Rammstein and Metallica move over, because Japan’s Girl Metal Band Boom (yes, you read that right) is challenging gender norms within the industry: and with wackiness to spare. Holly Black rounds up some of the country’s quirkiest offerings
The land of the rising sun is known for many things – kabuki theatre, high tech electronics, manga, Hello Kitty, and incredible food. It is less well known for its heavy metal girl bands, but in a society that is still entrenched in patriarchal attitudes, this new wave of female-only bands is making waves – not only through their quirky stage antics and eye-catching costumes, but also in how they are challenging the perception of women’s traditional roles in Japan’s music industry. In a world where the next new rising star can quickly become yesterday’s news, competition to stay on top is fierce, and the most successful acts have learnt to dominate the charts not only through catchy songs, but also via unique personas and identities. The heavy metal industry is no different. Here’s our favourite five female heavy metal bands and why we love them.
With their manically catchy tunes, this unlikely fusion of pop and heavy metal has made school girl trio Baby Metal an international sensation in the rock and roll industry. They may not have had any interest in metal before, or even heard of a mosh pit, but Baby Metal are certainly turning metalheads (see what we did there?). The band is associated with something referred to as ‘kawaii’ metal – that infamous word for ‘cute’ that has become synymous with so much of Japanese pop culture. And in the case of Baby Metal, it’s been challenge accepted, because they have most definitely taken this idea to a whole new level of kawaiiness.
Their breakthrough song ‘Gimme Chocolate!!!’ (note the three exclamation marks) has won over Japan’s metal fans with over 17 million views on Youtube since 2014. They reached top of the metal charts on iTunes, and sold out their 2016 world tour, which kicked off at London’s Wembley Arena (marking the first ever Japanese act to headline the prestigious venue). Whether you’re into heavy metal or not, the fascinating, ludicrous and outrageous aesthetics of the band’s stage set up and costumes are worth the ticket alone!
Don’t let looks fool you. While they may have a look that says ‘demented ballroom dancer meets living doll”, Aldious is a kick-ass five-person band who can thrash with the best of them. Something of a pioneer on the scene, they have paved the way for the explosion of female-fronted bands in Japan today. Originally from Osaka, since 2010 the all-female power metal band has been a regular on the festival scene, rocking everything from ballads to powerful metal riffs (there be some mad guitar skills amongst these talented ladies). Widely acknowledged as the initiators of the Metal Band Boom, no wonder they’ve got six albums under their belt and sold-out concert tours!
Three seems to be the magic number, for here’s another trio. Although not strictly conforming to the metal genre, Anarchy Stone make for interesting listening as their style dips between metal and punk. Formed in early 2000, they rock an Avril Lavigne-meets-Ozzy Ozbourne vibe, and we like it.
Band-Maid’s image is inspired by nothing less than the humble café hostess (although perhaps the name is a bit of a giveaway). Their unique take on costumes has become a core of their identity since forming in 2013. Referring to male fans as ‘masters’ (ooh la la) and female fans as ‘princesses’, the five member band has caught the attention of the international metal audience – and how. All about defying expectations, each lineup features one designated ‘submissive’ maid to contrast their aggressive rock style persona. But don’t be fooled by the pretty black dresses and white aprons – this is one band of fierce females who kick ass, both on stage and off.
The five member girl rock and power metal band, originally from Fukuoka, has a metalcore edge which sets it apart from their peers. What precisely do we mean by that? Well, they may have a reputation for intense live performances (they recently completed a European tour), but in their pursuit of creating their own style, Bridear focuses on experimentation with both their sound and image, to keep them always one step ahead of the Japanese musical curve. They’re also pretty big foodies, judging by their Instagram – and no small wonder, with performances as energetic as theirs…
Talk the Talk
Metalhead: A fan of heavy metal music.
Headbanger: A metalhead who likes to move their head up and down (and quite vigorously!) whilst the tunes are playing, almost trance-like.
Harsh vocals:Don’t fret, those growling and shrieking noises you hear from the lead vocalist are intentional.
Sweep-picking: A guitar technique that’s a bit showey offey but impressive nonetheless, with the player moving up and down the strings quickly and almost quite piercingly during a solo.
Mosh pit: THE FUN ZONE! Also known as the area at the front of the stage in which the audience can get down to an aggressive style of dancing.
Blasting beats: A specific drum beat that is often associated with certain styles of heavy metal music.
Images courtesy of @babymetal_official, @aldiousmarina, @syu_isaac, @shinnosuke.p, @bandmaid.jp and @bridear_jp