J-Rock Mix (Volume 1): Introducing Five Bands

Here are five interesting J-Rock bands. The first three are related, with Nothing’s Carved in Stone and the HIATUS being created by former members of the punk outfit Ellegarden. The electronic rock band Boom Boom Satellites and pop-punkers fly sleep fly are also featured.

The fierce and melodic alternative rock of ELLEGARDEN, the HIATUS and Nothing’s Carved in Stone

ELLEGARDEN (photo from fairvue.org/)

ELLEGARDEN is pop-punk-rock band consisting of Takeshi Hosomi (vocals, guitar), Shinichi Ubukata (guitar), Yuichi Takada (bass) and Hirotaka Takahashi (drums). They play a North-American style of rock reminiscent of Green Day, Sum 41, Good Charlotte, Simple Plan and Blink 182 (listen to SuperNova, for example, to hear the strong influences). Their songs are predominantly in English (accurate English sung with an American accent). They formed in 1998 and released their first mini-album three years laters. Early on, the band’s sound was a little rough around the edges, but as they developed, their sound became cleaner and at times a little more experimental. After releasing five studio albums, the band announced in 2008 that they were taking an indefinite hiatus. Since then, all the band members have stayed active working on new projects. My favourite songs from ELLEGARDEN are Fire Cracker, Space Sonic and Salamander.


I didn’t know about ELLEGARDEN when they were still actively recording. When I went to Tokyo a year or two ago, I bought a few albums after sampling them at record store listening booths: one album—Trash We’d Love—was by Takeshi Hosomi’s new band the HIATUS and another was Parallel Lives by Shinichi Ubukata’s new band Nothing’s Carved in Stone. As the albums  came out around the same time, fans of ELLEGARDEN debated which one was best. However, I find both albums very different from one another and difficult to compare.

the HIATUS (photo downloadeded from juicemusic)

the HIATUS released their first album Trash We’d Love in 2009. The band—featuring Takeshi Hosomi and bandmates Masasucks (guitar), Koji Ueno (bass), Takashi Kashikura (Drums) and Hirohisa Horie (keyboard and production)—went for a cleaner, tighter, poppier, more melodic rock sound.

the HIATUS: Ghost in the Rain

The album is great. Though there is no one track that stands out, the songwriting, production and musicianship is very strong throughout the whole album. However, one song—The Flare—is different from others on the album; it’s  slower, grungier, with heavier guitars, a more complex arrangement and a different vocal style (with a Muse-like melody in the chorus).

the HIATUS: The Flare

Their second album— Anomaly (2010)— is much more varied, with sonic influences of grunge, pop rock, post rock, electronica, punk and art rock. To appreciate it, I need to drop whatever else I’m doing and just listen to it. I’m not sure if this album is the sound of a band searching for a new sound or simply basking in the freedom to do whatever they want.

the HIATUS: Walking Like a Man

Nothing’s Carved in Stone (aka NCIS) has also released two albums but I only have the first one—Parallel Lives (2009). In this new band, guitarist Shinichi Ubukata also handles backing vocals and is joined by Taku Muramatsu (vocals guitar), Takanori Ohkita (drums), Hidekazu Hinanta (bass).Parallel Lives occupies and interesting, but largely uninhabited border zone between the pop-punk of ELLEGARDEN, Tragically-Hip-style alternative rock, progressive rock and . . . um . . . jazz-rock. The create an audio landscape of angular guitar riffs, complex but tight arrangements, shifting time signatures, amazingly creative bass lines and drums being used as much for texture as for rhythm

Nothing’s Carved in Stone (photo downloaded from tokyohive)

The opening track— Isolation— is the strongest track on the album and shows what the band is capable of.

Nothing’s Carved in Stone: Isolation
Nothing’s Carved in Stone: Mirror Ocean

the HIATUS & Nothing’s Carved in Stone Online

The rock-electronica riffs of Boom Boom Satellites

Boom Boom Satellites
Boom Boom Satellites

Boom Boom Satellites—Michiyuki Kawashima (guitars and vocals) and Masayuki  Nakano (bass and programming)—are an electronic rock duo. The songs are in English and their style is somewhat similar to the Prodigy (i.e., Big Beat), but with heavier guitar, jazz-influenced drumming and dreamier vocals. (Edit: Sadly,  Masayuki Nakano passed away in 2017 from brain cancer).

They are usually accompanied by a regular live drummer (Yoko Fukuda is the current drummer).

Their latest album—To the Loveless—is full of strong tracks, moving effortlessly from the driving electronica of Back on My Feet and the ten-minute climax of the album—Caught in the Sun—to the harder rock of Lock Me Out and the flowing, slow-building post-rock of Stay.

The drummer plays an interesting role on this album. With the rhythm often being provided by drum and synthesizer loops, the drummer can focus more on creating textures rather than rhythms. As you can see in in the following video for Back on Me Feet, Yoko Fukuda alternates between waiting patiently and whacking seven shades of hell out of her drum kit. The studio version is offline. Here is a live version:

Boom Boom Satellites: Back on my Feet

More recently the provided the opening song, Shut Up and Explode for the anime Xam’d: Lost Memories> Is there a more exciting way to open an anime!

Boom Boom Satellites: Shut Up and Explode

Boom Boom Satellites Online
Official Website: www.bbs-net.com

The Avril-style pop-punk of fly sleep fly

Fly Sleep Fly is a five-piece rock band—vocals (NuTz), guitars (yUsUke & BACHI BLUE), bass (kaz) and drums (ShoW). Their sound? Kind of like Paramore, but more upbeat and with a touch of complicated-era Avril. They haven’t yet released a full album, but I have their third mini-album—Fly the Flag. The six tracks are all solid, but the first two—PAINter and Shine Out—stand out.  The lyrics of all six songs are in English and are all positive and inspirational (though they are often difficult to make out). If you’re feeling down and need a jump start, why not try Fly Sleep Fly?

fly sleep fly: Shine Out

Lyrics (according to the lyics booklet in the CD)

The moon from my bed
It shines on me tonight without much sympathy
The lights of the truth
They make my shade loom up into my mind.

I know it's part of myself
and never tear away
But I don't think I wanna take it all away.

We were born to the light
and if we got the darkness from our birth to here
Shine out! Shine out!.
Don't be afraid of anything
We were born to be the light
Even if we drop out as you blow out the lamp
Shine out! Shine out!
I'll never easily run out of my life

Your eyes like the sun
You always shine on me
I'm just like a crying moon
I always count on you,
and never try to burn out on my own

I know you're part of myself
and never tear away
so, I wish I could shine my beam of light on you


I'Il never be used to the darkness all the way
but I have one thing that, I'm sure of
when there's not the light, there's not the shade all of the time.

I know it's part of myself
and never tear away
But I don't think I wanna take it all away.

I'Il never be used to the darkness all the way
but I have one thing that, I'm sure of
when there's not the light, there's not the shade all of the time

fly sleep fly: set me free

More Articles on Japanese Music

J-Pop Girls and Guitars: Female Singer-songwriters
Girls & guitars: YUI, miwa, & more
J-Rock Mix (Volume 1): Introducing Five Bands
J-Rock 1: the HIATUS, ELLEGARDEN & more
All-girl rock bands from Japan
All-girl bands:  BAND-MAID, Scandal & more
Offbeat & Sophisticated J-Pop
J-Pop: moumoon, ohashiTrio & more

~by longzijun


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