Lovebites: "We're not here to be cute, we're here to be heavy"
The Japanese metal scene is being turned inside out by a generation of women playing faster, harder and heavier. We talk to the movement’s leaders, Lovebites, about a rising phenomenon
A revolution is underway in Japan’s metal world. In a scene long dominated by men, where even heavyweights like Loudness, X Japan and Anthem have struggled to find lasting success in the West, a new generation of all-female metal bands are turning the scene on its head. Leading the pack? Tokyo’s Lovebites: a band who burst onto the global metal scene last year with a self-titled EP and a richly received debut album, Awakening From Abyss, which earned critical acclaim and the attention of Lzzy Hale and Alice Cooper’s shred queen, Nita Strauss. Dig a little deeper, however, and it becomes clear that this is a scene that has been bubbling under the surface for almost a decade.
Growing up playing classical piano, it was at 19 that Lovebites guitarist Mi-ya sought a new challenge and bought her first guitar. Armed with the evocatively titled textbook Mechanical Training Phrases From Hell, she discovered a world of music she’d never heard before. “In the centrefold of the book there was a CD which explained which riff came from which band,” she says today via translator, “so I learned riffs that came from AC/DC, ones from Judas Priest, ones from Iron Maiden. I took that list of band names, went to the CD shop and bought all the albums.”
Within two years Mi-ya went from playing covers with her friends to forming the all-female electro metalcore band A Drop Of Joker, who self-released three albums between 2013 and 2015. “Those girls were the same as me,” says Mi-ya. “They didn’t want to be really bubbly and cute, they wanted to be as heavy as any male band.” They achieved modest success before splitting in 2016, citing creative differences. At the same time, bassist Miho and drummer Haruna left the band Destrose, another all-female band. Destrose had a more ‘typical’ Japanese sound and image – all Gothic Lolita lace and frills – but Miho dreamt of forming a band that played European-style metal.
“Around the time A Drop Of Joker was breaking up, I was handed a demo of what was to become Lovebites,” says Mi-ya, who’d already met Miho, Haruna, vocalist Asami and guitarist Midori through playing at the same venues while in different bands. “They were doing really old-school traditional heavy metal, but because these days there aren’t many girls playing traditional heavy metal I thought it sounded new and refreshing.”