It should come as no huge surprise that the country that gave us Godzilla would fall in love with heavy metal. By the time Judas Priest came to Tokyo in February 1979 to record their live album Unleashed in the East, the Japanese band Bow Wow had been putting out albums for three years and opened for KISS. By 1981, Japan’s most durable metal institution, Loudness, were on board.
In the years since, metal bands of every subset proliferated in the Land of the Rising Sun: power (Concerto Moon); black (Gallhammer, Tokyo’s super-eccentric Sigh); alt (Dir En Grey, High and Mighty Color); metalcore (Crossfaith); goth (Taia); industrial (Mad Capsule Markets); grindcore (Osaka’s very scatological Bathtub Sh***er); doom (mass-murderer fans Church of Misery). Bands like X Japan (active since the ‘80s) and NoGoD, meanwhile, represent a kabuki-like androgynous cross-genre movement known as “Visual Kei.”
This playlist features all those collectives, and for the most part gets stranger and noisier as it progresses -- first with ten-ton droners Solar Anus and Boris (who, despite their infamous experimental bent, might by now be the most recognizable name here for Westerners). Next we move on to garage-sludge throwbacks Electric Eel Shock, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant and Guitar Wolf, as well as the crazed dissonance sculptors in Zeni Geva and Acid Mothers Temple. Then, after the latter band’s “Atomic Rotary Grinding God” has fried your brain for nigh on 16 minutes, you’re flashed way back to the early ‘70s, when metal was new: the prescient acid-rock of the Flower Travelin’ Band, whose “Hiroshima” got Japanese metal’s ultimate topic out of the way early. Finally, Yoko Ono circa 1969 closes the show, searching for her hand in the snow, shrieking for the metal ages.