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A vital part of the '90s visual kei scene, J-rockers Penicillin outlived the style they helped to promote, keeping up a steady flow of releases despite changing labels more often than Deep Purple changed vocalists. Penicillin were formed in 1992 by several university students in Kanagawa, and for a while their lineup even included the guitarist Shaisuke, later of another group of visual kei biggies, Baiser. But in the end Penicillin stabilized as a quartet made up of Hakuei (vocals), Gisho (bass), O-jiro (drums), and Chisato (guitar). They debuted in 1994 with the EP Penicillin Shock (the only one to feature Shaisuke), followed by the debut album Missing Link (1994) and two EPs (Earth and Into the Valley of the Dolls, both 1995). That got them a short deal with Pioneer, which released their instrumental album Indwell (1996), accompanied by a VHS of promo videos for each track, and then followed by a couple of more conventionally styled releases, namely albums Vibe (1996) and Limelight (1997). One of the singles of this period, Romance (1998), sold 900,000 copies. Since 1996, Penicillin's members have also made sporadic creative detours for solo projects. In 1998, Penicillin switched to East West Japan, which didn't have its life made easy by the band: at this point Penicillin wrote, filmed, and sang a rock opera based on Shakespeare's Hamlet. The group also recorded two non-conceptual albums -- Ultimate Velocity (1998) and Union Jap (2000) -- and released two compilations, but by then the popularity of visual kei was on the wane, and in 2001 they were dropped by the label. Unperturbed, Penicillin went indie and kept on recording music, which proved to be the right move, as in 2002 they were picked by the indie subsidiary of Avex, going to Avex proper in 2005. They had five more studio albums up until 2005, not counting smaller and supporting releases, which they have always produced in heaps. In 2007, at the band's 15th anniversary and after another LP (Blue Heaven), bassist Gisho announced that he was leaving Penicillin, who continued on as a trio and moved to Nippon Crown in February 2008. ~ Alexey Eremenko


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