"We felt like we'd failed": SiM were one of Japan's best kept metal secrets, but after writing a song for Attack On Titan they're ready to conquer the world

(Image credit: Press)

As most bands will tell you, one song can change everything. After grinding away for almost two decades in their home country to little international fanfare, Japanese alt-metallers SiM released their single The Rumbling in March 2022… and got 10 million views in a week. 

Written as the opening theme for the final season of anime phenomenon Attack On Titan, it catapulted the band in front of a global audience: currently the song has been viewed 50 million times on YouTube and has more than 118 million streams on Spotify. 

“Suddenly, our YouTube was filled with comments from all around the world,” says vocalist and songwriter MAH of the moment he realised everything had changed for the band. “It became difficult to find comments in Japanese.” 

Named after a catastrophic scene where a marching army of flesh-eating giants are unleashed to end humanity, the track saw the band incorporate symphonic elements into their already diverse blend of ska, dub, punk and nu metal, capturing the apocalyptic feel of the show’s final season, while maintaining their own sound. “I would say we gained many anime fans from the release of The Rumbling,” he continues. “But we want to reach rock fans and not just anime fans.” 

Clearly, it’s been quite a journey for the quartet, completed by guitarist SHOW-HATE, bassist SIN and drummer GODRi, but before that, SiM were becoming steadily disheartened. Having formed in 2004, they played their first US show at Knotfest in 2016. 

“We’ve been a band for 19 years, but we only had a few people in the audience [at Knotfest],” says MAH. “We felt like we failed. During that time, we thought an international breakthrough was not possible, but when we were asked to record The Rumbling, our dream came true.” 

These days, he says can’t even walk down the street in Japan without being recognised. “I learned good things will come if we don’t give up.” 

Having been introduced to Rancid by his mother and grown up listening to the reggae-infused rock of San Diego’s Pepper and Cali’s Long Beach Dub Allstars, MAH formed the first iteration of the band in Shonan, in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture, when he was still in high school as part of an after-school club. 

The band’s 2008 debut, Silence Iz Mine, blended the two styles with patchy results – unsurprising given their young age – but won the band plenty of props for their fresh take on heavy music nonetheless. “I don’t think there were many bands [in Japan] that mixed heavy style music and reggae like we did,” MAH considers. 

Since then, following several line-up changes, their sound has developed, pulling the dark anthemia and heaviness of nu metal and electronica into their ragga-metal fusion. 

“I remember finding it interesting that Korn and Linkin Park mixed metal with pop music,” says MAH. “As a musician, I learned a lot from them on how they create and use their sound.” 

While SiM have been successful and prolific in Japan for years, the rest of world is finally catching up. In March 2023, they released Under The Tree, another track created for Attack On Titan, which has so far racked up more than 25 million Spotify streams. 

Their latest and sixth album, Playdead, is their biggest yet, packed with bouncy, emphatic anthems written specifically with huge stages in mind. Meanwhile, the band played their first UK headline show in June at London’s Islington Academy – only their second time on these shores. It sold out months in advance. 

“The audience were singing along to our music, not just to The Rumbling, but even songs from our first album,” MAH remembers. “I felt so blessed.”


(Image credit: Press)

In 2024 they’ll graduate to even larger rooms as they hit the UK again with Texan rockers Nothing More. However, the biggest indication of just how far SiM have come over the last few years was clear to see as the band made their debut appearance at Download Festival last summer. 

On the second stage, sandwiched between the sugary metalcore of The Amity Affliction and the nu metal bounce of Blind Channel, a large crowd assembled, crowdsurfers flew over the barrier and voices united as one. After almost 20 years, it felt like an arrival. 

“We had no idea how many people would come to see us, until we got on the stage,” remembers MAH. “Right before our performance, we were saying that we probably will only have 50 people at most in the audience. But when we got onstage, we saw so many people, and more and more came until the space was completely filled.” 

It was the moment, he says, when it felt like all the band’s hard work had finally paid off. “Our goal from the very beginning was to go outside of Japan,” he says proudly. “Though it took time, we’re now getting interviewed all over the world. Life is such an interesting and exciting journey.”

Playdead is out now via Pony Canyon. SiM's UK tour with Nothing More starts February 15

Dannii Leivers

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.