Episode 33 – Great Demon God (right click to download)
There are a lot of special things about vinyl (and cassettes!). One of the most exceptional ones was (is?) the fact that it very usually influenced how the albums were actually put together. Burzum is one of the metal bands that, to our knowledge, put the format to better use in the early 90s, resorting frequently to electronic pieces inspired by Klaus Schulze and the like to play around with the listener’s expectations. How the first side ended and the second began was actually a factor carefully considered by many acts. That effect is, of course, lost with CDs and digital music.
This episode too feels like it has two sides. The first half of the episode is fundamentally different from the second one and yet there are many similarities that can be established. The most prevalent one is that every track chosen was written and performed by bands from Japan.
The title “Great Demon God” and episode picture both reference the Japanese kaijū Daimajin.
Click for show notes and a complete tracklist.
The magical thing about old Japanese heavy metal is how at ease musicians were with melody. The classic British heavy metal (and NWOBHM) was a big influence in the development of the “Japanese sound” naturally, but there’s this undefined thing behind it all that makes it real special. Take “Antlion” by late 70s band Nokemono. It contains a very obvious psychedelic intro, probably via Hendrix, followed by galloping hard rock discipline, “epic-pretty” lead guitar work and ever so tasty Japanese accent. This is VERY underplayed, so check out their sole 1979 LP for plenty more highlights. “From the Black World” is essential!
We’re back with more G.I.S.M. Last time we went with the black metal sounding “Anthem” from their 1984 album. This time we decided to give you a taste of the sound that better characterizes the band: a never replicated mixture of Iron Maiden and Hardcore. If the intro alone doesn’t get your knickers wet by itself nothing ever will! Enjoy the violence.
Sniper is yet another hard rocking act that deserves some extra recognition. What we have here again is a very traditional sounding band with a certain je ne sais quoi making everything worth it. The vocals are once more one of the coolest aspects of this “Over The Sky” track, but we also have to mention the looseness which just shows that they were comfortable as fuck playing their own music. It feels organic and natural, which makes up for a lot of limitations. We follow it up with the very classic black heavy metal opus “Mion’s Hill” from the 1990 demo “Sabbatical Demon”, thus ending what we’ll call Side Heavy.
Sabbat set the mood for what’s coming next. Basically, it’s some of the most savage 8 minutes ever featured on any SATAN MADE ME DO IT episode. We’re talking about power the likes of an eruption from Sakurajima volcano: thick, black smoke miles high, showers of violently hot rock, and lava flowing from those twisted Japanese guitars. It’s all due to two songs separated 20 years in time. First one is 1986’s “Russian Roulette” from the mighty Casbah. Obscure kamikaze thrash + punk with crunchy nods to early Voivod? Like. It’s amazing how they can keep the relentless pace going for almost seven minutes. Wonderful cover artwork btw.
Things get even more vicious and fast with Terror Squad’s “Tokyo Metal Anarchy” from their 2006’s second album, “Chaosdragon Rising” (their first, “Wild Stream of Eternal Sin”, is one of the most acclaimed releases from Japan). Really angry stuff, and old school metal meets manga can’t go wrong. Also, kudos for some of the best song titles ever. Stuff like “Helldozer”, “Sonicriot”, “Metal Psycho Machine”, “Hellbound Deathboogie” and “Discö Bloody Discö” all deserve credit for the names alone!
Next up is the return of SATAN MADE ME DO IT Japanese hardcore faves Zouo. We featured them before on Episode 25 – Nothing Ever Changes. This is “Son of Satan”, another track from the same 7” EP, “The Final Agony”.
We go back to more classic stuff with Bow Wow, but won’t let go of the heaviness and crunching riffs (with a bit of cowbell on top for good measure) thanks to this very Black Sabbath meets hard rock (Bow Wow were opening for Aerosmith and Kiss in Japan) track from 1977. It’s almost begging to be played live! Feel the bass!
We’ve made a mess of this city, but there’s one more thing. Japanese proto-punk. Benitokage is a name you probably never heard of before and that’s ok. Some of the coolest bands ever had shitty distribution, even beyond the grave. The music blog craze made a lot for obscure acts and is probably responsible for a lot of band reunions. We don’t think Benitokage is getting back together anytime soon, but that only makes things more special.
- Nokemono | Antlion (JAP) | From the Black World, 1979 http://www.discogs.com/artist/3888342-Nokemono-3
- Good as it is | G.I.S.M. (JAP) | M.A.N., 1987 http://www.discogs.com/artist/1061856-GISM
- Over The Sky | Sniper (JAP) | Open The Attack, 1985 http://www.discogs.com/artist/2061709-Sniper-27
- Mion’s Hill | Sabbat (JAP) | Sabbatical Demon [Demo], 1990 https://www.facebook.com/sabbatofficial
- Russian Roulette | Casbah (JAP) | Russian Roulette [7”], 1986 http://www.discogs.com/Casbah-Russian-Roulette/release/2438710
- Tokyo Metal Anarchy | Terror Squad (JAP) | Chaosdragon Rising, 2006 http://www.geocities.co.jp/MusicStar/7054/
- Son of Satan | Zouo (JAP) | The Final Agony [7” EP], 1984 http://www.discogs.com/Zouo-The-Final-Agony/master/363740
- Silver Lightning | Bow Wow (JAP) | Signal Fire, 1977 http://bowwow-army.jp/
- White Drive | Benitokage (JAP) | Sexus [Single], 1976 http://www.discogs.com/artist/1262180-Benitokage