HANABIE。 (“花冷え。”) is the Japanese metal band on the rise with the crazy gimmick:y music videos:
They mix heavy metal with classic J-pop cuteness, which they absolutely aren’t the first at, but what differs them from many others is that their gimmicks don’t have any super-obvious calculations behind them. And do you know what that means? It means they can take their thing much further, because they’re not decided on one thing and one thing only, and therefore not stuck. Their thing isn’t “the calculated genre-mix”, their thing isn’t “being crazy”, no, their thing is more of a general feeling of creativeness that makes them stick out. It’s hard to define in a single phrase, and since they’re in the beginning of their journey it’s difficult to tell exactly what they do.
HANABIE’s core sound is pretty much like 2008 metalcore all over again, but in new clothes, and with a few extra units of happy energy on top of it. They’re both a brutal metal band and accessible to non-metal listeners, which was part of their plan (“as Lady Matsuri said in an interview, she wanted to make music with influences from the melodic Hardcore and Metalcore but that someone who was not a fan of these genres could also enjoy.” – source). HANABIE’s melodic choruses make the band something else than a band for metal nerds only, but they can’t possibly scare away the metal nerds with their pop sweetness, because they’re so good at the metal nerdery. Which means, they’re great live:
Their mainstream-leaning activities may arouse suspicions about them being more than just a metal band – Is someone calculating their success in the back? Is someone making money out of this? Which label is backing them financially with all the high-quality songs and music videos?
But no, they’re completely independent. They crowdfunded their whole debut album “Girl’s Reform Manifest” (“乙女改革”) in 2020, and have managed to completely remove the rough “independent young metal band” edges from themselves, without any big instances helping them. Just compare their first demo single from 2017 to what they do now. The musical quality was there from the start, but they’ve made an incredible job at creating a product out of the music since then. How? I guess it’s because they’re talented, have great personalities, have found a way to stand out, know what to do, and actually do it. They seem to have all the qualities needed to make their music into something more than just songs, without decreasing any of the raw musical talent on the way.
Mixing up music genres could in some cases lead to a feeling of compromise. And while HANABIE themselves say they mix styles in order to be accessible to several audiences, I think they manage to do it in a chaotic and non-compromising way. It’s just more of everything. When they branch out in new directions it adds to what was before, and not the other way around. HANABIE isn’t stuck in thinking about things in one way only. Maybe this mindset is what led them to wear strawberry hats in this music video, instead of dressed up more like a “normal” band as they did in the beginning. This makes them awesome, but don’t get me wrong, they would still be as awesome if they stayed in the standard lane. It’s just that they didn’t.
Am I going to continue following HANABIE in the future? Yes. Why? Because I like them. I like their music, and I also like them, because I saw a few minutes of “behind the scenes” material of the humans behind the music and realized: “I like them”. Now I’m invested in them, and want to listen to their new songs immediately, regardless if they’re good or bad. I just need to know what HANABIE is up to. That’s the power of human connection, you’re only a few seconds away from being best friends with someone you didn’t know before, and will never know in the future. And if you’re lucky, they have their own metal band.