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Himeaimichu

Before Babymetal - A look into Visual Kei bands that mix J-Pop and Metal

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Pop and Metal are considered to be almost completely opposite genres of music. One is perceived as being major key, happy, upbeat, often repetitive and known for not being diverse, while the other is perceived as minor key, angry, and incredibly diverse (Of course, these are just stereotypes). Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, these genres are sometimes mixed. Whether it's the popular artist Poppy, or the infamous Babymetal, these genres were bound to cross one way or another, especially in Japan, and Visual Kei is no exception.

For one, the mixing of the two comes with the territory of Visual Kei. After all, the movement in the 90's was filled with songs that contrasted Thrash Metal riffs with Post-Punk choruses. It is also definitely not unusual for a band to play multiple genres of music on one album. Even to this day, Visual Kei songs will often have a chorus that sounds completely different from the rest of the song. It's basically given that there will be some bands here and there who mix elements of Pop and Metal.

While there are a lot of Visual Kei bands that mix pop and metal, for this, I will be focusing on bands that specifically mix elements of J-Pop, since those are the most distinct and so I can make the title relating to Babymetal lol.

 

A very infamous example of this was the cult classic band DEViL KiTTY. Mixing pop and metal was their bread and butter, whether it's primarily poppy songs with occasional metal riffing, such as DRIVE, or a very thrashy, angry metal song that goes pop in the chorus, such as Hello Katty. They also just had fully pop rock songs with no metal elements whatsoever, such as 束縛 (Sokubaku), or full on metal songs with no pop at all, such as アンチお洒落系 (Anti Oshare-Kei). Their early looks also mixed in some elements of Harajuku Fashion, but that changed after ESE IKARE Rockstar, where they just started wearing suits. Not only that, but their music contains a lot of Japanese pop culture references, whether it be Japan's early internet culture in songs like 奇形の2ちゃんネラア (Kikei no 2channeler) or even references to Visual Kei culture itself, such as バンザイお洒落系 (Banzai Oshare-Kei). Their lyrics, however, were far from radio-friendly, as Yuuga's love for sex songs is well known, and many songs are your typical vkei songs about not-so-savory stuff like murder. To summarize it, DEViL KiTTY's sound was an abrasive, lo-fi interpretation of Visual Kei's love for mixing genres, with a huge emphasis on the contrast between the heavy parts and the poppy parts.

Although this primarily applies to their 2002-2004 era. When they returned in 2015, they still mixed pop with metal, but focused way less on the contrast. However, there was one song, バンギャル最終兵器 (Bangya Saishukeiki) sort of channeled old Devil Kitty with a modern take, but that was their last ever release. (Note: While making this, I just realised the only good quality upload of the PV for バンギャル最終兵器 was taken down. RIP)

30559-devil-kitty-group-photo.png

Selected listening:

Deaitai (出愛隊) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9suBOucP7I

Hello Katty (note: I plan to upload the PV for this soon, but for now, please bear with this video) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aj7qwpfdwtM

 

Another infamous example of this is legendary Oshare-Kei band An Cafe. Specifically, their early years. Whereas DEViL KiTTY mainly focused on harshness and aggression, An Cafe was more focused on contrasting heavy with happy (or should I say, Nyappy?). Of course, in the beginning, their lyrics weren't always happy, as songs like My Favorite Beat actually have sorta dark lyrics. However, especially unlike DEViL KiTTY, these guys' music was definitely something that would probably be played on a pop radio station if those songs were ever popular enough to do so. Like DEViL KiTTY, they make references to Japanese pop culture, and implement elements of Harajuku fashion into their looks. (I mean, the whole Oshare-Kei shtick kinda grew out of Harajuku fashion). Sadly, they kinda dropped the whole thing sometime after 2005 (I'm not sure when because I honestly do not listen to much of An Cafe after their first album) and went on to just being pop rock, and then Bou left.

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Selected listening:
My Favorite Beat - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOjcc6B_C04

Touhikairo (頭皮回廊) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIeV3a174o8

 

So what are your thoughts on these type of bands? What are your favourite examples?

Edited by Himeaimichu

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I've readen the name 'Devil Kitty'  a lot in this forum, and I started considering to go and look up for them. What songs do you recommend to try their style?

 

An Cafe deserves much more recognition than what they already have here. They've put out really good music in every point of their career. The "ow but they are not br00tal brooo" 2007 otaku fad must end soon for better in this scene. Now speaking about their first era, 'Touhikairo' is a excellent example of its sound's core: they had the genious to bring out everything of a catchy and memorable track from a radically simple base of punk riffing over archetypic Jpop harmonies and song structures. This song and 'Tekesuta kousen' are masterpieces.

Edited by saiko

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27 minutes ago, saiko said:

I've readen the name 'Devil Kitty'  a lot in this forum, and I started considering to go and look up for them. What songs do you recommend to try their style?

Their first album, Akuma Kicha, and their first EP, Kiai, are a must try. Their later stuff is ok but the guitars sound like shit and the music was kind of toned down

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