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About Onmyo-za

Taking the mythical themes of heavy metal from Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden, the Japanese band Onmyo-Za goes a step further. The performers, though playing fairly straightforward metal in the vein of an Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, do so in full traditional costume like characters out of a Heian pantheon. Songs deal with matters of yin and yang, elemental powers, mythological and historical themes, with the antique impression bolstered by the use of obscure literary kanji. Musically, the band breaks a bit of ground, with leader and bassist Matatabi taking up a dual vocal line with female singer Kuroneko ("Black Cat"), often showcased in a yin and yang format, and dueling guitarists Maneki and Karukan taking a similar approach to duality. Prodigiously pumping out at least one album in almost every year since their 1999 inception, the band spent years flirting with widespread success, repeatedly finding their albums only in the Top 100 of the Oricon charts even after signing to major label King in 2001. It wasn't until 2006 that their best-of compilation Inyou-Shugyoku finally cracked the top 20. Over the years, the band had introduced more pop, hard rock, and folk elements, and, with their ninth album, 2008's Chimimouryo ("Evil River and Mountain Spirits"), finally broke the top ten (no small feat for a metal group), peaking at number nine on the Oricon charts. Subsequent albums did almost as well, with 2014's simultaneously released Fuujin Kaikou and Raijin Sousei going to numbers 10 and 11, respectively. 2016's Karyoubinga gave them their highest chart position to date, at number seven. ~ Adam Greenberg

Osaka, Japan

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