In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I spent a lot of time talking about visual kei, a commercially successful, stylish,aggressive and uniquely Japanese take on existing Western metal. Bands like X Japan hit it big, placing a few visual kei groups among the biggest-selling metal bands of all time (and that’s globally). Although superstars in their own backyard, only a couple of these bands were able to replicate this success outside of Japan (although today, that may finally be changing…see my conclusion for that).

As with anything that gets popular, there would eventually be backlash. And in Japan’s case, this backlash would help fuel the development of an extreme metal underground scene.

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In Part 1 of this series, I talked about the first groups of Western heavy metal bands to take on the unique challenge of converting the people of Japan into lovers of the greatest music on earth.

I then talked about the aspects of metal that they picked up on best, the very first Japanese metal bands, and introduced the unique style known as visual kei.

It’s important to note that the term visual kei is not just applicable to rock and metal, but for pop, electronica, alternative and other music styles. For my purposes, I’m sticking with the metallic form of visual kei. Most of this is based on my own research and with inspiration from Sam Dunn’s excellent documentary, Global Metal if you want to check it out.

So, visual kei metal/rock…

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There’s a certain mystique about Japan that gives you a unique thrill when your band gets its first chance to play there. Once you’ve cracked the island nation’s music market, there’s the impression that you’re REALLY getting somewhere (and that’s true for mainstream rok, pop and all other music types besides metal).

The stereotype of Japanese society is that it’s extremely group-oriented, orderly and harmonious. How could metal (or even straight-up rock and roll, for that matter), find appeal there? And even if the Japanese loved this foreign music, would they be inspired to create their own?

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The below is a guest review by Stryfe, who is a passionate fan of power metal and kindly offers his thoughts on the latest from Sabaton below. His first of hopefully many more to come! Enjoy!

Too Much of a Good Thing is Actually Bad

In the summer of 2012, Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton released their sixth studio album – Carolus Rex, and the listening metal world collectively took notice in awe as this group of head bangers proved that not only could they write one hell of a concept album, but they could do so while at the same time evolve and ripen their unique sound. Did I mention the group also had to replace 3/5 of their lineup in the middle of recording, and also released the record with both English and Swedish vocals? The improvements noted in Carouls Rex were a massive improvement over their 2010 release, Coat of Arms, which, while having several memorable moments, felt like a bland rehash of the band’s earlier work. Now, the bombastic ensemble returns and presents the heavy metal world with their seventh release, Heroes. Unfortunately, the new release falls short in areas similar to Coat of Arms, and leaves the listener yearning for something more.

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Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – Blood Lust (2012)

Of all the bands I saw at MDF 2014, this was the one that was the biggest surprise, in a good way. While other acts tried their damnedest to bludgeon you to death with heaviness and speed, here was Uncle Acid, whose music is the music of grainy horror movies, foggy graveyards, and dark, smoky pubs.

Their restrained, loose, medium approach to doom metal was a distinct break fro the rest of the festival, the kind of band our parents would have gone to see. And it wasn’t just because they use vintage equipment.

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In these still-early days of My Dying Bride’s career, the term “gothic doom metal” was becoming a more apt description of the band. Not everyone could pull off heavy metal music with piano and violin.

Frontman Aaron Stainthorpe’s deep study of the British Romantic poets as well as his favorite bands like changed his life, granting him the ability to paint an atmosphere of despondency and gloom better than most.

My Dying Bride is a prolific group, and discovering where to start in their extensive catalog is a challenge. But you can’t go wrong with their 3rd studio effort here, Angel and the Dark River.

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Monsieur Luc Lemay of Gorguts is a scholarly-looking Quebecois gentleman who sports a magnificent beard and glasses.

“We all have a man crush on him, he’s the nicest guy ever,” a Season of Mist record salesman told me at MDF 2014.

Not a description you’d expect for a death metal star, who had already steered his band through a progression from a brutal, straightforward death metal act in the early 90s to an even more technically accomplished group over the next 10 years. After driving that, what’s next?

Go on hiatus and come back with Colored Sands.

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I have a confession to make…I was not always a fan of doom metal. Before receiving this album as a Christmas gift, I was uninterested in doom metal, believing it to be just a rehash of things that Black Sabbath and Pentagram had already done.

You can guess what my attitude was after my first listen to “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus.”

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