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Without any major-label clout behind them, DuelJewel became one of the visual kei bands better known in the West, primarily due to numerous overseas appearances at the beginning of their career, but also for their unique sound, which expertly balanced heavy rock and pop elements with distinctive tenor vocals and an unusual melodic sense which set them apart from the pack. Despite a cult following and massive fan acclaim, however, major mainstream success eluded them.
DuelJewel was formed in 1997, toward the tail-end of the first big visual kei boom, by high school friends Shun (guitar) and Val (drums). After a number of changes, their lineup stabilized with the addition of Hayato (vocals), Natsuki (bass), and Yuya (guitar). The origin of the unusual name is prosaic: failing to choose between two possibilities, they simply combined them. After a number of demo tapes, their first official release, in 2002, was an extremely raw, metal-influenced mini-album entitled Noah. It attracted attention, but the band felt they needed to improve and spent most of the next four years in the rehearsal room tightening up their sound, releasing only two singles and a mini-album in that time, although they did make a sizeable number of overseas appearances, primarily at American anime conventions. Their first really big splash came with the single Azure in 2006, an anthemic pop/rock number released through massive J-Pop factory Avex. The follow-up single, the double-A-side Life On/Aishuu Melancholia, gave them their highest ever chart position and led to a deal with one of the big indies, Sword Records, which was distributed by Universal. Despite a common misconception, the band never actually signed a major-label deal.
The epic single Es, their first release for Sword, was followed by their debut full-length album Bullet (2007), which expertly fused metal and pop. They played at that years massive J-Rock Revolution festival in L.A., and continued to refine their style on the follow-up album, 2008s Glassphere. In 2009 they released the album Revive, on which they re-recorded many of their early and out-of-print songs. Their last release for Sword was the mini-album Will in 2010; the Western labels Gan-Shin and Maru Music combined Revive and Will into the compilation We Will Melt You. After their contract expired, they formed their own label, Drop C#, and released another mini-album, Zero. Two more singles were eventually followed at the end of 2011 by their third album, the more synth-heavy Luminous -- which, ironically, despite their loss of major distribution, became their highest-charting album to that date. After Hayato was forced to take an indefinite break from the band in order to undergo surgery for throat problems, the other members decided to continue without him temporarily, with his blessing. Their next album, Fusion, released in 2012, was a collaboration with Kim Sehun, vocalist of Korean rock band Eve. The album featured a handful of new tracks alongside covers of Eve material and re-recorded versions of old DuelJewel songs. ~ John D. Buchanan
- Tokyo, Japan