When it comes to great hard rock and metal scenes around the world, you should never overlook the great music coming out of Japan. The music has been hugely influential and ever evolving and we've reached out to one of Japan's rising artists, Kai of Esprit D'Air, for a closer look at Japanese bands and for his take on the 10 Best Rock and Metal Bands from Japan. Kai's list and input can be read below:
My name is Kai. I am a solo artist from the Japanese rock and metal project Esprit D'Air.
Japan's rock and metal scene has always been special because it has a sound and message that resonates with those that are not in the mainstream crowd.
In this list, I mixed bands old and new from various decades. It was very difficult to pick just 10 bands with many just narrowly missing the list. Fans of Japanese rock and metal, please go easy on me if I missed out your favorite band!
Esprit D’Air are releasing a new song every six weeks this year. Their most popular song,"'Leviathan," premiered on Loudwire in December 2020, and you can now listen to their latest single "Glaciers" on YouTube.
Esprit D'Air also curates a Fan Picks playlist every month with songs chosen by their fans. You can follow it on Spotify here. You can also follow Esprit D'Air via their website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram pages. Now check out Kai's picks for the 10 Best Rock + Metal Bands From Japan below:
X Japan are one of the most legendary bands from Japan. Speed metal that is anthemic, fast, yet melodically beautiful at the same time. I have seen them live twice. I wish I got to see them in the '90s too with Hide and Taiji. I recently covered their song "Kurenai" with Esprit D'Air and it's one of my favorites.
Dead End were one of the earliest pioneers of the visual kei movement. Their music is like a mix of hard rock, heavy metal, and post-punk at the same time. Singer Morrie even inspired Hyde, and Ryuichi (Luna Sea) from both his voice and visual appearance. I covered their song "Serafine" with Esprit D'Air. My late friend Kenji loved this band, too, and I am grateful I had the chance to sing "Serafine" with him onstage.
Luna Sea are one of the most influential bands in the visual kei movement. The members all loved different styles of music so they had a versatile approach to their songwriting, combining various rock styles in gothic rock, punk and pop.
Thrashy and epic power metal with Dragonforce speed. I really love what they're doing and the guitar solos by Midori and Miyako are incredible! I have yet to see them live, but I am sure I will one day.
One of Japan's loudest bands live. It is one of those bands where you can not only hear them, but feel them live with the vibrations that go straight to your chest. I love their energy onstage. They always keep things interesting by experimenting with different sounds from doom metal to psychedelic noise and stoner rock.
When I was younger, I wanted to be Hyde. His voice, aesthetic and stage presence were some things I truly admired about him. I grew up with all of the L'Arc~en~Ciel albums — their debut album Dune, being my favorite. I am lucky to see him live in both Vamps and L'Arc~en~Ciel and look forward to more of his future work as a solo artist.
Whether you like it or not, Babymetal's music is incredible. Some of their songs are produced by Yuyoyuppe, a producer I really look up to and am influenced by in my songwriting and composition. Babymetal's "Kami Band" member Takayoshi Ohmura is also one of my guitar idols, and I have been following him for many years.
Nemophila are a new band that is causing storms very fast in recent months. I first discovered them on YouTube from drummer Tamu's cover of "Kurenai" by X Japan! Guitarist Saki is also part of a project called Amahiru with Frédéric Leclercq (bassist of Kreator), as well as Mary's Blood. Their new album OIRAN is out this month.
Dir En Grey are one of the visual kei bands that stand out to me the most. If you like music that is dark and aggressive, you will love Dir En Grey. I feel that a lot of visual kei bands that emerged in the late '90s and '00s always tried to copy each other, but Dir En Grey are one of the few that I felt always pushed boundaries to be their unique selves and have built their own universe around their music and are not afraid to experiment.
Electronicore geniuses with incredible energy from Kenta Koie's powerful screaming vocals to Tatsuya's hard-hitting drumming. It is music you can both mosh and dance to at the same time. When I first heard Monolith, I loved it and wanted to create a sound that infused synthesizers and metal in some of my own music too.