WHO IS GYZE TO ME?
I’m not into metal unless I’m in a certain mood. I’ll admit that up-front. But when I’m into metal, I like it to be spectacular! And when I saw GYZE, that is what they delivered. I was so confused, so entertained, and just swept away by the sounds they were sending me. The band members are all so fully engaged in the music and it’s not just the music, it’s the theatrics – the full show – that pulls you in as well.
GYZE is a 4 piece band (originally a 3-piece band) from the Japanese Northern Island of Hokkaido. They play melodic, Japanese folk-power-metal and are actually pioneers of the sub-genre. They embody the look of a hair band while the singers Aruta (also bass) and Ryoji (guitarist & composer) ride their guitars and belt out the vocals in a purely metal style. Shuji, Ryoji’s brother, works the drums like a mad man. Shinkai, a second guitarist, was actually one of his teachers and was added as the final element before their latest album Asian Chaos was released.
PERSONAL/ PROFESSIONAL HISTORY
Ryoji Shinomoto got into music at a very young age. Studio Ghibli’s Joe Hisashi has been an influence on him since he was but a child. He began learning classical guitar around age 8 or 9. He got into heavy metal by listening to KISS when he was a kid. Paul Stanley is still someone he enjoys and he can break into riffs from KISS songs as if it’s nothing at all. He released a solo album at age 18 through a small company as a solo guitarist. However, he wanted more, so he invited his brother, Shuji, and a childhood friend to start a band with him. The friend didn’t quite work out, but the brothers continued as Suicide Heaven for a few years. After the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the band was renamed GYZE. Ryoji explains in an earlier interview:
“Our name comes from my father’s hair salon, which was named after the Egyptian city with the three pyramids, but we use different spelling. And it fits us well, as we have three members, just as the city has three pyramids. So, it’s pronounced like Giza.”
In 2013, GYZE met Ettore Rigotti, a member of the Italian band Disarmonia Mundi, and started working together on GYZE’s first full-format album.
After adding Aruta Watanabe in 2013 as bassist and backup vocals, they released Fascinating Violence under Victor Entertainment Group in Japan under Coroner Records internationally in 2013/2014, an Italian label owned and run by Ettore Rigotti.
In late 2014 they set off on the Final Violence Tour 2014 through Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan to support the Japanese release of Fascinating Violence. The final tour date was held in Tokyo, featuring Disarmonia Mundi’s Claudio Ravinale.
Just one year later, they released Black Bride under the same labels – also produced by Rigotti.
From 2015 until 2017 the band toured all over Asia and Europe, collaborating and supporting many other bands in the metal genre. GYZE was also involved with organizing Vanishing Heaven Fest, which featured bands from not only Japan but introduced Taiwanese and South Korean bands to their Japanese fans. While on their European tour with Battle Beast and Majesty, GYZA released their 3rd album, Northern Hell Song – this one was through Universal Music Japan and Virgin Music.
In 2019, GYZE became a two-guitar band, replacing computer recordings with Shinkai, a professional music teacher, recording engineer as well as a keyboard arranger. This boosted the performances on the new album, Asian Chaos through JVC/Victor Entertainment (Black Sheep Records).
In May of 2021, after mostly live-streams during the pandemic, GYZE held a live-streamed concert celebrating their 10th anniversary on YouTube… They look forward to touring as soon as they can.
STYLE AND INFLUENCE
GYZE mixes traditional Japanese instrumentation with hard-hitting, growled metal vocals, energetic drums, and shredding guitars. But it also pulls from traditional folk music, and they use traditional instruments in their recordings, too. Sometimes, they pull from international classical and metal influences. Their music has been described in many ways, but I like “melodic death metal” best. Their theatrics made me think during a portion of Oriental Symphony that I was watching and listening to a Japanese version of Queen mixed with Kiss. I was blown away by both the music and the performance.
It turns out, I was correct on some of this influence. According to Ryoji during an interview:
“When I was about seven or eight years old, I got a guitar from my father and played classical guitar until junior high school. The first rock band that inspired me was Kiss. I listened to a lot of hard rock and punk until I was about sixteen years old. Later, I started listening to heavy metal. I really enjoyed the essence of heavy metal: the fast tempos, the minor scales, the melodies and the epic feel of such bands as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth and later on various death metal bands. Around the same time, I also started listening to traditional Japanese pop, world folk and classical music.”
He says that he also got into Scandinavian death and speed metal from the 90s era along with loving most Eastern European metal compositions.
Each member of the band has their own opinion of what influences their style and performance. For Aruta it was Yngwie Malmsteen and as a bass player, Jason Newsted, formerly of Metallica. For Shuji, oddly enough, he doesn’t really like death metal as an inspiration. He loves relaxation music when he’s not madly pounding his drums.
And that’s fine. Why? Because this is part of what makes their style original. If only metal influenced the composer and musicians in a band, the music would become stale. It’s good to grab inspiration from other genres and even from life.
Ryoji has really gotten into classical, folk, and film music. His favorite composer is Beethoven and he gets a lot of inspiration from not only him but other classical composers. He likes flipping these classical arrangements into heavy metal covers. There are also sounds mixed in that were shaped by Ryoji’s listening to Eastern European folk as well as metal. In “Kamuy”, we included a short part from “Hungarian Dances” by Brahms. The video features scenes filmed in Hokkaido.
Ryoji returned to his home of Hokkaido recently to get away from the bustling of Tokyo, despite most of the music industry in their country being in the more populated cities. For their latest album, his compositions have been influenced by this move to his home, traditional Japanese instruments, classical compositions, and by nature. Instead of allowing his band to fall in line with other metal bands, he and his bandmates seem to have found their niche.
And this is what makes for such a unique sound and show when it comes to GYZE. It’s not the same music that’s been recycled. In a 2019 interview with DECIBEL, Ryoji explains:
“What is our unique weapon on the world metal market?” And then I realized it is our Japanese origin that can distinguish us from thousands of other bands. That’s why even in the artwork I decided to make an accent on a recognizable symbol of Japan — a strong and noble warrior Samurai. I also wanted our new album to become a flagbearer of Oriental Metal so I tried my best to compose the unique music that has never been heard before.”
Though their first two albums were strongly influenced by European metal, in 2017, things shifted. While he wasn’t on tour, Ryoji moved back to a residence in Hokkaido. He states, “I moved back to Hokkaido and that gives inspiration. All the nature around or when I go to the river for fishing, it all affects me and my style.” Feel some of that impact while listening to Etenraku – Far Eastern Land by Ryoji Shinomoto. Then, listen to GYZE’s official music and hear how it has been uniquely influenced by this sound – in Eastern Spirits for example.
The atmosphere and melodies he found in his home directly influence the metal music the band makes. Some of the titles on Northern Hell Song even borrow from the language of Hokkaido’s native Ainu people.
COLLABORATIONS & CONNECTIONS
According to their website, GYZE is the first Japanese metal band to play:
- at MIDI fest (China)
- at Summer Breeze Open Air (Germany)
- at More//Than//Fest (Slovakia)
- at Leyendas Del Rock (Spain)
- at Turock Open Air (Germany)
- at 70000tons of Metal (USA)
- the biggest capacity death metal solo show in Japan
That’s a lot to take in! At first, the band worried they would be relegated to Japan and the Asian Metal market. Therefore, the band decided to make sure there was a platform established for Asian metal. In 2015, GYZE was involved with organizing Vanishing Heaven Fest, which featured bands from not only Japan but Taiwan and South Korea. However, as you can see by that list, they’ve continually pushed to be recognized the world over and continue to do so to this day.
They toured in Taiwan and China with Carcass, Children Of Bodom, and Dragonforce.
In 2017 they had a long EU tour supporting Battle Beast (Finland) and Majesty (Germany).
Marc Hudson, the vocalist of DragonForce, performs guest vocals on some of the songs on Asian Chaos.
In Samurai Metal, GYZE welcomes several performers they have worked with before into the production including: Marc Hudson from DragonForce – Juuso Soinio / Eero Sipilä /Janne Björkroth from Battle Beast – Nils Courbaron from Sirenia – Felipe Muñoz from Frosttide & Mika Lammassaari from MorsSubita
Ryoji mentioned collaborating with music for Batman Ninja as well during a recent interview with THE NOBODIES.
ORIGINAL SONGS or DISCOGRAPHY
- Fascinating Violence 2013-2014
- Black Bride 2015
- Northern Hell Song 2017
- Asian Chaos 2019
This year GYZE is celebrating their 10th Anniversary! They had an amazing concert recorded live on May 29th in their home of Hokkaido.
Check that out here – GYZE 10th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL CONCERT
Since the start of Covid-19, GYZE has cancelled all of their shows for safety’s sake. They decided to go with a mostly digital format until things were safe. They began broadcasting YOUTUBE LIVE and have sold merchandise and guitar scores on their GYZE online shop. There are also online guitar lessons. Please find all of their links below and subscribe, purchase, and share!
Similar Sound – I mean, they have plenty of folk-metal contemporaries, but to be honest, GYZE has their own EXTREMELY unique sound and that isn’t changing. Most folk-metal bands come from northern and eastern Europe, not Asia. Finntroll or Tyr for instance. But there is also Onmyo-Za out of Osaka, Japan. I also liken their sound to CHTHONIC and Crescent Lament, though some have female leads.
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