Japanese all-girl metal band breaks into visual kei

The band exist†trace

TOKYO (majirox news) – All-girl band exist†trace’s screaming, growling, heavy guitars and pounding drums have caused a wave of excitement in Japan’s male-dominated visual kei music world.

The sub-culture of visual kei among Japanese (jrock) musicians is distinguished by the use of striking make-up, intricate and flamboyant costumes, elaborate hairstyles and an androgynous look.

The band from Tokyo, whose music is described as “melodic death metal” and gothic style, has sparked worldwide attention. They successfully toured Europe, including Berlin, Helsinki, Moscow, Paris and London. In April they performed in front of 3,000 fans in Sakura-Con 2011 at the annual anime and manga cultural convention at Seattle, Washington.

The group was formed in 2003 and comprised of four women: vocalist Jyou, guitarists Miko, bassist Naoto and drummer Mally. Guitarist Omi joined later. Their music style focuses on bass and drumming, with guitar sounds often featuring heavy distortion, technically virtuosic riffs and solos. Visual kei music ranges from eighties goth rock, heavy metal to punk and usually a combination of the three.

“The five of us laugh together, fight together, and continue working together even when we feel like stopping,” Jyou said, at a past event called 19’zs Premium Party, adding that the band wants to create a greater public presence.

Their major label debut EP True was released June 15 by Tokuma Japan Communications. The band has put out five singles, four EPs, a compilation album, two live DVDs and appeared on 10 omnibus albums. Judea, their breakout 2006 track, sealed their loyalty and popularity with fans.

It wasn’t easy for exist†trace. Initially they faced negative criticism because of their gender within the kei movement.

“When we started, there were no female visual kei groups,” Jyou said. “But we didn’t think there was any reason why there shouldn’t be one.”

A Polish female fan, a recent graduate of Gakugei University in Tokyo, said, “Watching a female group is empowering. I feel a strong solidarity with exist†trace .”

Aki, a Japanese female fan, agreed, “I always thought bands were something for guys, not girls. I was wrong.”

A male Japanese fan said, “I lost interest in the visual kei scene after big names like X Japan and Luna Sea stopped playing. All the bands after them looked like copies. I found exist†trace on the Internet and then starting going to their shows here in Japan.”

JapanFiles said EP True, released in Japan and the United States, demonstrated a band hell-bent on moving past their own expectations. Every element of exist†trace is in top form, added JapanFiles. EP True starts out strong, picking up the challenging tone of their previous indie release Twin Gate.

“Mally and Naoto almost steal the song for themselves with a murderous combination of drums and bass at the song’s mid-point, right before a double-guitar solo by Omi and Miko lights the song on fire,” JapanFiles said. “Jyou’s passionate delivery of lyrics about moving past betrayal and fear show some of the best work of her career as exist†trace’s front-woman.”

exist†trace proved that girls can compete and match the boys anytime.


exist†trace will play Shibuya BOXX on June 18 and in Sendai, northeast Japan, on August 24.


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2 Responses to Japanese all-girl metal band breaks into visual kei

  1. Riki on 06/17/2011 at 4:50 pm

    Rockin’ Give it to ‘em girls! Brilliant stuff.

  2. Sayuri on 06/17/2011 at 9:22 pm

    Always great to see when women break into a male dominated field and become successful. It definitely is empowering!

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