The second season of popular anime Attack On Titan premiered last weekend, to the delight of many. One of the new developments, though, came at the very end of the return episode. As is common for a show in Japan, it featured a new ending theme song performed by rock quartet Shinsei Kamattechan. Although the've attracted a sizable following in their home country, the group is lesser known outside of Japan, especially considering this is the band’s first work with a cartoon. So this is as good a chance as any to highlight one of the more emotionally and musically intriguing Japanese groups to gain traction this decade.
Shinsei Kamattechan formed in the late 2000s, in Chiba prefecture. Initially, they took advantage of then-nascent internet technologies, using streaming sites to perform songs and interact with fans (and sing in public). This embrace of the web helped make them stand out, as did the personality of lead vocalist and guitarist Noko. The band gradually earned more live shows, and caught the attention of major labels. In 2010, they released their first full-length album from Warner Music Japan...while also releasing a grittier, slightly harsher full-length under an independent label. They do things their way.
Their take on rock is often quite a pretty approach, which finds guitars and drums wrapped up in the warm glow of keyboards. Yet, while songs such as “Michinaruhoue” (above) can sound lush, Shinsei Kamattechan add in all sorts of unexpected details that take their work in new directions. Noko’s vocals tend to be the biggest agent of this, as he’s prone to screaming or just shifting up how he delivers words. He’s also a fan of pitch-shifting his voice.
The group’s profile was already growing before landing the Attack On Titan theme, subsequent releases getting more and more attention from domestic media. Yet despite this, Shinsei Kamattechan’s music remains every bit as unpredictable and, frequently, dark. Their lyrics touch on subjects ranging from depression to matters of identity, and the challenges of being who you want to be in modern society. These aren’t taboo topics in modern J-Pop, but few touch on them with the intensity that Noko and the rest of Shinsei Kamattechan do. If others deal in wide-reaching metaphor, they go for direct, prickly images.
It can get heavy, but it’s also worth noting Shinsei Kamattechan can be extremely funny too. Noko’s various streaming sessions and YouTube uploads can be fun, while he also was responsible for a few celebrated Vines back in the day. The combination of relatable and dramatic has turned them into an outfit to watch in Japan, and helped land them the biggest spotlight of their career thus far.
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