I recently was fortunate enough to go to Japan with First Blood. I've been wanting to make my way over there for at least ten years now and have been in contact/trading CDs with several people over there for almost as long.
I was initially drawn to the scene by some of the long-standing hardcore bands from the area: Statecraft, Loyal To The Grave, Endzweck, TJ Maxx, Birthplace, etc. It was whenever I started trading CDs with Hiro from Retribution Network that I started finding a lot of my new favorite bands (most of which are featured on The Resurrection compilation CD which they put out). Extinguish The Fire, Crystal Lake, Shiver, Canopus, God's Heritage, The Ten Commandments, Unboy, Blood Calls We Die, End Of Statement and Vanguard among others.
What I loved about all of these bands was that while they were playing mostly familiar styles (typically a very dark, Arkangel-styled metalcore) they were also putting their own spin on things and managing to keep an otherwise-defunct style alive ... albeit on the other side of the world.
I didn't have much information going into this tour other than knowing that I was finally going to be attending the infamous Bloodaxe Fest for the first time. As soon as I stepped out of the van at the first venue, however, I walked in to see a show posted full of some of my favorite bands from the country (Loyal To The Grave, Crystal Lake) along with a band opening up their set with the infamous All Out War intro.
This post isn't going to contain any download links unless I get permission from the bands as all of this material is still in press. I know some of it is hard to get your hands on over here in the US but these guys put a lot of hard work into getting an album released and I'm going to suggest you put a fraction of that effort into picking up some of these discs.
This is a band that formed from the ashes of Canopus and features Jun Matsumara on guitar; a guy I did an interview with for a paper zine called Paradise Regained probably 5 years ago. He is consistently doing new bands and new projects and genuinely loved hardcore. Was great to finally meet him and see his band.
Palm is a band who is not going to be done any type of justice by a recording ... and probably not even by a live video. These guys were doing their entire own thing while being flanked by one of the sickest, smoothest drummers I've seen in a while. I couldn't stop watching this set for the life of me.
This is a band you've probably heard of recently with them coming to the US for This Is Hardcore Fest this past year. I'm not sure when they started but I do know they are one of the longest-standing, most respected bands in Japan. They are actually one of the prime examples of the type of bands I was referencing earlier of doing things with their entirely own unique signature attached. These guys stole the show with their mid-day slot on Bloodaxe Fest. Some of the wilder pitting I've maybe ever seen as evidenced below.
These guys are one of the longest-standing Japanese Hardcore bands and recently released one of their best albums in 2014 entitled City Of Dreams. It's great to see bands of this caliber still releasing their best material and not playing the same songs that they wrote 20 years ago. Numb, along with Creepout, has also come to the US courtesy of Crowd Deterrent for their annual Summer Of Hate Fest. I had never actually heard these guys until they took the stage that year and I was instantly hooked. Don't sleep on this band!
Edge Of Spirit was probably the closest to an American sounding band that we played with. They were an extremely tight and heavy metalcore band who, to me, sounded a lot like early Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage and Unearth. They've apparently been around for quite some time but finding information on this band isn't the easiest. We unfortunately only got to play one show with them the but self-titled full length they gave me is a solid listen the entire way through.
Creepout is a band we unfortunately did not get to play any shows with but I've been very familiar with them over the years as you may be as well. They did a split with Integrity in, I believe, 2009 and have come to the US on multiple occasions with the help of their friends in Crowd Deterrent (who they have also done a split with). Their vocalist, Kunihyde, is one of the nicer people I've ever had the chance to meet.
These guys were pretty seriously brutal. I wouldn't quite put it in the deathcore realm but the vocals and tuning are in that vein. Overall though these guys are an onslaught of beatdown after beatdown and were some of the more supportive and appreciative guys we had the pleasure of playing with,
They made a knock-off logo from the WWE Smackdown design. Enough said. Sick.
Deliverance is one of the few bands from the country that have taken the route of the extremely low-tuning Acacia Strain style of metalcore. They keep it slightly more upbeat than a lot of the American bands going this route and it reminds me a lot of a local favorite of mine, Those Who Fear.
Blindside was the band I had mentioned earlier who was playing the intro to Resist by All Out War when I walked into the first show. Their style is somewhere between Integrity and Expire if that makes any sense. While I'm not personally a fan of Expire and would probably cringe at the aforementioned comparison ... just trust me when I say this band was sick ... OR just check out their BandCamp link above. Pictured above is Takeshi who was the driver for the other band on tour with us, Hundredth. This guy would drive all night and mosh all day without hesitation.
OK ... this was some serious shit. These guys were the only slam death metal band we got to play with while we were over there. I had just gotten word earlier in the morning that a good friend of mine had passed away and seeing Hostile Eyes was exactly what I needed to release some frustration. If these guys came to the states I have a feeling a lot of people would be getting hurt. I filmed this video and really wish I would've done more but I decided to stomp a mudhole in the ground.
Not much needs to be said here as Loyal To The Grave is probably the most well-known hardcore band from Japan. They've been around for a while, have come to the US multiple times and are responsible for bringing over almost every hardcore band to Japan. Several members run various labels and are all extremely well-respected amongst both their own scene and over here in the US as well. This is a pretty decent video they put out quite some time ago.
There were actually wayyyyy more bands than this who were great but these are the ones who hooked me up with their discs and are coming to mind right now. I'm already planning on going back soon with a bookbag full of protein bars on my way in and a bookbag full of CDs on my way out.