If you’d followed me around for a bit, or at least since early 2015, I’d gone on a little musical sojourn. I’m, well at that time, was primarily a rock and metal music kind of guy. My father listened to classic rock music from the 70’s, I listened to bands from around the same period, and I also played with a band that plays within the same vein. I also played a lot of J-pop / rock with my previous main band, Shinkan.
Sometime in 2015 though, I decided to pursue a more bluesy direction in terms of music and influences. This lent well to my already established pentatonic shenanigans and I started listening to both British and American blues music, from Lightnin’ Hopkins to Eric Clapton, to today’s big names like Joe Bonamassa and John Mayer. I’d kinda given up shredding for a little bit in order to grow more towards a solo geared more towards melodic themes peppered with the occasional bursts of speed and showing a good amount of restraint and control, much like how Michael Schenker does it.
Music, guitar based music in particular, had always been very attractive to me. The sound of an electric guitar wailing, huge riffs pounding away and spectacular techniques displayed by players have inspired awe and wonder within me ever since I learned to listen to music on my own.
So for a good long while, I was intro slow and melodic guitar stuff. Admittedly, I lost touch of the flashy guitar playing attributed by a lot of people who’d seen us live. I indulged and took my time playing the blues and occasionally foraying into jazz, even bossa nova.
However, just around earlier this year, perhaps sometime after my wife and I got married, something happened.
You see, my wife is quite a rocker herself, and we often attribute the miracle of our meeting and eventual relationship to the power of music. Although she has a fairly powerful and well controlled voice that is well suited for belting out long, drawn out, sad ballads (which I’m also a sucker for), she’s also into a lot of rock and metal music. I guess hanging out 24/7 with the love of my life brought me back to rock music, except this time I went back to straight up metal and progressive rock, both modern and vintage.
Most of the metal artists I listen to hail from the European continent, and it’s not surprising that I’m into a lot of German and British heavy metal like the Scorpions, Helloween, Iron Maiden, UFO, MSG and many others. That kind of heavy metal vibe is really attractive to me – soaring vocals, propulsive drumming and searing, technical yet evocative guitar work. Of particular interest is the heavy use of dual, often harmonized guitar solos. I’m not exactly very good in terms of playing harmonized solos, although I have been part of a band that relies heavily on it.
I’d always heard of a band from Osaka, Japan called “Aldious”, and all that I had known about them was that they are an all female metal band, and seem to go all out in dressing up.
That’s them right there, and from the left, you’ve got Aruto on drums, Rami the vocalist at the lower center, Toki on guitar on the upper center, Sawa on bass to the center right, and Yoshi the primary lead guitarist on the far right.
Prior to earlier this year, I’ve only seen them in photos, which aren’t exactly a bad thing. But right around February or so, I suddenly felt the urge to look for their music on Youtube and sit down to listen to them.
I was not disappointed.
The video above is a cut from their 2014 live DVD where they played mostly songs from the “Dazed and Delight” and “District Zero” albums.
If you’d noticed, there’s a different girl fronting the band.
Sometime in 2012, the original vocalist Rami, left the band and was replaced by Re:No, formerly a model from KERA agency. From what I’d heard on Youtube, there’s a world of difference in their singing styles – Rami had a powerful, instantly recognizable yet familiarly metal voice, whereas Re:NO has a lower pitched and softer voice. I think I like Re:NO’s voice a little better mostly due to the gravitas in her voice and delivery – she doesn’t have to to have a shrill, high pitched female voice that is fairly prevalent in metal music.
This is the band as they were between 2012 til late 2014, and it’s the line-up I like (slowly turning into “liked”, you’ll find out later on) and I am most familiar with. When Re:NO started with the band, it was reported that the purposely toned down with their on stage outfits into a more “conventional” metal look, apparently so they would be recognized for their skill as musicians rather than girls who happen to be in a band that plays metal music.
In 2014 though, their drummer Aruto left the band to focus on her pending marriage and family plans, which would see her move far from Tokyo where the band is based. Within a while though, the band found a replacement drummer in the form of Marina.
I have to admit that at the time I heard of “District Zero” and “Dazed and Delight”, I was totally blown away with Aruto’s skill, talent and stamina on the drums. She’s got the heaviness in her playing, and she has the stamina to keep the band going through long sets and displayed a good deal of technical ability and playing that most would attribute to a more conventional male drummer. Marina certainly had big shoes to fill since Aruto seems like a more well built body and hitherto unknown heavy metal prowess. Comparing the two, Marina looks more “frail” and dainty, and quite frankly I was expecting the band’s sound to turn more mellow or go into a more pop-ish, like Scandal’s music.
I was so wrong.
The above song is “Sweet Temptation”, one of the songs from their latest album and their first with Marina, “Radiant A”. I love the almost nu-metal-ish riffs that runs into a melodic guitar solo that is brilliantly done by Yoshi, peppered with a cool tapping lick by Toki, anchored by Sawa’s boombastic bass and Re:NO’s singing that’s oozing with conviction.
Going back to Marina for a little bit – this girl can bash!
It’s somehow not too surprising though – she just happens to be Terry Bozzio’s stepdaughter. Marina had been playing drums before her mom got married to Terry, but one can safely bet that Terry may have taught her a thing or two. After all, not everyone can tout one of the world’s premiere drum virtuosos as their dad, or in this case probably oto-san…
…or a buncha other things.
**I had to stop writing for a little bit to collect my thoughts because I am trying hard to to fanboygush all over Marina**
You might be saying though that I’m into this band because I’m a guy, and they are girls who play metal music.
Although it really is the case that in any of the band’s iterations, they’ve always had stunning ladies with equally stunning chops*, playing good old heavy metal.
Most of Aldious’ songs are heavy metal, although you do get the occasional soft ballads and pop rock songs aimed at radio airplay. Since most of their catalog consists of hard hitting, headbang inducing songs, they are fairly popular with guys and people who’re into metal music.
It’s not just simple riffing either, although some of their songs have familiar sounding patterns. A lot of their songs showcase quite challenging riffs and passages, anchored by bass lines that shadow the guitars and all held down by fast and heavy beats. One of the most enjoyable aspects of their music however is the frequent use of harmonized guitar solos by Toki and Yoshi.
I’m not, well at least wasn’t, a big fan of harmonized guitar parts. It was familiar, all to familiar I guess since I listen to a lot of metal music. Sure, Iron Maiden used it alot, so did Helloween. Paul Gilbert does so too, and Marty and Jason became famous playing ridiculously hard leads in complete harmony. I only started to really appreciate harmonized leads during my time with Slash n Burn because that was also a feature of the music they made. My sister pointed out that there was a lot of skill involved in playing harmonized passages, mainly due to the fact that it’s two players playing something in unison, albeit in different keys, and that timing has to be nailed down right otherwise it’s going to sound like a pile of crap.
Thankfully, the girls are quite adept with this and they have wonderfully made harmonized solos. Check out the song below (夜桜 / “Yozakura”) in which Toki starts the pedal note driven solo and Yoshi follows through soon after, going into a tapping passage before resolving the solo and Re:NO comes back on.
It’s not out of this world shredding, don’t look for “Rising Force” shred, but their solo is definitely melodic and some parts fairly challenging.
Of the two guitar players in the band, Toki is quite easily my favorite and is my current (with Marina being really close to overtake her) favorite member. She’s actually more of a rhythm player compared to Yoshi, yet she’s got good chops since she either starts off or finishes the guitar solos, and plays harmony with Yoshi most of the time.
One of the best things about her though is her stage presence – she looks small framed and demure, but onstage, she becomes an explosive mix of pink guitar and blond hair, constantly running around and banging her head like there is no tomorrow. She’s also skilled enough to be recognized by various companies, as shown by her endorsing Hughes & Kettner, ESP and previously, Combat Guitars. A real life rockin’ chic with skills to boot.
The silent but deadly bandleader is main girl Yoshi. While she is in a loud heavy metal band which calls for playing that is definitely loud, it’s her persona that sets her apart from Sawa and Toki. While the other girls are running around throwing smiles and playing their heads off, Yoshi mostly stays in her spot, playing in silence until she lets loose a her shred chops.
Not surprisingly, the band bio lists her as the main songwriter in the band. It’s not clear to me though if that included the lyrics to their songs. Interestingly, for a heavy metal band, it’s quite easy to tell Yoshi’s leads from Toki’s, probably due to the fact that she prefers to use a PRS Modern Eagle. Yoshi has a more classic rock-ish vibe to her sound, rounded and has a good amount of midrange to it. Toki has a more aggressive and modern sound, not so trebly but has considerably more grit to it.
What I like so much about her leads is it’s not so much about outright speed or American Shred School, but she has a more Euro, almost German metal vibe to it. While Toki plays mostly melodic lines, Yoshi provides most of the meaty and fast soloing in their songs. Definitely not like the Great Kat or some other female shredders, but extremely oozing with metal, finesse and quite often sexy.
One of the more “neglected” aspects of rock and metal music is the the part of the bass player. People mostly relegate the bass player to single note parts that go with the bass drum, which is all fine with regular tempo, 4/4 music. When you have blast beats with constant change of tempo and frequent breakdowns, you need a bass player who’s adept with all the changes going on while keeping the groove and their bassist Sawa does an amazing job at that. She is easily the smallest member of the band, and I am quite amazed at how well she plays with her apparently small hands.
I especially like the fact that she’s a finger-style player, allowing her to slap and tap at will.
Lastly, we arrive with their current vocalist (and one of my favorites in today’s j-rock scene) the inimitable Re:NO. Although her main occupation prior to joining Aldious was as a fairly popular model from KERA, she had some experience singing as part of a short lived pop duo Suitei Shoujo.
While she had indeed sung in the past, she is said to have had no prior experience being in a rock or heavy metal band, quite unlike the rest of the girls that have been members of a different band prior to forming Aldious.
So from a pop idol / model mold, she broke out and transformed into the blond haired heavy metal goddess we now know today.
She’s not exactly the high pitched songstress that’s common in metal music. Her singing voice seems sad at times, low in tone and filled with conviction. I don’t understand very much of what she is singing, but hearing her manner of delivery can sometimes make you feel like you know what she is trying to say. She certainly knows how to drive a crowd wild as seen on their lives shows, and is able to communicate and reach out to the people.
So far, they’d released one album with Marina on drums and it seems the girls are all poised for a bright future ahead of them. I’m really excited to hear more from them in the future, and my wife and I had agreed that our planned future visit to Japan will include stops that will allow us to see our favorite bands – hers being Luna Sea, and mine including these girls.
If you’re a heavy metal fan and you don’t mind the all-Japanese language singing (which quite frankly is beautifully done), give these girls a listen. They’re not all image and cuteness, although their Twitter and Ameblo accounts show otherwise. They seem to be normal girls having the time of their lives, living their dreams and enjoying it. But they mean business and are prepared to break your neck with super headbanging.
As for me, as long as there is metal in my heart, the music of these lovely Kanjo ladies will always be blasting out of my headphones.
I leave you with their superb cover of a famous Imai Miki tune, “Piece of My Wish”.