Visual Kei

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Visual Kei is a sub-genre of J-rock influenced by Rock, Glam Rock, Gothic Metal, Heavy Metal and Symphonic/Neo classical music (sometimes even Pop and Electronic) mainly recognizable for the particular aesthetics adopted by the groups and musicians of this genre. Due to the several number of musical and artistic influences, Visual Kei is stylistically one of vastest niches of the Japanese music industry and a constant presence in both the mainstream and underground scenes.
Born in the second half of the 80s by the influence of Hair Metal bands like Motley Crue and Poison, Visual Kei had its own clear musical identity and stood as a stand alone genre back in the days, but over the years the many influences welcomed by the bands made it a way more vast and difficult genre to classify, even though still closely tied to rock and metal sonorities. The name Visual Kei, which is said to be born by X Japan’s slogan “Psychedelic violence crime of visual shock”, stands for “Visual Style”, as in this genre visuals have the same importance as music itself, in order to create a theatrical and artistically complete experience that reach the maximum peak of expression in live performances. This also explains the particular aesthetics adopted by the musicians, following clear concepts that are also applied to the music and the lyrics to create a conceptually complete product.
Almost all the members of Visual Kei bands are male, and the audience is mainly composed by girls, even though nowadays there are many exceptions. Conceptually, despite deeper lyrics and concepts pairing their songs, it’s not wrong to consider Visual Key acts as a sort of different male version of Idols, whose one of the common points are the lyrics directly referring to the listener and the presence of a leader in the group, usually the founder itself. You may also happen to find male members dressed as women, and while this may be mistakenly considered as homosexuality, it’s got nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the member, as it’s just a visual representation tied to the concept of the band itself whose influence in this case is taken from the traditional No and Kabuki theaters, where male actors often play feminine roles.
Groups like X Japan and Buck Tick are considered the pioneers of the genre, while others like MALICE MIZER, Lareine and Dir en Grey are the ones who evolved it and brought it to a bigger commercial success both in Japan and overseas, where the genre is well known and appreciated. Today almost all the pioneers have disbanded or went on hiatus, leaving a mixed scenery of new and valid bands and others who just dress particularly only for the sake of looking cool and attractive, while others began as Visual Kei to then abandon this concept and continue as plain rock or metal groups. There’s a lot of great acts to discover that are worth your time, and the best way to enjoy this genre is to understand the concept behind each band other than the music itself. As stated above, visuals have the same importance of music in Visual Kei, and many bands can really deliver some unique and incredible performances that you won’t find anywhere else outside this musical scene.

X-Japan (Also J-rock)

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Recommended Albums: Blue Blood, Jealousy
Recommended Songs: Kurenai, Silent Jealousy, X, Miscast, Endless Rain, Crucify my Love, Tears
Best PVs: /
Website: http://www.xjapanmusic.com/
Social: https://www.facebook.com/XJapan?fref=ts | https://twitter.com/xjapanofficial
Year: 1982 – Active

MALICE MIZER

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Recommended Albums: Memorie / Merveilles / Bara no seidō
Recommended Songs: Syunikiss ~Nidome no Aitou~ / Ju te veux / Garnet
Best PVs: /
Year: 1992 – 2011 (Disbanded)

Versailles

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Recommended Albums: Noble EP / Holy Grail
Recommended Songs: Aristocrat’s Symphony / Gekkako / Ascendead Master / Masquerade
Best PVs: Artistocrats’ Symphony / Masquerade
Social: https://twitter.com/KamijoOfficial | https://twitter.com/HIZAKIofficial
Year: 2010 – Currently on Hiatus (Reunion announced)

The Gazette

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Recommended Albums: Disorder / DIM
Recommended Songs: Chassis / Filth in the Beauty / Chizuru / Taion / Suicide Circus
Best PVs: Chassis / Chizuru / Suicide Circus
Website: http://www.pscompany.co.jp/gazette/
Social: https://www.facebook.com/pages/the-GazettE-Official | https://twitter.com/RUKItheGazettE
Year: 2002 – Active

Dir en Grey

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Recommended Albums: Withering to Death / The Marrow of a Bone / Gauze
Recommended Songs: Ryoujoku no Ame / Cage / Ain’t afraid to die
Best PVs: DOZING GREE / saku / Hageshisa to kono mune no naka de karamitsuita shakunetsu no yami
Website: http://direngrey.co.jp/
Social: https://twitter.com/DIRENGREY_web | https://www.facebook.com/direngreyofficial?fref=ts
Year: 1997 – Active

Lareine

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Recommended Albums: SCREAM / Fierté no umi to tomo ni kiyu ~THE LAST OF ROMANCE~ / Never cage
Recommended Songs: Doukeshi no bukyoku / GRAND PAIN / Scarlet Majesty
Best PVs: Fuyu Tokyo / Billet ~Osanaki natsu no binsen~ / Métamorphose
Website: /
Social: /
Year: 1994–2007

Plastic Tree

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Recommended Albums: Utsusemi / Puppet Show / Träumerei
Recommended Songs: Fukurou / Zetsubou no oka / 1999
Best PVs: Replay / Kuuchuu Buranko / Tremolo
Website: http://www.plastic-tree.com/pc/
Social: https://www.facebook.com/PlasticTreeOfficial | https://twitter.com/Pla_Staff
Year: 1993 – Active

Luna Sea

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Recommended Albums: MOTHER / SHINE / EDEN
Recommended Songs: ROSIER / STORM / IN MY DREAM (WITH SHIVER)
Best PVs: TRUE BLUE / LOVE SONG / Gravity
Website: http://www.lunasea.jp/app-def/S-102/wp/
Social: https://twitter.com/LUNASEAOFFICIAL | https://www.facebook.com/lunaseareboot
Year: 1989 – Active

Alice Nine

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Recommended Albums: GEMINI / VANDALIZE / ALICE IN WONDEЯLAND
Recommended Songs: Stargazer / RAINBOWS / MIRROR BALL
Best PVs: Senkou / Niji no Yuki / The beautiful name
Website: http://web.pscompany.co.jp/alicenine/
Social: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alice-Nine-Official
Year: 2005 – Active

Matenrou Opera

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Recommended Albums: ANOMIE / GILIA / Kassai to gekijou no gloria
Recommended Songs: Anomie / EVE / Eternal Symphony
Best PVs: Helios / GLORIA / Alkaloid showcase
Website: http://matenrou-opera.jp/
Social: https://twitter.com/opera_staff/https://www.youtube.com/user/matenrouking
Year: 2007 – Active

Nightmare

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Recommended Albums: NIGHTMARE / anima / The WORLD ruler
Recommended Songs: Alumina / a:FANTASIA / mimic
Best PVs: Raven Loud Speeeaker / Lost in Blue / mimic
Website: http://www.nightmare-web.com/pc/
Social: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7j8oWmx_je-l-DJd9_kVwg
Year: 2000 – Active

Moi dix Mois

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Recommended Albums: NOCTURNAL OPERA / Dix infernal / DIXANADU
Recommended Songs: Nocturnal Romance / monophobia / Pessimiste
Best PVs: (Only live footage)
Website: http://www.moidixmois.net/index.html
Social: https://twitter.com/M_d_M_official
Year: 2002 – Active