15 Underrated Japanese Hardcore Punk Records (1988-2008)

Here's my humble attempt to list some Japanese punk records that didn’t seem to get the appropriate recognition then or now.

Japan has been responsible for giving birth to some of the most extreme, innovative and energetic hardcore bands in the world, all the way back to the early 1980s… if not even before. Power, brutality and ever explosive mixture of fury and rage have been the life’s blood of Japanese hardcore punk since forever. 

Today, it is hard not to be a sucker for Japanese hardcore once you get hooked on it. Japanese hardcore punk has been covered in hundreds of fanzines in the last fourty years, and now it’s gaining attention of mainstream internet publications and big metal labels like Relapse, reissuing bands like like G.I.S.M. and Zouo on vinyl. There are a lot of big names in the Japanese scene indeed, from the aforementioned G.I.S.M. and Zouo to The Stalin, The Comes, The Clay and The Execute. From the legendary noisecore records of Aburadako and Confuse to Gauze, Crow, Asbestos, Macrofarge, Lip Cream, Systematic Death, Outo, Gai, and Gudon. And from the ‘90s Burning Spirits scene, typified by bands like Death Side, Bastard, Tetsu Arrey, Crude, Warhead, Forward, and my favorite Paintbox to the rise of crust in Japan with Gloom, Battle of Disarm, Abraham Cross, LIFE, Framtid, Contrast Attitude, Reality Crisis, or the legendary d-beat raw punk of Disclose.

In this article, however, I don’t intend to state the obvious but take a look at some Japanese records I’ve listened to in the past that didn’t seem to get the appropriate recognition then or now. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Japanese hardcore but I’m glad to share some of my favorite (underrated, in my humble opinion) records with you. The list is made in a chronological order from 1988 to 2008. Enjoy the noise!

1 Sicilian Blood – Violent Storm 7″ (1988)

Sicilian Blood – Violent Storm 7″ (1988)

Sicilian Blood was a largely forgotten band that had some great songs between 1986-1990. The band started in the city of Nakatsu but later relocated to Tokyo with some member changes along the way. Violent Storm EP was released on vinyl by Japanese labels Adventure Family Records and Nouzui Records in 1988, being one of the most unique sounding releases of the era. Sicilian Blood’s sound was mainly mid-paced stomps but also had some faster moments throughout. They have a lot of hooks and choruses, taking nods to both British punk rock and the American hardcore sound of the time. The band reunited and released a new record in 2018 called Since 1986, consisting of rerecorded material from the past plus one new song.

2 Acid – Shock Troop LP (1989)

Acid – Shock Troop LP (1989)

Acid formed in Tokyo around 1987 and were crucial for the development of the Japanese crust sound in the ‘90s. Released by the legendary label Selfish Records in 1989, Shock Troop was the band’s follow up to their already great demo from 1988. In these ten songs, the band was influenced by the more aggressive post-”Short Sharp Shock” era sound of Chaos UK, along with the Japanese hardcore of Crow, Gauze, and probably some US influences from Final Conflict and Crucifix thrown into the mix. Sounding absolutely incredible for its time, this 1989 album paved the way for the coming wave of heavier, harsher and more metallic production in the years to come. The legacy of Acid is still not as widely recognized as some other bands of that era, but anyone listening to both Shock Troop and their second Gray Earth LP will agree that the band was highly influential for a whole lot of Japanese crusties like Gloom, Collapse Society, Antiauthorize, and many more.

3 Griffin – 獅子吼 7″ (1990)

Griffin – 獅子吼 7″ (1990)

Osaka’s Griffin formed in 1984 to become one of the most unusual and interesting bands in the Japanese scene. Instead of playing raw, noisy and apocalyptic type of punk, they captured that groovy surf-influenced style of bands like Youth Brigade, Agent Orange, and T.S.O.L. Griffin’s debut The Phantom Of The Shocker‎ 7” came out in 1988, followed by the great 獅子吼 EP in 1990. Both seven-inches showcased a great sensibility of the band to play catchy Californian-style songs with enough melody and speed. The band continued to play all throughout the ‘90s but changed their style more towards streetpunk and Oi! sound.

4 Crocodile Skink – Self-Titled 7″ (1992)

Crocodile Skink – Self-Titled 7″ (1992)

Crocodile Skink, or Crocodileskink on later releases, formed in Tokyo in 1990 and up until 1997 played an important role in the ‘90s Japanese crust punk scene. Crocodile Skink’s bass player Shigenori also ran the seminal Tribal War Asia Records label and released some brilliant records at the time. Crocodile Skink’s legacy on the scene, however, is largely underrated compared to most of their contemporaries in the Japanese crust scene. Their most acclaimed records to date are the split EPs with Sweden’s No Security and Finland’s Força Macabra, however, I still like Crocodile Skink’s debut EP from 1992 more. In this early EP, the band was still not playing crust but fast UK-influenced hardcore instead. This EP was really great and the cover artwork reminds me of a lot of British bands at the time.

5 Insane Youth – Not Give A Damn 7″ (1994)

Insane Youth – Not Give A Damn 7″ (1994)

No matter how much credit they get, Kochi City’s Insane Youth will forever be the most underrated force of pure hardcore punk. Though always being buried beneath the grandeur of their peers of Disclose, Insane Youth influenced a lot of Japanese bands and were the main precursor for the development of the so-called neocrust thing. Insane Youth have songs that sound like Tragedy almost a decade before them. Insane Youth’s lineup was also brilliant. They featured guitarist Souichi, who played in Gudon between 1988-1991 and started Forward in 1996. Insane Youth’s Hiro was one of Kawakami’s best friends. Hiro’s main band was Insane Youth and Kawakami’s Disclose, but from time to time Hiro would play in Disclose and Kawakami in Insane Youth. Disclose and Insane Youth did the Kochi-City Hardcore split 7” in 1993, but their best record was 1994’s Not Give A Damn EP. The sound of the band just screamed Scandinavian Jawbreaker era Anti-Cimex and even the vocals sound almost exactly like Jonsson’s! Plain and simple, to this day Not Give A Damn is the most perfect 12 minutes of pure Scandinavian-inspired hardcore punk thrash. Also look at that brilliant artwork from the Japanese legend Sugi!

6 AGE – Inside Darkness 7” (1997)

AGE – Inside Darkness 7” (1997)

AGE (Armed Government’s Error) was a stenchcore band from Niigata, Japan. Their Inside Darkness EP was released in 1997 by Dewa Records. The opening song “Women in Slaughter” deals with abuse towards women as objects of rape and personal conquest by soldiers during war time, dealing with one of the most touchy subjects of their country’s imperialist history. The other song is an angry response to the society’s conditioning and mass production of public opinion. The style of the band is influenced by the metallic riffs of many early ‘90s bands from UK’s Peaceville label but besides being musically captivating, AGE stand out with their lyrical expression on a level uncommon for most Japanese bands even today.

7 屍 (Shikabane) – Ego And Desire 7” (2000)

屍 (Shikabane) – Ego And Desire 7” (2000)

Shikabane, the Japanese word for corpse, was a blackened hardcore band from Tokyo. They put out several releases spanning from the late ‘90s to early 2000s. The band was ahead of its time, mixing blackened crust, metalcore, grindcore and noise. I really loved the snarling vocals that sounded so Japanese, mixed with the intensity of a band like His Hero Is Gone. The Ego And Desire 7” is my favorite Shikabane release that I still occasionally put on my record player. I also love the artwork blending elements of Eastern spirituality with skulls and more typical metal artwork.

8 Spitfire – Hardcore Discography ‘86-‘89 (2002)

Spitfire – Hardcore Discography ‘86-‘89 (2002)

Originators of the Japanese Youth Crew, Spitfire was a band from Sapporo (hometown of bands like Slang) that played hardcore in the style of Minor Threat, Stalag 13, and early Uniform Choice. According to Max Ward of 625 Thrashcore, he first heard about Spitfire from Mitch of Face of Change. “He took the time to explain about the Sapporo punk scene, how it had been around for so long, but much like the Southern punk bands in the US scene, was often overlooked. No record labels released Sapporo bands, no big-named Japanese bands went up there to tour, etc. But in the mid-’80s, all these bands started playing, and they took their influence from all different sources, European, American, Japanese, etc.” Released in 2002, Spitfire’s discography compiles the five song demo tape from February 1987, plus live tracks from two live shows in 1988. Absolutely underrated band that played a style so popular in the US and Europe at the time.

9 Mind of Asian – 紅い華 = Akai Hana 7” (2003)

Mind of Asian – 紅い華 = Akai Hana 7” (2003)

Mind of Asian was a fastcore band from Tokyo with a strong female presence in the lineup. The band released a bunch of EPs through Hellnation’s Ken Hansford label Sound Pollution Records, who was a US distributor of Japan’s MCR Company. Mind of Asian also released split seven-inch records with Straight Edge Kegger, Vöetsek, and Unholy Grave. In 2003, Sound Pollution released 紅い華 = Akai Hana, which was absolutely wild stuff. Still one of the best fastcore records ever recorded!

10 SOULCRAFT – Absolute Suspicion LP (2003)

SOULCRAFT – Absolute Suspicion LP (2003)

Hailing from the Kumamoto Prefecture, SOULCRAFT was an outstanding band that I already reviewed at DIY Conspiracy. The band was hot on the heels in the early 2000s and Absolute Suspicion was released on vinyl by the Swedish label Putrid Filth Conspiracy, owned by Rodrigo of the band Intensity. Musically, SOULCRAFT were ripping and roaring with the perfect blend between energetic early ‘00s crusty hardcore and the classic Burning Spirits sound of Japan. This LP is a stampeding beast from start to finish and I was so hyped when I heard it for the first time. Still having a great time with this LP!

11 Tomorrow ‎- Chiedi Troppo LP (2004)

Tomorrow ‎- Chiedi Troppo LP (2004)

Tomorrow are a Japanese hardcore punk band from Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture. I don’t know much about them besides that they formed in the ‘90s. Their album Chiedi Troppo was released in 2004 and was recommended to me by YouTube when I was listening to Isterismo. Just like Isterismo, Tomorrow are a Japanese punk band singing in Italian. Unlike Isterismo, Tomorrow actually have melodic sensibilities and play fast, intense and catchy hardcore punk inspired by Italian bands like Negazione. The album is just amazing, thank you YouTube!

12 Nātïonstāte – 業火の残像 LP (2006)

Nātïonstāte – 業火の残像 LP (2006)

Another record that I already reviewed here. Nātïonstāte was a band from Osaka that existed between 2003 to 2006. 業火の残像 (Gouka no zanzou) was released on CD (the one that I got) and vinyl in 2006 by F.T.U. Records. Their style was influenced by the ’90s style American crust with dual male-female vocals spitting tons of rage and raw aggression. Taking influences ranging from the rough sound of Misery and Nausea to the more technical style of His Hero Is Gone, there’s no single track on this record that’s not an absolute banger. Seriously, this rates among my all-time favorite crust records!

13 Nemetona – From the split 7” with Easpa Measa (2006)

Nemetona – From the split 7” with Easpa Measa (2006)

Bought this 7” a while ago as I was looking for the releases of Dublin, Ireland’s band Easpa Measa. To this day, I don’t know much about Nemetona besides their being a Japanese band but these three songs just rip so hard. Probably a short-lived band, they played vigorously chaotic, noise-drenched hardcore with some heavy doom and rocking parts. The sound is raw as fuck, the rhythm section is tough as nails and the screams are pure fire.

14 Muga – There Is Nothing Eternal Exists LP (2008)

Muga – There Is Nothing Eternal Exists LP (2008)

Shrouded in mystery, Muga (無我) was a metallic crust band from Nagoya featuring Tatsuhiro of Result on guitar/vocals. During their existence, the band took the Tragedy style to a whole new level. Their debut 2002 self-titled album was characterized by the typical for the ‘90s crust scene shouted dual male and female vocals. The band released a two-song EP in 2004, followed by the suicide of their bass player / second vocalist Koketsu. In 2007, Dan-Doh label released a split of Muga and Kobe’s grindcore band Swarrrm. The second LP There Is Nothing Eternal Exists came out in 2008. Both albums are absolute rippers from start to finish. Still one of the best neocrust bands EVER!

15 Origin of [M] – Self-Titled LP (2008)

Origin of [M] – Self-Titled LP (2008)

Formed by ex-members of Gudon, Warhead and Asphalt, Hiroshima’s Origin of [M] were among Japan’s best kept secrets. The band is definitely belonging to the Burning Spirits school of hardcore, but it’s really hard to label them since they are influenced by so many different styles. They even have a bit of a groovy metallic edge and comparisons to NYHC’s Leeway would be also appropriate. The self-titled LP was reissued by Burai Core in 2011 and it’s fairly easy to find for cheap.

🖌️ Featured collage by grvdwllr

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