Japanese hardcore


The joy of Japanese hardcore

“…with ample elements of noise, grind and thrash metal that resulted in full throttle sociopathic dementia.”

With COVID celebrating a year of holding us live music fans captive, I have now fallen victim to YouTube rabbit holes with my newfound free time. I have invested hours on genres I didn’t even know existed. Most of these have been futile dives into things like the vapid and irony-fuelled Vaporwave, which barely made a blip five years ago, or the occult-steeped witch house, which, uh, sounds exactly as you would expect, along with other tired genres that had the moustachioed vintage skateboard crew doing the electric boogaloo for a week in 2015. Eventually, though, I did hit pay dirt when I steered into the extreme sounds of Japanese hardcore, which held me spellbound.

I was sort of hip to Japanese hardcore bands like G.I.S.M. and Lipcream as well as a rash of D Beat bands, but in all fairness I am definitely late to the party here. Cleansing the palate of Vaporwave, Japanese hardcore came barreling in uninvited and in many cases actually improved on the U.K. anarcho punk scene of the early ’80s, as well as D Beat, the Reagan-era USHC scene, the sonic blast of Swedish hardcore but gave it a signature sound with ample elements of noise, grind and thrash metal that resulted in full throttle sociopathic dementia.


Relapse Records recently re-released two albums from one of the scene’s forefathers, Cherry Nishida. The first Nishida title to get a new lease on life is his former band Zouo’s Agony Remains. This collection of early ’80s recordings is everything hardcore was meant to be. If you can imagine the pummel of early Discharge with the psychedelic vocal effects and psych sounds of Hawkwind/Butthole Surfers, you may be getting warm. In fact, it’s the impossibility of trying to describe the ballast blast of Zouo that makes them so fucking good. Formed in the early ’80s around a bored skateboard crew, this misanthropic blast could never have happened in London or Southern California. If you would like a good starting point to hear just how lethal Zouo is, just check out their obliterating slabs like “Sons of Satan,” “You Like It That Way” or “No Power” and marvel at how Nishida & co. can make something as devastating as Sweden’s Skitsystem sound like fifth wave ska. Although Zouo knew the hardcore golden rule of keeping the thrash blast under the minute mark, it’s when they stretch things past the four-minute mark that they really burrow into your frontal lobes.

The second Nishida related release is his current band S.H.I. (Struggling Harsh Immortals), which borrows heavily from Al Jourgensen’s first metallic foray, hair metal as well as the usual suspects like Killing Joke and just about every pre-Nirvana “alternative” band that had distorted guitars. Compared to the Zouo’s full frontal assault, S.H.I. is a bit predictable, despite having members that solely play noise and samples. I don’t mean to completely shit on Nishida’s new jams as he sounds as lethal as ever and the ever-present theremin effect does recall Hawkwind and 13th Floor Elevators but things are a bit too polished here to completely launch for the jugular.

If you’re looking into getting into some Japanese hardcore that is deeply rooted in dementia 13, check out G.I.S.M.’s Detestation, Gauze’s Genkai-Wa Doko Da, Anti Septic’s First Last — even then, you will be barely scraping the surface.

This column was originally published in the May issue of Cult MTL.

See previous editions of Hammer of the Mods here.