Sunday, August 19, 2007

Japanese Heavy Metal (日本のヘビーメタル)

The music I hear now on the 80s music radio stations now is not the music of the 80s that I remember. For the most part, I existed in the heavy metal sub-culture. But I suppose there’s no reason to elaborate on any of this since those days are long gone. However, contrary to what many people think, Japanese metal bands were not just copying American or British metal bands. They were on the crest of the Heavy Metal wave. I can remember when myself - and the boys in the band - went out on the town, that there were five albums (yes 1980s cassettes) that were essential for proper head banging in the car: Metallica, Queensryche, Anthrax, Iron Maiden, and Loudness. Loudness was a Japanese band.

The three Japanese bands we admired were: Loudness, X Japan, and EZO. Loudness, formed in 1981, caught our attention because they were all technically excellent musicians. The guitarist, Akira Takasaki, was even influential on many of the more technical guitarists of American metal. EZO formed in 1984 and were great because of their songwriting talent as well as having a singer, Masaki Yamada, whose English was nearly perfect. I really loved playing Here It Comes as a cover because Taro Takahashi had written such a great bass line for it.

Finally, there was one of my favorite metal bands: X Japan. Formed in 1982 these guys were just awesome even though their singer’s English was heavily accented. Nonetheless, they had an approach similar to Iron Maiden including writing long songs. X Japan’s song Art of Life was 29 minutes long not unlike Iron Maiden’s 13 minute song, Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The link above is to Part 1 of Art of Life recorded at the Tokyo Dome with about 50,000 fans. I think it’s worth watching both Part 1 and Part 2 just because the show was really nice. I admired their bass player Taiji Sawada because I would have loved to play in this band. I was also saddened by the death of the lead guitarist Hideto Matsumoto.

To ignore the talent of these Japanese metal bands would be like ignoring other metal bands like the Scorpions, from Germany, or Sepultura, from Brazil. We never cared where a metal band came from – we only cared whether we could bang our heads to their music.
- Just a peasant