It’s kinda funny when you think about it. Kiss were a bunch of white guys in Kabuki make-up and stackheels, and everybody thought they were cool. But when Kiss themselves presented the world with a Japanese band in Kabuki make-up and stackheels, everybody thought they were ridiculous. That’s not EZO’s fault, tho. EZO were supposed to be Samurai-metal freaks from the Electric Future, and that’s exactly what they were. The rest of the world just wasn’t ready for ‘em. It still isn't. It might never be.
Back in 1984, in Sapparo, Japan, EZO were called Flatbacker (American GI slang for prostitute), and although they were still a metal band, they were the kind of metal band that also had really cool hair. Sure, they wanted to sound like Loudness, because every J-metal band wanted to sound like Loudness, but they wanted to dress like Johnny Thunders, too. Johnny Thunders from the future, even. With a cape. They played a kind of punky, glammy, cyber-metal, and released two albums worth of the stuff back home to critical and commercial acclaim. I don’t remember ever hearing them at the time, but both records were in English, so they must’ve been trying to muscle their way onto Western soil, or at least into Western metal-ears, even back then. And while that did not work in the case of yours truly, buzzkill-supremo Gene Simmons heard ‘em, alright. And, as you and me and Ronny Keel and Wendy O-in-Heaven already know, Gene Simmons meddling in your career = instant Flash Metal Suicide.
I don’t know how the dirty deals went down, but the next thing you know, it was 1987, and Flatbacker found themselves lounging poolside in LA, with a new name, EZO (means “man” in Japanese), a new record label, (Geffen), a new producer (the diamond demon, natch), and a bitchin’ video fulla explosions and hair for a song called Flashback Heart Attack, which pretty much sounded like… explosions and hair. People like to say that EZO simply sounded like a Kiss rip-off. Now, they most assuredly were a Kiss rip-off – Mr. Simmons imported them for just that reason, I’m sure — but that’s only the way they looked. EZO’s music was louder and a lot more over the top than Kiss ever were. In fact, EZO played the loudest flash metal you’ve ever heard in your life. Every goddamn song was one gigantic riff that they relentlessly hammered into your brain until you just couldn’t help but to submit to their crazy war-painted futuristic headbanger madness. EZO’s version of rock and roll was so overblown that it did more than just batter your eardrums, it hit you, visually, like bright flashes of blinding pink light. EZO were the world’s first 3-D metal band, man.
Flashback Heart Attack, as the title would imply, left America’s youth dazed and confused, so EZO decided to finish off the job by releasing a whole album’s worth of the stuff, the cleverly titled “EZO”. Gene Simmons must’ve lost his mind when he was producing this record, because there is nothing remotely organic about anything on it. Hiro Honma’s drums sound like satellites crashing into the ocean, Shoyo Lida’s guitar like volcanoes erupting, Masaki Yamada howls like an electrocuted werewolf, and it’s all so loud that you simply cannot listen to it at a reasonable volume, because it just won’t let you. The highlight of the record has gotta be Mr. Midnight, which has about 80 tracks’ worth of creepy crawling guitars, or maybe Here It Comes, which has these pounding tribal drums that swirl around your skull until you start to think that maybe you’re gonna to have a flashback heart attack yourself. It’s all pretty fuckin’ great, tho, a supersonic gangbang of phonetically howled gibberish and sci-fi disco metal that could only have come from the 80’s, and will only truly make sense in 2087.
Despite dressing like transsexual hookers from Blade Runner and sounding like heavy metal computers programmed to turn the brains of teenage America into mush, EZO managed to have a pretty decent run, touring with Guns N’ Roses in ’87 and following up EZO with an equally overwrought album, Fire Fire in 1989. But nobody ever really got what EZO were up to, and when they did finally wipe off the make-up and tried giving it a go as a stripped-down metal band, it was 1990-something, and it was Nirvana, it was Alternative Nation, blah blah blah. So, EZO imploded before it got too embarrassing. Hiro and Masaki both eventually joined Loudness for a couple of late 90s albums, which, after all, was what they really wanted to do in the first place. And Gene “Rock is dead” Simmons? Why, he’s selling coffins. All those Flash Metal Suicides really start piling up after awhile.