Halloween season is upon us, whether your vice is pumpkin spice lattes or nasty jelly candy that looks like severed body parts. This time of year is typically signified by creepy decorations being sold at every store, kids and adults in costumes, and of course, scary movies. But what about the music?
In Japan Halloween has become such a popular event, it came to the point where the Japan Times declared October as ‘All Hallow’s Month’. This was based on the amount of Halloween-related activities happening nationwide; from the family-friendly events in Disneyland to the now-traditional Shibuya Halloween Event, which has attracted around 100,000 people in recent years. With this new fascination for the scary and gory, Halloween has naturally fused with the musical aspect of popular culture as well, from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu to Music Station’s Halloween Special.
The visual-kei genre is obviously no exception. Already known for its theatricality, costumes, and often obscene expressionism, many Visual artists and bands have let themselves be inspired to incorporate Halloween thematic in their work. Some release Halloween-themed music, or host Halloween events, others create entire units based on Halloween.
In this piece, I have collected some of my favorite tunes that are sure to make me feel the spirit of Halloween. Not all of them are considered visual-kei or were composed with Halloween in mind, but for me, they are a must on any Halloween playlist.
Obviously, this is according to my own tastes, so feel free to share your own Halloween favorites (visual-kei or not) in the comments!
The Song Selection:
Sadie – This is Halloween
Is there a more iconic tune for this season than ‘This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas? While there is absolutely nothing wrong with the original, Sadie’s heavy and moody take on this classic is perfect for gloomy October nights. The cover was included in the V-ROCK DISNEY compilation album, released by Walt Disney Records in Japan in 2014.
Another visual-kei band, The Candy Spooky Theatre has also covered this song and given it their own twist. Their entire image is based on the concept of Halloween by the way, so make sure to check them out!
Versailles – Vampire
This track, from Versailles’ 2010 album Holy Grail was also used as the theme song for the movie Vampire Stories: Brothers, which was released in 2011.
It is not particularly spooky but tells of the melancholy contemplations of a vampire as the dawn approaches. Another track from the same album, titled “Masquerade” is also fitting for a Halloween-themed playlist.
Seikima II – Noroi no sha・na・na・na
Despite their distinct visual appearance, Seikima II is not a visual-kei band, but rather a veteran heavy metal band which has been around since 1982, although their vocalist, Demon Kakka is the only member who has been with them from the beginning.
“Noroi no shananana” was the theme song for Sadako VS Kayako in which J-Horrors most iconic ladies battled it out on-screen, which came out last year.
What could possibly be more appropriate than a music video featuring them both?
Buck-Tick – Kuchizuke
This single by veteran visual rock band Buck-Tick was used as the opening theme of the 2010 anime Shiki, about a small town in the mountains which is overrun by vampires as the villagers wither away.
The album version, titled “Kuchizuke – serial thrill kisser” adds some extra evocative sound effects, which together with Sakurai Atsushi’s enticing voice, makes for a seductive Halloween thrill.
Malice Mizer – Transylvania
Of course, Malice Mizer had to be on this list. To be fair, I could have added most of their discography, and Halloween would be saved. But I went with this clip from Voyage sans retour which includes both “Transylvania” and “Uruwashiki kamen no jōtaijō” (麗しき仮面の招待状 / The invitation from the beautiful mask). From the classic gothic sound to the theatrical set and costumes, to Gackt’s deep vocals, this performance transports you directly to an ancient, decayed castle in the rainy and desolate Transylvanian nowhere.
LM.C – Haunted House Make a Secret
The b-track to LM.C’s “Oh My Juliet” is a love story about a ghost named Harry, and a girl called Holly, whom he is deeply in love with. Their friendship is a secret, which in time will end with Harry alone, as he fears Holly will grow up and forget about him.
It’s actually quite sad, and a very underrated song. For Halloween selections, a lot of fans go with “Ghost Heart“, but I’ve always been fond of Haunted House’s mysterious and slightly allusive melody, and keep coming back to it regularly.
Purple Stone – Panic Panic!
I happened across this music video watching NicoVisual, and instantly fell in love with the song and the band (so expect more about them soon!). “Panic Panic!” is upbeat, colorful, energetic and incredibly fun!
Zombie school girls, police officers, bloody nurses, and prisoners dancing, and a super-catchy tune, what’s not to love here? If the grotesque kind of Halloween celebration is not your thing, then practice this dance and add “Panic Panic!” to your bag of treats.
Lychee Hikari Club – 廃墟の☆帝王 (Emperor of Ruins)
Lychee Hikari Club, fronted by Penicillin vocalist HAKUEI, is a concept band based on Usamaru Furuya’s grotesque but fantastic manga of the same name.
Their songs all deal with themes and concepts from the manga, equally dark and tragic. The music video adds to the experience with its portrayal of the Hikari Club’s Frankenstein-esque creation; the AI named Lychee coming to life. It draws from classic Halloween themes, and is equally gritty and uncomfortable, from the desolate setting, to the visual effects, to the masked, imprisoned girls.
Kanon x Kanon – Calendula Requiem
Another song used in the anime Shiki, by musical unit Kanon x Kanon, consisting of the cellist and singer Wakeshima Kanon, and An Cafe’s bassist, Kanon.
A musical feast combining the classical with the modern, “Calendula Reqiuem” is both beautiful and mysterious, with lyrics that are surprisingly dark, concerning the thought of an impending death. I also wanted to include this song because of the modern take on yokai – Japanese ghosts, parading to (or from?) the land of the spirits.
Aural Vampire – Soloween
“Soloween” is a single release from synthpop / gothic rock band Aural Vampire, where all the tracks included deal with Halloween. This is another tune that focuses on death, despite the relatively upbeat melody and cartoon-ish music video, animated by band member Raveman.
I’m not too familiar with this band, but I’ve always enjoyed this track, and particularly when October arrives and Halloween creeps near.
And finally, my ultimate Halloween favorite:
Halloween Junky Orchestra – Halloween Party
Vamps-members HYDE and KAZ formed the first Halloween Junky Orchestra in 2012, and released this perfect single just in time for Halloween. As the music video shows, all kinds of creatures, from vampires to zombie teddies, Cheshire cats to demons, gather to have an epic Halloween dinner before they go out trick or treating and then party in the streets until the sun comes up. It’s fun, it’s catchy and the costumes are all great. This first Halloween Junky Orchestra consisted of artists such as Daigo, Anna Tsuchiya, Acid Black Cherry, Kyo (D’erlanger) Hitsugi (Nightmare) and Wakeshima Kanon.
These days, Halloween Junky Orchestra holds an annual tour, where various artists join the stage at the different venues, all donning Halloween costumes. Aside from those mentioned above and appearing in the video, artists who have participated include Golden Bomber, Momoiro Clover Z, Shinya (Dir en Grey) and GACKT. Joining the 2017 line-up are X Japan’s Yoshiki, Kiyoharu (SADS, Kuroyume) and Miyavi.
When the leaves start to turn yellow and the cold winds start to blow, I allow myself to listen to this song for the first time of the year. With that, Halloween season officially begins!