In this new series I will cover various bands from one of my favorite genres. Some are well-known while others may seem a bit obscure. Along with a retrospective, I’ll be kind enough to throw in some music clips so that you can witness the hard hitting sound and fury of Punk!
Dis-claimer: I won’t be covering Grunge, Alt Rock or any of that Pop shit that “passes” for Punk.
*cough*Green Day*cough*Blink 182*cough*
Featured in this segment is a band straight from the land of the Rising Sun. What happens when you combine the spirit of The Ramones with the horror themed lyrics of The Misfits? Well, the answer is Balzac!
Straight outta Kyoto, Japan the band was formed in 1992 by its founder, singer and songwriter Hirosuke Nishiyama, who has remained the only constant member of the band since its inception. The name of the band came from the famous French novelist and playwright, Honoré de Balzac. Hirosuke first came in contact with the novelist’s work during junior high school; he liked how the name sounded and decided to use it. Balzac was highly influenced by the sound and image of the legendary horror punk band The Misfits and, especially, Glenn Danzig’s Samhain. It’s no wonder why I love this band! Balzac adopted and combined the musical and graphical style of both bands to create their own. However, there is a bit of Ramones’ style as the Ramones’ signature opening was commonly known as “one-two-three, Go!” Nishiyama often kickstarts a song with; “Gooooooooo!” and in one or two songs, there’s the sporadic but familiar “one-two-three, Go!”
The band, for the most part, avoid the “campy” horror lyrics and image found in most horror punk bands, as the lyrics by Hirosuke tend to be more like dark poetry, though not always serious.
There’s a copious amount of “Engrish” from native Japanese vocalist Nishiyama but overall it does not deter from enjoying the songs immensely. As a matter of fact, it adds a novel cultural effect.
The band has gained a certain amount of recognition and exposure outside of their native country, where they are well known. Balzac experienced more fame and notoriety when they caught the attention of the recently re-incarnated Misfits (spearheaded by bassist Jerry Only) while performing within the indie scene. Balzac was then asked to open for The Misfits when they came for their first Japanese tour. This would mark a milestone in the band’s career, which would lead to much success for Balzac outside of Japan in the coming years. It seems that the band has come full circle from being influenced by The Misfits to achieving fame thanks to The Misfits and not to mention, recording under their label – Misfits Records.
Out of the Blue
It was courtesy of the Misfits’ Project: 1950 CD, that I was first exposed to Balzac courtesy of a bonus disc which included a video of a song which I used for the Anime Amok promo.
Goddamn Son of a Bitch
Although this number pays homage to the ‘fits’ “Where Eagles Dare”, it’s an entirely different beast and sounds just as good if not better than one of Danzig and Only’s early efforts.
The Pain is All Around
A very catchy melody that uses the Misfit’s trademarked “WHOOAAAA OHHhh ,WHHHOOOAAA” with lead singer Nishiyama doing his best (unintentional?) Joey Ramone rendition.
This title is self-explanatory. A cover of The Thin White Duke’s song, but in my opinion much better!
This is a bit on the Pop side but with damn good bass! It got me thinking Darkstalkers as soon as I heard it.
Break Fuckin’ Yourself
You can call them Horror Punk, but you can also tell these guys are having fun with “family friendly” songs such as this!
These picks are among the main reasons why Balzac is one of my favorite Punk bands and despite the accusations of being Misfits “wannabees” these guys have enough originality of their won.
If imitation is a form of flattery, then The Misfits should be honored. And I’m sure that they are!