Visual Kei is dying. It's a sentence everyone has heard before, probably even more than once.
When girugamesh and SCREW announced to disband back on May 2nd the phrase popped up all over the web again since people marked it as the end of Visual Kei. But is it really dying?
The time when you will stumble across those words is usually when rather popular bands disband. What those kind of bands have in common is that they are well-known among the fans of Visual Kei and that (in most cases) they are or were active for a pretty long time.
What can we conclude from that? Does this mean Visual Kei only lives through the big names of the scene as it dies when they are all gone? Why isn't it dying when a small indie band dissolves after their short two years career?
Well, fair enough, bands like SCREW or girugamesh contributed so much more to the scene compared to DOAK who announced to disband on May 2nd too and were active for only one year.
However, wouldn't you agree with me when I say DOAK are just as "Visual Kei" as SCREW and girugamesh are? I'm pretty sure most of you do. Nevertheless, no one would have predicted the end of Visual Kei if DOAK had been the only band publishing their disbandment news last week, right? So clearly, there is something wrong with the way we use this sentence. Something along the lines of "the well-known bands are all about to disappear" would make much more sense at this point, even though it's still a little exaggerated to say that.
In a scene where the amount of disbandments seems to almost equal the amount of debuts of new bands, a long activity span is seen as something great. This might be a dangerous statement, but I think I'm not exactly wrong if I say that because of that, bands being active for many years don't really have a hard time earning our respect, no matter if we like their music or not.
Due to this appreciation towards them, we regard them as the true "ambassadors of Visual Kei", often times forgetting that short-lived bands represent it just as good (or - if we merely focus on Visual Kei as fashion - they are even much better at representing it sometimes).
Now that we (hopefully) agree that Visual Kei lives on through more unknown bands too, let's take a look at those now:
How many of them are there? Well, many. In fact, there are so many, no one can possibly know all of their names. The fact that there is such a vast amount of them seems to prove the counterargument (Visual Kei is NOT dying), yet for many of us that's exactly where the problem is.
How do I find new bands? How do I find their songs if there is barely anything on youtube? Where do I find information about them? Where do I start at all?
Especially for new fans, this can be a huge problem. Not everyone has the necessary Japanese skills to look up all useful information. English websites often don't fully cover small bands too and if they do, you have to find those specific sources first. So as it is, it's very complicated and time-consuming sometimes and as a result the easiest way for new fans (and "old" ones too) is to just stick with the bands everyone knows.
Besides, some people's prejudice about small and new bands generally making bad music probably roots here too. Yes, many of those bands' songs aren't really great at all, but there are always some very talented ones too. One needs a lot of luck and patience to find them though, so you can't really judge the majority of fans only listening to popular and well-known bands.
If we then found a band suitable to our taste we follow them as long as they're active. And when they disband, we're devastated naturally. We're sad because they're gone and we're worried we'll never find another band like them again.
At this point, Visual Kei already died for many people, not because there aren't any bands anymore but because looking up new ones takes so much time and not everyone really trusts in small bands due to reasons of bad song quality, the higher chance they'll disband soon etc. etc.
But seriously, how do we know a band formed in 2016 won't improve their sound and be active for more than 10 years? We don't, unless we give them the chance all of them deserve.
I mean, who knows? In a few years, some of the new ones might become just as popular as bands like SCREW and girugamesh are now and when they disband in, say 2026, we wish it would be 2016 again, because everything has been much better back then.
Visual Kei is dying is a sentence I already heard when I got into the music back in 2008. I'm pretty sure we will still hear it in 10, 20 years even though the number of new bands probably won't decrease much.
So to finally answer the important question: No, it's not dying. The amount of currently active bands serves as proof here. It only dies when someone declares it dead for oneself, which means he or she gives up on looking up and following new bands.
One last thing: For some people, Visual Kei is dying also means the music isn't the same as it used to be some years ago. Yes, this might be true. But isn't this happening to every existing music genre?
Imagine how boring it would be if everyone was still making the same kind of music like visual bands from the 90ies did. Who'd still want to listen to that?
Anyway, there is still a huge variety of music in Visual Kei. Not everything sounds the same, so I don't really believe it's actually impossible for some people to find a band to their liking.
The search for those takes some dedication though, as the amount of bands is anything else but small.
If you want to hear another opinion about this topic, please check out this video by TODORA. She inspired me to write this comment and also to start a whole new article series. Our authors will be posting comments to all kinds of topics from now on, so please keep on checking our "author's comment" tag!
In case you have a different opinion or if you want to add something, please leave a comment below, we'd gladly discuss with you!