Discover more from Nikucube
Second Wave Japanese Screamo: 2002 - 2006
Japanese Screamo Disc Guide Part 2
The Second Wave of Japanese Screamo is when I came to learn about the scene. In 2002 I studied in Japan and was able to personally witness the last of the First Wave groups and the beginning of many of these Second Wave groups. I also became involved as I started a distro and label the following year on my return to the States.
This wave is the most special to me. In December 2003, I played guitar with Gauge Means Nothing as we toured Malaysia and Singapore with Tiala and Cohol. On our return to Japan, we also did a short tour of Japan, where I got to see Dip Leg, Yarmulke, Nitro Mega Prayer, Sora, After Forever, and many others. It’s impossible to put into words the impact those experiences have had on my life.
Thanks for reading Nikucube! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
After the turn of the millennium, many of the First Wave bands broke up. While many members would continue to play music in other bands, there was a distinct changing of the guard. Envy would keep playing, of course (as they’re still active today), but the new guard of Japanese screamo groups created a distinct music scene.
The center of the Second Wave of Japanese screamo bands was Gauge Means Nothing. Although they wouldn’t necessarily guide the second wave of bands from a musical perspective, they exhibited a fierce DIY ethic that was new to Japan. While many First Wave bands released their own albums and zines, Gauge Means Nothing was on the vanguard of organizing studio shows (essentially the Japanese equivalent of a house show). Their “What Color Do You See?” concert series was organized at different practice studios around Tokyo and featured the cream of the crop of the Second Wave groups.
One of the throughlines for the Second Wave groups is a strong influence from First Wave groups. The strong influence from Envy’s All The Footprints… is clear in groups like Dip Leg, Nitro Mega Prayer, and Yarmulke. As these and many other bands began to expand on this sound, it began to become the Japanese Screamo sound.
Springing from the mixture of punk and screamo that Sawpit pioneered, 1000 Travels of Jawaharlal and Rise And Fall were responsible for focusing on a particular strain of Japanese screamo that would continue throughout later waves as well. This sound saw driving rhythms, punk melodies more desperate than poppy, and screamed (or intensely sung) vocals.
The Second Wave also saw more bands emerging from areas outside the primary screamo hubs of Tokyo and Sapporo. 1000 Travels of Jawaharlal and Butch came from Fukuoka, the furthest south of Japan’s four major islands. Nitro Mega Prayer, Yarmulke, and I Eat Me were from the Kansai area (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe). Forget Me Not was from Ehime, on Shikoku, another of Japan’s major islands. And there was even a burgeoning scene in Okinawa, 400 miles south of mainland Japan, with At The Drunken Butterfly Killing and Unripe. The interconnected network of Japan’s independent music stores and the emergence of the internet allowed screamo to spread and flourish across the country.
Similar to the First Wave groups, the Second Wave also saw success outside Japan. Gauge Means Nothing and Dip Leg would tour South East Asia (Malaysia & Singapore), 1000 Travels of Jawaharlal would tour Europe, and Tiala and Nitro Mega Prayer would tour the USA.
There were even record labels that sprung up overseas that focused primarily on Japanese bands. Salvation Records from France released albums from Beirut 5, Nitro Mega Prayer, 3cm Tour, and many other groups from the First Wave and Third Wave (Black Film Dance, Killie, Heaven In Her Arms). Waiting For An Angel, also from France, was created from the ashes of Molaire Industries and had releases from 1000 Travels of Jawaharlal and First Wave bands (Envy, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out). My own participation in the Japanese screamo scene began in 2003 when I founded a label, I’ve Come For Your Children. In addition to distributing many Japanese screamo releases, we also released Gauge Means Nothing’s debut EP on vinyl and Dip Leg’s debut album.
The line between the Second and Third Waves is less clear than between the First and Second. Many groups active in the Second Wave would mostly wind down around 2006. Unlike the First Wave, many players from the Second Wave wouldn’t continue onto other bands. Dip Leg, Nitro Mega Prayer, 1000 Travels of Jawaharlal, and Yarmulke are some bands whose members wouldn’t continue exploring screamo in later years. As unfortunate as that is, the prevalence of the internet and improved ease of recording and releasing music enabled those bands’ discographies to be accessible even today.
Second Wave Bands
1000 Travels Of Jawaharlal [Fukuoka]
3cm Tour [Tokyo]
After Forever [Chiba]
At The Drunken Butterfly Dance Killing [Okinawa]
Atlas The Alone [Osaka]
Blue Sky Resemble Sorrow [Osaka]
Bright And Dark Side [Tokyo]
Debase And Degrade [Tokyo]
Dip Leg [Okayama]
Egoist For Men [Tokyo]
End All [Sapporo]
Five Kinds Square [Tokyo]
Flash Light Experience
Forget Me Not [Ehime]
Fountain Of Rich Aroma
Gauge Means Nothing [Tokyo]
I Eat Me [Osaka]
I Feel Fine
Nitro Mega Prayer [Kobe]
Rise And Fall
Same Place Empty
Some It Air [Kyoto]
Strange Over The Sun
Stubborn Father [Osaka]
The Black Line Fever [Tokyo]
The North End
The Sun [Sapporo]
The Urban Department of Monotone
What Ever Film [Yamagata]
Wound Third Picture [Tokyo]
んぬっぺ (tr. Nnuppe)
Anchor / Stubborn Father 7” 
A split release from two bands operating outside of the major screamo hubs. Anchor hails from Niigata, north of Tokyo, and Stubborn Father hails from Osaka. Not only do both bands have their own unique styles, not quite fitting into the perfect screamo sound, but they’re also notable for still being active to this day. Both didn’t release full albums until 2017 (Anchor) and 2019 (Stubborn Father), but they saw the dawn of their activity in this Second Wave period. Anchor plays an epic style of screamo highly influenced by Envy. The inclusion of an almost constant acoustic guitar adds a unique element to their sound. On the flip side, Stubborn Father is much more aggressive, adding elements of thrash and grindcore to an experimental base. Stubborn Father is more peripheral to the main Japanese screamo sound, but they carve out their own unique style that fits best in the more melodic strain of heavy music.
1000 Travels Of Jawaharlal - Owari Wa Konai CD/LP [2003-05-01]
Sometimes being far from the center of the universe for a particular trend unlocks the freedom to experiment and create something new. 1000 Travels Of Jawaharlal did this far south of Tokyo in their hometown of Fukuoka, on Japan’s island of Kyushu. 1000 Travels took the tempo and rhythms from pop punk and layered over them desperate, melancholic melodies and urgent scream/sung vocals. The combination not only fit together perfectly, it also created a sound equally palatable to both screamo and punk devotees. While Sawpit explored a similar space in the First Wave, they never really took parts from punk and screamo and combined them, instead mostly switching between the two genres. This album, released simultaneously in Europe and preceding a European tour, is the purest incarnation of 1000 Travels vision. The true legacy of the band is the many other groups that continued this particular strain of Japanese Screamo through each subsequent wave.
Various - Light Your Way Compilation CD [2003-10-01]
An early release from Satire Records, run by Tiala & Five Kinds Square frontman Minoru Kakinuma, the Light Your Way compilation captured most of the best and most active bands from the Second Wave. In regards to the screamo groups, you’ll find 1000 Travels Of Jawaharlal, Ferocious Attack, Nitro Mega Prayer, Egoist For Men, Anchor, Dip Leg, Stubborn Father, Enforce, End All, and After Forever. Interestingly enough, neither of Minoru’s bands make an appearance on the compilation. While this was released at the early side of the Second Wave, the included bands were at different places in their lifecycles. End All would split shortly, but include a track that showed their evolution from hardcore to screamo. Nitro Mega Prayer recorded their last song before a major lineup change that triggered a major improvement in their sound. Dip Leg included an early recording of one of the most iconic songs that would appear in their debut album the following year. Enforce would contribute the final (and best) song in the band’s short history, tragically never releasing anything beyond a demo and compilation tracks (5 songs in total).
Gauge Means Nothing - The Absent Trail Of An Echo And My Future Plagued By Surrender CD/LP [2003-12-01]
To understand the breadth of Gauge Means Nothing’s impact, just take a look at the thanks section of their debut EP. There are over 200 bands that the group has played with since its formation in 1997 (named Stand Alone, at the time). These 5 songs (Pilgrims is exclusive to the CD version; Right Hand is exclusive to the LP version; the other three tracks are the same on each version) are each epic mash-ups of every influence the band drew from over the years. The songs drift from dual male/female harmonies to hardcore breakdowns to fast, screaming punk to straight-forward screamo. The thread between them all is an acute sense for following where the song wants to go. Instead of the group trying to force the songs into a specific direction, the songs blossom and grow to fulfill their potential. With songs that often surpass eight minutes, there’s a little something for everyone in there. Unfortunately, this EP isn’t for everyone, with reviews at the time of the release either heralding it as the greatest thing ever or panning it as unlistenable. The production does leave much to be desired, and some of the synthesizer sounds remind me of a children’s keyboard, but the whole becomes something greater than its parts.
3cm Tour / After Forever - Split CDEP CD [2004-02-28]
One of the standout splits from the Second Wave, this CD pairs two bands that never released a full album (or even an EP). The discographies of both 3cm Tour and After Forever are spread across splits and compilations exclusively. Both bands have since had those tracks collected in posthumous releases, but it still strikes me as odd that both groups never followed the same trajectory as their contemporaries. Musically, the bands are on different ends of the screamo spectrum. After Forever plays an aggressive and fast style of hardcore that takes bits of emo-violence and metal and wraps it all in very melodic song structures. Like some other Japanese screamo bands, After Forever has a distinct and unmistakable style that is all their own. 3cm Tour takes a much more relaxed approach to their music, combining minimalistic post-rock riffs with sparse bursts of screamo. While they do feature vocals in pretty much all of their songs, they often appear at the end or beginning of a track and then the band will play for minutes without accompaniment. 3cm Tour would split soon after this release and members would go on to form Killie and Balloons.
Dip Leg - The Sympathy Without Love CD/Cassette [2004-04-01]
Dip Leg combines the best parts of the First Wave Japanese screamo bands (Envy, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, Kulara) into an aggressive and melodic whirlwind. In the forty minutes these eight songs span, Dip Leg brings some of the tightest songwriting and instrumentation in this wave. You feel that every part of each song has been painstakingly worked over to have the maximum complexity and effect. The interplay between the dual guitars, drums that weave fills and backbeats into every gap, and scream/sung vocals reward you for each listen. With the release of this album, Dip Leg was truly a sensation in the Japanese scene. Their remote hometown (Okayama, about halfway between Kyoto and Fukuoka, hadn’t had a proper screamo band before then) and already mature sound on this debut caused the album to sell out quickly. It was also re-released internationally (on cassette in Malaysia from Papakerma and CD in the USA from my label, I’ve Come For Your Children).
Anode - 3rd 7” [2004-07-23]
Like many First Wave bands, Anode brings screamo sensibilities to another genre, in this case, classic Japanese thrash. From their first 7”, released in 1999, they slowly focused and matured their sound. In this 7”, their third but un-named, they’ve completely developed a raging and melodic hybrid. Taking strong cues from the sound of From Here To Eternity, which Envy would abandon in subsequent releases, Anode kept the speed and aggression of hardcore but added in dark melodies and belligerent, rambling screams. Despite a fairly prolific spate of releases, Anode would operate largely on the periphery of the Japanese screamo network. This is likely due to their release on Dan-Doh Records (primarily a Japanese hardcore label) and mostly joining live concerts with other thrash/hardcore bands. Aside from a handful of shows with touring international screamo groups (e.g., Raein, Kaospilot), it doesn’t seem that Anode had much interaction with other Second Wave screamo groups.
Sora - Demo CD-R [2004-10-14]
This demo CD-R, containing two of Sora’s earliest songs, showcases a version of the band that wouldn’t survive past a couple of years. This early incarnation is full-on dark Japanese screamo, completed with intricate guitar riffs and harsh, screamed vocals. Unfortunately, beyond these two songs, the rest of the band’s early oeuvre was never recorded (I only have video evidence of a full set of songs). After this demo, Sora would begin a transition that pushed them more into emo and indie rock, eschewing the screamed vocals for passionate singing. What stayed consistent was excellent songwriting, intense drumming, and a dark feeling to their tracks. Sora would continue to perform with other screamo groups until their dissolution in 2012, likely owing to their screamo origins. Their sound would also continue to be influenced by screamo as it developed into something entirely its own. As Sora diverted its course, guitarist /vocalist Kenta Uchida would get his screamo fix as the guitarist for Third Wave group Killie.
Amok - Emersion Downfall Acoustic CD [2004-11-01]
Amok guitarist/vocalist Ryota Terada is one of the most prolific band creators in the Japanese screamo scene. His distinctive songwriting style, established with Amok and this only album of theirs, carries through into his later bands, The Rainrains, The Anchors, and KMKMS. Melodic but dark, Amok seems to pull equally from The Carnival of Dark-Split and Envy while making the songs more accessible. Some tracks flirt with more straightforward rock (Cuttoo), while others go deep into darkness (Death 13). The range and variety displayed with each song make this a real treat for a full listen. While Terada’s bands don’t seem to last very long, we’re lucky that Amok recorded these ten tracks for posterity.
Nitro Mega Prayer - Songs Of Hypocrisy CD [2005-06-25]
Formed around 2001 in Kobe, Nitro Mega Prayer would undergo many transitions in its six years of activity. Starting as more of a metalcore group, they’d develop their style of screamo for the 2003 release of their debut album, The Reason Of Hers Smile. After that release, they’d change their lineup and add Ponchi (from Gauge Means Nothing). The infusion of song craftsmanship would culminate in this EP, one of the finest distillations of Japanese screamo creativity. Ponchi added Gauge Means Nothing’s cohesive approach to songwriting, crafting them to smoothly transition parts and fully explore each melody. The identity of Nitro Mega Prayer was still there, anchored by vocalist Tomo Nakano’s high-pitched screams and guitarist Shimeda’s melodies, but the rough edges of the band's beginnings were much more polished. With their next (and final) release, a split with Balboa (from the USA), the band would shuffle again, keeping only Ponchi and Nakano, taking the group into the stratosphere.
What Ever Film - What Ever Film CD [2005-06-28]
Some Japanese bands spring up and wither quickly, while others, like What Ever Film, seem like they’ll never stop. Releasing their first album (this one) in 2005 after forming in 2002, they released their second album twelve years later. Hailing from Yamagata, west of Sendai, What Ever Film has a unique, if not completely distinct, take on screamo. The songs tend to meander if given too much room to breathe. Where they come together is when the vocals kick in and the intensity increases. Oddly enough, aside from the approach to screamed vocals, What Ever Film doesn’t really sound much like a Japanese screamo group. I hear much more European-style screamo (ala Yage) and American post-hardcore than the dark screamo melodies of their peers.
Forget Me Not - 3 Songs CDEP CD [2005-10-19]
The first EP from Forget Me Not to get wide distribution, after a couple of cassettes, these tracks dazzle the experienced listener by introducing some of the most mature and internationally accessible screamo yet. Forget Me Not takes much influence from European and American screamo groups and adds a level of instrumental polish and recording fidelity expected from Japanese groups. The worst thing about this release is just how short it is. Forget Me Not’s entire discography is plagued by this same problem, as it stretches almost two decades over short EPs, splits, and compilation tracks. All told, they’ve released around sixteen tracks and counting. This EP features some of their most aggressive screamo tracks. Their sound would develop in later releases to be much more nuanced and sinister.
The Black Line Fever - The Black Line Fever CD-R 
While Japan is mostly known for its ethnical homogeneity, there have been some notable contributions to the underground music scene from foreigners. The Black Line Fever was by four expatriates (from Australia & UK) and a Japanese vocalist. After a shockingly good demo in 2003, this 8-track self-released album completed their discography. This album also saw a line-up change, with Yoshi (from Cleaner, and later Killie, This Time We Will Not Promise And Forgive, and Envy) joining on Vocals and Itaru Sayashi (from Cohol and Henoa) joining on Guitar. The addition of more Japanese members only enriched the original sound from their demo. While the drumming does have a unique sound, eschewing some of the complexity of Japanese screamo drumming for a driving rhythm, the songwriting fits well into the Japanese screamo melodic tradition. For a band comprised of mostly expats to create such Japanese-style screamo while being incredibly original is incredibly impressive.
The Sun - Twist, Swingin’ & Percussion Instrument CD [2006-05-31]
When Black Film Dance and The Carnival Of Dark-Split broke up (happening around the same time), there were two main bands that formed in their wake, The Sun and Discotortion (they would release a split CD together in 2003). The Sun featured Black Film Dance’s notable vocalist Higu, as well as Toshiyuki Isai from Sapporo emo group Moonwalk. The result is a sort of melding of all of the strains of screamo fermenting in Sapporo at the time. The Sun would crank up the weird too, using all the flanged guitar, keyboards, and dissonant melodies they could conceive of. What holds true to previous groups like Black Film Dance, is a dependable rhythm section that grounds each track. This album gives them 11 songs to fully explore the sound in every direction they could take it. Honestly, sometimes it goes off the plot, unrecognizable from anything typically considered screamo, but then they’ll bring it back with an aggressive section to anchor the song.
Yarmulke - Yarmulke CD 
While Kyoto’s Yarmulke takes strong influence from Envy and nearby groups like Dip Leg and Nitro Mega Prayer, they manage to carve out their own sound in the Japanese screamo pantheon. Clearly on display in this debut EP, Yarmulke excels by having each instrument explore their own parts completely, diverging from each other almost constantly. With the trademark overly complicated Japanese screamo drumming, they also have bass riffs that could almost stand completely on their own, dueling guitars that complement and antagonize, and vocals that play with different rhythmic phrases. When viewed next to their nearby peers, there does seem to be a developing Japanese screamo style unique to the Kansai region (the area around Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. I’m liberally including Okayama as well) that values even more intricately written songs and a more mid-tempo rhythm, compared to many bands in the Kantou region (the area around Tokyo).
Thanks for reading Nikucube! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.