So, I've returned. It's been a year since my last post, and though Blogspot tells me I have 3 drafts, none of them were any good so they never got published. After having left Japan in February my life was consumed by work until July, Japan again for the month of August, and since September University for the second time, so my time has been occupied, to say the least.
But, as is traditional by now, I have returned to turn my eye on the highs and lows of a very interesting year, filled as it was in mainstream culture by just about everyone famous dying and everyone else turning racist.
So, we come to the awards. Some of them will be idol-oriented. Some really won't. I won't hold back.
Twat of the Year
Normally this award goes to an idol producer. This year, it's going to go to the entirety of lifeforms known as politicians. From the catastrophe of Brexit to the inability to dispose of Trump, politicians have been fucking useless this year, giving opportunities for themselves to be backstabbed, shot in the foot and other, less pleasant options. For that reason, they all get it. Fuck politicians this year.
Best Music Video of 2016
First time in years it's not been Bowen Staines, but his effort this year, Draconian's Stellar Tombs, was let down by a very unclear plot. Instead, we get the first award of the lot for Kvelertak this year, who have been on fire. Quite literally in this video. A nice little ode to the circular nature of existence. With a triangle moon. Well, why not.
Best Photobook of 2016
None. I have been disappointed this year with the lack of good photobooks. Both the AKB groups and H!P released a few, and while there were some interesting moments in Nishino Nanase's second photobook, I was on the whole left unfulfilled. Meanwhile, in another sphere, HKT's Inoue Yuriya was breaking the mould. In her Google+ Yorimichi collections, she's racked up an impressive number of particularly amazing photoshoots. I dunno who the cameraman is (I think it might be her mother) and it's all shot on an iPhone, but that doesn't make it any less amazing. In fact, HKT are breaking the mould all over the place. Tashima Meru's even started making her own music videos. But yes, here's some of Yuriya's glorious Yorimichi from this year. Long may it continue.
Best Picture of Dani Filth Looking Like A Spanner In 2016
He looks like someone just painted his corpse paint on a blow-up sexdoll in this picture.
Biggest Disappointment in 2016
I'm gonna go with the horrific and catastrophic loss of members from Poroporo Baroque. Before they debuted, there was Kaname Karen and Hono. Karen then left, Urara joined, then just before debut Mirumo and Miyabi joined. All good. Until I got there. In August, when I went back, I quite enjoyed them. They were playing good music.
Then, after I left, Miyabi quit. Yori joined. Urara quit. Then at the beginning of December Mirumo quit. 3 members lost in 3 months. Not a good track record. They haven't played live since Mirumo quit and I don't know what their future holds. It's a shame, as they were definitely one of the highlights of my August trip. On the other hand, I did get some good pics of them.
What The Fuck Are You Doing? Award of 2016
Momoclo. The two albums they released at the beginning of the year were, honestly, forgettable. I got as far as rating them (Amaranthus got 6.9 and Hakkin no Yoake 6.6, if you're interested), but found them so boring I couldn't be bothered to review them. In addition, The Golden History sucked. They need to give up.
Most Black Metal Video of 2016
Ricky and his dark idols from hell have surpassed themselves here. Shot in darkest Aokigahara, the Suicide Forest, we get this atmospheric and dark PV to destroy all. Of course, with Karen and Hotaru gone my reasons for enjoying them are also gone. Here's hoping Hotaru's replacement will also be a shoe-hating, mind-bending cute little typhoon of destruction.
Most Seemingly Bleak Video of 2016
Ah, Hauptharmonie, how you delight me. Despite losing half their members they've rebounded, gained a load more members, and popped up with two good little EPs and a very good album this year. This video shows the mood of the newfangled Hauptharmonie. Playful and dark. Nice.
Best Trippy Cartoon of 2016
Kvelertak, you killing it this year.
Best Incentive to Not Piss KOTO Off of 2016
Ah, KOTO. Why you so cute?
Best Genre Crash of 2016
5572320 always bring the big guns. Gotta enjoy Ebichuu's more experimental outlook. If only they could drag their big sister group back onto the crazy path.
Luckiest White Dude Award of 2016
This guy had all of Mabokare chasing him. Lucky fuck. Glad he bites it. Shame that since they went major their song quality took a nosedive though.
Most Unexpected Tapping Lead of 2016
My word, the intro sweeps, the prechorus tapping and dat solo. Next up, please let Hagane scream.
Why Beethoven, Fancy Seeing You And Chopin Teaming Up To Write An Idol Single of 2016
For fuck's sake Oomori Seiko. Stealing the riffs of amazing composers was always a Berryz thing!
For reference, Chopin's Revolutionary is the beginning bit, followed by Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
Now why can't some idol composer steal Alkan?
Best "I Wanted More Angry Angerme Dammit" But What I Got Wasn't Too Bad of 2016
Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku is the kind of song that pumps you up, and who cares about the genre. They also did a rather cool 3D version with Sadako.
Best Idol CD Purchase Perk of 2016
That's right, with Guso Drop's Mushi, if you buy one copy, you get... 4 copies? Daichi announced this trolling at last year's one-man live in Blaze, but when it actually happened people still lost their shit.
Runner up is also Guso Drop, with Gushin. Where, to take the piss even further out of idol CD purchase perks, there were 26 versions, all exactly the same with the exception of the cover, which was formed out of one of 26 posters. Limited to 1000 copies. Because fuck commercialism.
Hammond Jizz of 2016
Because fakjea. Hammonds + Hyadain song = winning. I want a Hammond only version of this song.
Best Random Guest Appearance in a PV of 2016
Why yes, that is Maina of Osaka Shunkashuuto fame in a Zekkyou PV. No, I don't know why. But it's definitely cute.
Best Cameraman Escape From Idol Cannibals of 2016
SKE videos have always been odd, but cameraman using parkour to escape Team E is pretty funny.
Best Method of Remembering Irregular Verbs of 2016
Neru, Neru, Neru. Headbanging is the only way. Here's Neru doing the Periodic Table for dessert.
Best "Why Varg, You Never Told Me You Were Moving Into Costume Design" of 2016
Best Drama of 2016
The girls of Keyakizaka come into school one morning and find their teacher dead. Common sense dictates you call another teacher or perhaps call the police. Not to Keyakizaka though. They decide to stuff him in a locker and play with his corpse for 12 episodes whilst trying to figure out who killed him. Creepy and cute as fuck, and utterly hilarious in a really black comedic way.
Most Crowd-Participatory PV of 2016
Considering they used the crowd call and response from the show where they recorded the PV in the actual CD recording, it's pretty effective.
Best Video of
Abbath begins his quest as a solo artist by doing the exact same thing he's been doing for the last 25 years. Like, every single album. Every single one of them sounds the exact same way this album does. I mean... exactly.
Best Lyrics of 2016
Talk about genius...
Most Actually Disturbing PV of 2016
Deep Girl are not my thing. A bit too overproduced and insincere for my liking. But holy fuck does this PV deliver a very in-your-face portrayal of school bullying.
Biggest TIF Failure of 2016
Tokyo Idol Festival is, as you probably know, a huge idol festival that takes over Odaiba and Aomi in Tokyo every August. It's stupidly hot, stupidly draining and annoyingly spaced far enough apart that, with queuing for certain venues and the distances involved you're almost never going to get to see everything you want to.
Last year, you may have heard that BiSH and PoP were banned due to fan behaviour. How much of that is true and how much is just Watanabe being a troll I don't know, but Cheeky Parade fans were bigger cunts last year and they didn't get banned so yea. What amuses me is that they ban jumping, lifting, crowd-surfing, moshing and stage diving, then specifically invite groups where those types of behaviours are not only common but encouraged, such as the aforementioned Watanabe groups.
Anyway, fast forward a year and TIF came prepared. In addition to their own security, they hired an army. Not a real army, but a bodyguard army. The same bodyguard army that patrol the beaches of Enoshima and Kamakura every year. They're known as BONDS, and while they're chill as fuck, they looked like suntanned bodybuilders instead of bouncers. Suffice to say they were badly outmatched by the hordes of wota. In the Keyakizaka performance the crowd weren't happy with how far back from the stage they were being made to stand (understandable, as basically every other live was up to the actual barricade), so they decided to take matters into their own hands (quite literally) and move the temporary barricades forwards. Wota 1-0 Bonds.
Later, when it was again time for two groups renowned for somewhat outrageous fans, Bellring Shoujo Heart and Passcode, BONDS moved to get their revenge.
As you can see, the lifting in particular was pretty epic from both groups. I was stood just outside the main mass, and the amount of people BONDS dragged fighting and screaming out of it was kinda weird. Some were bleeding. One girl was yelling that the guy had touched her inappropriately.
It didn't get much better. On the third day, even the Babyraids fans were getting in on the act and launching glowsticks like fireworks, so probably next year they'll be banned as well. Even so, to most of the non-pinchike wota BONDS went down as heroes. I was kinda sat on the fence for the whole thing. They were chill enough during the day, but probably because of that during the night they were vicious fuckers. Hopefully next year they'll invite bouncers who intimidate rather than actually assault people. Less annoying.
Best Wota of 2016
Honestly, can't stray from my gut on this one. There are two groups of wota that are so win it's unbelievable. Guso Drop's Guushin are the guys I've spent the most time with, and they're all chill as fuck, though slightly mental. The drinking is fun, the lives are fun, the look of embarassment when members of Ryuuketsu Blizzard get naked in front of some of them... When I went back in August they were still there and still awesome. Never change guys.
Second group is Zekkyou's F. No matter where you go in Japan they're welcoming and friendly. Whenever I go to Aichi for Zekkyou on their home turf I know hardly anyone but despite that everyone still doesn't mind a random foreigner chilling with them. In Tokyo, where I do know a lot of them, hanging out and having random drinking adventures is also always really fun, especially when it involves Hamada, Zekkyou themselves, and I love you Orchestra and Geekstreeks. Best drinking parties ever.
So yea, will be seeing them all again in July, with luck. Fakjea.
Top 10 Albums of 2016
So, bit of a cop out and this is actually 11, because #10 and #11 got the same score. Can't choose between them so fuck it. And whilst last year I did only idol albums, this year it's back to standard practice. If it's good, it's here.
10=. Necronomidol - Nemesis
Song picks: Skulls in the Stars, Lamina Maledictum, Puella Tenebrarum, Sarnath
So, Necroma finally released their first album, and my it's pretty damn sexy. From the black metal wanderings of Atai no Tsumeato and Nayanezgani to the Darkwave Ambience of Skulls in the Stars, NWOBHM of Lamina Maledictum and even some creepy assed ballads, it's all here. Hotaru's mind breaking on Sarnath is also fun.
10=. Devin Townsend Project - Transcendence
Devin is back from the relative failure that was Z² and he's all the better for it. Glorious atmospheres and heavy guitars intertwine with Devin's voice and that of Anneke van Giersbergen to make it even more sexy. It's still not up there with the original Ziltoid or his SYL stuff, but it's easily better than Sky Blue or Epicloud.
9. Alcest - Kodama
Song picks: Kodama, Eclosion, Oiseaux De Proie
With Kodama, Alcest have recovered from the somewhat pop sensibility that came over them with Shelter. While even that was a good album, it lacked some of the edge for which Alcest was known as "blackgaze" instead of plain old "shoegaze". In taking inspiration from Mononokehime and other Japanese legends here, Neige gets his act together and goes back to weaving light and darkness with deft strokes. Almost a timely hearken back to Écailles de Lune.
8. Kobushi Factory - Kobushi Sono Ichi
What's this? I hear you ask. Krv is picking a Hello! Project album in the top ten? What is going on? What drugs has he taken? Well, none. Kobushi's first album is big. Let's face it, it has 17 tracks and 7 covers on a second disc. To keep my attention for that many tracks... well, you may have seen how that went down with a few AKB albums in the past... Despite that, Kobushi have managed it. No Tsunku? Not a problem. They've worked with some H!P composers and arrangers new and old (Sakura Night Fever was originally a KAN song, who used to do a lot of Manoeri, and DanceMan of basically every amazing Morning Musume track from 1999, 2000 and 2001 arranged it; Hyadain's got a track on here as well) and have come up with an album that has an identity, something recent H!P albums have struggled with. Not that many have been released of late... Even so, Kobushi's positioning as the "new" Berryz mixed with rock influences and hints of everything else gives them the base to make this thing pretty damn good. More plz.
(Hammond needs to be higher in the mix though).
7. Haken - Affinity
Song picks: Initiate, 1985, Earthrise, The Endless Knot
Rare to see Haken this far down a top ten list, but after The Mountain it really was gonna be hard for them to rescale those heights. Instead, they gave us something completely different with Affinity, which is basically inspired to hell and back by the 80s with a smattering of 8-string guitars. Proggy as hell, and filled with numerous shout outs to precursors in all genres, everyone's performing on top of their game, and the only reason it isn't higher is the fact that The Mountain was so amazing I can't help but think what could have been had they continued to reach new heights in that direction. Better end these mountain puns now before I get pushed off a cliff...
(Picked this video over Initiate because of Ross's weird dancing)
6. Hauptharmonie - Herz über Kopf
Song picks: BUDDY, Parallel Warp, Alice in Abyss, Old Gaffer's Confession, Lady Far East, Kokuou
Hauptharmonie amaze me. One year after their first (amazing) album, comes another. Despite losing most of their members, hiring a few more, changing their entire wardrobe and seemingly forgetting to include shoes in the shopping list, starting to perform in bikinis, going on hiatus for a month and then adding even more members... what a year for them. The album starts as the last one left off, with ska, adult-oriented dark pop and rock, and crazy. This time they add blues for gloriousness. Buddy, especially, revels in its dirty 12-bar blues form as it gives shoutouts to other idol groups. Everything on this album is sexy. Even Old Gaffer's Confession, which is the most brutal and simultaneously fun thing they've ever done. Lady Far East makes its reappearance after being on the Japanische Madchen Ska EP ages ago. Kokuou isn't even an idol song, just sexy jazz. Haupt amaze me. They should amaze you too.
(Have a full live to be cool).
5. Babymetal - Metal Resistance
Song picks: Awadama Fever, Yava!, Syncopation, Sis. Anger, Tales of the Destinies
So, Babymetal's sophomore album surprised many by not only being more metal than its predecessor, but also more willing to experiment with diverse realms within it. Whilst Amore and Road of Resistance are pretty straightforward speed power metal, Metataro is some kind of folk metal parody abomination and Tales of the Destinies is prog as fuck. From Dusk Till Dawn is somewhat trip-hoppy, and Sis. Anger is pretty blatantly brutal techdeath. Almost makes me wonder if they got some inspiration from somewhere... On the other hand, The One and No Rain, No Rainbow are pretty meh, and Karate could have been better, but on the whole they've got a bit better since the debut, though it still gets the same mark. Their lives are also a lot more boring now they've blown up. Went to Wembley in April, had people all around me filming shitty video on their phones the entire gig and getting pissed off if I started moshing. Also the DJ was shit. I still think they should use their position as de facto head of the idol metal scene to do some good, like invite Fruitpochette or some other groups on tour with them. Oh well.
4. Kvelertak - Nattesferd
Song picks: 1985, Nattesferd, Berserkr, Heksebrann, Nekrodamus
Kvelertak is back and once more, the main problem with this album is that it doesn't feature Suck My Glock. That's three albums since the demo and it's still not out. Dammit. Anyway, once again Kvelertak give a sexy slice of black metal, heavy metal, punk, rock and roll, or whatever it is at any given time. 1985 is a different song to the Haken one, luckily. We get two great 80s inspired records this year. Some of the fuzz on this album is amazing. The whole feel of this album is just fun, but it keeps it a bit more restrained than on the previous two albums, allowing the musicianship and more drug-hazed music to shine through a little more.
3. Anaal Nathrakh - The Whole of the Law
Song picks: Depravity Favours The Bold, We Will Fucking Kill You, In Flagrante Delicto, On Being A Slave
Anaal Nathrakh have discovered how to make ruthless aggression beautiful. They haven't slowed down for 15 years, and why should they? The brutal mixture of The Berzerker and Thorns, you get deathgrind and industrial black metal heated with cynicism and performed with utmost scorn. Your digestive tract cannot cope with the onslaught of Anaal Nathrakh. Still, it's beautiful. In the same way as getting your throat ripped out by a savage animal.
2. Myrath - Legacy
Song picks: Get Your Freedom Back, Nobody's Lives, The Needle, Endure The Silence,
So, Myrath are back after the long (5 year) wait since Tales of the Sands. And holy shit is it worth the wait. For those who don't know, Myrath are a Tunisian progressive metal band. This gives them an interesting look on the Arabian melodies prog groups sometimes appropriate, and gives them the ability to contain entire songs in these modes and keys. In this album, we go epic. This album is similar in style to Orphaned Land, only being Arabic instead of Israeli, but the genre is basically the same, odd considering Orphaned Land came from Black Metal and Myrath from a Power Metal direction. Still, this album is a modern as hell thing. And that's not bad. Imagine Symphony X meeting a North African folk band and you're there. Kinda. Still, fantastic album.
1. Ihsahn - Arktis.
Song picks: All of them.
Ihsahn has done it again. Just when I think he can't one-up himself yet again, he just... does it. This is at times the heaviest thing he's done since Emperor, and also the least heavy thing he's done since Peccatum. Taking all of the experimentation he did on Das Seelenbrechen, and focusing it down into an artform. Despite disparate genres on display (Disassembled is Ihsahn as Ihsahn gets, Mass Darkness has Matt Heafy as a guest, My Heart Is Of The North is basically Opeth, South Winds is a triphop/metal crossover, In The Vaults has a heavy dose of atmospherics and tension and has a bit which could be Ayreon, Until I Too Dissolve is just so heavy metal it's kinda funny, Pressure is an Emperor song, Frail is a joyful little number with acoustic guitars, weird synths and pianos, Crooked Red Line has Sexy Saxman Saxogram Jørgen Munkeby Sexing His Sexy Sax All Over The Place, and Celestial Violence channels some Enslaved of all people), the album works perfectly. Glorious.
Best of 2017
So before I go, I'm going to make some wide ranging predictions about 2017 and what I think will be amazing. Also what will suck.
So, Arjen has got the band back together. In a big way. Not only is he releasing the 8th Ayreon album, which goes back to the original storyline and avoids the somewhat weird Theory of Everything spinoff, he's got a range of old and new guests lined up, including Floor Fucking Jansen, Michael Fucking Mills, Hansi Fucking Kursch, Tommy Fucking Karevik and Russell Fucking Allen. Also he's got Guthrie Govan and Paul Gilbert doing guitar solos. Hnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnngh. If that wasn't enough, he's doing the first ever Ayreon live shows, 3 nights in a row in Tilburg, NL. With 16 singers. Unfortunately they all sold out long before I had a chance to buy. Dammit. Still. Ayreon. Fakjea!
Why it's the 20th Anniversary of Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. After Emperor had so much success touring for the 20th anniversary of In The Nightside Eclipse, why wouldn't they do it again for Anthems? Well, they are. And it will be amazing. It always is.
3. AKB Finally Lose To Nogizaka.
It's gonna happen. Nogizaka are gaining on AKB with every single CD release. When it happens and all the AKB wota are sat in a corner crying, remember your pain and sink into the dark side of H!P fan-like passive aggression.
Akercocke are back. Next year they will release a new album. Based on this evidence, it could be epic.
5. Saki leaving Guso Drop to focus on 2&.
Saki's voice has been suffering of late and so she's decided to step back from Guso Drop and focus on 2&. With new music coming from her next year, it could well turn out to be a good choice. Meanwhile, Guso Drop adds 3 new members on January 4th and I'm interested to see what will happened there.
6. Zekkyousuru 60do album with I love you Orchestra.
Now this should be interesting. Zekkyou play normally with 6% Is Mine, and now Montero and Kai have side-projects (with Kai being semi-involved in Montero's). But a joint release with progressive free jazz rock band I love you Orchestra could be a new horizon for them.
7. Trump launches a nuclear war in association with Israel and wipes out the Middle East. Meanwhile China invades Taiwan, North Korea launches missiles at everyone, and Trump, overwhelmed in the Middle East, lacks sufficient resources or inclination to come to the aid of actual democracies in East Asia, leading to WW3.
Because he's a cunt.
And on that downer, it's time to say goodbye. Hopefully I'll blog next year a little more.