DEATHGAZE: A Band Divided
Alright, it’s time to finally give you all more of what you expect from me: dat fuckin weeb shit.
DEATHGAZE has long been one of my favorite bands. Not just one of my favorite J-metal bands, but one of my favorite bands in general. Their classic full-length debut, Genocide and Mass Murder, is still a record that gets some fairly heavy rotation for me, with a catchy as hell combination of melodic J-rock and metal, and the grit, gravel, and bark of death, thrash, and sludge influences. The band also rose to prominence in spite of a rather rocky history and extensive lineup changes. As I’ve mentioned before in my review of lynch.’s SINNERS, Hazuki left DEATHGAZE just after their first single to form lynch..
Sou, the vocalist DEATHGAZE brought on after Hazuki’s departure, abandoned the band without a word in the middle of a tour to elope with a woman and hasn’t been heard from since. The group finished off the tour playing only instrumental parts before Ai switched from crossdressing bassist to vocalist, occasional guitarist, and resident eyebrow waggler, with Kousuke coming in to relieve him of bass duties. In 2009 Naoto retired as guitarist from the band, leaving them as a three-piece with Takaki, formerly of ASS’n’ARROW, brought into the fold to cover live guitars before he joined as a regular member.
Now that the band had a fairly stable lineup and had taken the step of successfully completing a 10th anniversary European tour, they promptly went on indefinite hiatus in 2014 and they haven’t released any new material since. Currently every member of the band is involved in their own side project, which I found out through a long string of posts on DEATHGAZE’s official facebook. Here they are in order of my most to least favorite:
Ai, Vocals and Guitars. Side project: DARRELL
I had to go to somewhat great lengths to import DARRELL’s first full-length album, DARXNESS from CD Japan because it was tough to find it anywhere digitally. It might be easier now, but in the end I’m actually kind of glad to have a physical copy because DARRELL is more or less a reskinned DEATHGAZE. Not too much of a surprise since Ai did almost all the composition and lyrics for DEATHGAZE while they were still active. This album is jam-packed with certified bangers. Notable are “QUINN,” “JOKER IS FUCKER A GO GO,” “DARKNESS,” “DESPAIR,” and “UNFORGIVEN” (especially since it calls up more old school DEATHGAZE vibes).
Highly recommend this one. DARXNESS is out now through Jelly Records.
Kousuke, Bass. Side Project: Unveil Raze
This band will probably have the most appeal to Western listeners, as the lyrics are all in English and more importantly there are some fun heavy and power metal influences coloring their music. Unveil Raze aren’t exactly obscure and isolated J-rockers either. They’ve collaborated with Stu Marshall and they’ve been active since about 2014, with their first full-length, NINE dropping through Agent Five Records in 2017 to some relative critical acclaim. Their lead guitar looks more like he should be a SoundCloud rapper, but the tunes are pretty solid. Very enjoyable overall. I especially like the single “Halfway Point,” which is unfortunately not included on the album. Plenty of galloping guitars and driving energy, and I’m sure it’s a perfect crowd pleaser.
Nine, Halfway Point, and several other singles are out now through Agent Five Records.
Takaki, Guitar. Side Project: ORCALADE
This is another one I had to import and the band really, REALLY suffers from a lack of basically any readily available PR. They have an official YouTube, but there’s basically nothing there aside from a few poorly-recorded live performances and sloppily-put together promo vids. Their mini-album, ESPADA, ended up being a lot heavier than I anticipated, with some thrash, deathcore, and even some (very) slight black metal influences mixed into standard melodic J-rock. Overall it’s actually pretty interesting. “黎明” (Dawn), “BLACK OUT,” “灰燼” (Ash), and “ THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN” all stand out quite a bit to me, which honestly leaves only one song, “guilty,” and even that’s pretty catchy. My only complaint overall is that the record suffers from J-rock chug-along syndrome but it’s not nearly as bad as plenty of other bands I’ve listened to.
I would highly recommend checking out ESPADA if you can find a reasonably priced copy somewhere. It really is a shame the PR side of the band is so lacking. I would never have heard of them if it weren’t for the post on the DEATHGAZE official Facebook.
ESPADA is out now through CRY Music Creative.
Naoki, Drums. Side Project: DEXCORE
If for some reason you like what you saw of DEXCORE, they have a whole bunch of singles out and an upcoming album through Jelly Records.
All side project images were taken from the DEATHGAZE official Facebook.