Saturday, 3 December 2011

Dark and Goth-friendly music #15: of Visual Kei and more

It's been a long time since I did one of these music posts, so if you need a re-cap (other than: most of the bands that most people outside of the scene think are Goth, aren't Goth...), you can shuffle on over to my music tab in the sidebar where I have helpfully linked all of these posts for you. (Alternatively, you can just click here.)

We've gone through Goth, cyber and Industrial, into Goth-friendly but not specifically Goth genres such as metal, and to continue with the not-specifically-Goth-but-suitably-dark-and-popular-amongst-spooky-types theme, allow me to present to you the following:

Visual Kei
Visual Kei, sometimes abbreviated to VK, is a movement amongst Japanese musicians that has generated an enormous subcultural following in its own right. As such this music genre boasts its own associated fashion style which has also influenced and been influenced by Gothic fashion, of which I will speak more at some future date.

Sources differ as to whether the term 'Visual Kei' refers to the fashion adopted by both musicians and fans of this style, characterised by elaborate (and big) hairstyles, dramatic make-up and flamboyant costuming, or the music, which could be described as a type of Japanese rock music with its roots in glam rock, punk and metal. This, I suppose, is similar to the fashion-vs.-music that has dogged the Goth subculture for, oh, the last twenty years (at least...).

However, music performed by bands considered to belong to this genre span many different subgenres such as pop, heavy metal and electro, which could possibly indicate that the greater defining factor for a Visual Kei band is the image?

Visual Kei bands and musicians include: Luna Sea, X Japan, Malice Mizer, Penicillin, Versailles, Girugamesh, The Gazette, D'espairsRay, The Candy Spooky Theater, Dir En Grey. Some of these bands are hugely popular within the Western Goth scene, in some cases for their aesthetics as much as their music.

Hmm... wonder why Goths are attracted to this style? ;-)
Source: Google Images
This is a bit of a catch-all term for many genres and subgenres of Japanese rock music (that's right, J-rock = Japanese rock), including Visual Kei.

Japanese pop, the perkier and bouncier the better, enjoys great popularity amongst some sections of the Goth scene, notably perky Goths, J-Goths (again, more on this at a later date), Lolita Goths and cybergoths. However I haven't been able to pinpoint any specific groups or artists under this umbrella who appeal to the Goth market; you can find a nice long list of J-pop bands over on Wikipedia here.

A small note: whilst the largest dark and alternative scenes in Japan, such as Lolita and Visual Kei, have some visual and musical crossover with Goth, Japan does also boast its own Goth and Industrial scene. You can check out noted Japanese act Aural Vampire on YouTube here; they are often termed as 'darkwave' although their sound is very different from darkwave as most of us know it!

Sorry, was that a bit vague for you?

It's probably fair to say that most Goths enjoy at least one or two rock bands, whether they be mainstream, underground, or that crazy psychedelic folk punk rock band that plays at your local pub every month. Many of us still have a strong fondness for bands that led us to the Goth scene in our babybat days via their dark lyrics and image - examples might include My Chemical Romance and Evanescence.

If I may generalise for a moment, there are lots of younger-generation Goths who wound up in this subculture via bands like Seether and HIM, (in my case Linkin Park).

Industrial jungle pussy punk
Their term, not mine. This is the label that the band Mindless Self Indulgence use to refer to themselves... MSI are not precisely a Goth band, or Industrial, not quite punk... but I didn't want to just lump them under the 'rock' tag because they're not wholly a rock band... I guess from this rambling you kind of get the message about what kind of band they are and why I feel they warrant inclusion in this dark music guide.


Under_The_Stairs said...

I like a lot of VK bands.I'm kinda of sick of all the hate VK receives.

Anonymous said...

Japan has a rather massive goth scene, both alone and within the VK subculture. Nagoya kei, which actually isn't entirely from Nagoya anymore, tends to have a more dark, gothy sound that most here would prefer over some of the poppier stuff that comes out of the VK scene. I would suggest bands such as deadman, 9GOATS BLACK OUT, emmuree, Sugar. Velvet Eden is goth darkwave, but also started in the Visual scene, and is also led by who might be my most favourite transvestite everrr. Anyway, Japanese music is just as vast as music from any other country, I'm sure everyone will be able to find a band they adore~!

Anonymous said...

I wish more people would give Jpop and Jrock/VK a go. A lot of people seem to write it off just becase it's in another language, which is just silly.

Also, Namie Amuro and the GazettE are my favorite j-artists ever, IDGAF how much flack I get for fangirling over them.

TheHalloweenLadybug said...

My Chemical Romance, oh I remember them! And Black Veil Brides!! XD haha.
Anyways, really interesting :D

Regina Zee said...

I love you for mentioning MSI. :D I never thought they were considered Goth, but I was wondering if they were popular [or at least accepted] in the scene, anyway.
I guess that a mention on this blog is a good enough answer for me. :P

VK, J-Rock, J-Pop, Rock and Industrial Jungle Pussy Punk all in one article? LOVE IT! ♥

† Lamentful Miss † said...

This is a lovely article, I like a lot of VK bands too... ♥♥♥

Please, do not make fun of me, but I think I never heard of this genre "Jungle Pussy Punk", is this good? :s

Regina Zee said...

@Lamentful Miss: The Industrial Jungle Pussy Punk 'genre', as far as I know, includes only one band and that's Mindless Self Indulgence [they coined this term].

As for whether it's good or not... music-wise, I can't exactly say whether you'd like it or not because I don't know your musical tastes, but lyric-wise, it depends on your sense of humor and ability to recognize blatant sarcasm.
The last thing you should do when listening to MSI is taking it seriously. ;)

SugarRat said...

I used to be really excited with all the VK bands but now days... I rather say certain bands just start to sound/look same after same after same. So I've lost my interest in VK scene past 3 years little by little because I've seen the changes in the scene last 10 years and have to say I'm more of the old school VK fan then what it represents now days.

But few names I think are to look into are bands like LYNCH., 12012 (old material is darker than newer one), ANTIFEMINISM, BLOOD, BUCK-TICK, Deathgaze, Calmando Qual aka Twisted Clock, Dio- Distraught Overload, Exist Trace (a girl VK band which is really rare in this scene), Gaara, Gallhammer, GOTHIKA (if you like electo try this one), HYBRID ZOMBIES, Kagerou, Schwarz Stein, Kiyoharu, Mix Speakers Inc, Miyavi, Moi Dix Mois, Maximum the Hormone, Eight, Black:List, Phantasmagoria, Psycho Le Cemu, Sadie and Tokami.

Just to share few of the more or less VK bands I'm still listening. And if you are MORE interested about Jrock go see JaME's website
where you can find about concerts, artists, albums, news and whatever else so here you go :)

akumaxkami said...

Fantastic post. I love quite a few VK bands. My favorite though - D'espairsRay - broke up this year though. :(

Jessie Aaker said...

Vk makes up a good 95% of my gothic music playlist. I really can't get enough of it! And Versailles is a personal favorite of mine! I've been following them for years!

Thank you for another informative and helpful article!

Tristessa said...

First comment here, even though I've been reading your blog for a while!

There are some j-pop artists that take cues from goth and/or neoclassical and could be considered goth-friendly, like Kanon Wakeshima, Yousei Teikoku, Ali Project etc. Kokusyoku Sumire are quite popular among lolitas and there are also artists like Suilen, with dark ambient tendencies.

As for visual kei, you're right, it is the image that classifies a band as such and not the music. (Although a VK band playing pop is relatively uncommon.)
Seconding the comment about nagoya kei, it's quite goth-friendy indeed.
I would suggest anything by Mana. Malice Mizer and Moi dix Mois are as goth as it gets :3

Il Ruinante Sir Isaak said...

Versailles has to be one of the best combinations of Visual Kei with Neo-Aristocrat, che love~ [RIP Jasmine You.]

Depending on whether or not you call Visual Kei the subgenre that emerges because of the fashion, it is interesting to note that sometimes Visual Kei is a stepping stone in a bands' career to going major. SID started out in Visual Kei, but had no intentions of staying in that genre and transitioned when they became more well-known. X Japan, BUCK-TICK, and Dir En Grey also have toned down you could say, their regular attire. Still sexxxy, all of them.

Hooray for J-musics~ ^_^

InfiltratorN7 said...

Nice to see the Japanese scene getting a mention on here. Plus more ideas for bands to check out ^_^

I find it interesting over there the mix of different groups like elegant gothic lolita, visual kei and their own goth subculture. I love j-pop and visual kei and j-goth (yeah I said it) bands like Psydoll. I highly recommend checking out Psydoll. They've even played in the UK a few times. Good sound and interesting visual style as well.

It;s interesting how the Japanese have taken influence from western fashions to create their own style like gothic lolita and now the west is taking influence from the Japanese. I like that. I remember several years ago if you went onto sites like to discuss elegant gothic lolita or visual kei both would get heavily slagged off and dismissed. Really sad.

Gackt's another example of using visual kei as a stepping stone. He used to be in Malice Mizer then moved onto a solo career about ten years ago and then became a huge success doing j-rock/j-pop music.

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