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X Japan: You’ve Never Heard of Them, But They’ve Sold 30 Million Albums

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They’ve shifted over 30 million albums and have sold out the 55,000 seat Tokyo Dome 18 times, but most of you reading this have probably never heard of X Japan. The quintet has only released five studio albums since their mid-80s formation, yet they are widely known as Asia’s most successful rock act of all time. So who are X Japan?

The first thing you have to know is that drummer-songwriter Yoshi “Yoshiki” Hayashi is the band’s unofficial leader and visionary. Influenced by classic hard rock and heavy metal, he co-founded X Japan with vocalist Toshimitsu “Toshi” Deyama all the way back in 1982. Showing an early glimpse into his entrepreneurial side, Yoshiki also founded Extasy Records to release the group’s material. Their early singles and compilation appearances garnered them attention throughout Japan. In 1988 the band released ‘Vanishing Vision,’ their debut full length album. It sold close to a million copies.

After signing with CBS/Sony, X Japan released ‘Blue Blood,’ a record which found them incorporating lush symphonic elements into their songwriting DNA. This side of their sound would be revisited and expanded throughout their releases. After the successful ‘Jealousy’ album in 1991, X Japan signed a new deal with Atlantic Records and their commercial success continued.

A major component of X Japan’s appeal was their loud stage clothes and image. It was such a radical look that it spawned a movement known as Visual kei. It’s characterized by the use of dramatic make-up, extravagant hair styles, and flamboyant costumes. Although Japan X have largely let go of the look, there’s an entire music scene that still embraces Visual kei.

1993′s ‘Art of Life’ and 1997′s ‘Dahlia’ albums kept X Japan’s momentum going, but in 1997 Toshi shocked their fans when the singer announced that he would be quitting the band.
X Japan performed their farewell show at the Tokyo Dome on December 31, the last of five consecutive New Year’s Eve shows that the group performed in the hallowed venue.

On May 2, 1998, Hideto ‘Hide’ Matsumoto, the band’s lead guitarist, was found hanged in his Tokyo apartment. The authorities ruled the death a suicide. Within a few days of his passing, three fans had died from so-called copycat suicides. Hide’s funeral was a nationally covered event, with over 50,000 people in attendance.

During their breakup, a slew of reissues, compilations, and live footage continued to be released, and a new generation of listeners discovered X Japan. On June 4, 2007, Yoshiki announced that the band would be reuniting, touring, and writing new material. Their first new song since 1998, ‘I.V.,’ was featured on the soundtrack to the horror film ‘Saw IV.’ The song went on to top the iTunes chart the day it was released.

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In March of 2008, X Japan played three concerts at the Tokyo Dome that become known as Resume Attack 2008 I.V. – Towards Destruction, with each individual concert titled Night of Destruction, Night of Madness, and Night of Creation, respectively. The March 28 concert aired live on pay-per-view TV with three guest guitarists filling in for the late Hide – Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit), Richard Fortus (Guns N’ Roses), and Sugizo (Luna Sea). Using only the best in concert technology, X Japan remarkably played alongside a hologram of Hide during the song ‘Art of Life.’

Early 2009 saw X Japan officially welcoming Sugizo into their lineup and playing some huge shows in China. 2010 marked the band’s debut in America, with the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago being X Japan’s first show on U.S. soil. From September 25 to October 10, X Japan performed their first-ever North American tour with dates spread out in major markets throughout the country. Noisecreep attended their Los Angeles date and can testify to the group’s explosive live show and rabid fans.

In January of this year, X Japan signed a new album deal with EMI Records and announced that they would be releasing a new album during the summer. With another world tour in the works, there is little doubt that the Japanese rockers will sell another boatload of albums in 2011.

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