American online MP3 store JapanFiles.com has done a commendable job of bringing lesser-known Japanese musicians to the attention of listeners around the world. After two well-received forays into indie, punk and hip-hop, its latest “Fresh Cuts” compilation turns its attention to heavier concerns.
The title itself is misleading: there’s little here that fits within the narrow stylistic template of hardcore punk. Anyone wanting a more definitive sample of that scene would do better to pick up an older compilation such as “Six Weeks Omnibus” or spend some quality time in the toilet venues of Japan’s major cities.
“Fresh Cuts from Japan — Hardcore — Volume 1” is aimed more at neophytes in search of something a little tougher than Japanese soft-punkers Ellegarden. Up-and-coming visual-kei band girugamesh open proceedings with the riff-heavy “smash!!,” a song that’s crying out to be featured on the soundtrack of a beat-’em-up video game. They’re followed by screamo act Dazzle Vision, whose trump card — a female singer who looks like Ayumi Hamasaki but sounds like Beelzebub — is rather lost on record.
Elsewhere, Namaz’s “Venomous Ensemble” and Gamy’s aptly titled “Mosh! Mosh!! Mosh!!!” are the sound of broken knuckles and bloody noses, while ensavagement’s “Deadeyes Open” triumphs by virtue of sheer heaviness. Less successful is Unslow’s “Melt Down (alc25),” which channels the spirit of ’90s rap-metal band Rage Against the Machine to little discernible effect, and Myproof’s “Your Pain . . . is My Pain,” an unholy union of death metal, 1980s guitar heroics and pop choruses.