Yes, there are real, live female Visualists, and they are terrifying to behold. Although my initial impression was, unfairly, that it was going to be some sort of bubble-gum Oshare Kei that makes you want to bleed soda-pop, after hearing several songs, I was officially slapped-down. This is not bubble-gum. This is not Oshare Kei. This is all-girls, all-the-time, and quite frankly, they make Dir En Grey sound like The Muses playing lyres on a sunny day.
(Well, okay, that was fictionalized for dramatic effect. But these dames are damned, that’s for sure!)
Although there are several notable, although not well-known, all-girl Visual Kei bands, today we’re going to focus on one group in particular, which has more or less swept Visualists off their Double Decker’ed feet. Totally frightening, totally female, showing us that VK girls exist:
These chicks can shred, they can scream, and they probably use a bag of throat-lozenges a day. I know I feel like I need one by the time I’ve finished listening to above-featured video and their pleasant how-do-you-do Judea. They have an incredibly powerful sound, they’re all talented and serious musicians, and actually managed to find a vocalist who doesn’t sound like everyone (or anyone) else. They’re intimidating to behold, but they’re not completely over-the-top in order to be noticed. They’re being themselves (well, we are talking about Visual Kei here, so you get my drift) and manage to pull off being completely cool and actually kind of bad-ass without seeming like they’re trying to be cooler than they are to impress someone.
Wow. I’m swooning.
exist†trace is, from left to right: (Gu)乙魅/ Omi, (Gu/band leader) miko, (Vo) ジョウ/Jyou, (Dr) Mally, (Ba) 猶人/Naoto.
An indie group blooming like a patch of black roses in Tokyo, exist†trace is typically labelled Alternative/Melodic death metal. A pretty apt summary of their work– but not particularly descriptive nor interesting. The truth is, these girls are hardcore Visual rockers, and trying to squeeze them into two neat, tidy genre compartments is an injustice to their creativity.
Their characteristic sound qualities are a full-bodied blend of many different styles of the gothic/metal world. They rock decidedly in favor of thick drum and bass, which contributes to a slightly more Gothic sound. The guitars keep everything rooted in pure metal, working with heavy melodies and tough-nut shredding.
Although Jyou’s vocals can be quite aggressive, with plenty of growling, howling, and general angry screaming, her confident alto soars with expressive, often quite beautiful melodies.
Originally founded by Jyou and Naoto, the then two-(wo)man lineup of exist†trace spent the first three years finding members. Naoto recruited childhood friend Mally, on drums, and after a while, they invited Miko to join. Last to complete the lineup was first-guitarist and, probably, band body-guard the intimidating shredder Omi.
With all members in place, the band officially kicked off in June of 2003, and a debut live in December of the same year. In 2004 they started spreading the word with the release of two demo tapes, Hai no Yuki and Kokumu. They released their first single, Ambivalence, on August 25th 2005.
2006 saw the release of several more singles and a mini-album Annunciation-the heretic elegy-, and the release of their first PV. 2007 was “lively”, kicking off with a coupling tour with band Gemmik in January. In July they released the single Liquid, and thrashed throughout Japan with a tour in the fall.
2008 was, truly, just a trace of existence for a while, when the band announced they would be taking a brief hiatus. This break lasted for a merciful 3 months, and was concluded with Reprologue, a revival live. This comeback seemed to return the girls to the music scene more fired-up and ready to go than ever, and in October they joined Black:List for a European tour. The tour included lives in Belgium, Germany, Paris, and Finland. November delivered compilation album Recreation Eve, and a lineup of promotional lives.
They are currently infecting men and women alike with the violent need to shred air-guitar (or hopefully get a real guitar!) with their latest album, VANGUARD-of the muses-.
The band name, and the significance of the cross-symbol (†), refer to a trace of existence and [the cross] the burden of life. In reference to their latest album, VANGUARD-Of the Muses-, band-leader Miko said the central themes were “struggle, conflict, and battle”, and that the band’s message was one of inspiration– not depression. They wanted fans to feel a sense of power and courage when listening [to the album].
exist† trace Official Website (Japanese [some English] VERY LOUD SOUND…My eardrums are officially dead from visiting their website…)
exist† trace Official MySpace (English/blog- Japanese)