new journey.

Setting out on a new journey.

 23 minutes ago I turned 21. At 12:00AM I bought myself everything my heart desires: a plane ticket to Osaka, departing March 13th.

 I guess this means exist trace and I will pass like ships in the night. I need to sell my exist trace ticket. My ticket is for the Boston live on March 15th, at Middle East Club. VIP only, meet & greet. Ticket: $46 (39.50+7.03, I’ll let you keep the change ;]). Includes S/H. If you know anyone who might be interested, it would be doing me a great favor if you could pass it on. 

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exist trace Major Debut: TRUE

1. TRUE
2. 本能 (Honnou)
3. 常闇の夜明け (Tokoyami no Yoake)
4. KISS IN THE DARK
5. 自由の空、地上の歌 (Jiyuu no Sora, Chijou no Uta)

 After passing up single Knife and album TWIN GATE simply due to lack of feeling like previews of either releases struck me like a lightning bolt, and trading the chance to see the babes live in Seattle in order to see girugamesh in Boston, I think my frosty misogyny is finally melting under the spell of exist trace‘s honest-to-goodness Visual Kei. …My negligence didn’t have anything to do with Jyou’s inexcusably butch hairstyle. Honest.

   Don’t get me wrong, I’ve known from the first time I heard them that they were, and were going to continue to be, spectacular. The way they have never had to use their gender to prove themselves or establish a place– they have been able to crack open a gender-generalized genre while keeping their integrity, sincerity, and badassness intact. This, I think, is a commendable feat. The best part? Half the dude-groups can’t even rock this hard anymore.

 It was a subtle nudge that drew me back to exist trace– an alert somewhere notifying me of the release of their major-label debut EP and the fact that Jyou grew out her hair, and then, a few days ago, that nudge shoved me onto Youtube and straight into the PV for title track TRUE.

 

 The track starts off with wicked solid metal riffs, plunging right into the soulful wails of the vocal melody. The construction of the song is great. The instrumentals are impressive, grungy, and heavy, charging along at a fast pace without feeling rushed. Instrumental/guitar solo is quite badass and may or may not definitely induce headbanging.
Jyou’s vocals soar as always, and the melodic-metal-type vocal line is pretty sweet. One thing I’ve always appreciated about the vocals in exist trace songs are the even balance Jyou finds between growling/screaming and melodic warbling. I often find “melodic metal” to be preachy, presumptuous, and often just plain boring, but exist trace finds a great middle-ground, keeping everything conscious, concise, and creative. Great track, and great opening for the EP.

Next song is Honnou. Electronic effects open the piece, with some ampy-distortion, and the surly, girly voice that says Shall we dance? Which, while seeming like a minor detail, actually sets up for more of the song than one might expect. Less soaring/melodic than its predecessor, Honnou gets down and dirty, staying grungy, while bringing in a poppish chorus line. I enjoy the combination of pop and metal flavors throughout the song. I did feel like they downplayed the vocals somewhat during the verses, and they were almost too quiet. The electronica was well-utilized, and the bass solo around the 2:30 mark was a great intro for a great instrumental break that I can’t really count as a guitar solo, since the guitars didn’t do anything particularly memorable, and if they did, it was hidden by a muddy pool of electronic effects. So I give this one up to Naoto.

 Tokoyami no Yoake brings everything down several levels. Jyou’s vocals are in the spotlight more than anything, backed by simple details and a spacious, elegant bass-line. I enjoyed the song a lot, and I thought the verses, instrumental and vocal bridges were quite beautiful, although I feel like they could have been more inventive with the chorus. Choruses have really been a pet-peeve for me with most releases. I just can’t help thinking many of these groups use the same freaking chorus in every song, and it’s starting to get to me.

KISS IN THE DARK brings in some carnival sounds, opening to a neat funk line which I didn’t see coming from exist trace. Although this kind of song is pretty common fair in Visual Kei– you know, “piero”s taking over all the lyrics (creepy clowns)–, and Jyou’s vocals felt out of placed when I was all geared up for Yomi to start droning along. I guess it’s good they tried something kind of different…for them, anyway. Although I think Visual Kei could use some new locales, you know, like we’re allowed to go to carnivals, vampire castles, and…Versailles. Right. I’ll let someone else try and come up with an explanation for that. Like, seriously. When is a Visual Kei song going to have traffic sounds, or rain forest sounds or something in it? Are Visualists exiled from those places or something? And what am I supposed to do when I finally come out of denial and realize I sleep in a coffin and my windows are curtained by roses, and I leave the front foyer unfurnished in case Versailles PQ wants to film their next 10 minute long PV there?

Anyway…I enjoyed how the past couple of songs showcased Naoto, the bassist. They do a good job of sharing the spotlight– you don’t ever feel like you’re straining to hear one or the other members, the instruments are clearly defined while staying busy, and they spread it out through each of the songs so that it’s not just guitars shred shred shred shred shredding incessantly. Really nice attribute. Probably my least favorite song on the album so far, the highlight of KISS IN THE DARK was when they transpose everything at around the 3:15 mark. Aside from that segment and the bass work, it was forgettable.

 I thought Jiyuu no Sora, Chijou no Uta has a nice structure. The instrumentals carry the piece along, but the verse was thoroughly enjoyable– one of the highlights of the 5 tracks, I would say, and Jyou even took the time to write a new chorus. Good for her. The track wound things down nicely, and I liked the way they ended it with the final chord fading out, simple but nice. However, I felt like the transition from KISS IN THE DARK (which, in retrospect was stressful) to Jiyuu no Sora, Chijou no Uta seemed hurried. My elite expectations would probably have been better satisfied had they slipped a mediating track between the two, giving a little more time to come down from our thoughtful, “Huh…” into that release of compositional tension that has buoyed us from the elation of the EP’s beginning to its final seconds that ease into silence. I suppose the challenge of the EP vs. the single, is that, like an album it has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end– but unlike an album, you don’t really have the 10-15 songs it can often take to really get all the loose ends tied up and the character arcs resolved.

Limited edition includes the same tracks, and a DVD with the TRUE PV and Special Movie.

My only real complaints about the EP, which seem to be strangely common complaints to have about major debuts, was that it lacked edge. Remember when you played Judea for your metal-head [male] friends and they all cried? Yeah. Me too. So although I like the music, I like the songs, I like their look, and I think the PV is baller, I sure as hell hope they don’t lose that je nes se quai that makes them stand out amidst the babbling oshare babies as one of the few bands that can really, honestly, and wicked sickly rock.

All in all I think that TRUE hits the spot, with my picks off the tracklist being TRUE, Tokoyami no Yoake, and Jiyuu no Sora, Chijou no Uta. The instrumentals were really good, the compositions strong, and the vocals, although a little lacking at times, really pulled through, especially given these hard times we live in, full of recycled choruses and regurgitated chord-progressions. I definitely think exist trace is one of the better bands still making the rounds in the popular scene, and while they may not always be perfect, their songs always feel new.

 

Out of All These ONE Must Shock Us!

Back before Zero was a creep

It looks like the second round of summer releases have been announced. Have I ever mentioned before how stressful I find it that Jrockers all release their stuff on exactly the same day? There are like two dates in a given month when they’re allowed to release material. For June you can expect to go bankrupt on the 2nd and 23rd, so get ready, guys.


D’espairsRay // “Dead or Alive Complete Covers Album” // July, ’10 (Album)

For the first time ever, a Jrock band will feature nothing but covers of the one band probably everyone is perfectly happy going the rest of their life without ever hearing!
Just kidding. It’s true, I’m being uncharacteristically vindictive (I’m not usually vindictive, right?). I mean seriously. The actual news is that they will, in fact, be releasing a brand new album right in time for adding songs to the set-list for their world tour, which will kick off in the US sometime in August. But, y’know, please don’t let us know what the dates are UNTIL THE DAY OF.

Out of all this second round, I think this is the most exciting news. Although all we know at this point is that it will be released sometime in late July.  Love is Dead itched the darker aspects of my dementia, but I thought b-side Medicine (I haven’t figured out how to make backwards N’s yet) was a really cool song. It was congruous with the single, but also got heavy and angry to counter the dancey thing that preceded it.

Exist Trace // “Knife” // 6.2.10

I always look forward to these bad-ass babes. I’m sure they aren’t going to release a techno song.

Inaba Koshi // “Okay” // 6.23.10 (2 types)

A barely-optimistic title, but surely a single that won’t disappoint from B’z frontman Inaba Koshi.

Nightmare (ナイトメア)// “a:fantasia” // 6.23.10 (2 types)

What the hell was with them releasing an entire album with ONLY ONE SONG ON IT. That’s what they invented the “repeat” button for, hello Nightmare?

Ayabie // “Irodori – Tour Final Live @ ZEPP Tokyo” [title subject to change] // 7.14.10 (Live DVD)

To be honest, I haven’t really followed these guys since I got irrevocably bored with their Rikkaboshi +A album.

Rin //”As if Forever Exists” // 6.2.10 (3 types)

Kisaki’s new band.

Phantasmagoria // “Diamond Dust in Truth” (live DVD) // 6.23.10

Kisaki’s old band.


**Pick ’em up here**

For anyone who forgot:

Sadie just released some new stuff yesterday (4/28); a Singles Collection, and a maxi-single (which hopefully isn’t included on the singles collection…) called DRESS. The PV is pretty cool, and the song is awesome.
If you haven’t heard it yet, check it out:

D’espairsRay album release source: CDJapan

Video: shuujiHysteria

exist trace European Tour

Here are all of the officially confirmed dates, venues, and ticketing links for exist‘s Europe shows.

exist trace EUROPEAN TOUR 2010:

4/25/Sun (日) Russia ロシア / Moscow モスクワ
25.04.10(Son) XO Club Moscow (RUS)
Doors 18:00/Start of the show 19:00
Ticketlink: www.concert.ru
Date the tickets will be on sale: 19/02/2010

4/28/Wed(水)Finland フィンランド / Helsinki ヘルシンキ
28.04.10(Mit) Tavastia Helsinki (FIN)
Doors 18:30/Start of the show 19:30
Ticketlink: www.tiketti.fi
Date the tickets will be on sale: 24/02/2010

4/30/Fri(金)Germany ドイツ / Berlin ベルリン
30.04.10(Fre) Columbia Club Berlin (GER)
Doors 18.00/Start of the show 19.00
Ticketlink: www.konticket.de
Date the tickets will be on sale: 19/02/2010

5/1/Sat(土)Germany ドイツ / Bochum ボーフム
01.05.10(Sam) Zeche Bochum (GER)
Doors 18.00/Start of the show 19.00
Ticketlink: www.konticket.de
Date the tickets will be on sale: 19/02/2010

5/2/Sun(日)Netherland オランダ / Utrecht ユトレヒト
02.05.10(Son) Tivoli/De Helling Utrecht(NL)
Doors 19:30/Start of the show 20:30
Ticketlink: www.tivoli.nl
Date the tickets will be on sale: FEB 22

5/4/Tue(火)/ England イギリス / London ロンドン
04.05.10(Die) ULU(University Of London Union) London(UK)
Doors 19:00/Start of the show 20:00
Ticketlink: www.ticketweb.uk.com
Date the tickets will be on sale: 26/02/2010

5/5/Wed(水)France フランス / Paris パリ
05.05.10(Mit) Nouveau Casino Paris(F)
Doors 19:00/Start of the show 20:00
Ticketlink: http://www.ticketnet.fr/shop/fr/manif.asp?idmanif=197003&idtier=78768
Date the tickets will be on sale: 26/02/2010

5/6/Thu(木)France フランス / Lyon リヨン
06.05.10(Don) Le Kao Lyon(F)
Doors 19:00/Start of the show 20:00
Ticketlink: http://www.ticketnet.fr/shop/fr/manif.asp?idmanif=196978&idtier=78768
Date the tickets will be on sale: 26/02/2010

5/7/Fri (金)/ Spain スペイン / Barcelona バルセロナ
07.05.10(Fre)Salamandra 1 Barcelona (ES)
Doors 19:00/Start of the show 20:00
Ticketlink: www.ticketmaster.es
Date the tickets will be on sale: Wednesday, 24/02/2010

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Source: Official Website

Sexy Dynamites exist†trace

Hardcore Vis Kei girl-group exist†trace will be leaving their trace on punk fashion this month via their collaboration with Tokyo punk fashion brand SEXY DYNAMITE LONDON.

Not only that, but there’s now a rumor going around that there will be a Europe tour for the girls this spring. However, this has not been announced on their official homepage or myspace, and until it is, information won’t be officially appearing on SG. In any case, assuming they will be touring, for those of you fortunate enough to be in Japan and unlucky enough to be missing their Europe tour (and this has nothing to do with any of us missing any and all of it– don’t worry, you find sympathy here. In fact, I may even turn Secret Garden into a web-wide shoulder to cry on for all of the people who will probably die before they ever see Jrock in their remotely-near locations.), these Visual Kei dynamites will be making a special appearance at the punk-fashion brand Sexy Dynamite London‘s Tokyo store.

These rocker babes have teamed up with the brand for a collaboration, and will be participating in several events in February. On On February 20th head on over to 「LondonBoys&Girls HarajukuNight2010」 which takes place at Omotesandou FAB in Tokyo. The girls will be modeling SEXY DYNAMITE LONDON clothing. Then, if you didn’t get your fill, on February 27th, they will be heading to the Marui One branch in Harajuku for a 1st anniversary special instore event. The event takes place from 3pm – 5pm, and those who purchase up to 3000 yen by February 20th will be able to attend. The event inclues a handshake and photo with the members, along with the chance to purchase limited exist†trace and SEXY DYNAMITE LONDON buttons. They will also have a lottery to give away member signed posters.

Keep on the lookout for more official announcements concerning a tour!

Further Information:

exist†trace Official Website (Jp)

Official MySpace (En/Jp)

SEXY DYNAMITE LONDON Official (Jp)

Girls EXIST!


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:

exist†trace

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.

New girls on the block, EXIST TRACE

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)

+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