The vampire-obsessed visual kei band D was formed in Tokyo in March 2003 by vocalist and principal songwriter Asagi, bassist Lena, drummer Hiroki, and guitarists Ruiza and Sin; the latter left shortly after their formation and was replaced by Hide-Zou. Each was an experienced musician who had been in several bands. Heavy gigging and the release of two mini-albums gained them a devoted fan base, on which they capitalized with their 2005 debut full-length The Name of the Rose, named for Umberto Eco's medieval mystery novel.
The band's name has no particular meaning; their logo renders it in an elaborate cursive typeface which Asagi claimed he found aesthetically pleasing and "balanced". Their sound combined elements of symphonic and death metal with extremely catchy melodies, exquisitely gifted technique, and numerous world music influences, and many of their songs fit into an ongoing conceptual story line about the struggle between two rival clans of vampires, one of which has renounced the consumption of human blood.
Asagi's unique, operatic, slightly nasal tenor and expertly controlled falsetto, together with his "Gothic Lolita" fashion obsession (he appeared on the cover of one of D's singles dressed in a frilly basque, thigh-high red PVC lace-up boots, and fishnet stockings, and brandishing a cat-o'-nine-tails), made him the focal point of the band. D were one of the few bands who, after "going major", did not tone down their look, becoming, if anything, even more flamboyant in rubber bondage gear, massive platform boots, fantastically elaborate hairpieces, and grotesque contact lenses.
In 2005, Lena left the band, and Hide-Zou took over bass duties for a time, before the band found a permanent replacement in Tsunehito. They followed their debut with the albums Tafel Anatomie ("Anatomical Chart," named for an 18th century medical text) in 2006, and Neo Culture: Beyond the World in 2007, becoming progressively more grandiose with each release. In 2008, they signed a major-label deal with massive J-Pop factory Avex Trax, leading to their fans' concern that their music would lose its bite, and the sound of their 2009 debut major album, Genetic World, was indeed decidedly more poppy, trimming away some of the excess which had characterized Neo Culture. The new sound was especially prevalent on the single "Snow White," a lush, beautiful homage to '50s Disney film scores.
Their 2010 follow-up, 7th Rose, however, saw a return to brutal, chugging riffs and hoarse "death" vocals, expertly combined with their newfound pop sensibility, and just over nine months later they had already produced another album, Vampire Saga, which continued in a similar musical vein, took their vampire storyline to new heights, included a song in German, "Der König der Dunkelheit" ("The King of the Darkness"), and even a drum solo. In January 2011, shortly before the album's release, it was announced that D, alongside fellow Avex act Megamasso, had signed with German label Gan-Shin, home to numerous other VK acts. The band then announced a European tour for later that year, and the European release of Vampire Saga. ~ John D. Buchanan