Contact Author This article is in celebration of my home site, Japanese Metal Forum, on its first anniversary. To mark our first full year, just for fun, here is my very best, unbiased attempt at placing in order the 50 greatest Japanese metal acts ever, as of It was extremely difficult, as there were so many good choices and a whole bunch of fantastic bands didn't quite make the cut bands like Wolf, Atsushi Yokozeki, and Misako Honjoh just barely missed the list, the competition was that strong.
The criteria I used in selecting the following bands was based for the most part on their influence within the Japanese scene and overall success, spanning across all metal genres Note: This article has been a very long time in the making with countless hours of research.
If you're already a Japanese metal fan, I'm sure you can guess quite a few members of this list, but I thought it would be fun to do anyway. Without further delay, here are the 50 greatest Japanese metal bands of all time. D'erlanger Credited as one of the founding fathers of the visual kei glam movement, D'erlanger made a name for themselves as early as their demo phase. Hearing of this talented up-and-comer, the famous Japanese metal label Mandrake Root had D'erlanger perform at a competition they were hosting at the popular venue, Meguro Rock May Kan, and D'erlanger beat out several other, at the time, well known independent bands including Excuriver, Virgin Killer, Girl Tique, Genocide, and Alkaloid; securing a record deal with Mandrake Root.
By their first album they had changed styles to Gothic rock, and became extremely famous in the following years. If they had stuck with metal longer, they could have potentially ended up higher on this list.
Lazy Lazy began as a high school band comprised of five friends going by the stage names of Michell, Suzy, Funny, Pocky, and Davy. In they signed with RCA and were pushed by the label to become a Japanese answer to pop rock acts such as the Bay City Rollers and released multiple albums under this forced style. This band launched major careers for all of its members, Michell became a hugely successful singer under his real name, Hironobu Kageyama.
Shunji "Pocky" Inoue would become moderately successful making soundtracks in the band Neverland along with Hiroyuki "Funny" Tanaka. Shortly after Lazy broke up, the two remaining members Suzy and Davy quickly created a certain band who appear just a wee bit higher on this list.
Perhaps the first pulls-no-punches, pure heavy metal band in Japan, Marino played an aggressive heavy metal that at times straddled the line between heavy and full-tilt speed metal, before many of their eventually famous counterparts had even formed.
During their height in the mid s, Marino were easily one of the most famous metal bands in the highly populous Kansai region, and were well known players in Japanese metal years before the rival Kanto region's metal scene had really begun. Precious Precious were a band that appeared early and set the bar high for the many Japanese power metal bands who appeared in the years following. One of the most popular bands attached to the Mandrake Root label, their album To Glory We Steer has continually been considered a Japanese metal classic ever since its release in Precious' leader Akira Kajiyama has gone on to be regarded as a legendary metal guitarist in his homeland and has collaborated with several international metal musicians over his extensive career.
Outrage One of Japan's earliest and best known thrash metal pioneers, Outrage had a sound heavily influenced by bands such as Metallica throughout the s, achieving reasonable popularity at the time.
While most thrash bands experienced their biggest success in the 80s, Outrage are a rare case of a classic thrash band being at their height in the present day; having evolved into their own unique sound, the band has made several appearances on the Oricon charts steadily since the mids. A reclusive and incredibly private band, they opt to let their music speak for them. With six critically acclaimed studio albums to date and a mosh-pit full of other EPs and splits, Corrupted look to remain one of Japan's leading extreme acts for years to come.
Kuni One of the longest running solo careers in Japanese metal, Kuni has long been regarded as an important figure in the scene, and one of Japan's finest metal guitarists.
His albums have featured numerous American friends despite his career being exclusively based in Japan; he has also been featured at numerous major Japanese festivals, including two appearances at Loud Park. Liv Moon has also sold well, charting respectably on Oricon with every release in their career thus far. Expect these guys to be around for quite a few more years.
Light Bringer In my opinion one of the finest power metal bands Japan has ever seen, they unfortunately disbanded right as they seemed to be teetering on the edge of stardom. With one of the best front-women to ever lead a Japanese metal band and a dizzying technical prowess instrumentally, surpassed by few within the genre, their sudden end of activity came as a shock to many. Should Light Bringer return some day and release more albums of the same standard as their existing material, they will likely climb this list significantly.
Blood Stain Child Blood Stain Child were one of the more popular Japanese metal bands internationally during the s. The band rose to prominence through combining a sound influenced by that of bands like Children of Bodom and In Flames, together with trance elements. While there were a bunch of other melodic death metal bands who also appeared in Japan at the turn of the century, almost none of them became quite as well known nor have lasted as long as Blood Stain Child; though a few challengers such as Gyze have appeared in recent years.
X-Ray One of the most popular heavy metal band in the Kansai region during the 80s, X-Ray left their mark quickly during a pretty short 5 year run from to where they released four full-length albums. While the band lacked longevity, they made up for it with quality, as the band's albums have been favorites among many Japanese metal collectors for years now; many reprints of X-Ray's works having been issued in the years since their disbandment. Former members of the band have also gone on to take part in several notable metal projects in Japan.
D A major player in the current Japanese metal world, D quickly became one of the most popular visual kei bands after forming in the mid s. Consider these symphonic metal madmen a band who will likely rise through these rankings significantly by the time they're done. Terra Rosa One of Mandrake Root Records' flagship bands and also one of Japan's first successful female-fronted metal groups, Terra Rosa are best remembered for their iconic debut album "The Endless Basis". They also made two other excellent albums shortly after as well.
Several current and former members of this band are also members of many of the other bands on this list, and the caliber of musicians involved in this band truly speaks for how good the product they put out was.
While they're technically inactive due to members paying attention to other bands right now, it's likely Terra Rosa will get together again sometime in the near future, and if they do, a new album could very well be made.
Jupiter Initially created as somewhat of a successor to another band a bit higher ranking on this list when that band went on hiatus, Jupiter jumped immediately into a major spotlight in the visual kei scene; and they certainly capitalized, releasing two albums which are arguably some of the best power metal to come from any Japanese band at any point in time.
Featuring what is considered by many as the finest guitar duo in the country, matched with a rhythm section that is talented enough to equal them, Jupiter are a band that was built for Japanese metal stardom, and they've yet to disappoint, nor do they look like they will anytime soon.
This is another band who will likely rise in these rankings significantly over the coming years and probably even surpass some of it's members' main band eventually.
Concerto Moon Concerto Moon are considered one of Japan's very greatest power metal acts, serving as a resurrection of sorts, which helped metal music return to reasonable prominence in Japan during the late s to early s. In turn, they're also a big factor in why Japan seems to have loved power metal so much since the mid s. Spearheaded by one of the finest neoclassical guitarists in Japan, Concerto Moon were one of the few bands offering fresh ideas and churning out quality music during the period when metal as a whole was at its least popular in their country.
While there's several power metal bands in Japan who are more famous these days, Concerto Moon left their impact when it mattered most. Doom One of the most innovative and straight up bizarre Japanese bands ever, Doom are one of Japan's all-time great progressive and thrash metal acts.
With a sound every bit as oddball as their appearance, Doom thrived in Japan's underground metal scene for essentially their entire career, releasing 5 albums and a handful of EPs and splits before the tragic passing of bass mastermind Koh Morota in They would release one more album later that year before calling it quits permanently Doom reunited in and have picked up about as strong as they left off, as evidenced by their latest album.
It's hard to say what this band might do in the coming years, but don't be surprised if they continue making albums and build on their already legendary reputation. Saber Tiger Here's a band who have been decently well known for ages now, yet only recently made the leap into well deserved commercial success after toughing it out independently for several years. Sabbrabells A pioneering 80s metal band in Japan and one of the very first occult heavy metal bands to appear in the island nation, Sabbrabells had the distinction of being the first occult heavy metal band signed to a major label in Japan, a truly remarkable feat for obvious reasons.
With one of the tightest sounds of any Japanese metal band in the 80s, fronted by the howling madman Kiichi Takahashi, Sabbrabells released three well received albums and an EP, with their last album "One Night Magic" being their major debut.
Sabbrabells unfortunately disbanded shortly after going major, but are still remembered as one of the great 80s Japanese heavy metal bands. The band has reformed as of a couple years ago, though it's uncertain if they plan on making new music again. Reaction Speed metal was pretty commonly played among metal bands during the mid 80s in Japan, but very few of them caught on before the appearance of a certain legendary band way higher on this list.
One of the very few that did become quite popular, and did so before the aforementioned legendary band, was Reaction. After a successful run throughout the majority of the s, the band unfortunately parted ways, with a couple of the band's core members tragically passing away a few years later. Thankfully, the legacy they did leave was clearly a positive one, as this was a band that was so well respected by their peers that a tribute album was made in honor of them, featuring an all-star cast of members of bands from nearly a quarter of this entire list of all-time greats.
Crowley Much like Sabbrabells, Crowley were a band that narrowly missed out on what could have been something special. One of the first heavy metal bands in Japan with an occult image, they quickly built up a reputation of infamy in Japan, taking shocking promo photos of the band with nooses, weapons and satanic props, which in turn led to overseas tour offers, western metal magazine features, and label offers; however internal conflict divided the band, causing members to leave and forcing them to disband before their careers really took flight.
Their "shock image" was an influence on the eventual rise of the visual kei scene which would be pioneered by a few other bands on this list. Nokemono If they weren't around for such a short amount of time with just one album to their name, they would easily be much higher on this list. Nokemono were one of the biggest players in early Japanese metal music, and one of the first to release a full-length album that was predominantly heavy metal, preceding a whole bunch of eventual Japanese metal legends featured higher on this list.
They were a big part of putting Japanese metal on the map, winning a pretty major competition in , and proceeding to tour Japan with Judas Priest in the late s, cementing Nokemono as an integral part of the first wave of Japanese metal.
At roughly the same time that the band featured in the legendary Grand Metal Festival in , Blizard were signed by Warner Bros.
Records for the Japanese market; from there they quickly churned out 7 full-length albums over the course of 6 years, several of which are among Japanese metal's most memorable 80s albums. Some members of this band would later take part in several other notable metal bands. A forefather of Japanese metal, Action's music has been played since the mid s when several of its members played in the band Sansuikan. With a career spanning over 30 years if you include Sansuikan, Action!
Though no longer active, Action! Famed for their extremely violent and unpredictable performances, they attained a fairly large cult following both in Japan and internationally among both metal and hardcore punk fans and are considered a highly influential band in both scenes. They were one of the key bands in Japan's first wave of metal, and took part in some of Japan's most important early metal festivals.
In recent years the band has come to include singer Paul's son Stevie as the band's co-lead vocalist, so you can expect 44 Magnum to be around quite a few more years. Aion There might not be a thrash metal band in Japan who had more commercial success than Aion did at their peak. During the early s, they truly hit their stride and were not only making critically acclaimed albums, but selling them too, with a string of several releases reaching the top 40 on the Japanese charts.
Aion were also major pioneers of visual kei during the 90s era of the scene. It could be reasonably argued that the Japanese thrash metal scene pretty much revolved around Aion in their heyday, considering how many of their members were or are a part of a whole bunch of other major thrash acts in the country.
There is however one even greater thrash metal band who we will get to just a little bit later. Ningen-Isu For the record, Ningen-Isu have always been very, very good, however, only in recent years has that translated to major commercial success. Ningen-Isu are a band who worked their asses off for just about 20 years before finally achieving their major commercial breakthrough in In the following years, their popularity has continued to rise, all without a drop in musical quality, and the band are now frequently achieving top 40 charting releases on Oricon.
Their massive spike in popularity has allowed the hard working trio to quit their day jobs to concentrate on creating and performing music full-time, and the band has even begun performing major metal festivals in recent years, such as Ozzfest.
This band also achieved large-scale success in Japan with their albums Vibe and Mountain Top both hitting the top 20 in weekly album sales. With a keyboard heavy sound highly unlike Kyoji's other, more famous band, Vow Wow's musical quality was still held nearly as high; and their string of albums released from the early to late 80s remain some of Japan's best known, even today.
Aldious Look around the modern Japanese metal scene, you see an awful lot of ladies playing heavy metal, don't you? Do you notice that a whole bunch of those ladies are playing power metal? A huge portion of credit for that goes to Aldious, who have been extremely popular in Japan since they appeared in the late s. Playing a lovely and energetic brand of power metal, Aldious have been emulated by several acts during the past few years, drawing countless new female musicians to heavy metal music.
In the midst of leading this modern feminine J-metal movement, Aldious have sold well enough to feature in the top 50 on Oricon with every release in their career thus far, with multiple top 10s in the process. While all-female metal and rock bands wouldn't be as common in Japan as they are without Aldious, there's one other band who hold even more significance in that regard which we will get to a few bands further ahead.
Gargoyle While Aion's star burned brighter in the 90s during their height, Gargoyle have stood the test of time far better, cementing their legacy as one of the most consistently great metal acts in Japan for over 30 years. Another early and influential figure in visual kei, I would argue that Gargoyle are even more important to the thrash metal of Japan due to the fact that their creativity never burned out, whereas Aion's did fairly early in their career.