History & BiographyNemophila, or ネモフィラ, is an all-girl act from Tokyo, Japan whose origin dates back to August 2019. The band started as a fun jam project simply informally called The Mayu Sessions after the singer’s name. Mayu, a grunge listener and fan, who at this time was in another all-girl group called Lipstick and Haraguchi were school-mates. The band drew in Saki of Mary's Blood and an organizer of World Guitar Girls Collection (WGGC). Murata - whose name is a take on 'tomboy' - had also drummed at WGGC and both sang and drummed with Ladybeard, a cross dressing foreigner carrying the torch of the old man called Kobayashi Hideaki who used to dress like a schoolgirl. Saki, who was to work with the band as a producer initially, would soon decamp after the break-up of Mary's Blood. This despite how Saki had posted that he would remain with Mary's Blood while being in Nemophila. Simultaneously, it was implied that the management team at Masterworks had dropped Mary's Blood and picked up Nemophila. Second guitarist Hazuki was the last to join after getting a call from Saki.
The quintet’s first show was at Metal Weekend 2019 in Tokyo. Loudness and Hammerfall headlined on different nights. The act had played twice as Mayu Session in late summer of 2019. The set was a mix of originals and cover versions. Saki would be sponsored by Killer Guitars of Loudness’ Akira Takasaki a year later. The band took off thanks to its members’ looks, the multiple cover versions it played and the magic of YouTube’s algorithm. The band's musical styles combines and mixes metal with various styles and genres like mallcore, grunge and rock. Nemophila continued to combine various rock sub-genres into its compositions aided by an outside producer and songwriter. The band itself has described its genre as metalcore. Nemophila, and its management, take care to create a market in the West, which is typically an afterthought for acts from Japan. Tamu went on maternity at the very end of 2019 and Show-Ya's Tsunoda Miki sat in for her at the next scheduled concert.
Oiran (‘courtesan’) was the band’s debut demo in 2020. The Raitei demo followed in the same year. The title track was included in the Dissension demo of 2021. The band played at a Show-Ya festival, called NAONのYAON, in Japan. Not coincidentally, the band shared a management company with Show-Ya, Mary’s Blood and others. This event was cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020. JPU Records re-issued the Oiran demo and tagged other songs. A new project called Amahiru featured Frédéric Leclercq (Kreator and ex-Dragonforce) and Saki in 2020. Mayu got married in July 2021 and Tamu gave birth to her second child in August. A Kensuke Akiyama assists the band in songwriting, among others, as well as producing. The band’s debut album Revive was issued in December 2021. A US version with partially re-recorded vocals in English through Velocity Records followed. The main video in support of the record was filmed acrossnthe bay from Tokyo at the Meiji Observation Tower in Chiba Prefecture. Nemophila announced a Japan tour of the Zepp venues for the summer of 2022. Different bands would open at different venues in different cities and these included Rottengraffty for Tokyo, PassCode for Nagoya and amazingly Loudness in Osaka. Nemophila performed at the Naon No Yaon (a.k.a. the aforementioned NAONのYAON) show in 2022 with guitarist Saki suffering from a head injury after falling and hitting her head at home. She explained that the cause was anemia and that she required five stitches.
Singer Mayu announced that she was pregnant and would be taking a break following the Aftershock Festival in California, USA in October 2022 where band-Maid was also booked from Japan. The band Nemophila was playing instrumental gigs as Nemophila Quartette in the meantime although this ended up being transient with only one such concert in December 2022. Mayu fit in an appearance at Aftershock in the USA in October 2022 and announced several North American concerts for 2023. Japan-based all girl act Nemophila had an album called Seize The Fate on 14.12.2022. An advance single for the title track was available at the end of September 2022. The album charted in Japan. The US tour of 2023 occurred in the winter and the band included an after-show party at a sushi restaurant. A Mexico City, Mexico concert on the same tour was announced and subsequently cancelled. Nemophila Tour 2023 -Seize The Fate- was a live DVD taped in Tokyo that year. JPU Records issued Seize The Fate with a modified cover for territories outside Japan. The members appeared in their own 'art book' in the summer. The group announced a tour of Japan for the autumn of 2023 and winter of 2024. Murata Tamu drummed on the Nakayoshi Metal EP of 2023. The band announced an EP, called The Initial Impulse, featuring tracks from mallcore bands and a live Blu-ray called 4th Anniversary -Rizing NEMO for the autumn of 2023. In order to assure audiences that the band is Japanese it called special edition enclosed stickers, etc. "benefits." The band was added to the line-up of 響都超特急2023, or Kyoto Super Express show, in the city of Kyoto for December 2023. The band was calling its concert at Tokyo's Budokan a fifth anniversary concert.
What is 'nemophila'? Nemophila is a type of flower, which perhaps not coincidentally has five petals. In Japanese culture, Nemophila is associated with the goddess Inari who is occasionally depicted as five figures. Many shrines in Japan are dedicated to Inari who, in turn, is associated with foxes, rice fields and the harvest. One member of Nemophila was in Disqualia. Fellow Japanese all-girl band Destrose, which featured guitarist Saki at one point, had a song called Nostphilia.
NEMOPHILA - REVIVE - SPACE SHOWER
The first thing that comes to mind is how the title is curious for a debut album, but so is the monicker for such an aggressive band. The band of guitarist Saki from Mary’s Blood, and also formerly of Destrose, has a penchant for irony. Speaking of Mary’s Blood, spoiler alert, that Japanese similarly all-girl band is my pick over Nemophila, but then again readers have noticed the ‘below average’ rating above already. One more factoid before diving in is that another former Destrose member Marina is in Mardelas, which released an EP of Destrose material called Snake To Revive in 2016. That EP featured the song Nostphilia.
For those wondering about the lacklustre album cover, that is a nemophila.
Nemophila’s debut album begins downtuned and synthesised a la mallcore. Yet the band could be forgiven because it is certainly aggressive and fast with the singer sounding like a lynx on cocaine. She does mix it up and reverts to her normal vocals, which are somewhat impressive although the scratchy screams dominate. The breakdowns and synthesizers tell the listener this is less metal and more Korn, Insane Clown Posse and Incubus. It is the lead guitars that save this from mediocrity and, as the album progresses, one notices that it is not for the final time. To be exact believing the Tokyo girls singing about "such a fucking crazy sound" is already a stretch. The song that follows is funny and betrays a certain inauthenticity. One has to say it does the job though. It is an aggressive statement and the band is a tight unit, but watching the video for the girls thrash bash with the scratchy and processed vocals of singer Mayu while alternately swaying cutesy side-by-side or bending up and down in unison is dissonant. The best part of this one is the drumming of the act’s tomboy. Still, it is obvious that the nu trendy sound will be able to rely on fans of mallcore, and those solely focused on upvoting Japanese girl bands, as opposed to fans of heavy metal. That is the gist of the matter. 鬼灯 slows the proceedings down and demonstrates the band is not all speed and fury. This one also nods to hip hop, rap and inevitably Korn. The backing vocals are poppy, but the band is tight, cohesive and the solo proficient. Hypnosis, a track by bassist Hara, is admirable. It is not this reviewer's cup of black tea, but the band does a decent near oriental sound and manages to not look ridiculous with its Aladdin (think MC Hammer parachute pants) outfits in the video either. It is harder than one probably imagines. Special mention to Tamu's drumming. Ironically, the song combines more English words than most tracks here, which are sung mostly in Japanese. If these girls were older they would have made a great backing band for Loudness of the early 2000s. By the time the relatively soft and melodious Game Over kicks in it has long been game over for the metal fan. After all, why bother with this quintet where there are so many actual nifty metal bands in the world? Still, impressive dual lead work. The band knows how to deploy ear warming melodies at will and this proves it. By now it is obvious that the band is not only moving away from playing metal cover versions, but from metal altogether. Recall that the singer was in a band called Lipstick. Life is a rock song that belies the band's nu core nature. Replete with backing vocals, it is an anomaly that may hint at the track being older, a deliberate attempt at charting or perhaps a conscious attempt at variety. Sorai is a more famous track that the band seems to enjoy playing. Downtuned and mid-paced, it is crackling and noisy, but really simple when heard intently. The guitar tones take it to interesting places and the bass solo is again, yes repetitive, impressive. This is more like it and unfortunately for the band's future an older one. On Rollin' Rollin’ the bass doesn't want to fall behind. For fans of Five Finger Death Punch or some such crap this should do. The synthesised melody is lifted off Babymetal. The chants are like Dissension’s. The solos are again accomplished and almost too good for this band. The two guitarists should do a heavy metal side-project except they seem to enjoy the stuff they are doing on and Mary’s Blood was a bona fide heavy metal band itself. Rollin’ Rollin’s title must be ironic because, metal solos aside, this is very nu. Change The World is poppy. Mayu is in rap mode. The backing vocals are catchy. The band may be doing this variety thingie deliberately after all. Hearing these girls and seeing their image it seems very much like the world changed them and not the other way around. 雷霆 is thunderbolt. It is a more traditional or conventional song for the band. Arguably it is perhaps the more metal track on this record and sports a classic shredding metal solo. Mayu sings using her clean vocals more and screeches less. Oiran, or courtesan, is on this record with a new version. Before Oiran’s one-minute mark the song has a refrain chant reminiscent of Babymetal's 'sora sora sora.'
Revive, the song, talks about someone who finds the music too much at first, but is converted to the cause by the end. This album failed to convince or achieve this for this reviewer. In fact, it comes short despite expectations. Still, the band and CD could do wonders for sales figures given its commercial potential. Not a fan of this band obviously, but the guitar solos are topnotch. Equally unfortunately, the older the song the better the solos seemingly.
I bet management would love the band to switch to English more and go for international broke, but that language is a tough ask in Japan so the switch may not be easy. Just listen to Mayu's attempt at covering Iron Maiden's Trooper, Nonetheless, the band has announced a US edition with several tracks sung in English and the title track goes some way to assuage this demand.
It is odd that the band is named after a flower. I mean Korn is corny, Disturbed is disturbing and Mushroomhead is obviously for dopeheads, but there is little flowery here, well, aside from the girls swaying 'cutely' in the aforementioned video. - Ali “The Metallian”
NEMOPHILA - SEIZE THE FATE - SPACE SHOWER
That Nemophila exists and gaining popularity is partly explained by remembering that there are a bunch of people who are fans of Japanese metal or Japanese hard rock or Japanese rock or anything Japanese for that matter. These people do not necessarily have an ear for music or discernment for quality. It is great if it is from Japan. Simultaneously, some of the same people consider Babymetal or Band-Maid metal.
Nemophila has been around for four years and become famous thanks to YouTube’s algorithm prioritizig the band's cover versions, which itself stemmed from the band's savvy approach to modern media, which, in turn, is based on pumping out quantity (in an omni-channel world) over quality, lowest common denominator cover versions over originality and something Japanese over something non-Japanese to the manga and anime masses. Nemophila taking advantage, by the way, continues to this day. Seize The Fate, for example, has something like half a dozen video clips to support it. Having said that, let us acknowledge that this is a non-Japanese perspective. The band is popular within Japan too and, in fact, this very record topped the Japanese indie charts. The question is ‘why.’ After all, as much as that material was better than the group’s originals, even bands playing cover versions are a dime a dozen.
Back to the present day. Seize The Fate is the girls’ second full-length and features a cover artwork that is presumably a wheel of fate, which looks similar to the Indian medicine wheel. The title track begins the record and is emblematic of the CD. It kicks off with crashing cymbals, heavy chords and wild screaming. It is energetic and incessant. Even at this early point it becomes apparent that this is music composed of a bunch of sounds and bouts of verve rather than anything approaching coherence, direction or permanence. To be fair, a lack of semblance could be a semblance of its own. The problem is it is neither memorable nor truly heavy. There is a funky bass here though with loads of guitar everywhere. Enten is next and other than the downtuned guitars offers Japanese lyrics with some folklore male Japanese vocals. The band has added a shamisen - for a good film involving a shamisen watch Ichi - to reinforce its Japanese sounds and instrumentation, which inevitably draws comparisons to Babymetal's Megitsune and Ningen Isu. That aside, the song is everything Nemophila is: the singer is a wild banshee out of tune, complex production with multiple musical and vocal channels, guitarist Saki shining and, in this particular case, bassist Haraguchi pitching in. The male vocals follow a Noh theatre style. Enten could be translated into ‘fire sky’ and perhaps refers to the stars as the ancient people saw the stellar bodies as fires in the heavens. The next song is called Zen, which is ironic. It is a pure mallcore track. It is aggressive, ridden with dropped notes, digitised vocal effects and is less Japanese than Enten with lyrics almost entirely in English - go figure. The flashy guitar mid-song is brilliant though. Great song… if one is an Insane Clown Posse fan. Back Into The Wild borrows from Marilyn Manson’s Beautiful People. The electronic singer is front and centre and symbolic of what is wrong with this band: There is not much of a song to be found here. Sound explosions go off like hanami, but then they wither and disappear without much of a trace. The synthesizers and downtuned guitars accompany a band that combines as much English with Japanese as it does aggressive screaming with softly spoken vocalizing. If the last one borrowed from Marilyn Manson, Rock ‘N Roll Is? takes from Nirvana and then piles on Mayu’s nasal attitude and slide guitars! Once again, in what is fast a motif, the song showcases individually good players who, er whose outside songsmith, cannot write a song. The track is obviously more commercial. By the way, the answer to the question is ‘crap.’ Screw rock ‘n roll. As if Nirvana was not bad enough, Style introduces rapping into the album. Watch the, erm, groovy video and notice a band that has watched its share of RHCP videos, put its finger on the screen and requested its outside writer give it one of those. With that said, the video is reminiscent of an idol group’s one. The viewer gets the feeling that it is a kpop band walking around in cutesy clothes starring in one of those videos where members whimsically commit faux pas after faux pas. Here is a challenge: show the video on mute to someone unfamiliar with Nemophila and ask them if the newest breed of kpop looks cool. You won’t get any objection to the description. Tell me, what is the difference between a heavy band and a pop band again? And just when you thought it cannot get any worse the band punches a rabbit (Robbie Rabbit is a business associate of Murata’s husband) in the head. This song filled my quota for rap music for the rest of my life, but in case anyone is interested in more rapping in Tokyo, watch the Young Yakuza documentary over this video any day. As if the five are ticking checkboxes the next track combines bubblegum punk with a heavy bass. This one covers the Avril Lavigne market demographic presumably. When the girls chant in unison this writer could imagine the song playing during an episode of Hannah Montana where a bunch of pre-teens hold hands and jump up and down in unison together to the tune of Nemophila’s upbeat fun music. Now I Here - clever title or a case of Japanglish? - adds to the manufactured feeling. It is a pop ballad ditty, which could be Nemophila’s answer to Aldious’ I Don’t Like Me (and notice the grammar too!). It is back to screamo aggrocore on A Ray Of Light and, you know what, given the tuneful guitar and some bona fide power and aggression it is a ray of light. Likely the best track on the record, it also comes with adept performances from the individuals too. Even Mayu’s singing sounds in tune here. Adabana is up next. It occurs to one that if form follows the style then firstly the band has rightly spent oodles of money on its outfit, make-up and hair to look like it does in the video for this song and secondly to match the sound and be all Western they need to defy their Japaneseness and run to the tattoo parlour and get a bunch of ink in order to complete the necessary trashy look that goes with their music. Musically, one could see an Incubus kiddie getting into this one. The lyrics still make no coherent sense, but that may just be me. There is little doubt that the drumming and guitar playing are becoming more and more skilled. Too bad that the same cannot be said in the band’s affiliation with metal or the songwriting department. The last one is an instrumental appropriately called Soaring - To Be continued (The 'to be continued' part not the 'soaring' part) and wow is the drumming of Murata getting better and better. Well done. This outro and instrumental could fit on an Accept album. In fact, add an Accept or Hammerfall style vocalist and the band would have its own teutonic song right here.
It is difficult to fathom what this band is up to. The intentions are foggy partly because they use an outside writer, rendering it unclear how much of the fare is genuinely the members’ intention and how much imposed or commercial or calculated happenstance. The variety of styles, the motley outfits and outside writers point at the latter and belie any identity and signature style for the girl. The truth is likely somewhere between the band’s will and a stage managed existence that is covering the gamut of market demographics to maximize sales. After all, think about it, a band that became famous for playing hard rock and heavy metal cover versions is now playing modern nu core, in funky Living Colour clothes with a singer best at home in a hip hop ensemble complete with rap hand gestures.
Fanboys won't care of course. The act is Japanese, all-girl and the same manga-loving dude who five minutes earlier would insist, ‘Nemophila is metal’ or ‘this band rawks’ or ‘this band is brootal’ will declare his unbridled love that Nemophila can rap or express admiration with a straight face that it included a bubblegum punk track. For the rest of us, however, identity, deliberation, music and metal count for something.
There are several good individual performances on this disc. The members are clearly well practiced on their respective instruments. Yet, this is neither a sublime band nor an album for fans of or lovers of a song, of heavy metal or of riffs. - Ali “The Metallian”