Some reflections on Jrock/Visual Kei from an old timer.. am I just an old fart?

I literally spent half my youth on Japanese rock/visual kei. I traveled to Japan only for fan meeting events several times. I was one of them who went to see Dir en Grey at Rock am Ring back in the days. I think it was that time (?) Kyo’s mic didnt work well and he seemed pretty pissed off about it, lol.

I would say there was some kind of a “peak” around 2005-2010-ish. There were so many active bands that kept pumping out quality releases back then. Hell, even “Sadie” released some really solid stuff before they disbanded (check out “Madara”) . VK was also starting to go abroad and stuff, japanese rock was about to become the next big thing.

Then… a few years later it just kind of fizzled out. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was the japanese labels who kept refusing to put stuff on Youtube, or something else that over time made people tired of trying to check out the latest music from Japan. For the longest time you literally had to go to specific pages to download illegal rar files if you wanted to listen to new releases. It killed the vibe for many, for sure.

At around the same time people stopped buying music worldwide. I think this took a huge hit on especially this japanese “members only” rock/VK scene. Even once super popular bands started disbanding and the quality of the releases decreased. I wonder if it was that simple that they stopped making any real money, and kind of lost interest.

Now I am here like 15 years later trying to get back into it again. I literally vacuumed spotify on all recent releases from the classic bands that used to be good… and almost everything is crap/soulless. Its only Dir en Grey and Gazette who still are able to put out something decent, for example Oboro is a step in the right direction for their new album, or Gazette’s latest single which was pretty solid. I also liked Candis. Artists like Mucc, Matenrou Opera, Nogod, Kamijo, Merry only to mention a few have completely dropped the ball. Not even Galneryus can put out some decent music anymore…

Mucc which used to be my favorite band is almost becoming a joke of themselves at this point, aren’t they releasing like a new album every 6th months now? I also read there is another one coming out soon… while Tatsuro just released 2 solo albums. Is it really getting that hard for even the “big names” to earn money? Desperation? Also why is Kyo doing all kind of weird side projects? That one with Miya and Yukihiro was just so damn generic, and those weird clothes designs (his brand?), lol. Don’t get me wrong I am not trying talk shit about Kyo because he will always be one of the biggest inspirations for me in my life, but is he also trying to squeeze out every $$$ he can before he gets too old?

I have zero interest in trying out indies anymore - the ratio that you find something worth listening to in the japanese indie rock/vk scene is probably the lowest on the planet. People mentioned that deviloof and kizu are the biggest newest bands in recent times and they didn’t impress me at all. Kizu is your typical shitty VK and Deviloof sounds like any western death core band that ever has existed. I guess this is the only way they still can get some attention abroad anymore since if you just growl and scream for 3 minutes, have decent produced videos and look a bit “cool”, fans of the genre will automatically gather and praise it. Not trying to make fun of anyone, no offense.

What always differed japanese rock from western rock for me, is that even if screaming is a big part of it as well - is that Japanese rock often leads up to catchy choruses/melodies and epic climaxes. Just listen to “Kamikaze” by Nogod and that climax chorus man…

I am willing to say that this scene never has been worse. Maybe it’s even dead, with only a few glimpses of hope here and there, but they are truly few at this point. Am I completely wrong with my observations?

Love and Peace

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Literally how I’m feeling about the scene atm, although I’ve only been a fan for 10 years. I’ve been trying to branch out into a few different bands here and there, but most indie acts these days all sound the same and are complete fucking dogshit. It doesn’t help that K-pop/idol groups/Soundcloud rap are the new fad now and all these new bands are either trying to be idol or there’s actual idol groups emulating visual kei.

I’ve even gotten burned out of some of my favorite artists because they’re burned out, ie. MERRY, among a few others. It’s even gotten to the point where I’m losing hope for gothic bands, as the longer they’re around, the blander their music gets, ie. Labaiser. Not to mention that the kotekei bands still remaining that are faithful to the genre have releases that are still fucking hard to get by and are so faithful to the 90s grindset that they can’t adjust to the current fucking times of the Internet. And I used to stan goth bands, until I started unironically liking some kirakira bands, not even joking (I swear I still don’t like idol), and am starting to lean further into osare territory. It’s sad when I start to enjoy that kind of music over my literal favorite genre. I guess I’m yearning for some change in the scenery, as I’ve stated before, and the dark stuff I listen to these days is black metal, which the Japanese hardly ever fucking touch at all and it really sucks because there is so much fucking potential for black metal kote bands and I’m rambling at this point. The point is, as long as visual bands are either stuck in their primitive ways or trying to adjust to current Western music trends to get attention, there’s no hope for the scene.

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I think you’re mostly correct.

I’ll add that IMO modern production is a big aspect of why new bands sound “soulless”. They almost all use MIDI drums and heavy pitch correction and amp sims are quite ubiquitous. Even the shittiest low budget band from the 00’s had some life to their recordings, because they were “real recordings”. Mics placed on a drum kit, in front of a guitar cab, the acoustic nuances of the room they recorded in— all of that is gone.

Even many bands who have a proper budget seem to prefer self-engineering or self-mixing just because they can. And it often ends up sounding notably worse (see GazettE’s TRACES vol II). Plastic.

Now, that being said, you must respect Kizu. They have an exceptionally talented vocalist / frontman. Like most VK bands, their discography is a bit up and down, and I’m not even a fan, but I think they deserve the hype

In regards to Galneryus, I also blame production. Not even considering the vocals, I think their first 4 albums still have the best production sound for the rest of the band. Under The Force of Courage (2015) is quite good in my opinion, though I still think Sho will always sound lame compared to Yama-B’s fierceness :woman_shrugging:

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it’s… not the production. deadman just came back, and their self cover album sounds clean, modern and sick.

indie scene kind of really sucks, a lot of important people retired (rip baroque, you were nothing special following your reunion, and I’m still bitter) and no one came to replace them, but it’s the overall stagnation in rock that is to blame. I follow some non-VK other artists and everybody seemingly peaked in 2002 while still releasing stuff and doing a lot of side-work.

kizu sucks too. you’re welcome to enlist yourself in the under fall justice and kaya fandoms, our faves never disappoint.

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Ill just say we’re all old and we hate the new bands that we didn’t grow up with, just like our parents don’t like our music. I’ve been listening to VK for a long ass time and have seen VK go through almost 10 different fads. I happen to like metalcore djent riffing fad right now, so i have nothing to complain about.

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Spot on.
I dedicated my life to vk to the point of moving here to do VK as a pro,
What two seniors told me summed it up:
Kon(lamule) “visual kei isn’t something anyone should do.”
Watusi(coldfeet,Sugizo production etc.) “If you came 10+ years earlier.”

The scene is dead now, transformed into a hollow shell of it’s former self, older fans have grown up and due to the nature of current scene do not go out to gigs.
A former staff for Rouage also put it well “if we saw a band like that in the past we would wait for them to leave the livehouse and say ‘please disband’” :joy::ok_hand:

But it cant be helped, the flow of time washes everything away.
Harajuku is dead, VK is dead,
VK cd stores are mostly super lazy/given up.
Let it die. Our support drummer Tossy (ex.gakido, serial number) said “I want it to die completely so only the true people stick around.”
So I think it’s a chance.
We chose our May gig to be with shit host style menhera bands with the ideal of “lets show these c*nts what real VK is.”

I do feel bad for younger generation, in the decade Ive been here ive seen so much die off, i feel bad they wont get to see so much.

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While I mostly agree that the scene is basically dead and it’s a bit sad, the only way to find new good bands is checking out indies because bands aren’t going major anymore. This requires an open mind and some level of taking off the nostalgia goggles. I do get it because I also got into VK around 2007 and mostly listen to other music now, but good vk still exists. There was a recent thread about people posting their favourite current bands and most of the bands people mentioned are good In my opinion.

But yeah the scene is basically dead…
Also Kizu>>>>>>>>>Sadie

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I think especially fans that was active longer or have gotten long time ago into VK have a certain hang towards nostalgia “everything was better, back in the days”. But was it really better? Or was everything just different, but not really better?
I remember tons of VK bands wouldnt upload their MVs to youtube. How many MVs was only on youtube because fans uploaded them.
And don’t get me started on shortening the MVs, and songs with it down. (This is something that took the japanese music industry a long time to finally get rid off, happens nowadays still sometimes thou) Hell, even big JPop stars like Ayumi Hamasaki had no MVs up on youtube or any streaming website.

For oversea popularity i would seperate the Jrock scene here from the VK scene.
The VK scene had a height in popularity overseas between 2005 and maybe 2010. And i think there a lot of users on JRO who got into VK during that time, me included.
But i think that Jrock had a bit of a different way. Look how babymetal was popular, after the VK craze was over already. One OK Rock had their documentation on netflix. Crystal Lake are hella popular in the western metalcore scene and not only them but quite another amount of japanese core bands.

Midlife crisis? Or maybe he just want to try something else than Dir en Grey.

Only those two? I think there are some more bands that are popular or worth mentioning.

Also for all those who say VK is dead
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I’ll just say that my opinion as a fan since 2000 is what it’s always been: Music scenes ebb and flow, decline in popularity and raise up again. They change over time. Maybe you will find a current band you enjoy eventually, maybe not. Doesn’t stop you from enjoying old favs (and I know a lot about this one). Am I happy with all the changes? Not particularly, no. But I wasn’t happy with the changes circa 2010 when osare was booming either. I was bitter when Dadaroma announced they were going to break up, as they were the only modern band I thought I liked. But, as I love the scene, I continued digging and trying other bands and found some I enjoy. Maybe eventually it’ll loop back around to something you enjoy, who knows. And I understand the disappointment in checking out an old band you used to love and finding they’re quite awful to you now (I loved old MUCC as well).

People have basicallly been saying that “Visual Kei is dead” “Vk is dying” since I was still a new fan. People got pissed at the release of Withering to Death, thinking it would herald the end of Dir en grey. Did it? Nope. People have also been saying “most indie vk bands sound the same” for yeeeears now, many years :rofl: And they’re not particularly wrong, but it’s been this way for a long time now.

I do have a bit of the nostalgia glasses Rena mentions, I miss the VK of the 2000s, I miss amazing bands being popular enough to play overseas (even if it was anime conventions most often). I would say the height of international interest in VK was more 2001~2008ish, myself. Though my memory may be fuzzy :sweat_smile:

To say the scene is actually dead is absurd imo. :person_shrugging: You might not be happy with it, but that doesn’t make it dead. And I can’t fathom why someone who’s supposedly a fan and in a VK band no less would seem to want it to die?

This is a really good point and something that does bother me. The coopting of the vk subculture to push (crappy imo) anime, and idol shit trying to infiltrate the scene. (And to note, I don’t hate idols, I just feel like it should be kept completely separate) I hope that kind of thing does die off quickly. But I don’t see VK as a whole dying off any time soon (and the last 2 years are a very bad time to judge any sort of niche music scene imo).

I said I wasn’t going to write an essay, but welp. :eyes: Thanks for coming to my VK TED talk, I guess.

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I always have to hold so much in when I see someone say “this new band is better than that old band.” when I know specifically that band is paying an old guy connected to a 90s vk label to write their songs xD. . .
One day the tea shall be spillith until then Im like this

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I’ve been feeling less and less enthusiastic about newer artists, or even older bands that have stuck around sometimes, as the years go by (been listening to VK since 2004). I try to keep an optimistic approach and remain open always, but admittedly it’s becoming harder and harder to do… :smiling_face_with_tear:

There’s just no denying or overruling the type of music you got into in your youth I guess. To me, those old bands are the cream of the crop, but to someone who got into the scene in the past 1-2 years those bands probably won’t do a thing. It’s just how we work as people I guess. Nevertheless I’ve been so long into this shit that I’ll probably never let it go, so the best I can do is keep my ears open and hope for the best…

…but yeah, most of the recent stuff is pure interchangeable samey garbage. I’d like to think it wasn’t all that different 10 or 20 years ago either, the only difference is that that garbage is the one I like, lol. That said, I do have to echo someone’s observation above about the more modern recording techniques taking the life and soul out of the sound, that’s undeniable imo.

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Gurlll if you went through all the drama llama stuff I’ve had to deal with in the scene you too would be like “let it fall apart so it can be rebuilt better.”
easily connects along with your feelings against the coopting of vk.
If the structures helping people think “oh if I do this genre I can basically be a sh+t host kind of menhera idol” died out then there could be a chance for some kind of artistic rebirth, those sentiments bleed over into the cd stores and the livehouses where they are just like “we really don’t care.” just like how it is at say a indie girls idol event.
I’d rather see everything rebuilt from zero than deal with all this half-a$$ stuff T__T. . .
Just had to contact a band to tell them their crap support member was sending creepy messages to one of our fans after the last gig out of nowhere, seeing the quality of Club Science session level BS bleeding over into more established events slowly recently~
oh im a jaded old man, but I love VK so I’d rather see it die to be born again than be this current crap T_T/

A general comment from older fans and bandmen alike is “ヴィジュアル系が終わっとる” so locally it is commonly viewed as being dead because comparatively it just is.

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Sometimes it feels like people prefer complaining about visual kei more than they like visual kei — a lot of the points in this thread are the same ones that were made when my mum was still going to lives. I’m just not sure what there is to say at this point? It’s just cyclical. If you expect a genre to be the same and to resonate with you in the same way as it did when you were fifteen, then unfortunately you’re going to be disappointed. That’s certainly not unique to vk. It’s just, unfortunately, how time works. Maybe it’s just not for you anymore, and that’s ok, and the sounds and expressions you enjoyed can be found in a form that suits you better elsewhere. Anything you love already will continue to be there, so why waste your energy on something that isn’t serving you?

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The visual scene is dead. When I was younger, growing up in the kote/koteosa kei era, bands were popping up left and right, disbanding left and right, and there were tons of live houses still opened, and a sea of ドマイナー bands.

Now the scene is still full, full of people who never gave up on the scene, and the people doing genres they don’t like, so they can gain mitsu and shit like that. I asked Kasumi years ago what has changed in the VK scene, his response is basically people arent doing it for the love of it, just for getting money from prositutes from kabukicho, the girls grow up and leave the scene, and the entitlement of the new people in the scene.

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To be honest i don’t think this applies to just VK. With most subgenres of rock/metal, some years ago all these bands coming out had something new and fresh to offer so it was exciting and interesting. Nowadays because everything has been done it’s much harder to offer that new fresh feeling so a lot of new bands while still being “decent” just don’t hit those same levels because we’ve all heard the same stuff done before. It takes a lot for a band to keep offering something new and exciting now and one thing with vkei is that a lot of the bands seem to just rely on the tropes to try and become popular rather than trying anything new. There are a few bands i still actively follow who are doing good stuff still, but a lot of the bands i did like have either disbanded or become stale and boring and have given up with them. :frowning:

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Though it may seem that way I think that is just because always minus things stick out more, the fans here who translate, sit through vhs dubbing to dvd and then to the pc and then formatting it, etc. I see nothing but positivity there and passion.
That passion may lead to strong opinions but even those all come from a place of love and I still think foreign vk fans are amazing, like the VKGY folks, wow. They basically bury the current structure here in Japan. So let’s not forget there is tons of positivity in the scene ^v^
These sentiments all come from similar places, both foreign and local, and I think those places hold a truth that the scene needs to hear. Everything comes from that initial spark and love I feel.

But you are def right about this being a similar thing in all genres,
There is the boom, the fall out, and then a lower level of stabilization that latter leads to an end or a repetition. The trickier thing is the idol/host culture injected into this situation which makes it just slightly different~

I’m not referring to literally every fan when I referred to people in general.

Idol culture really doesn’t make this different other than that it is the current garbage that’s going round; there is nothing new under the sun. People tend to think that the music in “their day” was the most passionate, the most unique, the most exciting, and of course to them it was, so it’s all true. It’s no different this time than it was when my mother was talking about how much better Dead End was when I was listening to Laputa, nor her mother telling her that the music she enjoyed is all style no substance and nothing compared to Sam Hui.

Sometimes what’s currently happening just isn’t for you, and that’s fine, something else is. It’s fine to mourn what is lost and to wish it was different, but that doesn’t make it’s a unique sentiment nor mean that it is unique to the genre.

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Like I said agree def on the same sh*t different times aspect but as someone whos worked in the host industry, idol industry, and vk industry can def say there is that difference in the idol/host aspect of VK. Aint no mitsuge culture going on in punk rocks evolution and such haha.

Lol, ok…I can’t speak for punk’s evolution, but as someone who has experience in other comparable genre’s industries, you’d be myopic to imply that it’s an exceptional or unique concept/structure. But you do you I guess.

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To answer the title: Probably both.

I remember the “golden days” of VK/J-Rock outside of Japan in like 2006-2009. Bands having appearances at Rock am Ring, Wacken, touring with like 15 dates in Europe, festivals like J-Rock Revolution in Los Angeles in 2007 or J-Rock Invasion in 2007 in Cologne. MUCC, Dir en grey, MERRY, D’espairsRay, you name it.
These tours were an event everyone seemed to care about and it was the thing.

These days are definitely gone, even though the younger generation still seems to enjoy vk, but probably more the aesthetic and following them for good looks on IG without listening to the music. But there’s still a fan base which (because of our age) we aren’t aware of and who still even listens to old bands like RAPHAEL or Amadeus.

And humans tend to glorify their good memories, especially during their youth because everything you experience is so intense and time passes by more slowly. That’s why you probably feel overwhelmed by how “much” bands release these days (which is also due to the “Spotify culture” where you have to release something constantly).
Nowadays everything is so readily available. Kane to juusei, Hitchcock and any other obscure indie band is nowadays on Spotify/Apple music and you add it to your library, listen to it and forget about it. Back then, you had to search for it and at least I cherished the bands/albums more. I’d listen to it over and over. Today the market is just oversaturated.

tl;dr: You’re getting old, times are changing and quality is declining. It’s a mix of many factors.

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