Japanese Metal & Hard Rock Bands A to Z

Август 30, 2016

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If you’re like most die-hard metalheads, you probably consider yourself an expert in metal music.  You may not be a fan of every sub-genre (glam, AOR, speed metal, neo-classical metal, power metal, heavy metal, NWOBHM, thrash metal, death metal, grind, black metal, Scandi AOR, sleaze, German metal (yeah, we’ll give bands like Primal Fear, Accept, and Helloween their own sub-category), gothic metal, symphonic power metal… the list can be quite exhausting).  However, those who seemingly have exhausted every sub-genre of this beautiful art form, often find themselves asking, “what else am I missing?”.  The answer has, and continues to lead many to Japanese metal.  There was far more to what Japan had to offer than just Loudness, X Japan, Show-Ya, or Galneryus.  Maybe you’re familiar with some of the other well known Japanese bands (well known… in Japan, that is), like Earthshaker, Grand Slam, Vow Wow, Still Alive, Reaction, or Hurry Scuary.
It goes without saying:  Japan always has been one of the premier outposts for metal.  Be it in the 80s, or even today, metal remains so popular that it’s not at all uncommon to hear Dragonforce or Kamelot blasting on the speakers at a major international record store in Tokyo, or a band like Testament selling out 3 consecutive nights at a concert venue in Tokyo.  Tokyo itself, for example has countless bars and clubs dedicated to metal (the most notable of which is the legendary Metal Godz in Shinjuku (Tokyo).  A small, but legendary bar that plays metal exclusively and is the defacto pre-show and post-show hangout for many of the top bands who visit/tour Tokyo.
The following list is an attempt to offer the largest chronicle of Japanese metal bands on the web.  We will update the list frequently, and welcome suggestions of bands we missed, in the comments section.
Please link to this article, to help inform other metalheads about the many fantastic bands Japan had, and still has to offer.

Japanese Indie Glam / Hard Rock
Early 1990s
Hope you like it CD 1992
7th heaven - Hope You Like It CD 1992
Very difficult to find indie glam/sleaze from Osaka, Japan.  Released only one CD in 1992.

Japanese Female Fronted Hard Rock
1980s / Current
Human Target CD 1982
Despite a recent reissue, the band’s debut remains a very difficult gem to score (often priced in the 10,000+ yen range).

Japanese Glam / Hard Rock
Late 1980s / Early 1990s
Love Or Money CD 1987
Street Rock n’ Roller CD 1991
Danger CD 1988
Actor CD 1989
Entire Discography 

If you like your hard rock to come with a solid metal edge (think Lizzy Borden), look no further than 44 Magnum.  Check out the video above- classic late 80s metal mania with a traditional Japanese twist.

Japanese Glam / Japanese Hard Rock / AOR
Late 1980s / Early 1990s
Rockids CD 1989 COCA-6281
Love Affair CD 1990
Nazaris CD 1991

In the mood for hard rock that oozes with those genuine late 80s style feel-good, summertime hooks?  Look no further than this fantastic band.  One of the better groups to come out of Japan.

Japanese Indie Glam
Early 1990s ~
Acid Love Bites CD 1994

Sleazy glam, these guys delivered only one CD in 1994 before folding into obscurity.

Japanese Glam / Japanese Hard Rock / AOR
Early 1980s ~
Hot Rox CD 1984
Heart Raiser CD 1985
Warning in the Night CD 1986
Movin’ and Rockin’ CD 1987
Overload CD 1988
Interaction CD 1988
ACTION! 30th Anniversary~ACTION! CD + DVD Boxset 2014

Legendary hard rock outfit from Japan. One of the better known and more successful Japanese bands in the late 80s.

Japanese Thrash metal
Late 1980s ~ Current
Plasmatic Mania (1992)
Aionism CD 1991
Human Griefman CD 1991
Ma-G-Ma CD 1990

One of countless bands influenced by X Japan, Aion delivered a relentless thrash metal attack that has kept the band’s popularity in place to this very day.  Heralded by many in Japan as one of the country’s premiere thrash/speed metal outfits.

Glam / Hard Rock / AOR
Late 1980s / Early 1990s
Cutting Air CD 292A-39 1989
Kaizoku CD 1989 P00P-20309
Sarrph Cogh CD 1994

An absolute AOR/Hard rock powerhouse:  this Japanese supergroup featured an all-star lineup including members of Iron Maiden, Hurricane (Kelly Hansen and Jay Schellen), Sweet, Thin Lizzy, Fastway, Saxon, and many others.

Japanese Hard Rock / Metal
Early Days CD 2005
Eary Days~Demo Tape Selection~Remaster Version CD 2006
Early Days II cD 2007
Fire Without Flame CD 2005 (feat. Joe Lynn Turner)
Into the deep CD 2008 (feat. Joe Lynn Turner)
Hard Rock/metal from ex-PRECIOUS guitarist.


AKIRA SUDOU (aka: Kazumi Sudou, As Sekiria, 須藤和美, 須藤あきら)
Japanese Female Hard Rock / AOR
Late 1980s / Early 2000s
Help CD 1989 CA-3993
Be Earth CD 1990 COCA-6193
My Self CD 1994 EGCL-1
Night & Day CD 1994 EGCL-5
United State Of Mind CD 1994 APCA-182
Pandora CD 1996 EGCL-8
Bubblegum Crisis File 1999 Soundtrack CD
Y’Know CD Single 1998 VIDL-30221

As Sekiria No Obligation CD 1999
Priss Asagiri Vocal Collection ~AS Sekiria~ CD 1999 VICL-60237

One of Japan’s best known female AOR/hard rock singers.  She delivered an edgier, more rockin’ brand of AOR than most of her Japanese female counterparts.  Great melodies, fantastic production… and, her 1994 United State of Mind CD was in fact written in its entirety by Eric Martin of Mr. Big fame (in fact, he also performed most of the instruments on the album).

Japanese Glam / Sleaze
Early 1990s
Recommended: Are you hungry? CD (1992)

Sleaze… attitude, and enough hair to leave the make the sun go down on the strip an hour early.

Japanese Female Metal
Recommended: Discography


Japanese Thrash Metal
Recommended: Creation Of The World CD 2014

The name of the band doesn’t shy away from making a statement:  these guys are bent on delivering technical thrash metal rooted in the classic Canadian sound.

Pomp AOR
Early 1990s
Recommended: Self Titled CD (1993)

It’s surprising… considering the massive popularity of Robby Valentine in Japan in the 90s, that more Japanese bands didn’t try to deliver his brand of pomp AOR.  Ambience’s sound was clearly rooted in the slick pomp AOR stylings of Robby Valentine, Valensia, Vision (Japan), and similar bands.

Japanese Female / Hard Rock / AOR
My Name Is Woman CD 1991
Womanism III CD
全曲集 LP / Vinyl 1985
Heavy Moon CD 1988
Meiki CD 1988
Joshin’ CD 1987

One of Japan’s best known pop/rock/hard rock singers.  Her late 80s/early 90s releases featured many top names from the international rock/hard rock scene performing on her albums, including members of Lion, Bad Moon Rising, and a number of other prominent names.

Japanese Hard Rock / Japanese Heavy Metal
Late 1980s / 2000s
Absolute World CD + DVD UICN-9026 2014
Domestic Booty CD 1992
No Smoke Without Fire CD 1990 KICS-12
Tightrope CD 1987
Gypsy Ways CD 1991

While certainly not as well known as mainstays Loudness, or even Vow Wow, Anthem continues to be the go-to band for legions of fans around the world.  One of the more consistent Japanese exports on the metal scene who haven’t failed to impress since their inception in the 80s.

Japanese Indie Speed Metal
Pleasure Land CD 1996
Escape CD Single 2001
Maze CD Single 2001

Japanese Female Heavy Metal
Sweet Illusion CD 2009
Wild And Innocent CD 2004
Labyrinth In My Heart CD 2003
Wings Of Fire CD 2001
Gambler CD 2006

Premiere all-female melodic metal group out of Japan.  Today their CDs are becoming exceptionally rare- even in Japan, and often sell for as much as $100+ a piece.  As they say… quality, has a price.

Japanese Indie Glam
April the 1st CD 1996

Japanese Symphonic metal
Tales of Fantasia CD 2005
Flight to the rainbow CD 2007

Japanese Neo-Classical Metal / Shred / Japanese Power Metal
Beginning Of The New Legend CD 2003
High Voltage Warning DVD 2012
No Boundaries CD 2002
The Everlasting Wheel CD 2004

Japan’s pioneer in melodic power/neo-classical metal, along-side with Concerto Moon.  Well known outside of Japan, these guys need no introduction.

Japanese Heavy Metal / Hard Rock
Recommended: AROUGE~暴逆の貴公子~ 1984 (2 CD Reissue)

These guys delivered only one full length album in 1984, but not before giving «birth» to one of Japan’s better known shredders, Fumihiko Kitsutaka (Dreamcastle, X.Y.Z (Japan), and others).

Japanese Female Prog Rock / Prog Metal
Transi CD 2006
Android Domina CD 2001
Lacrimaria CD 2006
The Goddess Of Darkness CD 2009
Seventh Hell CD 2009
The Six Singular Impressions CD 1997
Fear & Anxiety CD 1992

A truly world-class all-female progressive rock/metal outfit that has evolved from a genuine Italian 70s prog rock outfit, to a more edge Royal Hunt styled melodic outfit in their later albums.

Japanese Indie Glam
The first trial CD 2004

Japanese Indie Glam / Hard Rock
Brain? No’, No’! Know!? CD 1991

Shred / Japanese Power Metal
Tornado Eye CD 2007
Tornado Eve CD 2007 (5 Track EP)

Influenced by bands like Annihilator, Primal Fear, and even Apocrypha, these guys delivered a fantastic platter of melodic speed metal with their 2007 debut.  Highly recommended (the live video clip shown doesn’t do the studio album justice).

Neo-Classical Metal / Shred / AOR / Hard Rock
Project: Raid CD 1993
Jet Destiny CD 2014
Jet Finger + Get Away CD 1985 / 1986

One of the leading Japanese guitar players, Atsushi started his career in the early 80s, releasing a fantastic platter of hard rock in 1985 with the band Jet Finger, followed by 1986’s Get Away, both now available on CD in Japan.  1993 saw the release of an outstanding platter of AOR (titled: Atsushi Yokozeki Project Raid), featuring an all-star lineup of top teer AOR/hard rock vocalists, including Kelly Hansen of Hurricane, Cherie Currie of The Runaways, Carmine Appice, Rudy Sarzo, Frankie Banali, Jeff Pilson, David F. Eisley, Ken Mary, Kim Carnes, Ray Gillen of Badlands, Jake E. Lee, and others.

Japanese Female Hard Rock
Dreaming Now CD Single 1989
Thesaurus CD 1990
Big Will CD 1991
Aura CD 1992

Japanese Hard Rock / Japanese Indie Glam
Dream Creatures CD 1991

A very difficult to find CD in Japan today, Ax released only one full length album in the early 90s before disbanding.  Quality melodic glam/hard rock with a healthy dose of hooks.

Japanese Female Pop / AOR
Recommended: Be True CD 1985

Possibly a questionable entry in an article dedicated to metal/hard rock.  But, to those with an ear open to the lighter side of AOR, Ayumi Nakamura’s early (mid 80s) work may very well be appealing.  She had a very unusual voice (for a Japanese female singer).  Her delivery was raspy, more reminiscent of Bonnie Tyler, or- fellow Japanese singer, Saico Suzuki (also included in this article).  While generally more in the «pop» genre than anything else, she had her share of tracks early on that would appeal to fans of female fronted AOR.

Japanese Melodic Metal
Run for the night CD 1997
King of the steely nation CD 2001
Sunrise in the dreamland CD 2003
Dream On CD 2010

Japanese Hard Rock / Japanese Indie Glam
Late 80s / Early 90s
Recommended: Take It Easy CD 1992
Azz Take It Easy CD Japan
Indie, underground glam/sleaze from Japan.  Released only one CD (as far as we know).

Japanese Female AOR
Be-B CD 1994
Be-B II CD 1995

Polished, slick female-fronted AOR.  Her name apparently is a tribute to her favorite artist, Bon Jovi (alas, «Be Bon Jovi» or… «Be-B»).  Her style is clearly rooted in the 80s AOR arena.  Although all  her work had plenty of merit to AOR enthusiasts, it was her first two CDs in particular that were standouts in the genre.

Japanese AOR / Hard Rock
Baad CD 1994
Get Back Together CD 1994
B-Soul CD 1998

It’s hard not to take an interest in a band that delivered one of the biggest AOR hits in Japan’s rock music history.  On their debut, Baad delivered the song «Kimi Ga Suki Da To Sakebitai» which to this day is recognized by virtually every one in Japan, and millions outside of Japan (the song was used as the theme song to a well known anime series Slam Dunk, which was aired all over the world (South America, Europe, and other parts of the world in the mid/late 90s).  Baad delivered a slick, well produced brand of AOR/hard rock that lacked the amateur/generic approach some of their Japanese counterparts were known for (Crazy Lixx said it best  «All looks, no hooks«).  Baad was all about delivering memorable hard rock/AOR songs- and that they did.  A highly recommended Japanese hard rock group.

Japanese Hard Rock (Yngwie style)
Farewell CD 1991

Female / Japanese Speed Metal / Japanese Death Metal
2014 ~ Current
Babymetal CD 2014
Metal Resistance CD 2016

Love’em or hate’em (it seems there’s no middle-ground with this group), writing an article about Japanese metal without the mention of Babymetal would be like writing an article about Christian metal without mentioning Stryper.  Only until a few years ago, the undisputed legends of Japanese metal, were undoubtedly X Japan.  Despite having been generally out of commission since the late 90s (there was a recent comeback…), X Japan remained the one band virtually every Japanese person to this day- remembered.  Whether they liked’em or not, was besides the point.  They were the Led Zeppelin of Japanese rock music.  You couldn’t find a person who hadn’t at least heard of them.  Then came Babymetal.  While, it only has been a couple of years since the band’s inception (and, only a few more years since the members conception…), it’s difficult to discredit the massive recognition the band’s (gimmick?) has received world-wide.  While X Japan were (and remain) a house-hold name in every part of Japan since their highly controversial debut, Vanishing Vision, in 1988, X Japan struggled to gain any noteworthy following outside of Japan- even at their peak.  Sure, they have their legions of hard-core fans but, let’s be honest.  Go to any rock or metal concert today- and you have better odds of finding someone who’s familiar with Skid Row, TNT, Stryper, or even Razor or Destruction, than finding someone who knows or recalls X Japan.  Outside of the foreign hard core J-Metal communities, X Japan were barely known even at their apex in the mid/late 90s.  Babymetal however, is a very different story.
Anyone who listens to rock/metal today has at least heard of Babymetal- and millions around the world are fans (the massive crowds their foreign shows gather, the YouTube fan videos, millions of hits on anything related to the band, testify to their global appeal (even if much of it is mere curiosity)).  What kind of lasting power will Babymetal have?  Who knows.  Chances are, not much- considering Japan today is one of the most trend-hungry cultures on the planet (many major artists will release a new «album» every 2-3 months, with what seems like a dozen versions of the same album to ensure maximum consumer engagement).  Maybe in another year, Japan’s latest sensation will be Robometal, Droidmetal, or even Cyborgmetal (ok, we had Industrial metal in the 90s).  Point is, while it’s far too early to determine if Japan’s biggest metal sensation of the last 30 years will have any lasting power in the years to come, no one can argue that the band has already achieved in just 2 years what no other Japanese metal could in their entire careers.

Hard Rock
Baby’s Breath CD 1991

Hard Rock
Demo Cassette 1990
Utter Indifference CD 1991
Bad Loser CD (EP) 1993
Winds Of Tomorrow CD 1996

Probably among the top 10 most sought after Japanese bands over the last 10 years or so, Bad Loser’s primary appeal was the fact they were led by former Hurry Scuary vocalist (Hurry Scuary of course, released just one- absolutely remarkable, album in 1988).  Additionally, the band also featured former X-Ray/Rajas keyboard player and former Terra Rosa guitarist (Suzuki Hiromi).

Sleaze / Glam
Golden Seeds CD 1990
愛撫 CD 1992
Crocodile Tears CD 1991

As sleazy, dirty, and raunchy as it gets.  At least, early on.  The band modernized their sound in the mid/late 90s, but their early work would appeal to fans of bands like Hanoi Rocks, Ladies Room, etc.

Hard Rock
Baki CD 2016

Melodic speed metal (ala Angra)
Downpour CD 2012

Japanese Metal
CD 2003
Bang’em all CD + DVD 2004
Shall we bang? CD 2013

Japanese Glam / Hard Rock
Late 1980s
Recommended:  Girl’s Out CD Single 1989
Impossible to find on CD, these guys (according to all research we’ve done over the years) released just one CD single (two tracks) before disbanding.

Female / Japanese Melodic Metal
New Beginning CD + DVD 2015
Brand New Maid CD + DVD 2016

There’s no doubt:  nothing packs clubs with headbangers in Tokyo today, like 4 or 5 cute girls on stage with guitars who profess their love for metal in every interview. Bands like Cyntia, Aldious, Doll’s Box, Mary’s Blood, among countless others, continue riding the recent wave of all-female metal bands.  Band-Maid delivers a brand of melodic metal that takes it’s roots in everything from early 90s Megadeth (clearly, in every thing BUT the vocal department) to many of today’s leaders in the genre. Checkout the video for Thrill (2014), and tell me that couldn’t be a track on Youthanasia by Megadeth (with Dave on vocals).

Female / Japanese Hard Rock
Hush CD 1990
Jade CD 1991
No Big Fuckin’ Deal CD 1991
Betty Blue No Big Fuckin' Deal CD
All-Female Japanese Hard Rock group, Betty Blue.  Released three albums and a number of CD singles before disbanding in the early 90s.

Indie Glam / Hard Rock
Late 1980s — Early 1990s
Black Syndrome CD 1990

Considering the exceptionally low number of hard rock/metal to come out of South Korea in the 1980s (understandably, considering the country’s economic and social woes at the time), we felt we should include one of the better known Korean glam/hard rock albums released in the heyday of the scene.  Often a big-dollar item on auctions, you can usually pick one up via Kupiku for a fraction of it’s going rate.

AOR / Hard Rock / Melodic Heavy Metal
Sensitive Pictures CD 1998
Being Human CD 1999
Live, Living, Alive!! CD 1999
In The Dark CD 2000
Blindman CD 2001
Turning Back CD 2002
Soul Talks, Melodies Walk 1995-2003 CD 2003
Pain for The Pleasure CD 2006
Road To The Pleasure Live 2006 DVD
Subconscious in Xperience CD 2008
Re-Rise CD 2010
Blazing Crisis CD 2012
Evergreen CD 2013

Japan’s answer to Pretty Maids?  Well… at least in the words of some.  I might not go as far (let’s be honest- few bands have been able to deliver the incredibly high quality standards Pretty Maids has, and continues to, deliver over the years.  However, in terms of style, it’s difficult not to compare Blindman to Pretty Maids.  The band is one of those very few groups that can deliver fantastic AOR influenced tracks, combined with solid melodic hard rock numbers- and- even a few faster/all out melodic metal tracks- all without losing their natural flow.  Think of a band like At Vance- who can go from power speed metal to beautiful melodic hard rock on the same album.  Think of the fantastic balance Pretty Maids delivers on every album.  Blindman is in such elite company.  One of the better, and sadly- most overlooked Japanese groups.

Japanese Hard Rock / Japanese AOR
Blizard Of Wizard CD 1984 (Debut)
Kamikaze Killers CD 1984 (2nd album)
Hot Shot! CD 1985
Hard Times CD 1986
Blizard s/t CD 1987
Show Me The Way CD 1988
Danger Life CD 1990

Fans of X-Ray, early Pretty Maids, and Vow Wow, generally find plenty to rave about when Blizard comes up in conversation.  A prime example of quality melodic hard rock done right from Japan.

Female / Japanese Melodic Death Metal
Silence Of Northern Hell CD 2001
Mystic Your Heart CD 2003
Idolator CD 2005
Mozaiq CD 2007
Epsilon CD 2011
Nexus CD Single 2016 (4 Song EP)

Probably the best known Japanese melodic death metal band of the last 10-15 years.  Top tier on all fronts.  Check out any of their videos on YouTube in case of any doubt.

Japanese Indie Glam / Hard Rock
Bodyaux CD 1990

One of many fantastic Japanese indie groups that were somehow lost in the shuffle in the early 1990s.  Even in it’s native Japan, it’s next to impossible to find anyone who was familiar with these guys.  Solid, Sunset-strip influenced glam.  One of the most difficult to score indie glam CDs in Japan today.

Japanese Indie Hard Rock
Late 1990s
Lost and found CD EP 1999

Female / Japanese Melodic Metal
Overturn The Doom CD 2013
Dear Bride DVD 2015
Baryte CD + DVD 2016

Japan’s affection for metal has only been recently topped by it’s appetite for female metal bands.  The scene can’t sign female metalheads fast enough over the last few years.  Japan’s interest in metal has never withered, ever since bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Anvil (yes, Anvil… to this day they have a following in Japan the likes of which even bands like Accept or Megadeth wish they had)) first made contact with the land of the rising sun, and the falling yen.  Over the last few years however, the metal masses have developed an especially acute taste for women in metal.  Bridear is just one of countless talented female metal groups to play the usually sold out metal club circuits in Tokyo and Osaka.  Expect more great things from these ladies if their recent work is any indication of quality to come.

Japanese Indie Glam / Japanese Hard Rock
1994 ~ 2009
Demo (2001, 2 tracks)
Hard Rock Missionary CD 2002 (debut)
Feel The Emotion CD 2008

If one is to look at all the Japanese metal bands that could be categorized as «Christian Metal», they can probably count them on one hand.  Afterall, Japan isn’t a very religious (albeit highly spiritual) country.  Thus, it’s quite interesting to say the least, to discover Burning Emotion.  Needless to say, with the popularity of albums like Recon (Behind Enemy Lines), Stryper (To Hell With The Devil) and The Brave (Battle Cries) in Japan in the late 80s/early 90s, it only made sense that at least a few bands would follow in the footsteps of their heroes.  Burning Emotion was formed in 1994, although become known under their new name, Burning Emotion, in 2000, and released a short, 2 track demo in 2001, before their first album, an indie (that’s quite a task to find today) in 2002, followed by a second full length in 2008 before disappearing from the scene.

Hard Rock / Glam
Grass Wall — Ain’t Dead Yet CD 1987

Very difficult to find on CD, solo release from Sniper guitarist, Burny.