: Choose Me, The Non-Fiction Days, REAL EXISTENCE
If Band-Maid is not the currently reigning underdogs of Japanese metal then the Osaka based Aldious certainly is. Since their formation in 2008, this all-female group has released six studio albums, all placing in the top 20 (if not top 15) of the Japan Oricon music charts. In contrast to their aggressive sounds and dramatic vocals, at every concert and in their music videos, Aldious presents themselves in pageantry. Every band member is dressed in colorful gowns with lots of jewels, big hair, and face made up for a runway.
Originally, their first EP was released independently, and sold out. Still unable to be picked up by any record label, Aldious members did the most rebellious act they could as metalheads and started their very own record company, Bright Star Records. Finally, they released their first full length album in 2010, Deep Exceed. It went straight to number 1 on the Oricon Indie chart, followed by several sold out live shows all across Tokyo and Nagoya.
In recent years there have been several line-up changes, leaving only a single founding member left. Regardless, Aldious has continued to push forward, going on extensive tours across all of Japan while releasing tour documents and live DVDs almost at an annual rate since 2012. Although they have had consistent success since their debut, Aldious has only performed outside of Japan once when they were invited to the Summer Sonic Shanghai Festival in 2017.
Noteworthy Songs: White Crow, Monster, Sweet Temptation
Aldious’s record label wasn’t just made to publish their own work. With their overnight success after their first record, Bright Star Records in turn took off, kicking open the doors for several similar struggling artists looking for a label to call their own. One such band was Cyntia (pronounced ‘Cynthia’). Created in 2011, Cyntia is band of great, but short-lived success. Upon their release of their first album, the band soared high, selling out the Tokyo Dome and even was the support act alongside Cinq Element (see below) for American power metal superstars, Kamelot, during their Japan 2013 tour.
Like clockwork, Cyntia released a new album annually for five years in a row despite occasional lineup changes, record label changes, and health issues. Several of their songs were even featured in anime and TV dramas such as “Senko Strings” (Saint Seiya Omega), “Akatsuki no Hana” (Yona of the Drawn), and “KISS KISS KISS” (Itazua na Kiss 2).
Since 2018, the band has since gone on hiatus due to vocal illness and disagreements. Whether or not they will ever continue seems unlikely.
Noteworthy Songs: Run to the Future, Urban Night, Return to Myself
Another band that came to light alongside Cyntia through Bright Star Records is CINQ ELEMENT. Originally formed in 2006, Cinq Element flew under the radar. Being established far from major cities like Tokyo or Osaka, between 2007 and 2011 they played as many local shows as they could to gain headway across the Kyushu island in western Japan. Usually they made about 40 live appearances each year between 2007 and 2010. Sure enough, their hard work paid off when they received an invite to perform at FAR EAST RAMPAGE, an all-female music festivals in Kawasaki, Tokyo.
From there, it was a steady climb as they started gain further popularity in the country, as well as a a few shows in South Korea with the release of their first EP, Destiny, in 2011. Just a year later came their first single, Brodia. Finally in 2013 they were able to put out their first full length album, Shining, and stood alongside Cyntia as support act for Kamelot during their Thorns Over Japan Tour.
While their activity has been spotty ever since, taking four years after Shining to release their sophomore album, and gone silent after January 2018, Cinq Element isn’t one to tap out so easily, and shouldn’t be ignored.
Noteworthy Songs: Eternal, Destiny, Jaegard
The newest of those on this list, and perhaps the most promising is THE UNCROWNED. Formed in 2016, Uncrowned was conceived by guitarist, Takeshi, and his brothers. Although they have received a few awards, great publicity, and high demand, The Uncrowned has only performed live 11 times since their founding at the time of writing this. Currently by their own choice, they have decided not to tour and instead just focus on the creative aspect of being musicians. Still, they continue to release new music on a steady basis that sells well. Their latest single, Shining Dream, was released in February this year.
Their first and currently only album, REVIVE, was ranked No. 1 of 2016 in BURRN! magazine (an alternative music magazine that focuses on hard rock and heavy metal in Japan) by the editors, and even won the fan vote for Biggest Hope that same year. While there isn’t much else to be said for them beyond this, The Uncrowned are newcomers housing a lot of potential and very well could be seen playing sold out shows same as every other act listed above in the near future.
Noteworthy Songs: Lost Tears, Shining Dream