Tom Smith on Japan’s hottest rock band, the GazettE
X Japan: pioneers of Japan’s visual kei movement, bringing big hair, flamboyance and androgyny to the forefront of the country’s rock music – and inspiring the shape and sounds of the bands that followed. DIR EN GREY: arguably the group that made the western world sit-up and take notice of Japanese metal, through relentless touring and festival appearance in Europe, and the first Asian artist to appear on the cover of British rock magazine Kerrang. L’Arc~en~Ciel: possibly the biggest pop-rock act to ever come from Japan, and the first to pull off a one-man show (Japan’s term for a gig with a single band on the bill) at New York’s coveted Madison Square Gardens. Yet, none of these bands topped a recent poll asking the people of the World Wide Web to select their favourite rock band from Japan.
Instead, a relatively new band sits at the top of the rankings, a band that’s taking rock in Japan to new directions, a band whose tenth anniversary become a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. They are the GazettE.
The group rocked into the top five of Japan’s album chart with their second album Nil in 2006, which also received a European release via CLJ Records. The CD was an ambitious mish-mash of genres, including influences as diverse as funk to death metal, to sweeping ballads with air-guitar inducing solos. It also saw the outfit graduate from their indie roots, a past that they consistently return to by playing at least one track from this period at their live shows.
Since Nil, each album has taken the quintet in different directions, covering new and exciting ground. The GazettE’s next album, Stack Rubbish, took a greater nu-metal approach the previous efforts but ultimately remained eclectic. 2009 brought with it Dim, their group’s darkest, most melancholic offering to date, followed by Toxic in 2011, which showed off a new electronic element to the group’s ever evolving sound, and also included their first theme from anime, ‘Shiver’, the opening to series two of Black Butler.
Now, with their sixth album DIVISION, they unit’s pushing their audio boundaries further than ever before. In true GazettE style, the album covers a lot of ground and genres, but perhaps the most surprising is its venture into the world of dubstep. Don’t worry, they don’t throw around the wub-wub lightly, instead, in true Japanese style, they toy with the recent electronic sound, take it apart, and reconstruct it with their own distinctive sound – Gazestep, anyone? The result sounds more like Prodigy than Skrillex (the intro to ‘DERANGEMENT’ could pass as a sample from the former) – in fact, it’s unrecognisable in parts, but that doesn’t stop them making a direct reference to it in album track ‘ATTITUDE’, one of the heaviest tracks on DIVISION.
Anyway, don’t take my word for it, or the aforementioned poll’s, get out there and listen to the GazettE for yourself.
DIVISION by the GazettE is out now on CD from JPU Records. Black Butler Series 2, featuring the group’s song ‘Shiver’ is also out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.