Land of the Grinding Sun: 15 of Japan’s Best Grindcore Bands
Japan is damn near overwhelming with its number of choices in every conceivable medium. Walk into any store and the amount of things to sift through is really staggering, be it potato chips, sodas, video games, manga, toys or good old pornography.
The same thing can be said about the bands Japan produces, and when it comes to grindcore in particular, the country is full of musicians who play fast but are also willing to put their own spin on things. Even within the genre, there is plenty of choice; we have deathgrind, cybergrind, experimental grind, noisegrind, goregrind and even anime grind, all in abundance. The genre is big enough that shows like Extreme the Dojo take place every few months featuring foreign bands like Napalm Death and Pig Destroyer. The Obscene Extreme festival also started up an Asian version, appearing in Indonesia in 2013 and Japan in 2014/2015, featuring several of the bands listed here.
Here’s a fistful of grind from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Influencing even the likes of Napalm Death, S.O.B. (Sabotage Organized Barbarian) formed way back in 1983 in Osaka. Their first release, the Leave Me Alone EP — more crossover thrash than grind — came out in ’86, though the band would churn out tighter, more violent material as the years went on. After 1994’s Vicious World LP was released, the band’s vocalist sadly died by suicide leading S.O.B to take a hiatus until 1999. In 2003, they released their acclaimed fifth record, Still Grind Attitude, an album that feels like ’90s death metal-infused grind run through the S.O.B. ringer.
“Beyond the Unholy Grave” by Death was the inspiration for these OGs of Japanese grind. Emerging in 1993, the band has been consistent through the years, releasing a split or two per spin around the sun along with a full-length every half decade or so. Unholy Grave have altered their sound throughout the years, adding more noisecore elements to their later output though never slowing down to just enjoy the noise. Recently, the band received some attention from the good old Chinese authorities due to their track “Taiwan: Another China” which was targeted by Chinese government surveillance.
The DIY legends Carcass Grinder formed in 1993 at the Oita University and have been a swarming infestation in the underground scene since. After nearly 30 years of existence, the band has remained a cult phenomenon, not releasing any full-lengths, just splits with the likes of Insect Warfare and Birdflesh. The band remains one of the most inspirational to the Japanese scene, making a triumphant showing at the 2015 Obscene Extreme Asia festival along with brothers in crust, S.O.B. and Unholy Grave.
Out of the mangy Osakan underground hardcore/punk scene which produced S.O.B, Bathtub Shitter were also squeezed out (the name may have been the inspiration for that nasty “tub girl” photo on the internet in the early 2000s). The tub was officially soiled in 1996, with the band basing their songs on conservation, politics and what else? Shit. If only L7 knew how big their “Shitlist” would grow: three feces-smeared studio albums have so far been produced by Bathtub Shitter, with 2003’s Lifetime Shitlist being a classic based on title alone.
Since 1992, Melt-Banana have been smashing the rules of grindcore, blending grind guitar with pop structures and helium inhaled vocals to make colorful, yet noisy and often speedy tracks. Vocalist Yasuko Onuki and guitarist Ichiro Agata often bring Melt-Banana’s unique sound to life onstage without the aid of live drums or bass. Aside from doing split releases with numerous Western artists, the band has performed at any big-time grind event you can think of, often sharing the stage with Napalm Death on their Japanese tours.
Catasexual Urge Motivation
C.U.M. seeped out of the orifices of two brothers lurking in the Tokyo underground in 1992. The project is described as “Cyber Grinding Death Metal.” The C.U.M. brothers released a long line of demos and split releases, but only one full-length album, Encyclopedia of Serial Murders, a 22-song, hour long trip into the mind of a demented killer. The cyber aspect mainly comes from the drum programming, which sounds like an electronic butcher’s knife slicing up some fingers. Vocal effects are also used to intensify the whispery thoughts and musings of the album’s demented subject matter.
Clotted Symmetric Sexual Organ or C.S.S.O. formed in 1993, immediately making an impact with experiment grind/noise that works like a razor blade Q-Tip. Like their contemporaries, the band has released a wheelbarrow full of splits and singles, but what will really make your head split is the fusion nature of this kaiju mutation. The band combines styles like few others in the scene, adding psychedelic, fuzzed out moments to some tracks as the vocals roar out like an overdosing Godzilla, a truly frightening trip, man!
When you’re finished reading this article, you will nearly know the ABCs of Japanese grind. Contact MetalSucks for a diploma. Butcher ABC were formed in 1994, specializing in a raw, bloody, gore-soaked approach to grind. The band has numerous releases, including several live albums, though their only full-length LP is 2017’s North of Hell, which strides across the gore/grind minefield with songs like “Nuclear Death” containing gurgles at the front line with a d-beat backing. Those who are planning on attending Maryland Deathfest in 2022 can bear witness to the butcher senseis in person. They will be grinding on Sunday, May 29.
Since 1996, Kobe, known for its tasty and expensive beef industry, has also housed a grind farm run by the group Swarrrm. The band have since been producing highly unorthodox and experimental grind, not as tasty as the beef, but another fine Japanese export. I can only imagine that Mike Patton projects such as Fantomas were somewhat inspired by Swarrrm. Just listen to Black Bong, Flower, Beginning to Break or I Dreamed… for out of this world experiments in music. To grind, and beyond.
“Can you count, suckas! I say, the future is ours, if you can count!” The grind gangs roaming around Japan are all relatively dangerous, though one that isn’t brought up so much is the underrated and lethal 324. Formed in Tokyo in 1997 by former Gibbed drummer Masashi Sakata and ex-Eroded bassist/vocalist Masao Yamamoto, they have since released two albums, 冒涜の太陽 – Boutoku no Taiyo and Rebelgrind, two discs which resemble audio dog fights.
Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation
Just as grind is not a soft and easy thing to listen to, Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation is not a soft and easy band name to say while in conversation with your grind buddies while drinking beer after a show. The all-girl/all-grind band burst formed in 2001 and have been off the rails musically ever since. With Flagitious, there is an aura of seriousness with the unhinged brutality and filthiness, making them stand out among their peers.
This triple threat has curated a noisy, jazzy, freestyle form of grind which breaks inhibitions and stabs the listener’s ears, challenging them to tolerate the noise. The songs are short blasts of violence, like florescent light tube hits during Japanese death matches. The band also challenges the audience’s sense of “self” visually, with their most famous member, “crossdress guitarist” Kuzuha, who, while sporting a frilly dress, crunches gender classifications as well as a pink B.C. Rich.
Sete Star Sept
Sete Star Sept are a two-piece noisecore band from Tokyo that formed in 2004, generating merciless audio terrorism ever since. The band’s name comes from a term used in pachinko, 7 Star 7. Sete Star Sept’s grind royale is an assault of noise, blast beats, noise, screams and noise. Cult artist Shintaro Kago lent his work to the band for 2011’s Gero Me album, his work representing a total loss of mind and body control. Call it avant-garde if you will. The purveyors of taste should clang their champagne glasses together to this shattering assault.
Formed in 2009, Go-Zen are known for their controversial album covers by ero guro artist Uziga Waita, which puts the band into a grind offshoot I have dubbed “anime grind” (their Hitoshizuku album features an iconic Waita piece of a girl offering up her own ripped out heart). The 21 tracks on this 30-minute album sting much like squirting wasabi into your eyeball 21 times. This is painful stuff, but it tastes good on sushi. Fun fact: Go-Zen is also the name of a Japanese childhood anxiety relief program.
Traditional taiko drums add a sense of “duty and sentiment” to this Kanda city experimental grind outfit, formed by band leader Tomoki in 2015. Kandarivas’s music and aesthetic are steeped in Japanese culture when they are not going 500 kilometers per hour (see their album Grind Surgical Shrine); they look the part by wearing traditional robes live. They have made appearances at such grind super shows as the Noxa Fest and EverLoud.