Enter Shinjuku – Japanese Electronicore Bands
by Ryan Dyer
You get off at Shinjuku Station and find your way through the crowd of people to the exit. In this bustling neighborhood, Godzilla looms over TOHO Cinemas, cosplayers take photos outside of the Shinjuku Ramen Noodle Bar, and at the foot of every building, there are advertisements for bars on the different floors. Robot Restaurant, with its “Roboto” theme song blaring from the inside, beckons you to come in, while a billboard with attractive male models invites you to go there instead to have a drink and mingle with the boys.
What I’ve described here is the aesthetic that the genre of electronicore conjures when put through the Japanese filter – showcasing the illuminated wonder of Japan put to music. At first, this attack on the senses feels nearly overwhelming – electronics, rock, metalcore and deathcore combined into one bite-sized goody. Bands such as Enter Shikari, I See Stars and Bring Me The Horizon set the stage in motion for core genres to be unafraid of having electronica as a dance partner, and the Japanese have taken off running with the concept. Commercially, the artists performing this style are in the limelight more than others, with this year’s Knotfest Japan featuring several eletronicore artists. Let’s take apart and examine a handful of these bands to see just how sweet this candy gets.
Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas
If someone were to ask, “What the hell is Japanese electronicore?” then “Get Back the Hope” by Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas is the song I’d show them. Welcome to bat country: the eccentric, hyper, neon-lit world of the band who would fit right in on stage at Circus, Circus. Songs like “Tear Down” and their accompanying video show the post-modern angle of the band – literally tearing down conventions mid-song and video by turning a standard metalcore song into an eletrocore attack.
Crossfaith (Pictured above)
“It’s an omen.” If only The Prodigy knew what type of influence they would actually have – with Crossfaith covering the groups track “Omen” while performing a style that does in some ways feel like an upgrade of The Prodigy’s clash of electronica and rock. Crossfaith have been perfecting this hybrid style since 2006, with keyboardist/sampler Terufumi Tamano being an important ingredient to the band’s sound. Huge riffs, tastefully inserted (almost with Rammstein precision) blips and bleeps and accessible songwriting and presentation make Crossfaith a band that should be more of a household name overseas.
A Crowd of Rebellion
A crowd of violence. A crowd of kawaii-ness. A crowd of rebellion. A Crowd of Rebellion aim to be jarring – first with their genuinely brutal metalcore screaming, then with their AutoTuned choruses and then again with passages that sound like Nobuo Uematsu b-sides. The band, while throwing this all out there, never ceases to be hyper-sounding and looking, with their videos being just more of an assault on the senses.
If Crossfaith are the architects of electronicore in Japan, Paledusk are then the upgraders, making the sound harder, faster and angrier. Their glitchy breakdowns are something out of the ending of Nine Inch Nails’ “Happiness in Slavery” if Trent was going through a Pantera-binge and was inspired by “Domination.” Listen for an electronic-infused pounding.
Visual kei meets electro goth metalcore with the now militant-looking Jiluka. The band brings the fiercest elements of metalcore and fashion together in a hard-to-resist package. There is other-level musicianship in songs like “Kumari,” which has the added bonus of not-corny-sounding gothic overtones. With the recent “BLVCK,” they bring on the electronics just as heavy as the breakdowns.
Blood Stain Child
Osaka’s Blood Stain Child have been around the block a few times, forming in 1999. They play what could be described as melodeath electronicore. Depending on the song and era of the band, you might hear one of several vocalists on their songs, but they all have one thing in common – it will be trance-infused metal that is played fast – think Children of Bodom after going on a shopping spree at Putumayo in Harajuku.
The metal idol groups of Japan have ingeniously found ways to incorporate nearly every type of metal-based music with J-pop to make countless hybrids that listeners are still catching up to. PassCode, led by four vocalists and a backup band, offer Auto-Tuned, idol music mixed with hyperactive electronicore with the odd rough vocal, and breakdown inserted in to up the metal quota. As far as ear candy goes, it’s hard to find something sweeter.
Vertex in Origin
“How much AutoTune would you like on your track, Vertex in Origin?” “Yes.” This band takes every synthetic aspect of electronicore and turns them up to 10, pushing the style into an area best enjoyed by those who are already well-versed in the expected sounds. The band says that the mosh pit will be turned into a dance floor during live performances – once you let this hyper-kinetic music get into your soul, you may help make this prophecy a reality.
Sever Black Paranoia
“A chaotic dark electro sound with a base of metalcore, crawling growl and guttural, with delicate and beautiful melody lines as weapons.” Sever Black Paranoia were right about their self-description, though I’d like to emphasize that this band does bring the darker and heavier elements which do set them apart from the “happier” sounding bands in the genre. Their glitched-out songs bring to mind a more electronic version of djent, though they manage to not sound totally inhuman, with AutoTuned clean vocals seeping through the static. As for the name, “Paranoia is a type of psychosis that involves strong delusions. The band name contains a strong will to never let it end as a delusion.”
Make My Day
Go ahead, make my day. Well, perhaps this band will. Influenced by thrash, metalcore and of course electro, Make My Day have found success with their expression of the absurdities in life via a musical style that is just as absurd. Make My Day have managed to make the style sound somewhat epic due to clever songwriting, however. It was enough to slot them a spot on Knotfest Japan in 2014, though they haven’t slowed down since, releasing their latest disc in 2021.
Cvlte have succeeded in developing a sound that could, in time, create for them a cult of their own. They learn hard into a more hip-hop sound, using rock as background textures to their moody and catchy tracks. Dark topics arise such as self-harm, which are accompanied by breakbeats and a thick, dystopian atmosphere.
You’ve got to hand it to Trave – they took all those candy-coated noises associated with electronicore and fastened them with a tough, almost hardcore sound. Songs like “No Limit” almost fool the listener by being mostly straightforward hardcore tracks before a rainbow of cheeky sounds come in. Check out their cover of Limp Bizkit’s “Pollution” if you have always wanted to hear what it would sound like if DJ Lethal turned in his turntables for a Dance Dance Revolution machine and plugged that into the PA.
If you have a hankering for a Big Mac with a microchip between two sesame seed buns, you’d best get your ass to RagDonald’s. This is the title of Rag’s 2019 mini album, a four-track kid’s meal consisting of some pretty hard-hitting electronicore, pig squeals and all. Hey, if you get nothing else out of the track below musically, you can at least see Ronald break dancing.
From Gifu, Our Vengeance are a mechanical-sounding group full of piss and conceptual vinegar. The few videos they have out are fully realized concepts, with smashed televisions and light bulbs to go along with their genre-smashing sound. At times it sounds like they’ve thrown all their instruments into a washing machine, but that thing does at least run at a steady rhythm and once a song like “Null Code” is finished, you’ll feel like something has been cleansed.
While some bands flourished with the electronicore sound, it is worth it to see that it doesn’t always work out for every act that combines metalcore with whirring, synthesized sounds. Artema (Art Exist of Music Apes) formed in 2011, though broke up in 2016 despite signing with Warner Music Ja.