Must-hear/Essential Visual Kei albums

Let’s discuss albums we consider essential Visual Kei listening, open to interpretation so go wild with your criteria.

Edit: Mini Albums and E.Ps can be included.

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GACKT - Crescent
MALICE MIZER - Bara no Seidou
X JAPAN - Jealousy
DIR EN GREY - MACABRE (Not my favorite but it’s pretty much required listening.)
DIR EN GREY - Withering to Death.

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Nightmare: Anima and World Ruler
Gazette: NIL and Stacked Rubbish

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Janne Da Arc - JOKER (2005)
Malice Mizer - merveilles (1998)
D≒SIRE - -終末の情景- (1995)

Plastic Tree - Puppet Show (1998)
Girugamesh - MUSIC (2008)

vistlip - THEATER (2009)
Royz - Revolution to New AGE (2011)
愛狂います。 - 心臓 (2009)

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X - BLUE BLOOD (1989)
L’Arc-en-Ciel - HEART (1998)
Dir en grey - Withering to death. (2005)
D’espairsRay - Coll:set (2005)
the GazettE - STACKED RUBBISH (2007)

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Sukekiyo - Immortalis
Sukekiyo - Vitium
Sukekiyo - Adoratio
Sukekiyo - Infinitum
Sorry not sorry

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This is a must listen for any new fan. It is damn near life changing.

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alright let’s do it

X-Japan - Art of Life
Kuroyume - Nakigara wo… (Romance of Scarlet and Feminism are also probably essential)
Zi:kill - Close Dance (Desert Town works as an alternative)
Laputa - EMADARA (I’d personally recommend the first two albums ahead of this one - but this release has a more unique identity than those, and was closer to them on the precipice of mainstream success)
Dir en grey - GAUZE (the apex of 90s VK)
La’cryma Christi - Sculpture of Time
Luna Sea - Mother
cali≠gari - Dai 5

okay maybe i just picked a bunch of my favorites, but that’s a result in my interest in VK resting mostly in the 90s

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It’s weird but I’d consider LUNA SEA’s CROSS as an excellent album for beginners and for that band and sound.

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This isn’t a bad shout, actually. Modern Luna Sea isn’t as “essential” as their first four LPs IMO, but I think something like CROSS would be very palatable to someone who’s unfamiliar with the genre.

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In no specific order these are just the albums that came to mind when asked this question:
Awoi - Aoi ~The second~
Mr.unknown - Amnesiac’s nothingness
AVANTGARDE - Zeneiban。
R-Shitei - Shikaimonjo
Nocturnal Bloodlust - Grimoire
D’espairays - Coll:set
DADAROMA - Stańczyk

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I drop just one mini album today

because its simply great so check it and give them your opinon.

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MUSIC hell no 13s Reborn or GIRUGAMESH are waaaaaayyyy better.

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I think MUSIC would be more palatable to a larger audience and serves as a good middle ground, tbh. It’s pretty memorable as well. Personally, I would go for their self-titled album, myself.

Bro they are well known and made extremely popular for the former, while I like Music it marks a dynamic shift in their musical style. But yeah the vast majority of girugamesh fans would know and like them for their first two albums therefore those are the one that are essential.

Also what’s with all the vk fans hating on metal lately?

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Now that I look back, it does seem like reception around Music was contentious among giru fans despite the album’s general popularity. Sure, I think self-titled would be a go (unlike “GO” which would not belong on essentials, lol). I don’t think 13’s Reborn would work though with its production, at least as a must-hear “starter”. That’s just my opinion, though.

That’s a you problem. There is an abundance of metal fans among vk fans, you just have to look.

No it’s definitely not a me problem there are plenty of haters on this very forum, heck even your statement about MUSIC being more palatable is a perfect example. Why pray tell is it more palatable? Because it isn’t metal? And yes I am fully aware that there are plenty of vk metal fans all I meant is I’m seeing a lot more hate than I used to.

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hmmm idk metal and its fans are pretty stinky in my experience

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I’m going to interpret the prompt in a different way. Instead of listening albums that are certified 10/10 Zeus bangers, I’m going to list albums that I believe you need to have listened to once. These are albums that I think heavily influenced visual kei, heavily influenced me, or advanced my understanding of the scene. EPs are fair game. Going to try to stick to one album per artist. I promise my explanations for most won’t be too long.

Also, these are in no particular order.

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Anonymous Confederate Ensemble - BLACK ALBUM

I went scrolling through my collection looking for seminal albums and this was the very first group that popped up, and I had a melancholic moment for what this band could have been. I liked this band so much that their disbandment pushed me out of visual kei for a few months. I was that sad. Their pirate inspired looks combined with Rookie Fiddler’s violin/singing combination, Nimo’s solid vocals, and a multicultural focus - their first guitarist was half Hispanic and went by Mucho Gracias! - meant that they were a very unique band that remain without peers even ten years later. They were so underground that we only caught wind of them because one of our mods at the time - doaseternity6, who was a real cool gal - saw them live and could not stop gushing about them. And when we heard BLACK ALBUM, we totally understood why.

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Aliene Maφriage - Les Soirée 夜の舞踏会/断罪の章~神罰篇

Kote-kei died in 1999 because of several seminal releases dropping within a few weeks of each other that pushed the sound and aesthetics to the absolute limit. This is one of those albums. Kyouka has the nastiest wails and screeches that visual kei has ever seen - yes, even better than Akane from D.I.D. - and the members from this band went on to form other well known bands like Chaos†System, ネガ (NEGA), and 黒百合と影 (Kuroyuri to Kage). This might not be your cup of tea because it was not mine at first, but it gives you a peek into a side of 90’s visual kei that isn’t immediately apparent.


D’espairsRay - [coll:set]

[coll:set] is the greatest industrial metal x visual kei album of all time, mostly because there is no second place in my library to contest it. DEZERT and exist†trace tried but besting [coll:set] is a tall order. It defined the tastes of a whole generation of visual kei fans. The atmosphere on this record is incredible, there are solid but powerful riffs that define D’espairsRay’s gothic sound, and it manages to be equally heavy and melodic. I listen to this album regularly and I still can’t believe it dropped in 2005. Literally hasn’t aged a day. They never topped this album, but then again they never tried.

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Dir en grey - GAUZE

This is the second album that obliterated kote-kei. 95% of anyone who hangs around visual kei knows who Dir en grey is, but I always have to reiterate that this was both their debut and their first major album, and they were already getting YOSHIKI’s assistance in less than two years of being Dir en grey. That kind of meteoric ascension is unheard of and that’s why this album is here. There are others people may prefer, but without this one those could not be.

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∀NTI FEMINISM - 狂葬録

The first collection album of legendary Japanese punk session band ∀NTI FEMINISM. This is a re-recording and remastering of most of their discography from 1998 to 2008 and it’s absolutely wild. There aren’t a lot of hardcore punk visual kei bands out there so you owe it to yourself to give them a try. Also, this band has cycled through over one hundred session members by this point, so odds are someone you like played a few lives with Kenzi at some point.

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Gackt - Crescent

Lots of new fans like to clown on Gackt for various reasons - some a little understandable - but no one can deny that Gackt’s career has been nothing short of impressive. Find me another visual kei album that’s certified Platinum by the RIAJ. I’ll wait. Mars put him on the map and is another solid album to look into (they all are really), but it was Crescent that was the turning point in his career. Sure, Malice Mizer was popping for two years but Gackt’s been balling for two decades. They are not the same. Obligatory mention of Moon Child here: if you were not present for it, you will just not understand the ridiculous amount of hype behind Gackt x HYDE…and this was years before “Redemption” and FF7: Dirge of Cerberus…like I said, this man’s career has been impressive.


DIMLIM - CHEDOARA

This is another band we clown on for what they became, but at their apex DIMLIM perfected deathcore in visual kei. That is why we clown on MISC.: please never forget this. I already see CHEDOARA as an album that will enter my regular rotation just like [coll:set]. It might be a little early to consider this “essential listening”, but I’m confident this will age like fine wine.

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Guniw Tools - DAZZLE

This is the one I am most familiar with, although to be honest Guniw Tools has a really thick and diverse discography that deserves more of my time. I could care less about the plagiarism allegations, even if they’re true, because music is a reinterpretation of everything that came before and it doesn’t involve this release. I probably would have never heard of Yo La Tengo, Curve, or Duran Duran if those similarities hadn’t been drawn, and what the band did with those influences was unique in itself. This style of art rock is really uncommon in visual kei and deserves a try.

I swear to Mount Olympus I’m trying to zoom through these…

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Laputa - CAKERA

This is the third album that slayed kote-kei. I can forgive you for not being exposed to these guys earlier, as they’re not a band immediately thrown in your face. I’m here to change this. An absolutely seminal and influential album for both the band and the scene - on 1999-09-25 Laputa performed as the headliners of the Nagoya TV sponsored free outdoor live event BAITARU '99 (バイタル’99) and over 5,000 people attend. They toured off this album for an entire year! Those are insane numbers. It’s another flavor of kote-kei of course, but it’s really good.


lynch. - I BELIEVE IN ME

Unpopular opinion but this was peak lynch. to me. A surprisingly diverse and solid album that encapsulates everything lynch. to me. No subsequent albums hit like this one does. greedy dead souls put them on the map but it hasn’t aged very well - I like certain songs more than absorbing it as a whole - and THE AVOIDED SUN just sounds weird. SHADOWS was them coming into the sound that was perfected here. If you had time to only listen to one lynch. album to decide if they’re for you or not, make it this one.


MUCC - 新葬ラ謳

They have other albums I like more but this has to be on the list. No one was messing with 7 strings in B standard before MUCC, and they brought nu-metal to visual kei. They influenced legions of bands in their own right, and while they no longer chase this sound it’s one I am very nostalgic for. Grab the remastered version if this record is new to you as the shaky production of the original could turn some potential fans away.

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陰陽座 - 鳳翼麟瞳

Are Onmyouza visual kei? No. Do I care? Also no. I’m sliding them in here anyway because the aesthetics and direction of this band are so strong that I have never understood why the Japanese equivalent to Iron Maiden was so overlooked by visual kei fans. These guys have a very traditional vibe aesthetically but absolutely slay on each of their respective roles. Stop slacking on Onmyouza because female operatic vocals will appear in visual kei as soon as the narwhal bacons at midnight, and if you recognize that reference then you’ll understand that it will never happen because this is it. This is as close as we’re getting and these guys have been slaying in the heavy metal genre for over two decades. Take ten minutes and listen to Nue, please.


-OZ- - COMPLETE BEST ALBUM

Friends tell friends to listen to -OZ-. The real answer here is VERSUS, but why choose one -OZ- album when you can have them all? Listen to -OZ-.

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妃阿甦 - 妃阿甦

Absolutely fucking mental thrash metal in a genre where thrash is quite uncommon. This was the fourth album that slayed kote kei, because THE PIASS didn’t leave an inch for other bands to even attempt this style. I’m still a lil bummed that these guys are on infinite hiatus, even if Takayuki announced he was reviving the band. When you have time, read up on the history of this band - THE PIASS has had one of the most interesting trajectories of all bands in visual kei.


the GazettE - DIM

the GazettE are a band that peak and crest to me and DIM was one of their biggest peaks ever. Such a solid conceptual album executed well from start to finish, even if I don’t spend as much time with it as I used to. I chose this over DOGMA because the reaction to this album upon release was otherworldly. STACKED RUBBISH put doubts in many about the future trajectory of this band, and DIM put those fears to rest for quite some time.

12012 - 深~deep~
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12012 is one of those bands who I felt always did better with shorter releases. 深~deep~ is a phenomenal single stretched into a mini-album because of the inclusion of an SE, which means that it barely makes the cut for being considered in this list. My fave track is “mental food”, but they’re all solid hard rock tracks. Once upon a time, these guys were adored by the scene and was everyone’s favorite newcomer. How things have changed…

Probably forgot a few, but this should do for now.

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Color me somewhat surprised nothing from NAZARE is on there as they now have copycats and sound different from pretty much anything else out at the time Jingai dropped.