We all can get pretty nostalgic sometimes, and the eighties was a great decade for rock music coming out of Japan. Along with punk rock rising in popularity, a group of musicians began a movement toward visual kei. New to the time, and probably new to you, visual kei is actually not a music genre but is more of a subculture and performing art/storytelling. In a way, it is similar to the establishment of punk rock as a culture, but the two are not nearly the same.
Let’s take ourselves all the way back to the past. Many of you may be familiar with Kabuki– a form of performing art that originated in Japan. It stood out from anything else at the time because of the greater range in freedom of expression: makeup was more vibrantly colored, the music was not conservative, and the costuming was nothing short of what we call pea-cocking today. Visual kei draws much of its flamboyant and androgynous fashion and hairstyles as well as makeup from this period.
Today’s visual kei bands are often all male, but some female groups exist (such as Exist Trace.) X Japan, a famous group, were also involved in the primary stages of visual kei but have since disbanded. More modern bands that have gained noteriety are Malice Mizer, Dir en Gray, The Gazette, and Alice Nine.
Although mainstream rock bands may not be a part of the visual kei movement, some have admitted to borrowing influence from it. Famous amongst anime viewers for their contributions to Full Metal Alchemist, Ruroni Kenshin, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Nana, and more– L’Arc~en~Ciel actually got their start as a visual kei band. Obviously since then, their musical influences have been evolving.