When Crossfaith tells you to rock: you listen

by Alisa Yamasaki

Special To The Japan Times

Vocalist Kenta Koie looks at me square in the eye and says, “We want to be the biggest band in the world.” That band is Crossfaith, a metalcore band who will release its new album, “Apocalyze,” in Japan on Sept. 4.

At a time when Japanese bands seem content in being popular at home, Koie’s ambition is refreshing. Crossfaith recently played the Summer Sonic festival and Koie took charge of the stage from the moment he was on it. He worked the crowd as if he were the conductor of some headbanger’s orchestra: directing a wall of death and circle pits, and getting the audience to jump on command. It’s hard to imagine whether this goes down well overseas.

“I don’t think foreign people are used to being ordered around by a Japanese person,” Koie says with a laugh. “When I tell the crowd to sit and I see someone standing, I’ll point at them and say, ‘Don’t be a p-ssy!’ They just think it’s really funny.”

The band — which includes Koie, bassist Hiroki Ikegawa, guitarist Kazuki Takemura, drummer Tatsuya Amano and programmer/keyboardist Terufumi Tamano — doesn’t see its nationality as being an obstacle, though. “In the Warped Tour there are more than 100 bands, so it’s really hard to get noticed,” Ikegawa says. “But when people mention there’s a crazy Japanese band, word spreads quickly and more people come to watch us.”

Koie agrees: “We want people to come to our shows out of curiosity, but leave totally blown away. They don’t expect a Japanese band to rock as hard as we do, so we get people coming up to us after shows saying, ‘You guys are f-cking awesome!’ “

With gigs in more than 20 countries under its belt, Crossfaith is about to set out on its first headlining world tour to promote “Apocalyze.” The tour kicks off Oct. 5 in Brisbane, Australia.

Overseas fans will see something in the vein of Bring Me The Horizon or Enter Shikari: screamed vocals, powerful drums and heavy on the guitar. Crossfaith also adds electronic elements to its music, specifically dubstep drops. Drummer Amano says the metal-electronic combination is like a “double punch.”

The band’s style comes through strong on “Apocalyze” with the help of producer Machine, who has also worked with American acts Lamb of God and Fall Out Boy. The songs on “Apocalyze” have a more melodic focus, though, perhaps with the goal being stadium-suitable performances. Koie notes that one thing the new tracks have in common with Crossfaith’s previous material is that they’re “not music you listen to on a happy day.”

“There’s a destructive sound in dubstep that’s similar to the energy in hardcore,” he says.

“We have a strong foundation in metal and hardcore, as well as electronic dance music,” Amano adds. “On top of that, our vocalist shouts. I think we have a sound that’s unique.”

One thing that definitely sets Crossfaith from the typical Japanese pop act is their awareness of social issues. “Eclipse,” one of the tracks off “Apocalyze,” comes with a music video that references the anti-dancing laws that are currently a hot topic in the music media here.

“We aren’t directly affected by the law ourselves, because live bands usually finish playing before 1 a.m.,” Koie says. “It’s more of a reaction toward there being fewer places for us to party.”

DJ Tamano adds, “There are a lot of artists who lose places to perform in, and it’s for reasons that don’t make sense. We really wanted to make a video that got this message across, instead of just a fun, mindless one.”

Koie also notes another problem in the local music scene that sees fans aligning themselves with either Japanese bands or bands from overseas.

“Japanese music fans and foreign music fans usually don’t mix,” he says. “But the loud-rock scene here is picking up and I think there are more Japanese bands coming out that can attract the kind of fan that normally listens exclusively to foreign bands. If we could act as a bridge and introduce people overseas to Japanese music and Japanese music fans to foreign music, that would be a great thing.”

With all of the members’ experience abroad, I’m curious as to who rocks hardest in the world. The five members unanimously agree: Thailand.

“This guy (in Thailand) poured gasoline over his glove, lit it on fire and pumped it in the air,” guitarist Takemura says. “We were a bit taken aback, but the crowd loved it!”

“Apocalyze” will be released in Japan on Sept. 4. The band plays Look in Chiba on Aug. 30 (6:30 p.m. start; ¥2,800 in advance); Lighthouse in Mito, Ibaraki Pref., on Aug. 30 (6 p.m. start; ¥2,800 in adv.); and Heaven’s Rock VJ-1 in Kumagaya, Saitama Pref., on Sept. 1. The band tours Japan through September, Australia and Europe in October and November, and will return to Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo in December. For more information, call 03-3499-6669 or visit www.crossfaith.jp or www.creativeman.co.jp/artist/2013/ 08crossfaith.