Best of Year of the Monkey:
Viking Chris Edition
Well, 2016 turned out...interesting, shall we say? I wasn't a big fan to say the least, but the Japanese underground music scene delivered, and especially my Doom darlings ruled the scene big time. In April I saw Begrabnis for the first time and it was probably the best gig I've seen since I went to Kumagaya in 2009 to see Corrupted with Matt. The members from Begräbnis all hail from Sendai, northern Japan, and here I am, 9 months later, just moved to Sendai and drinking with the Begräbnis guys and trying to learn their weird dialect.
Call it fate, luck or something spiritual, but I truly believe that music can connect people in the strangest and most powerful ways. This year had some other definite highlights though, like the now infamous Napalm Death gig in Ishinomaki which I was lucky enough to be allowed to photograph in its entirety (fuck, I just remembered that Ishinomaki is like 40 minutes from Sendai. There is something special about this place). Thanks Barney, for letting me crash your gig, and thanks for getting drunk with me.
Other gigs happened this year too, of course, and I guess GUEVNNA's tour with Canada's Hoopsnake made the cold Japanese autumn all the better. 2016 was a crappy year for a lot of people, but I got some pretty amazing memories this year thanks to all the great people in the scene.
Now, let’s turn our attention to my top 3 releases. Gigs turned out to be amazing this year, but the releases didn't disappoint either. I pondered long and hard over what to pick, but after a few beers and countless hours listening to these I feel confident that my list not only covers 3 of the best releases of 2016, but also 3 of the best Japanese releases in many years.
Sithter - Chaotic Fiend (Bonten Records)
My top pick for 2016 should be obvious for those who read Kaala regularly. I gave this album my highest regards in my review, and even after these couple of months or so it still holds its own, way more than I expected. It's almost like a new Electric Wizard album in this regard. At first you're kinda worried whether it will keep being awesome or not, but then of course it does and you feel stupid for even thinking that it wouldn't. The fresh guitar sound above anything made this album interesting, and even after my 30th or so playthrough I still dig it. A lot.
Buy Chaotic Fiend here.
Funeral Sutra - Form and Emptiness (Self Released)
Tokyo's most interesting, inspiring, introspective and thought-provoking black metal band continues their esoteric journey for answers to existential questions in their latest LP, and being an old Blut Aus Nord fan, this release just pushed my spiritual buttons. It's a journey to the farthest galaxies, a journey to the deepest of dark forests, and a journey into the heart itself, where all our feelings converge and emerge into something wonderful. If you are into deep and introspective music then I can recommend the latest Funeral Sutra LP to you, and probably never have to speak with you again because this is all you'll want to listen to forever.
Contact the band here to purchase a copy of Form and Emptiness.
Begräbnis - Sol/Begräbnis Split (Weird Truth Productions)
My all-time favorite Japanese Funeral Doom Metal band from Sendai continues their cursed journey into the unknown, and this time they've found a friend in Denmark's Doom darling Sol. Together they explore the uncharted spaces of the unknown and frightening, but there is still somewhat a glimpse of hope in all the lonely despair. A slight hint to 2011's underrated Corrupted's Garten Der Unbewusstheit maybe? The Begräbnis/Sol Split is one of my favorite releases this year for sure, and it proves that me moving from Tokyo to Sendai where Begräbnis holds their fort wasn't such a bad idea, being the huge doom metal fan that I am.
Buy the split here.
So there we have it. As I said earlier, the top 3 list was hard to write, and there were so many runner-ups. Self Deconstruction totally killed with their summer release Wounds, one of the best Grindcore albums I've heard in a really long time. My favorite kind of chaos. We also saw GUEVNNA release their funky doom delight Heart of Evil. Never has doom been this danceable, and to delight us even more, their tour with Hoopsnake was just fabulous. Anybody new to the Japanese scene should give them a listen, or, even better, check out one of their shows (not to worry, they play all the time. Like, almost weekly). I also appreciated one of my old favorites, funky-punk girl-duo Who The Bitch starting to play again after a 2 year hiatus. Not the most brutal punk outfit out there so I doubt Jordan will care, but any fan of catchy and sexy punk should check them out. Eagerly awaiting a new EP in 2017. And here we are guys. My 2016 in a nutshell. Oh, and I also got to witness a homeless guy peeing on a cat!