Everything is happening very fast for Lovebites. The Japanese quintet formed in 2016, released their eponymous debut EP this past summer and then rapidly followed that with their first full-length album, Awakening From Abyss, at the end of October. The band’s founder, bassist Miho, knew what she wanted to do with the rest of her life the moment she heard Steve Harris playing with Iron Maiden. She had already had a taste of success with the band Destrose, where she met Lovebites drummer Haruna, and after Destrose split up in 2015, she set about creating her dream metal band.
“I always wanted to do power metal plus a little bit of old school, a combination of the two,” says Miho, wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt and speaking to Hammer from Tokyo through an interpreter. She’s polite and reserved in that distinctly Japanese way, but it’s impossible to miss her enthusiasm when talking about watching Manowar live or her mission to conquer metal with Lovebites.
“It’s always hard to be an all-girl band playing proper heavy metal music,” she says. “The traditional heavy metal bands tend to all be male so to be a girl band stepping in to that music scene, it’s not that easy. I knew that going in, but there are lots of girl bands around and they are growing, they’re working hard, so I hope Lovebites might be the flagship. We want to be in the category of ‘metal’, rather than categorised just as a ‘female band’.”
Lovebites may call Tokyo home, but their sound is unmistakably rooted in the New Wave Of BritishHeavy Metal, led by the slicing twin-guitar assault of shredders Midori and Mi-ya, backed by the galloping rhythm section of Miho and Haruna, all charging hell-for-leather behind the soaring vocals of frontwoman Asami. The band have been so focused on recording that they’ve only played a handful of live shows thus far, including sets at London’s Hyper Japan Christmas exhibition – their very first overseas performance – and a gig at Camden’s Underworld last month. Miho has the most experience of gigging outside Japan from her Destrose days, as the band performed at anime conventions in Oklahoma and Kansas.
“Japanese people are usually a bit shy and it’s not easy for them to just go with the flow and lose themselves in the music,” says Miho, comparing the scenes at home and abroad. “It takes a little time and effort to get everyone going. In America, it was easy; we got a big reaction and we were so happy.”
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Rejecting the traditional tattoos and scowls school of modern metal fashion, Lovebites may raise a few cynical eyebrows due to their mixing a relatively fashion-conscious image with their masterful riffage. “There are many metal bands around, but if they’re just wearing all-black from top to toe and doing what all the traditional heavy metal bands are doing, it’s not going to be fresh enough for 2017,” explains Miho. “We like to have a traditional, old-school heavy metal sound but why not [have a different image]? There’s a gap between our traditional sound and our modern look and we hope that’s going to be one of the features to set us apart.”
The band brought in Finnish engineer/producers Mikko Karmila and Mika Jussila, who have worked with the likes of Children Of Bodom, Amorphis, Stratovarius and Nightwish, to mix the album.
“In Japan, all the metal fans listen to bands from overseas, so when you’re playing metal in Japan, you can’t just sound like a Japanese metal band. It doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, that’s why you need the music to have that international sound,” says Miho, who’s delighted Awakening From Abyss is now out in the UK. “The reaction from outside Japan has been so much more than we expected,” she says. “We are really chuffed.”
Awakening From Abyss is out now via JPU Records. Buy now from Amazon.