At the peak of my Anime obsession, I found myself seeking out Japanese musical acts, otherwise known as JRock. Sure, there was JPop, which was the squeaky cute stuff saved for many anime opening themes and other such acts. But these were bands who knew how to jam it out on their instruments.
With the introduction of Japanese music, I learned another fun tidbit– some Japanese bands really liked to have a look. It’s called ‘visual kei’ and it’s elaborate hair, costumes, and makeup. Of course, the music has to stand on its own, but with these bands, the visual draw didn’t hurt them at all. But these bands were king when when I listened to the most JRock, and therefore I’m doing my Top 7 Visual Kei Songs (From 1995-2000).
Don’t yell at me that Miyavi isn’t here. Sequels, my friends. Sequels.
Still considered one of the most popular acts across Asia, L’arc-en-Ciel has had the same band members since about their third album in 1996 or so. Their sound spans flowery rock, hard hard, punk influence, and ballads. But there’s no doubt that “Heaven’s Drive” is a definitive L’arc-en-Ciel sound, and the first track of their that drew me in.
6) X-Japan: Rusty Nail
All right, I’m already breaking the rules here because X-Japan is a rock act from the 80s. But they continued onward for a long, long time. To this day, the death of their guitarist Hide is mourned throughout the JRock community. Seriously- go on YouTube and read comments on their videos. You have kids who were born in 2002 still crying over Hide. While most of their music (that I’ve heard, and that’s about an album’s worth) is primarily ballads, these guys have the ability to rock the hell out when they need to!
5) Luna Sea: Gravity
Gravity is a beautiful slow rock song and a Soju-induced karaoke favorite. Luna Sea (I feel) has always been such an underrated band. Their best of double disc album is still in my closet to this day nearly twenty years later and it’s filled to the brim with incredible music. Perhaps they drowned in a sea full of makeup-caked pretty boys, but they had a sound and look all their own.
4) Glay: Mermaid
If some of their contemporaries were boyish, Glay were straight up men. Their sound was strong and their themes were romantic. They sang about women, lips, kissing, and other things that were almost sexy. ‘Mermaid’ will always be my favorite Glay song.
3) Gackt: Mizerable
Gackt. Effin’ Gackt. Gakuto. I don’t care if you disagree with me or send me hate mail– Gackt is the Japanese David Bowie, end of story. He’s androgynous, handsome, sexy, pretty, delicate, strong, vulnerable, classy, and edgy. Men want him and women want him. Men want to be him, and women want to be him. To this day, he’s one of the most popular and well known singers in Japan. And goodness, has he had a lot of facial work done today. But it doesn’t matter- he’s Gackt! Funny enough, he was the lead singer of Malice Mizer for a little bit, another band we’ll get to on the list. But it was the same as when Dio sang for Black Sabbath. It was good- but it was just more Gackt. Mizerable was Gackt’s post-Mizer single and it solidified his sound and his status as a visual kei master.
2) Dir en Grey: Cage
Dir en Grey was another visual kei band that seriously rocked out compared to some of their contemporaries. While my favorite song of theirs ‘Cage’ is pretty hard, it has a super catchy chorus that had no other choice but to become a hit. But other songs of theirs aren’t so forgiving. These guys can thrash hard and fast, and even made somewhat of a name for themselves in the Los Angeles industrial/metal scene for a minute in the early 2000s. And while they took off the costumes for a little bit, reports say that they’re returning to their makeup and costumed look.
1) Malice Mizer: Beast of Blood
‘Beast of Blood’ by Malice Mizer is literally the best song by any visual kei band that ever happened in existence. End of list. ::drops mic::
Just kidding, let’s break it down.
This song is so amazing, we can even forgive that they’re saying Beast Brood. Get down limitless light. The chorus just makes you want to sing way too loud in broken Japanese. The band members are dangerous and sexy. Mana the guitarist in full drag is life. It’s so amazingly gothy in a way that I don’t even think true goth and industrial fans would roll their eyes at. I feel like Marilyn Manson was at top Marilyn Manson at the time, and when I was 15, this was some of the hardest music I listened to. And that bassist with the cigarette…man…he was pretty damn cool.