The best Japanese albums of 2013: Church of Misery, ‘Thy Kingdom Scum’

by Ryotaro Aoki

This year, the Ozzy Osbourne-fronted Black Sabbath released its first studio album since 1978, and while it was a fine album, I think they may have been “out-Sabbathed” by Japan’s very own doom-metal band, Church Of Misery, who released its fourth album, “Thy Kingdom Scum,” in June.

Combining the Sabbath doom with a serial-killer worshipping aesthetic, Church Of Misery take old riffs and spin them into something fresh. There are obvious cues to 1970s blues, heavy metal and progressive rock — the final track, “Düsseldorf Monster,” starts off like a throwback to Sabbath’s “Wicked World,” and the album features a cover of British band Quatermass’ “One Blind Mice” — but Church Of Misery is more interested in taking the sound forward rather than remaining a tribute. Vocalist Hideki Fukasawa’s intense crooning/screaming and newcomer guitarist Ikuma Kawabe’s tones play a big part in that, bringing both a modern growl and psychedelic edge. At the center of it all is bassist Tatsu Mikami, the original founder of the band, who anchors the sludge and chaos with riffs and bass lines that would make Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler jealous. This is doom at it’s best: heavy, dense and unrelenting.

Another record I enjoyed was “The New BP.,” by indie rock veterans BP. Fronted by guitarist/vocalist Ichimaki, who was briefly a member of Coaltar Of The Deepers, BP. melds shoegaze and guitar rock seamlessly into one tasty pop-rock package. The EP, its first release in more than 14 years, offers a more refined version of what the band was doing in the late ’90s. Despite the heavy shoegaze influences, the members definitely know how to rock out, hence the band’s slogan: “No shoegaze, more rock.”

Also worth mentioning are “Zigaexperientia” by Supercell and “Caps Lock” by Capsule. Originally a project utilizing the Hatsune Miku Vocaloid software, Supercell has since moved on to living, breathing singers. On “Zigaexperientia,” the act has Koeda, whose singing has taken songwriter Ryo’s composition to new (and more rocking) heights. As for Capsule, the main project of producer Yasutaka Nakata, the Shibuya-kei and electro roots have been swapped for something more ambient. Vocalist Toshiko Koshijima’s voice is heavily processed, sounding eerily close to a Vocaloid creation. These two releases could portend the possibilities in pop music’s future: one that is all inclusive, and one that is entirely exclusive.


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