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The 50 Greatest Japanese Metal Bands of All Time

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I'm a big fan of Japanese heavy metal and a collector of Japanese metal and rock music. I also enjoy documenting the scene's history.

the-50-greatest-japanese-metal-bands-of-all-time

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. 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, Church of Misery, Abigail, 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 music scene and overall success, spanning across all metal genres (Note: hard rock bands are not included on this list, unless they were pretty much equally fused with heavy metal. I also didn't include alternative/nu-metal or any of the core subgenres).

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.

50. Lazy

Lazy

Lazy

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1973

Lazy began as a high school band comprised of five friends going by the stage names of Michell, Suzy, Funny, Pocky, and Davy. In 1978 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. However, Lazy's members desperately wanted to play hard rock and heavy metal and when they released their fifth album Earth Ark, they completely disregarded their management's direction, writing the music they truly wanted to write, resulting in one of the most famous heavy metal/hard rock albums in the very earliest years of Japanese metal. 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.

49. Marino

Marino

Marino

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1979

Heavily influenced by the earliest bands in the NWOBHM movement of the U.K., Marino were way ahead of the game in Japan, forming in Osaka in 1979 and releasing their earliest music that same year. 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 1980s, 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.

48. Precious

Precious

Precious

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1986

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 1990. 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.

47. Outrage

Outrage

Outrage

Origin: Nagoya, Japan

Year Formed: 1982

One of Japan's earliest and best known thrash metal pioneers, Outrage had a sound heavily influenced by bands such as Metallica throughout the 1980s, 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 mid-2000s.

46. Corrupted

Corrupted

Corrupted

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1994

One of Japan's best known extreme metal acts, Corrupted have been a staple of Japan's underground metal scene for many years, performing an unmistakable, bone-crushing sludge/doom metal. 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.

45. Kuni

Kuni Takeuchi (Kuni)

Kuni Takeuchi (Kuni)

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1986

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.

44. Liv Moon

Liv Moon

Liv Moon

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 2009

If there's one woman who could probably be called Japan's symphonic metal queen, I'd say it's Akane Liv, who along with her band Liv Moon has become a mainstay in Japan's modern symphonic/power metal scene despite only having started activities relatively recently in 2009. With a lovely and absurdly powerful voice, the rest of her band is equally talented, and includes not only one of Japan's biggest guitar names, Takayoshi Ohmura (who is also part of the hugely successful alternative metal/metalcore group, Babymetal), but also perhaps the most prominent bassist in Japanese metal too, Masaki. 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.

43. Light Bringer

Light Bringer

Light Bringer

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 2011

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.

42. Blood Stain Child

Blood Stain Child

Blood Stain Child

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 2000

Blood Stain Child were one of the more popular Japanese metal bands internationally during the 2000s. 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.

41. Nokemono

Nokemono

Nokemono

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1977

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 Yamaha's massive EastWest band battle competition in 1978, and in wake of the event proceeded to tour Japan with Judas Priest later that same year, cementing Nokemono as an integral part of the first wave of Japanese metal. Their lone album, From the Black World (1979) has grown to become somewhat of a cult classic among Japanese metal fans.

40. X-Ray

X-Ray

X-Ray

Origin: Chiba, Japan

Year Formed: 1981

One of the most popular heavy metal bands in the Kansai region during the 80s, X-Ray left their mark quickly during a pretty short 5 year run from 1981 to 1986 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.

39. D

D

D

Origin: Kanagawa, Japan

Year Formed: 2003

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 2000s. Playing a very strange and diverse, but highly complex and entertaining brand of symphonic/gothic metal, D have also managed to sell well, having made dozens of appearances on Oricon over the past several years with no sign of slowing down. Consider these symphonic metal madmen a band who will likely rise through these rankings significantly by the time they're done.

38. Terra Rosa

Terra Rosa

Terra Rosa

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1982

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.

37. Reaction

Reaction

Reaction

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1983

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 1980s, 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.

36. Jupiter

Jupiter

Jupiter

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 2013

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.

35. Doom

Doom

Doom

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1985

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 1999. They would release one more album later that year before calling it quits permanently... or so we thought. Doom reunited in 2014 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.

34. Sabbrabells

Sabbrabells

Sabbrabells

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1980

A pioneering 80s metal band in Japan and one of the very first occult themed heavy metal bands to appear in the island nation, Sabbrabells had the distinction of being the first heavy metal band to use occult lyricism and imagery to be signed to a large record label in Japan, joining King Records, 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 debut on said label. Sabbrabells unfortunately disbanded shortly after that, but are still remembered as one of the great 80s Japanese heavy metal bands. The band reunited to perform a handful of acclaimed shows with original singer Kiichi Takahashi recently, though the band has opted to stay retired in the long run.

33. Crowley

Crowley

Crowley

Origin: Nagoya, Japan

Year Formed: 1982

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.

32. Blizard

Blizard

Blizard

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1984

Blizard were one of the first major heavy metal acts in the Kanto region (Tokyo/Saitama/Yokohama, etc.) of Japan. At roughly the same time that the band featured in the legendary Grand Metal Festival in 1984, 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.

31. Action!

Action!

Action!

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1982

A forefather of Japanese metal, Action's music has been played since the mid 1970s when several of its members played in the band Sansuikan. With a career spanning over 30 years if you include Sansuikan, Action! released a whopping 7 full-length albums along with two EPs between 1984 and 1989, and were an integral part of the Kansai region's metal scene during its formative days until Action parted ways in 1998. Members of Action! were also attached to the Japanese prog rock legends Novela during the early 80s. Though no longer active, Action! reunited from 2003 to 2009 and released two more quality albums before calling it quits for good.

30. G.I.S.M.

G.I.S.M.

G.I.S.M.

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1980

G.I.S.M. were at the very forefront of Japan's metal/punk fusion, a style that saw reasonable popularity in Japan's underground music scene in the 80s. 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. If you see any modern Japanese hardcore punk/heavy metal fusion bands, a significant degree of credit for their existence is owed to G.I.S.M.

29. 44 Magnum

44 Magnum

44 Magnum

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1977

44 Magnum were one of the very early Japanese metal bands, forming in 1977. While primarily a hard rock/AOR band during the majority of their career after about 1985, their first few albums were an energetic traditional heavy metal, the first two of which quickly became Japanese metal classics. 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.

28. Church of Misery

the-50-greatest-japanese-metal-bands-of-all-time

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1995

One of Japan's most internationally recognized and acclaimed metal bands within their respective style, Church of Misery have been titans in the Japanese doom/stoner metal scene since the late 90s, and are one of the country's few bands with enough international success to tour worldwide on a regular basis. From quirks like their lyrical theme to band leader Tatsu Mikami's unusual bass technique, they're a band full of character and unique personality, as can be found across a large discography spanning 6 albums, as well as several EPs and splits. Despite several lineup changes over their career, both their popularity and quality have held steady.

27. Saber Tiger

Saber Tiger

Saber Tiger

Origin: Sapporo, Japan

Year Formed: 1981

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. To wit, the band released 8 demos before deciding to make albums under their own label, which they did for a few albums before finally getting signed by a big record label almost 17 years after formation; even then their commercial breakout didn’t occur until a bit before their 30th anniversary. One of Japanese metal's finest models for sheer dedication, it's amazing they didn't catch on with a larger audience sooner, as the band evolved over the years to play one of the most technically proficient and energetic styles of power/progressive metal to ever come out of the country.

26. Aion

Aion

Aion

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1983

There might not be a thrash metal band in Japan who had more commercial success than Aion did at their peak. During the early 1990s, 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.

25. Ningen-Isu

Ningen-Isu

Ningen-Isu

Origin: Hirosaki, Japan

Year Formed: 1987

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 commercial breakthrough in the late 2000s. In the following years, their popularity has continued to rise, all without a drop in musical quality, and since the mid 2010s the band now frequently achieves 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.

24. Vow Wow

Vow Wow

Vow Wow

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1984

Created by Kyoji Yamamoto as an attempt at success in the UK, Vow Wow were the first Japanese band to achieve moderate success in the UK with their album Helter Skelter reaching #75 on the UK Albums Chart. 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. They also had two singles that charted in the UK too, a feat unmatched by any other Japanese hard rock/heavy metal band. 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.

23. Aldious

Aldious

Aldious

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 2008

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 2000s. 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.

22. Gargoyle

Gargoyle

Gargoyle

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1987

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. Playing a highly complex progressive thrash style, elements of Gargoyle's sound have been emulated to varying degrees by many other Japanese metal acts over the years.

21. Boris

Boris

Boris

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1992

One of Japan's most successful bands internationally, it's impossible to pin a single genre to Boris, as they love to play a little bit of everything: drone, noise, doom, sludge, ambient, you name it. Boris have had such a strong career, in fact, that they've toured worldwide in support of names such as Nine Inch Nails. They're also one of very few Japanese metal acts to receive international acclaim and have done so with various albums. Over the course of their career they've released nearly 30 studio albums and have collaborated with several other bands and musicians including Ian Astbury, Merzbow, and Sunn O))) to name a few.

20. Concerto Moon

Concerto Moon

Concerto Moon

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1996

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 1990s to early 2000s. In turn, they're also a big factor in why Japan seems to have loved power metal so much since the mid 2000s. 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.

19. Flower Travellin' Band

Flower Travellin' Band

Flower Travellin' Band

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1969 (1968 as The Flowers)

Flower Travellin' Band were one of the earliest bands in heavy metal music on a global scale, let alone in Japan. With a crushingly heavy, dark, and trippy, Black Sabbath influenced sound, Flower Travellin' Band were way ahead of their time, blending said Sabbath influence with psychedelic Asian influences. The heaviest band to be found anywhere East of the U.K. in the early 70s; their legendary album Satori, while not initially successful, has become a classic among Japanese metal fans, to the extent that in nearly 50 years, the album has never gone out of print. They are considered by many to be the first Japanese heavy metal band. They have been cited as an influence by numerous musicians including Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth among others.

18. Flatbacker / EZO

EZO (Flatbacker era)

EZO (Flatbacker era)

Origin: Sapporo, Japan

Year Formed: 1982

Flatbacker were a gritty heavy/speed metal band from Sapporo, one of the first big metal bands to come from the Hokkaido region. Among their early successes, this incarnation of the band most notably was the winner of Yamaha's Stage Flight '84 band battle, and their win earned them a competing slot at Yamaha's prestigious Light Music Contest '84 where they also won a prize. Following the release of two popular albums under the Flatbacker name in 1985 and 1986, they changed their name to EZO and their style to heavy metal/hard rock and along with a handful of other Japanese bands they relocated to America in an attempt to break out in the American market. With the assistance of Gene Simmons, EZO released their first album under their new name through Geffen Records, the second Japanese metal band to ink a deal with a major American label, and in turn they became the second Japanese metal band to crack the American Billboard sales charts, reaching a modest #150. This was enough for a few of their songs such as House of 1,000 Pleasures to receive airplay on radio stations internationally and hard rock television programs for the better part of the late 1980s; in fact a few prominent shows such as Dee Snider's House of Hair continue to play EZO's music occasionally.

17. Versailles

Versailles

Versailles

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 2007

Around 2007, power metal became a very popular genre within the visual kei scene for the first time since the late 90s. This power metal revival in visual kei and the several dozen bands in the scene that have followed are due in large part to Versailles' explosion in popularity during the late 2000s. Famous partially for their dynamic duo of guitarists Teru and Hizaki, Versailles have been the second most popular power metal band in Japan over the past decade, behind only one band who are a few spots further up this list. Versailles themselves are likely to climb a few more positions before they call it quits, though their closely related band Jupiter appears to be hot on their heels.

16. Animetal

Animetal

Animetal

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1996

Anison has been a thing in Japan for a very long time, but when the supergroup Animetal appeared in the late 90s, they put a new spin on performing theme songs, re-branding classic Japanese television themes as metal anthems. With an all-star lineup of Japanese metal legends, Animetal were popular enough that in recent years several other bands have tried a similar idea. Animetal remain active under the name Aisenshi. Nine out of the ten members who ever played in this band are tied directly to at least one of the other bands on this list of all-time greats.

15. Dead End

Dead End

Dead End

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1984

Credited as one of the very first bands in the visual kei glam movement, Dead End have been one of the forerunners of the scene for decades now. Playing a dark and eerie brand of heavy metal, Dead End are responsible for many of the musical traits now synonymous with visual kei bands that play heavy, Gothic, symphonic, and power metal. Earlier in their career, guitarist You Adachi was at one point considered by some to be the most talented guitarist in all of Kansai, while vocalist Morrie is known as one of the biggest icons of visual kei.

14. Mari Hamada

Mari Hamada

Mari Hamada

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1983

The most successful female Japanese hard rock and heavy metal solo artist of all-time, Mari Hamada is a true Japanese rock legend. Though musically she may be considered hard rock more often than heavy metal, she has alternated between the two genres countless times throughout her many albums, more recently delving into power metal. With countless top 40 appearances on the Oricon charts, Mari Hamada has sold multiple million albums over the course of an acclaimed career dating back to the early 80s, and she's showing no signs of slowing down yet.

13. Sigh

Sigh

Sigh

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1990 (1989 as Ultra Death)

Probably the most popular extreme metal band in Japan since the mid 1990s and, interestingly, one of the only bands to have ever signed with Euronymous' infamous label Deathlike Silence records, Sigh are without question as talented as they are eccentric, and trust me, they're pretty nutty. Fusing avant-garde music with black metal, they've built a strong following both inside and outside of Japan and especially online. Employing many instruments not necessarily found in black metal, let alone simultaneously, Sigh has made use of keyboards, synths, pianos, organs, tambourines, mellotrons, glockenspiels, bells, gongs, sitars, and several other instruments, they even have a dedicated saxophone player and co-vocalist, Dr. Mikannibal, as a permanent member of the band. These legendary weirdos have received constant critical acclaim throughout their careers. The first letter of all of their albums and EPs are titled to spell out "Sigh" with every four releases, one of the many small traits that attest to how bizarre these guys are, which is just how they like it.

12. Sabbat

Sabbat

Sabbat

Origin: Kuwana, Japan

Year Formed: 1984 (1983 as Evil)

One of the most internationally recognized Japanese metal bands, Sabbat have long been one of the most popular and influential extreme metal bands in Japan, particularly in relation to thrash and black metal. Counted as part of the first wave of black metal in the early-mid 80s, Sabbat has toured abroad constantly and have played perhaps thousands of shows, many of which have been played at international metal festivals. Over their 35+ year career Sabbat have co-released albums with dozens of metal acts from various countries including bands such as Coroner, Tankard, Agathocles, and Kreator among numerous others. I place them just a hair ahead of Sigh as they're undeniably one of the biggest reasons why extreme metal caught on in Japan in the first place.

11. Sex Machineguns

Sex Machineguns

Sex Machineguns

Origin: Kawasaki, Japan

Year Formed: 1989

Between roughly the years 1998 and 2004 there wasn't a single metal band in Japan whose star burned brighter than Sex Machineguns. Famed for their highly energetic heavy/speed/power metal and humorous lyrics, performances, and music videos; they were one of the bands at the very forefront in re-popularizing metal music in Japan after the worldwide 90s lull that hit pretty much every metal scene. While they're not as popular as they once were, during an incredibly successful run from the late 90s through late 2000s, Sex Machineguns cracked the top 40 on Oricon with 9 albums (including a streak of 5 top 10 selling albums), as well as 12 consecutive top 40 singles, and the band has appeared on the Oricon charts with every album they've ever released.

10. Dir En Grey

Dir En Grey

Dir En Grey

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1997

Yes, there's a "modern metal" band on this list, but if any are deserving it's certainly Dir en Grey whose true genre is almost impossible to define, as they're so diverse and experimental, they're just as much progressive metal as anything else, to be honest. The most popular extremely heavy visual kei band in the country since the late 1990s, they've achieved the remarkable feat of never having an album chart outside of the top 10 on Oricon over a total of 9 full-length albums as of 2017, their 20th anniversary. They're also incredibly influential in the visual kei scene with innumerable smaller bands taking heavy influence from them, though Dir En Grey themselves for the most part no longer adopt the aesthetics of a visual kei band.

9. Galneryus

Galneryus

Galneryus

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 2001

If you're familiar with Japanese metal, you'll probably notice that power metal is absolutely everywhere, and arguably the biggest contributor to the power metal explosion of the mid 2000s has been Galneryus. With a fusion of mind-blowing guitar and keyboard work from Syu and Yuhki respectively, as well as a rhythm section who are just as impressive, topped with the soaring vocals of Masatoshi Ono and formerly the equally talented Yama B, Galneryus have built a legacy for themselves as being as musically consistent, despite a couple major member changes, as they are individually talented. Syu is regarded by many as one of the most skilled neoclassical guitarists in the world, let alone Japan, and his band Galneryus has climbed upwards steadily since their formation in 2001, selling very well from the very moment they first signed with the label VAP, and deservingly so.

8. Onmyo-za

Onmyo-za

Onmyo-za

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1999

While Sex Machineguns were the biggest metal band in Japan in the early 2000s, not far behind were always Onmyo-za whose popularity has only expanded in the years since, whereas Sex Machineguns' has dropped off. Playing a dramatic folk-influenced heavy metal, Onmyo-za have released a steady chain of extremely successful albums since 2002 and of their last 10 albums, not one has placed lower than 27th in sales on Oricon, with their last 7 consecutive albums placing no lower than 13th in sales. Vocalist Kuroneko is one of the biggest modern pioneers of women in Japanese metal. Considered among the very best in the business in her home country, she's been cited as a major influence by numerous women who play in various current rock and metal bands in Japan. Along with Kuroneko's husband and the band's bassist/male vocalist Matatabi, brother in law and rhythm guitarist Maneki, and rhythm guitarist Karukan, Onmyo-za are now the most successful Japanese metal band of the last 20 years.

7. Show-Ya

Show-Ya

Show-Ya

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1981

Show-Ya are the biggest pioneers in Japan's history of not just all-female metal bands, but women as a whole being inspired to perform heavy metal and hard rock. Forming back in 1981, Show-Ya were one of the very first and quickly became the most prominent all-female metal band in Japan. An early pointer to the band having a legendary career ahead of them was their victory at the prestigious 1982 EastWest band battle hosted by Yamaha, putting them firmly on the radar of Japanese music fans. With an ever changing style, the band eventually gravitated towards a heavier and even more metallic sound in the late 80s and in turn achieved some of the greatest commercial success in Japan that any metal band would ever achieve, with their legendary album Outerlimits reaching #3 on the Oricon charts in sales and selling over 600,000 copies receiving a platinum certification. They immediately followed that up with the album Hard Way which would hit #4 in sales, barely a year after Outerlimits' massive success. Even though they disbanded in the late 90s, Show-Ya's legacy endured, most noticeably with the modern influx of female-fronted and all-female heavy metal and hard rock bands following in Show-Ya's footsteps who have appeared steadily in Japan since the late 2000s, which included Show-Ya themselves reuniting and picking up right where they left off.

6. Earthshaker

Earthshaker

Earthshaker

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1978

Not only were they early, but they quickly rose to the top and released three very successful albums in rapid succession to start their career. Earthshaker were the pop-metal gods of Japan throughout the 1980s, only really rivaled by hard rock band Make-Up whose concept was similar, though Make-Up gravitated towards hard rock much more. Earthshaker were undeniably heavy metal, but topped with bright, cheerful keyboards along with catchy hooks and melodies, and the soaring, emotional vocals of Marcy Nishida, picture a more metallic Van Halen/Y&T style which was inevitably a recipe for success for the band during that time, as Earthshaker were no less than the second most famous heavy metal/hard rock band in the entire Kansai (Osaka/Kyoto) region of Japan for the entirety of the 80s, trailing just one band who I can't name quite yet. Though their popularity waned in the 90s as their sound softened, they returned in the 2000s with a new-found passion and energy which has lasted to this day, going back to their hard rock/heavy metal roots on recent albums.

5. Bow Wow

Bow Wow

Bow Wow

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1975

The first huge heavy metal/hard rock band in the Kanto (Tokyo) region, Bow Wow have stayed quite prominent since forming way back in 1975. When they formed, their talent was obvious and they were picked up almost instantly by the large record label Victor, and released some of the heaviest, most energetic hard rock albums seen from any Japanese band of the 70s, and by the early 80s, the band had evolved to an even more metallic style, resulting in their most iconic album, Warning from Stardust, released in 1982, an album that was so famous in its time that Rolling Stone Japan named it the 23rd greatest Japanese rock album of all-time just a few years ago. Band leader and vocalist/guitarist Kyoji Yamamoto has long been regarded as one of Japan's best guitarists across any genre and is well known for having employed tapping in his riffs and solos since the early-mid 1970s, one of the earliest rock musicians to do so.

4. Anthem

Anthem

Anthem

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1981

Anthem are truly Japanese metal royalty, they've been around as long as just about any heavy metal band you could find, forming in Tokyo in 1981. If this list was ranked solely on being consistently awesome, Anthem would be number one hands down, as they have been pretty much the model for musical consistency in Japanese metal during an extensive career spanning nearly 20 full-length albums, among which you'd be hard pressed to find any single one that you would encounter many people at all speaking poorly of, which needless to say has translated into sales well, as they've been essentially glued to the Oricon charts for a few decades now, always selling respectably.

Anthem have changed out seemingly vital members on several occasions, but it's never affected the band's performance significantly. Both of the vocalists Anthem has used throughout the years primarily, Eizo Sakamoto and Yukio Morikawa, are often considered among the very best in Japanese metal, and both have had considerable success with and outside of Anthem, as has bassist and band leader Naoto Shibata along with several other Anthem members, past and present. Anthem were also one of the first Japanese metal bands to ever headline a tour in North America, playing a small handful of dates supported by Racer X and Commander. Additionally, Anthem are credited as the first band with a song (Xanadu) used as promotion for a video game, which occurred in 1986 for the RPG Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu.

3. Seikima-II

Seikima-II

Seikima-II

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1982

Seikima-II have been some of the best entertainers in Japanese metal ever since forming in 1982. With aesthetics inspired by Kiss, elaborate make-up, pyrotechnics and energetic live performances, they took all of those Kiss-like traits and amplified them tenfold, playing heavy metal instead of rock and in addition to the image, gave themselves a backstory as demons who came from the demon world Makai, on a mission to conquer the world with heavy metal and propagate Satan. With a sense of humor unrivaled by pretty much any other Japanese metal band, they built a long-running, legendary career (10 million records sold) with humorous gags and props pertaining to how sinister they were and better yet, they matched the humor of their performances pound for pound with abundant skill and songwriting ability.

Seikima-II was so dedicated to the band's backstory that when they formed, they "prophesied" that they would disband at the end of the century and did so at exactly 23:59:59, December 31, 1999. Vocalist and leader Demon Kogure is about as well known as any single rock star in Japan and has stayed in character since 1982, never once revealing his true identity, despite appearing frequently in pop-culture. Though the band has stayed officially disbanded since 1999, they've played numerous reunions, all of which have sold out almost instantaneously. Seikima-II have been referenced numerous times in pop-culture in Japan, with band members appearing in famous anime such as Fist of the North Star, to partially influencing Detroit Metal City, to even featuring in their own video game in the 80s.

2. X Japan

X Japan

X Japan

Origin: Tokyo, Japan

Year Formed: 1982

Though they didn't quite top this list, X Japan could have very easily been number one, in fact, I flip-flopped between my 1 and 2 multiple times before publishing this article, it was such a tough choice. Massively influential? Pop culture icons? Multiple of the most famous Japanese metal songs ever written? check, check, and check. At an incredibly respectable #2 on this list, X Japan were the biggest metal act in Japan by a massive margin from the year 1988 until their disbandment in 1997, selling upwards of 10 million records in just those 9 years, with a total somewhere around 15 million today, making them the best-selling metal act in the history of Japan (their claim of 30 million was made only by them, I've never found info to actually validate that). X Japan with their controversial and rebellious style were groundbreakers who captured the attention of the youth of their entire nation, and in the process became the main act that kicked off the visual kei glam movement which is still prominent in all forms of Japanese music.

Changing their style often and effectively, X Japan continued to thrive throughout the 90s when metal music was at its very weakest, releasing three #1 charting albums and another that hit #6, featuring numerous styles, power metal, hard rock, heavy metal, symphonic metal, and progressive metal among a few other experimental ideas. This band was so famous at their height that they had both a video game and even a racing team. X Japan features perhaps the most famous drummer in all of Japan, Yoshiki, as well as possibly the best known Japanese guitarist of all-time, Hide, who tragically passed away in 1998 (he was so famous that when he died there were reports of copycat suicides, as well as entire roadways being closed as they were full of mourning fans). This band was huge not just to Japanese metal, but they along with a handful of other bands like Buck-Tick, Color, and Dead End expanded the scope of Japanese rock, paving the road walked by every visual kei metal band you have seen from the early 90s to present day. Who could possibly beat that you might ask? Well...

1. Loudness

Loudness

Loudness

Origin: Osaka, Japan

Year Formed: 1981

Loudness are by the tiniest margin the greatest band to ever grace Japanese heavy metal. My reasoning for this pick is that while yes, X Japan has sold more records, these two bands both formed at roughly the same time, and while X Japan was going through the motions of their indie/demo days, trying to pick up a record deal from 1982 up until after their full-length debut in 1988, Loudness managed to jump immediately into major success with their debut in 1981, The Birthday Eve, which quickly went gold (200,000+) in sales in Japan (Toshi and Yoshiki were even playing Loudness songs among others when they were in their band Noise from 1981 to 1982). Loudness' success has endured for decades now, nonstop, while X Japan had been missing, disbanded, for an entire decade of that time and haven't released new metal material since reforming in 2007 either, outside of a couple songs.

For over 25 years, X Japan had wanted to achieve major success in North America without any results to really show for their efforts until just recently. However, even before their global success, Loudness were dominating the Japanese charts. Both The Law of Devil's Land (1983) and Disillusion (1984) earned them gold disc certifications, each selling a whopping 200,000 copies by 1985. Loudness then had the honor of being the first Japanese metal band to ever sign a record deal with a major American label, and had the first three Billboard charting albums by a Japanese metal band, with Lightning Strikes hitting #64, Hurricane Eyes hitting #190, and of course their iconic Thunder in the East hitting #74 and staying on the charts for 23 weeks, selling upwards of 300,000 copies in America, somewhere near gold certification range. Ever since the mid-'80s, The core members of Loudness have been regarded as some of the most iconic metal musicians in their home country. Even today Loudness tour internationally constantly and get to perform international metal festivals still, whereas X Japan have only started playing their very first shows on U.S. soil in the past decade, plus in their heyday Loudness got to share the stage at legendary American venues such as Madison Square Garden with bands like Motley Crue and Stryper way back in the '80s, a venue X Japan only played for the first time a couple years ago.

Of course, something Loudness never did achieve was a #1 in their home country which X Japan did do more than once, nor did Loudness sell out huge stadiums like the Tokyo Dome constantly, however Loudness has only narrowly missed a #1, most notably with their 1992 album Loudness which hit #2 on Oricon. X Japan were extremely strong in the 90s, but while traditional heavy metal had died off quite badly as evidenced by most of Loudness' peers breaking up for at least a few years, Loudness also managed to adapt to the 90s successfully, adopting a groovier sound and continuing to chart very high on Oricon without significant change to the quality of the product they put out. Exact sales figures are hard to find, but Loudness has certainly sold multiple million albums worldwide, somewhere near, but less than that of Seikima-II and both bands less than X Japan.

The thing with Loudness though is that while they sold less, they achieved essentially every goal X Japan had set for their career, in addition to a couple extras, and while Loudness didn't have a gigantic pop culture movement at their feet the way X Japan did, they were early and they were innovators, driving Japanese metal forward to what it is today unlike any other band in the country's history without really letting up or disbanding at any point.

The magazine Metallian said it best when speaking of Loudness: "There are few bands that can claim to have opened up the minds and ears of an entire music scene to the existence and possibilities of its particular country."

List Order

50-3433-1716-1

50. Lazy

33. Crowley

16. Animetal

49. Marino

32. Blizard

15. Dead End

48. Precious

31. Action!

14. Mari Hamada

47. Outrage

30. G.I.S.M.

13. Sigh

46. Corrupted

29. 44 Magnum

12. Sabbat

45. Kuni

28. Church of Misery

11. Sex Machineguns

44. Liv Moon

27. Saber Tiger

10. Dir En Grey

43. Light Bringer

26. Aion

9. Galneryus

42. Blood Stain Child

25. Ningen-Isu

8. Onmyo-za

41. Nokemono

24. Vow Wow

7. Show-Ya

40. X-Ray

23. Aldious

6. Earthshaker

39. D

22. Gargoyle

5. Bow Wow

38. Terra Rosa

21. Boris

4. Anthem

37. Reaction

20. Concerto Moon

3. Seikima-II

36. Jupiter

19. Flower Travellin' Band

2. X Japan

35. Doom

18. Flatbacker / EZO

1. Loudness

34. Sabbrabells

17. Versailles

Near Misses/Honorable Mentions

I'm sure you noticed there were many fairly big names who weren't included in this list, in most cases it's because some of these bands are so young, and in a few years they would certainly hold a place somewhere on here. Others could have held a place on this list years ago, but have been pushed out by current important acts. I'd like to mention a few of these great Japanese metal acts below in no particular order:

Honorable Mentions

  • 5X
  • Abigail
  • Ark Storm
  • Atsushi Yokozeki
  • Bellzlleb
  • Blindman
  • Casbah
  • Coffins
  • Coldrain
  • Crossfaith
  • Defiled
  • D'erlanger
  • Destrose
  • Double Dealer
  • Fastkill
  • Gallhammer
  • Gastunk
  • Gonin-ish
  • Gotsu Totsu Kotsu
  • Gyze
  • Heavy Metal Army / Eastern Orbit
  • Hellchild
  • Hellen
  • Hizaki Grace Project
  • Hurry Scuary
  • Intestine Baalism
  • Jurassic Jade
  • King's Evil
  • Lovebites
  • Mary's Blood
  • Matenrou Opera
  • Metalucifer
  • Misako Honjoh
  • Moi Dix Mois
  • Rajas
  • Ritual Carnage
  • Rosenfeld
  • Sly
  • Sniper
  • S.O.B
  • Swarrrm
  • Tilt
  • United
  • Unlucky Morpheus
  • Volcano
  • Wolf
  • XYZ>A
  • Yellow Machinegun
  • Zigoku Quartet

Questions & Answers

Question: You failed to mention, Ritual Carnage, Grim Force, Fast Kill, and King's Evil on your list. Is there any reason why?

Answer: I do hope you realize how difficult it is to make lists of this kind and every single person would do it differently. It's certainly not my intention to omit well-known names, however given the size of the Japanese metal scene I did miss a few. I would agree Ritual Carnage, King's Evil, and Fastkill deserve honorable mentions which I will add, though they don't hold the significance in my personal view and the criteria I used to warrant full spots in the top 50, despite their importance to Japanese thrash metal.

Grim Force simply don't have the catalog size, influence, nor were they as highly regarded as Japan's other big thrash names, so they will remain omitted, no disrespect to the band.

Question: Where is Band Maid? They are almost a metal band.

Answer: You said it yourself though, "almost", and that's the key. While they certainly have a few metallic songs, they fall mostly under the hard rock umbrella and there's no shame in that at all, I think they're a decent band.

The least metal band I've included here is Mari Hamada, only because she had so many metal songs in her early and later career, and while not purely metal she has quite a few releases that are more consistently metal than the band in question. I'd mentioned in the comments below somewhere, but Mari Hamada was my very baseline for the split between heavy metal and hard rock and it seemed like a fair threshold to stick with.

Question: Destrose should be on the list, not just honorable mention. With almost two dozen members in and out, they spawned many bands. They also helped open the door wider for Female musicians in metal. As you mention in placing Loudness #1, it's more than record sales isn't it?

Answer: Oh it certainly is about more than sales, and at this point in time, I put a lot more stock into Destrose's contributions than I did when this article was made 3 years ago, to the point that if I had remade this, they'd certainly have a place somewhere. The bands that came out of them (as you'll notice some are also honorable mentions) have progressed further in the years since this was written, some significantly. While Destrose's run wasn't the longest they're quite important and I'd probably find a spot for them in the high 30s or low 40s, jumping a bunch of bands whose impact had fizzled a bit by comparison.

Thing is, I wasn't exactly sure what to make of a lot of the bands that came out of Destrose initially, unaware of what several would actually go on to achieve. Of course, Mary's Blood are and were already excellent (they'd have a top 50 spot by now too), Lovebites (who would also have a place) have rocketed to success and so on.

Your point stands though, and all I can say is they'd have a place if I were writing this now instead of a few years ago.

Question: Where is EZO, and why didn't they make the list? Just curious.

Answer: You merely missed them, they're at 18th.

Question: Did you not listen to Lovebites? They rip out melodies, beats, harmonies and rhythms harder than 90% of bands ever to exist.

Answer: Yes I did and I enjoy their work. You might want to look at the date this article was written before getting upset, the band hardly existed by that point. If I rewrote this I can say they would have a place for sure.

Question: Could Starless have made the list? Their debut is pretty heavy at times for a prog band.

Answer: I love Starless, I think a lot of other Japanese metal fans do too since they had such a metallic sound at times. I do feel that while they have plenty of metallic riffing, particularly on Silver Wings, they were a prog rock band first and foremost though, hence their exclusion. Japan had some amazing prog bands that toed the line with metal around that era, like Novela, Scheherazade, Eastern Orbit and a few others as well. The country's 80's prog scene had a lot to offer.

Question: The list is awesome, but I did not understand why X Japan is second in the list. Basically I'm confused what is the difference between the top 2, could you please answer this? I'm really curious.

Answer: Well, first, even though it's long I hope you took the time to read it because I went into a bunch of detail why I chose each band as number one and two. If you didn't read it I'll reiterate, basically the Japanese metal scene wouldn't have taken off the way it did without Loudness in particular, even though both they and X are the most important metal acts in the country's history. Basically, Loudness got going and experienced massive success both much earlier and way more wide-spread (internationally) than X Japan did, even though X Japan outsold them in the long run. Loudness achieved every goal X Japan had set for their career, and Loudness even achieved several that X Japan never did, like selling a whole bunch of albums in America and touring there to a pretty large degree of success. There's even footage out there of X Japan playing old Loudness songs from their early days, so it's evident the impact Loudness had on everything including X Japan's eventual run of dominance. I should state, X Japan are my favorite Japanese metal band of all time, however trying to stay as unbiased as possible when I made this, in the end, I couldn't put X Japan in front of Loudness for the reasons above and as stated in the article itself. I hope that could clarify my pick for them as number two.

Comments

Skidcrue on July 13, 2020:

Thanks for your answer.

You're right, we write about hard rock and all styles of metal (except nu metal) from all over the world since the 60's to now.

French scene is very prolific too. And I suppose that french rock have not a good reputation overseas but it's not worthy. Our scene is very rich and varied. But, in my point of view, lot of french band prefers to sing in french. And when they sing in english most of the bands have a terrible accent... Last thing, and it's a french speciality, lot of bands speaks about politics and social issues. And i don't think it's very interresting for people who don't live in France. But we have underratted gems for sure!

Of course I am interested to discover underground japanese bands. I know that the rock scene in the whole in Japan is very dynamic. :D

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on July 08, 2020:

@Skidcrue No problem lol.

Also that's pretty cool! I can't read French, but they certainly had a good metal scene too. :P You guys seem to talk about a nice variety of acts from around the world as well.

Perhaps you'd be interested in dropping by Japanese Metal Form too, if you're looking to uncover new acts since you mention in your other comment you're still finding things. In this article I only talked about really popular stuff, but the Japanese scene is extremely old and larger than most people would expect.

Skidcrue on July 08, 2020:

Oh gosh! I am sorry! I've read lot of things in your article and I don't remember all :D

Tanks for your answer. You know I am a cowebmaster for a French webzine Hardrock80. https://hardrock80fr.wordpress.com/

We rewiew japanese bands too. In fact, the more i listen to japan metal, the more i love it. In my point of view, it's one of the more prolific and interesting scene in the world.

In France, people doesn't know that in Japan there are a such prolific scene. I have a project to write something about japan metal in the future, but for now I have to listen more and more in order to write something a good article.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on July 07, 2020:

@Skidcrue Hey, thanks for the comment and the kind words.

I do have Kuni on the list, he's at 45th. His first two albums Masque and Lookin' for Action are what he's best known for and he's one of the most respected guitarists in Japanese metal among his peers, despite perhaps a little less commercial success than several of the others on the list. He's one of those musicians that just seems to be friends with seemingly everyone in rock (worldwide) and in turn has collaborated with everyone as well. His career has allowed him to perform some impressive stages too, including Loud Park on multiple occasions.

Skidcrue on July 07, 2020:

Thank for this impressive list! I have only discover the japanese metal scene a few years ago and you made my day! There's a lot of band i have to discover. It will never end :D

I agree with you, Loudness and X Japan are the most influencial bands from Japan. Good to see the good old Anthem and Earthsaker too. Good to see the women of Mary's blood, Lovebites and Destrose in the honorable mentions.

I have not listen to this band but i'll ask you. How about Kuni? Is it worth at least an honorable mention? Is influencial? And more important, is it worth to have an hear on this band?

Kaiserrevy on April 27, 2020:

@Tadakatsu no problem! Ive been listening to Seikima ii quite a bit, im 4 albums in so far, amazing band!

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on April 25, 2020:

@Kaiserrevy thanks for the comment. I know a fair bit of J-punk, but I don't think I know the Japanese punk scene quite well enough to do a list like that well. It's a gigantic punk scene, every bit as big as Japanese metal, which is more-so what I'm familiar with.

Kaiserrevy on April 25, 2020:

Do a Top 50 Japanese Punk Bands next plz

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on November 05, 2019:

@Cristina, well the big factor there is Moi Dix Mois being Gothic metal usually, whereas Malice Mizer were Gothic rock almost entirely. It's not a huge difference at times, but certainly enough to differentiate the two stylistically. Thanks for the comment.

Cristina on November 05, 2019:

I thought I'd see Malice Mizer in the Honorable Mentions section since Moi Dix Mois is on there but overall great list and article. Love that Dir en grey was in the top 10. Now I have some more Japanese metal bands to check out

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on October 30, 2019:

@Marzhow, EZO / Flatbacker are at 18, assuming you missed them. I think that's about right for them. They were one of the exclusive few to attain any degree of international fandom, but that run wasn't particularly long. Influential but not quite to the degree of the top end of the list, still Japanese metal greats though.

Marzhow on October 29, 2019:

How about E.Z.O. they were produced by Gene Simmons if I am not mistaken. I love that Loudness was #1.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on October 25, 2019:

@Paj, Merzbow is in no way shape or form metal, sorry.

@Dan, @Ritu, Absolutely nothing against them, I can honestly say I enjoy both, but they're not metal bands. I'd made mention in the first paragraph and also explained several times over in these comments that I wouldn't be including alternative or nu metal unless equally fused with a legitimate metal genre, which The Gazette or MTH aren't, they're an extremely heavy variant of rock. If I did a list of Japan's greatest rock bands they'd surely have a place.

Ritu on October 25, 2019:

What about The Gazette?

(It's my fav.)

Dan on October 24, 2019:

I was sure Maximum The Hormone would be on this list! Dang it!

Paj on October 24, 2019:

Merzbow ?

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on October 23, 2019:

@Kenmil, I missed the second part of your question in my prior reply, but Bow Wow and Vow Wow were different bands. Kyoji Yamamoto himself considered them as such because they had no musical relation whatsoever, and next to no member carryover, while both were also aimed at very different music markets.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on October 21, 2019:

@Kenmil, Thanks for the comment. I'm a massive Murasaki fan, but the problem with them in the context of this list was they weren't very metal in the 70s outside of just a handful of songs, and then while they became much more metallic present-day, they were already far past their height of commercial acclaim/influence and success despite still being a good band. I have another article coming up next year that mentions them specifically, but they just didn't quite fit the criteria for this particular list. Love that band to death though. :P

kenmil on October 21, 2019:

Nice to see my friend's band, Crowley, listed.

However, with Flower Travellin' Band on the list, I'm surprised there is no Murasaki included. Certainly, they ought to be included as one of the greatest bands from the early days!

Also, I don't understand why you listed Bow Wow and Vow Wow as separate bands. That is like two listings for essentially the same band! If you had treated them as one (which would have been proper), then another band could have made it into the top 50.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on October 18, 2019:

@Vde"ny, it's certainly an underappreciated era of Japan's rock history. So many great bands came out of the 70s.

Lots of the popular 80s bands were influenced directly by those great 70s bands too.

Thanks for the comment!

Vde"ny on October 18, 2019:

I like Japanese classic rock band 70s, bands; to much, brush .. !, april fool, samurai, murasaki, blues creations etc., good sound, clear music character,and the era of the 80s loudness band, more clearly and with its characters, vocalists and music

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on October 10, 2019:

@Homa maryboy, You know, I'd agree they're worth an honorable mention so I'll do that. They slipped my mind.

Homa maryboy on October 09, 2019:

What bout S.O.B.?

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on August 22, 2019:

@Rising, I'm an absolutely massive fan of Make-Up and Nobuo Yamada, but they were my baseline for bands not being eligible for the list since they were almost exclusively hard rock, albeit very good hard rock. They tossed in the rare metal song on their albums from time to time, but they were few and far between. If I made a list of Japan's greatest hard rock acts, they'd surely place high on it.

Rising on August 22, 2019:

MAKEUP !? (Nobuo Yamada / Pegasus Fantasy)

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on August 01, 2019:

@Wombat I explained in the very first section, if you'd actually read, why bands like them and a few others were excluded. Zero bias against them.

I doubt you even know another 10 Japanese bands beyond Babymetal, considering you're discrediting all these other musicians' works over a single exclusion.

Wombat on July 31, 2019:

No Babymetal? List is invalid

funcool on June 24, 2019:

Loudness nr 1!!! YESSSS! Akira Takasaki one of the best guitar player in the universe!

deathskin67 on April 30, 2019:

Loudness definitely #1 great guitar work heard their latest pretty gd

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on April 07, 2019:

@Rocknpappy Thanks for the comment! It was extremely close between them and X, but in the end I simply couldn't justify not having Loudness in the #1 spot.

@IronHammer8 Thanks for the info, good magazine. You might be interested in Rockin'f/WeROCK too, they're fairly similar. That one has been around for over 40 years.

IronHammer8 on April 07, 2019:

Hi man, I wanted to warn you that Burrn! has launched the online site.

https://burrn.online/

Rocknpappy on April 06, 2019:

Yes agreed! LOUDNESS should be #1 !!!

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on March 01, 2019:

@Jaydog1369

Not even close, sorry. They lack severely in influence, acclaim, commercial success, pretty much every category I tried to consider in making this. They don't even measure up to Japan's other thrash acts well at all.

Jaydog1369 on February 28, 2019:

TIGER JUNKIES

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on February 19, 2019:

@Porksausage

They're 110% alternative and nu-metal and the very first paragraph I'd made mention that I'd excluded those styles, as well as -core stuff and why. Absolutely nothing against the band whatsoever, been a fan of them for years.

If I made an alternative and nu-metal centered list they'd be top two.

Porksausage on February 18, 2019:

No Maximum The hormone? Wtf dude.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on January 01, 2019:

@neonzebra I enjoy quite a bit of what Lovebites have offered. They're off to a fairly hot start internationally, seeing opportunities most of this list never got the chance to experience. They're very new, but I don't see any reason they wouldn't place somewhere on this list if I were to update it within a few years, assuming they stay active and don't drop of the map into obscurity or something unexpected.

neonzebra on December 31, 2018:

I wrote out a long post about why I think Sex Macineguns should have been included only to scroll up and see that they were and I missed them. Time for new glasses, I think. Great list, and a great resource as I'm unfamiliar with some of the bands. I see you gave a few of the recent crop of all-female metal bands mention at the end. Wondering what you think of Lovebites? They may have been new and still under the radar when you made this list.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on September 27, 2018:

@GoneImago Legendary band, but Boowy aren't by any stretch of the imagination a metal band, sorry.

Gonelmago on September 24, 2018:

And Boowy???

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on September 10, 2018:

@IronHammer8 Ah yeah, that's a great resource. http://japanesemetal.gooside.com/ is another fantastic resource for discography info, both old and new.

IronHammer8 on September 10, 2018:

@Tadakatsu Honda I wanted to tell you this site about Japanese metal, very interesting

http://japan-metal-indies.com/index.html

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on September 09, 2018:

@DvSvR, yeah United were certainly one that slipped my mind, unfortunately.

I don't hold their stock quite as high as Outrage's career (though still greats), I think Outrage has held a bit more influence in the scene. Still, United definitely deserve at least a mention, thanks for pointing them out. Was the rest of the article alright?

DvSvR on September 08, 2018:

Did you completely forget about thrash metal giants UNITED?

They've been just as influential in the thrash scene as OUTRAGE, so I think they deserve a mention.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on September 06, 2018:

@amplified That's totally fine, I understand where you were coming from. :P I just wanted to keep it all as consistent as possible and hold to a firm standard.

amplified on September 05, 2018:

@Tadakatsu Honda Thanks for the explanation. You have already mentioned why you didnt include the GazettE, I just didn't notice it in the comments, sorry for that.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on September 05, 2018:

@amplified I've been a gigantic fan of D'espairsRay for years, but they didn't fit the criteria to include here. They play alternative metal to the very core and the first paragraph said I excluded -core bands and alternative/nu metal bands, unless they're equally an actual metal style. The comments below are also filled with explanations of certain exclusions. It's not because I dislike or disrespect D'espa or The GazettE in any way.

amplified on September 05, 2018:

Could you explain an absence of such bands like the GazettE or D'espairsRay on your list? They are hands down more talented than half of bands you put there but you didn't even mention them outside of the list.

Speaking of Babymetal, this is an idol band. The girls never compose or arrange anything, they are just getting filmed and do what producers tell them to do. Such band should never be on the list like this one.

prdola on September 01, 2018:

@Tadakatsu Honda I understand. Thank you kindly for your reply and clarification, sir! And again, great article :)

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on August 12, 2018:

@prdola, I appreciate the comment! There were a few reasons for their exclusion, however the main was because their style falls largely under the umbrella of alternative and metalcore, outside just a few outlier songs. For that same reason I left other popular stuff like Exist Trace, Deluhi, or Headphones President off, so it's not picking on Babymetal, I do respect much of that band. :P

prdola on August 12, 2018:

Great article, sir. I discovered couple new band thanks to you!

Although i must say i am surprised there is no BABYMETAL on this list of yours. They are as big in Japan as rest of the world 39 in US and 15 in UK (charts), which is something that no J-metal/rock band never achieved before. But they are still young band so i suppose they must deserve their spot on your list via time itself :)

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on July 13, 2018:

@RB Roberts, I don't know of a thrash metal band called Presence unfortunately. There was a fairly popular heavy metal/hard rock band called Presence in Japan though, running from the early 80s through late 80s, though they shifted to hard rock more and more each year. Wouldn't call them thrash or punky at all, even though their first album had some harder edged and speedier tracks, so it's probably a different band. Sorry I can't be of more help!

RB Roberts on July 13, 2018:

Hi! I was trying to locate a thrash band (really a mix of heavy metal, was known a "punk" back in the late 80's or early 90's. Name: PRESENCE. They returned to Japan disappoint in the extreme racism which kept them repressed. It was not "Presence Of Soul." I can only recall the name "PRESENCE." Thanks.

CoffeeCommando on May 14, 2018:

@Tadakatsu Honda Yeah, man, I’ll drop by. Seems like a good group of metal fans.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on May 13, 2018:

@CoffeeCommando, hey, you're welcome. Thanks for the comment! If you've got any questions or want to talk in more detail about any of these bands, we talk about pretty much all of them over on the Japanese Metal Forum site. :)

CoffeeCommando on May 13, 2018:

Dude, thanks for the list. Book-Off is gonna make a lot of money off my arse soon. I knew of the big name V-Kei bands and some semi-obscure groups, but there’s a lot of good groups on here I’ve never come across.

Painkiller on May 09, 2018:

Hey, IronHammer8, are you able to pull up the forums now? We've switched servers. New URL is japanesemetalforum.com. See you there!

IronHammer8 on May 02, 2018:

@Tadakatsu Honda You're right, D are cataleogated as Gothic and Symphonic Metal.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on April 29, 2018:

Just as I'd mentioned before though, it's tough because everyone would have a different take on the whole thing. :P I don't care if a band was featured in a whole issue of Burrn!, that holds no bearing on if they're any more of a metal band or not lol.

If D's Vampire Saga's not a symphonic/gothic metal album I don't know what I've been listening to all these years haha. Moi Dix Mois have had -some- releases over their career that were more metal than not, I don't like them personally, and fan opinion is super divided because they're pretty inconsistent, but they had a good run of success at their height and their members held some pretty big influence in the visual kei scene, which was enough to get them just a small mention at the end of the page.

IronHammer8 on April 29, 2018:

@Tadakatsu Honda The latest Dir En Grey's records are cataloged as Avant-Garde, Progressive and Death Metal. They are also reviewed by the magazine Burrn !, therefore they were to be inserted. As for the D, I think we are in the limits, I do not know if I would have included them. In my opinion, those not to be included in honorable mention, are the Mox Dix Mois, they make music inspired by Gothic and Symphonic Metal, but they are not metal as far as I am concerned.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on March 25, 2018:

@IronHammer8 yeah it worked. Hadn't seen that list yet. I don't agree with it, but everyone who makes a list would have a very different looking one. :P

As for the site not letting you in, we've got some problems with our current host and are trying to change over to one that doesn't block people at random, if you could message the owner at admin@jpmetal.org with your IP saying that you're blocked, he will contact the host to let you in asap.

IronHammer8 on March 25, 2018:

@MetalFRO I only know the first album, but I think wagakki are not metal. I think they are a visual kei, j-pop and folk rock group.

IronHammer8 on March 25, 2018:

@Tadakatsu Honda another thing man, when I want to connect to the japanese metal forum, tells me "time for the connection exhausted". How do I solve?

IronHammer8 on March 25, 2018:

@Tadakatsu Honda http://teamrock.com/feature/2016-09-19/10-of-the-b...

Now works?

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on March 22, 2018:

@IronHammer8, Your link isn't working unfortunately.

IronHammer8 on March 22, 2018:

@Tadakatsu Honda Thank you! I think it could be useful for those bands that have few ratings. I also put the link on metal hammer because their list (http://teamrock.com/feature/2016-09-19/10-of-the-b... is not great. I'd like you to list even on prog or other genres.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on March 20, 2018:

@Jake Clawson, I have heard of Lightning, very good band.

Jake Clawson from Kazakhstan on March 20, 2018:

An interesting list; I like Blood Stain Child a lot; trance elements add a lot to the sound. Heard of Lightning? The band I think of when Japanese metal is mentioned. Their album Justice Strike is a masterpiece.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on March 18, 2018:

@IronHammer8 Go ahead man!

IronHammer8 on March 18, 2018:

Great article. Can I create the list on rateyourmusic citing the source?

MetalFRO on December 05, 2017:

VERY glad to see Onmyo-za in the top 10. They're one of the most consistently good bands over the last decade plus, and certainly since 2002 or 2003, their output has been almost universally good, if not absolutely great. I'm a little surprised to not see Wagakki Band here. I know they tread that line between rock and metal, and a lot of their instrumental direction is driven by the use of Japanese folk instrumentation, but it's curious that they weren't included over a handful of the more obscure bands that had 1 or 2 releases and faded away.

Tadakatsu (author) from Canada on August 17, 2017:

@Marcin Szymkowiak I tried to take an educated crack at this list, and of course everybody's list would end up different if you ask any individual, I just hadn't seen anyone try to do such a ranking with a paragraph on why each band was chosen so I thought, what the heck, I'll give it a try haha.

Thank you so much for the comment and we would love to have you over on the site!

Marcin Szymkowiak on August 16, 2017:

Thanks again for a great article, Tadakatsu.

Once again you provide a great source of information about somewhat forgotten music genre(s).

Even if I know almost all of the bands you mentioned here and I listen to most of them I see you brought up some names I never seen before like Yellow Machinegun, 5X and Atsushi Yokozeki.

Man I need to register a Japanese Metal Forum account finally.