The first time I encountered the Back Horn, the band’s overtly Japanese melodies prevented me from really appreciating everything happening in the background.
Truth be told, the Back Horn’s music sounds like anime themes done in a heavy punk style.
But to take the surface at face value does an injustice to the band’s often eclectic sound.
Vocalist Yamada Masashi could have just stuck to singing Western melodies over his bandmates, but fashioning a more Japanese style is far more daring, especially given Japanese bands’ tendency to mimic Western influences slavishly.
Guitarist Suganami Eijun and bassist Matsuda Shinji can switch between ska, punk, metal, even marches at the drop of a proverbial hat.
“Sunny” starts of with a metal cliché that switches into a ska rhythm. “Ikusen Koonen no Kodoku” begins with big power chords, but a Latin bass line drives most of the song.
“8-gatsu no Himitsu” and “Hyoo Hyoo to” would probably sound like traditional Japanese songs if only Yamada didn’t scream and Suganami didn’t play huge, beefy riffs.
Like Bugy Craxone, the Back Horn performs highly emotional music which changes mood many times within a song. “Suisoo” starts off quietly, but a larger-than-life chorus crashes through. Another Latin rhythm drives “Mr. World”, only to be off-set by a straight-forward, fist-pumping rock chorus.
Yamada’s versatile voice adds more mayhem to the band’s maniacal music. He can sing a melody well enough, but when he screams, there’s no question this music is rawk music. It’s amazing his voice even keeps after all the hollering he does.
The Back Horn’s eclectic sound may strike some listeners as incredible, but it can also put others off.
So many influences go into the the band’s music, it almost seems the individual elements don’t fit together comfortably.
The samba rhythm of “Ikusen Koonen no Kodoku” is one of the most overused bass lines in Western-influenced Japanese music. It can sound cheesy in one listening, inspired in another. Combined with music that alternates between punk and ska, it’s difficult to channel how any of it works.
But there’s a point where it does all click together, and the Back Horn become more than the sum of its parts. It may take one listen; it may take 20.
Or it may not happen at all.
There’s no mistake the Back Horn has a very singular sound, and no band out there does quite what this trio accomplishes. But don’t expect to get it right away. (Hell, I didn’t.)