+VK+ #1 Damned Dames

If all of the beautiful, talented, elegant “women” in Visual Kei are actually men, then where does that leave girls and Visual Kei?

From a commercial perspective, a very large percentage of the Visual Kei fanbase is teenage and young women. It makes sense, therefore, that the majority of Visual Kei bands and front-men would be male– you can even take that a step further by applying our previous analysis of the archetypes of male androgyny, idealism and fantasy. However, in the past decade, a few badass babes have been getting fed-up with these pretty boys thinking they can shred, and are (although not often) showing up on the Visual Kei scene to tear things up– girl style.

Since the early 2000’s Visual Kei has seen the rise (and, for better or for worse, the fall) of a good handful of all-female Visual Kei bands. Unfortunately those that actually receive recognition and become popular are few and far between.

Jyou, of exist trace

Continuing on the topic of commercialism, many people argue that the reason female Visual Kei bands are practically unheard-of is because Visual Kei is targeted at women– as a crustaceasly-brained forum poster put it (but with worse spelling), “it’s the same reason why there aren’t female members in Arashi“. This I first of all must contest do to this person’s apparent total lack of understanding concerning Visual Kei; secondly because (generalizing here, but for the sake of making a point, so bear with me) Visual Kei is typically a hardcore/hard-rock/metal music scene, which, as far as I know, is not a typical genre for Japanese female musicians and vocalists.

On that note– how many all-female heavy-metal bands can you name in the west? Probably not as many as all-male bands, I’d put money on it. In the end, I think that if you’re going to analyze it (which of course we are), you have to realize that a) Yes, the reason they can’t become as popular as quickly is from an aesthetic perspective. They aren’t men, therefore  they don’t appeal to the teen-girl masses in the same way. b) However, musically they are still on par with many of the all-male VK bands, and many of the all-female bands have more interesting music and melodies. And c) On sort of a “big sister” level, it seems that the individual members would receive recognition from women on a level of aesthetic in that these are strong, confident, beautiful women being who they are and embracing the musical culture they love, regardless of stereotypes or expectations.

Danger Gang

What I really find interesting is that Visual Kei bands are strict in their lineups. They do not bother with that tedium that is co-ed creativity (with the exception of a few bands, such as Decola Hopping— a decora-style band whose vocalist is female). Visual Kei bands are either all-male, or all-female. In an interview that guitarist and band-leader of exist trace, Miko, did for JaME, Miko addressed the topic by saying that before she joined exist trace, she was playing music with a lot of friends and so on, many of whom were boys. She said that although they were not necessarily consciously excluding men from joining the band, their distinctive sound and feel comes from them being all women, and that would be very different if there was a male adding his maleness to the quality of the music.

Miko of exist trace

More on the topic of defining sound and music qualities…. For anyone interested in experiencing Japanese rock music with a female vocalist who doesn’t sound like how bubblegum tastes, I highly recommend checking out female VK bands. Although the music is still usually rock as hard as we like it, there tends to be less metal (exist trace excluded. Approach with caution.), giving more of a general appeal (exist trace excluded. Approach with caution.). Deeper altos seem more favorable– almost to an extreme, in the case of Araune, whose vocalist has one of the deepest voices I have ever laid ears on.

As you can see in the example of Danger Gang (above), the aesthetic style tends to be quite different among all-female VK bands. Although some bands such as exist trace have established a look not too far a-cry from that of the male bands, decora (extremely heavy accessorizing and mind-destroying color schemes) seems to be popular, as are the garish, costumey styles (Danger Gang, GallowS). Although these styles are also known among all-male bands, the classy sub-gothic/sub-militaristic look seems to be more definitive of the male VK bands.

Elements of the fashion may appear among female members of VK bands, however Gothic Lolita is not usually incorporated into their styles. Possibly due to its popularity among the male youshikibi-ites, or the social gap between Lolitas and Visualists.

If you are interested in checking out some all-female Visual Kei bands, here is a list of a few:

Aldious

Araune

Danger Gang

exist trace

GallowS (disbanded 2010)

GoDeath

Necro Circus (disbanded 2007)

Decola Hopping (male musicians, female vocalist)

Gagaaling (male musicians, female vocalist)

GallowS

5 responses to “+VK+ #1 Damned Dames

  1. Ah, this is something that’s not too often talked about. (The concept is kinda confusing if you think about it from a “girl’s dressed like boys who dress like girls” point of view. XD)

    The [funny] thing is, it works the opposite way: guys like all-female bands due to their aesthetic. XP Generally though, I think the sound of female vocals in rock/metal may also be a slight reason as to why the popularity of female Visual Kei bands is not so widespread.

    I’m a huge fan of exist trace and I particularly enjoy Jyou’s vocals and the contrast of it, at times, to their hardcore sound though I must admit that her growls are killer! I must say though, that with their recent release, Ambivalent Symphony, there’s been a move away from their darker and heavier sound [such as the one found on the Annunciation EP] to something more lighter and optimistic, especially with Owari no nai sekai which, dare I say it, is the “poppiest” of all their songs.

    P.S I can but only mention one female on the metal scene – Angela Gossow, vocalist for Arch Enemy…and she ONLY does Death vocals.

    • To be honest, I found it a little difficult to make my mind up about where to stand in concerns to the whole matter of female lineups in Visual Kei. There are so many commercialistic projections for why they aren’t as successful as male lineups.
      In the end, I think I’m going to have to agree with you– I think it basically lies in the rarity of women rockers in general. Especially given the Japanese show-biz industry and the cultural position of women (yes, it’s still a patriarchal culture). Although women have made a massive impression on Jpop, not only VK but also Jrock in general are still pretty much dominated by male stars.
      The basic fact of the matter is, this is about their music, and their own interest in becoming successful musicians. exist trace has already performed abroad several times, as well as participating in the V-Rock Fest ’09 last October. If enough people listen to their music and spread the word about them, they will become successful (and are).
      Personally, I don’t believe in the baseless views that a) men don’t listen to VK (because they do), and b)female lineups can’t become successful because their listeners are females who just want eye-candy.
      Yes– Visual Kei actually is a real genre of music and VK bands actually have real musicians performing in them, playing real music. Right? Right!

      Just as a final note– the majority of fans of exist trace who I have met have been female! Touche!

  2. So glad I found this post…I’ve been wondering about this!

    Ok…so I’ve looked up a couple of each of their songs…and Exist Trace rocks so hard it’s scary…totally badass (tho the growly parts make me want another Ricola)..I also really like Danger Gang and Necro Circus!!

    • Yeah, exist trace are bad girls and they know it. They basically sold it to me from the get-go– I’m sure I didn’t have high expectations, but whatever I did have, they blew it right out of the water.

      Danger Gang is pretty good. Unfortunately GallowS just disbanded recently. Also check out Aldious — they’re still really green, but the vocalist isn’t bad and the ’80s-inspired rock riffs and prom dresses are kind of an interesting flair. Sakurayume did an awesome review of their debut single, which you should read and give a good rating if you haven’t already (and re-read if you have!).

      Note: post updated 07/12/10

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