Hellraiser – 2020 – Carnal Beast

Hell Freezes Over image


Significant Point>>Takuya Mashiko>>Significant Point

Tom Leaper

History & Biography
This Tokyo-based band was founded in March 2013. Guitarist Arai was recruiting the best members he could find since 2011. The Hellraiser video was uploaded in June 2013. The band’s first concert was in November 2013. Hell’s Garage was the April 2014 demo after which drummer Takumi left to be replaced by T. T. Goblin. He decided to become a manager. A couple of drummers came and went, but the band toured Kansai in July 2015. T.T. Goblin was pushed out in 2016. Makino Brian was the original singer, but left in 2017. Spiritual Beast issued an EP called Speed Metal Assault in 2018. The band was part of the Japanese Assault Fest 18 in 2018 and played around the island. The group opened for Loudness and Lovebites. Ryoto underwent nasal surgery in August of 2019. Japan-based speed/thrash metal band Hell Freezes Over had an album called Hellraiser through Carnal Beast (a division of Spiritual Beast) in the summer of 2020. This was taped by the band independently. A series of shows using the Road To Hell monicker were announced, but while the Japanese shows went ahead the Canadian and Dutch dates were cancelled thanks to COVID-19.

Hell Freezes Over (a.k.a. H.F.O.) was back in 2022 after losing two members in 2020 (bassist Takumi) and 2021. Ray became the bassist in 2021. The band played concerts in Japan including appearing at Year End Metal Fever 2022 in late December with Shellshock and Pornostate. The band was also opening for Anvil in Japan in March 2023. Bassist Ikumu and drummer Nishi-da became live members. They were both from Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, and had an instrumental trio band called S.H.I.T. Treble Gainer was part of a session jam with Mantas of Venom Inc. and Dave Du Fort of Angel Witch in Japan in March 2023. The two visitors were part of an act called Dr Phibes Electric Wizards. Evil was opening. The band announced it would open for Marduk, Sepultura and Testament in Bangkok in 2023. The band issued a single called The Killing Floor in December 2023 and announced a Tokyo gig to support it. The band and Risingfall had a concert booked for spring of 2024.

The band prides itself on being old-school with analogue audio and video recordings, hand painted artwork and of course a true metal sound.


Hell Freezes Over Interview
You may not have heard of the band, yet Hell Freezes Over is a Tokyo, Japan-based heavy and thrash metal band that takes its art and itself seriously. The band has been active for ten years and is comprised of singer Treble Gainer, guitarists Arai Ryoto and Ishikawa Hirotomo, bassist Ikumu and drummer Nishi-da. This will likely change by the time you read this. Ali “The Metallian” got hold of band leader Ryoto to bring more to the readers. - 26.02.2023

METALLIAN: Thank-you for your time and sitting down with Metallian for this interview. After thinking of this question it occurred to me that it may be asking you to choose between being Japanese first or being a heavy metal fan first. The question: What is going on in the country that gave us Loudness and Anthem? Bands like Hell Freezes Over are scarce and the country is populated with so many wimpy or poseur bands with keyboards and a pop sound or bands which spend more time on Twitter than trying to write an actual song worth listening to.
RYOTO: We are very rare in this country. There are no bands like us. There are very few bands to which we can say, "oh my God!“ The old Japan where people really wanted music is no longer. There are three elements that are needed in the Japanese metal market today. Firstly, idol elements (especially female idols), secondly melodiousness and stylistic beauty and thirdly modern elements like the recent metalcore trend. We are not able to fulfil any of these conditions. The market does not need us. That is why we are imposing ourselves in order to make a place for ourselves (laughs).

METALLIAN: This rings true and is well explained, Ryoto. So, let us come back to Hell Freezes Over. What is the mantra or the goal? It is obvious that the sound is genuine and actually metal, but what is the band all about?
RYOTO: We are as good as anyone else as far as sound and playing goes. Our mantra as a band is ‘To really play music in this day and age in the style that we do.’ That in itself is a belief. That, however, is really tough beyond words. I have seen many people who cannot hang in there.
My personal goal is to make music that will last 100 years. In this world of impermanence, I am chasing a kind of permanence. And while our style is quite influenced by the ‘70s and ‘80s that we admired, we also try to be flexible and adopt modern elements. We are a band of people who pursue the music we believe in with all we got.

METALLIAN: I understand that the band is originally not from Tokyo. Is this accurate?
RYOTO: That is right. Our members came to Tokyo from all over Japan to play metal at a very young age. Nowadays, it is difficult to find members outside of Tokyo in Japan. If you come to Tokyo to form a band that wants to go global in metal, you may not actually find people with a common goal (smiles). That is how hard it is to find such people.

METALLIAN: The band announced a hiatus a year ago. What happened?
RYOTO: To put it simply, two of our members suddenly disappeared. I thought of all kinds of reasons why this would have happened, but I do not actually know why. I cannot even get in touch with them any more! So, I do not think it is worth thinking about. It is not a good thing to take measures based on assumptions when you do not know the cause of the problem. They just could not cut it. That is the truth.

METALLIAN: Could you update our readers on who is in the band? There have been more changes than there are members in AKB48 seemingly.
RYOTO: Gainer is our excellent vocalist. He lives according to his own rules and he sticks to it. Bassist Ikumu and drummer Nishi-da are supporting members and are both from Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island. They have an instrumental trio band called S.H.I.T. Ikumu is a mischievous and aggressive pick-playing bassist, which matches his personality. But really he is a guitarist (laughs). I found a video of him goofing around and playing bass. I messaged him to "try playing it at our place" and he joined our band just like that. Nishi-da plays the drums with sensitivity and melody. The best thing about him is that he does not go overboard. Not everything is in overdrive with him, which is what makes the dynamics work. There is a comfort in not going too far. It is the right sound for us. Well, they are both very nice guys. Hirotomo is our lead guitarist. He has been with me the longest. We met when we were both still teenagers and have experienced everything together since the beginning of the band. He is a very reckless guy when he drinks, but he has guts and is trustworthy. His guitar skills are much better than mine.Then there is me, Ryoto, the band leader who writes almost all the lyrics, makes all the major decisions for the band’s direction and is the root of all the evil that has dragged so many of the band members through this musical hell (laughs again). Yet, the members and a few of my friends trust me very much.

METALLIAN: Speaking of what you just said, are there tyrants in the band? A tense atmosphere? Even managers abandon the band.
RYOTO: If you ask me who the tyrant is, I will say there is no one but me (laughs). The atmosphere in the band is, in fact, usually very friendly. But tension and relaxation are important in everything and there are still times when you have to work towards an important schedule. I consider the following reasons for the departure of band members and managers: As mentioned, we do not fit the contemporary scene at all. The lack of demand will always create an impasse. No one wants our music and that diminishes us.
The band's goals are too lofty. This band is not about having fun on the weekends. Finally, it requires a lot of time, money and spirituality. It is not enough to just say "I want to be a rockstar" to keep the band going. I put the band first and take every chance I get. When I decided to be in a band, I told my parents, "I may not see you die. If there is a gig, I will make it my priority, even when your survival is a question mark.” That is the gist of it.
Our manager left the industry because of his marriage, but I am married and have kids. The bottom line is that their willingness to continue had diminished.

METALLIAN: The part regarding the parents is true dedication! Is it true that an Anthem drummer worked with you?
RYOTO: Yes, it is true. During the recording of our debut mini-album Speed Metal Assault. I had no choice but to fire the drummer and send him home. But we would not quit recording. At that time, the president of the record company brought in MAD, formerly of Anthem. He figured out all the songs and recorded them quickly. We kept what we had to say to a minimum and were able to finish the drum recordings without further incident.

METALLIAN: Changing topics, at first listen, H.F.O. comes across as a thrash metal band. The more one listens, however, the more the band comes across as Iron Maiden-meets-thrash metal. Do you agree?
RYOTO: We are defined as thrash metal often. Yet, aside from the record company promotion we ourselves have not said that we are a thrash metal band since our debut. We definitely feature elements of Iron Maiden, and maybe other NWOBHM elements as well. Then there are my favourite punk bands like The Misfits, Minor Threat, et cetra. You can also hear the muddy elements, like Lynyrd Skynyrd.

METALLIAN: Thankfully, I do not. This reminds me, Hell Freezes Over was doing so well and was taken seriously at Metallian Towers until we came across the band playing a cover version of a song by this sell-out pop band called Metallica. Are you going to cover Inoue Yōsui or Duran Duran next?
RYOTO: Thanks for taking us seriously. But I think it is your ego that says Metallica is a sell-out pop band. They have created their work through changing times, political elements within the band and various pressures and experiences. Whatever their current music is, I can hardly complain about their early work and I have a lot of respect for them for that. Well, we will try to cover some Babymetal next time (laughs).

METALLIAN: Indeed, we would be hard-pressed to tell which one is less metal: Babymetal or Metallica while knowing that Hell Freezes Over’s monicker is inspired by the latter band. Let us instead talk about metal again. Metallian’s favourite track is probably Phantom Helicopter Attack. Could you say a few words about this song including what the story behind it is?
RYOTO: Very cool that you give that song as a favourite. People often say, "this song is about the Vietnam War!" But it is not. To put it very simply, society is full of the living dead. Even the music industry is full of them, right? They quit thinking, quit exploring and do not even know themselves. Using compromise and order as an excuse, people pretend to maintain a false sense of geniality and peace. That is where the godforsaken helicopter comes in. They are some kind of dark heroes who wipe out those people. They are also somewhat deeply saddened by their mission. But more than that, they have a strong will to carry out the mission.

METALLIAN: By the way, the band was supposed to tour Canada. How did this come about in the first place?
RYOTO: I had a connection with a guy who was involved with Midnight Malice, which was a young band at the time and he got us talking. He liked us a lot and took us into consideration for many things. The timing was not right. But actually, he contacted me again just the other day. There is a possibility that we may tour Canada within a year. I am really excited because I am really interested in Canada.

METALLIAN: Speaking of Canada, the cover character on Hellraiser reminds one of the character in Razor’s Evil Invaders video. Do you like that song?
RYOTO: I do not have any special feelings regarding the song itself. The artwork for Hellraiser was actually done by a painter from a hardcore punk background who knew nothing about metal. It took me two years to find him.

METALLIAN: As a follow-up to the news about Canada, it looks like the band is active and playing concerts. Could you update the readers on what is new and what is upcoming for Hell Freezes Over?
RYOTO: Yes, we have been on a nine-show tour since the end of last year. We are very honoured to be able to play at the Anvil show, the band from Canada. New is that Hellraiser's LP will be released this June through Sleaszy Rider Records! Pre-orders are now open. Drop the needle on our most metal album ever and bang your head!

METALLIAN: Does the band have a record deal otherwise?
RYOTO: We have a world-wide contract with Carnal Beast Records in Japan now. The upcoming Hellraiser vinyl will be released under contract with Sleaszy Rider Records in Greece.

METALLIAN: Elsewhere, which is the best: FamilyMart, Ministop, Daily Yamazaki, Lawson or 7Eleven?
RYOTO: If it is closest to your current location and open for business, that is the best store.

METALLIAN: Ryoto is wrong. Michi No Eki is the best. Still, we will grant him another question. As everyone in Japan, and beyond, knows, Metallian is the best website ever. Why do you also agree?
RYOTO: I think so! You guys know us well and have listened to our albums. You seem to know a lot about Japan based on the questions you asked. You guys are awesome!!!!

Here is the link Ryoto offered: https://sleaszyrider.com/product/hell-freezes-over-hellraiser-lp-pre-order/
The band’s website can be found at https://www.hell-freezes-over.com/

このバンドを知らない者も多いだろう。 Hell Freezes Overは、東京を拠点とし、その芸術性と彼ら自身を真剣に受け止めているヘビー&スラッシュ・メタル・バンドだ。活動歴10年。ボーカルTrebleGainer、ギターのRyotoとHiromoto、ベースのIkumu、ドラムNishi-Daで構成されている。まぁ、この記事を読む頃にはメンバーが変わっているかもしれないが。我らのAli “The Metallianは読者の為にバンドリーダーRyotoから多くの情報を得た。 - 2023.02.26

METALLIAN:この最初の質問は、日本人であることを優先するのか、それともヘビーメタルファンであることを優先するのか、どちらなのか選べと突き付けた様な質問になってしまいますが。 質問: LoudnessやAnthemを生んだ国で何が起こっているのでしょう? Hell Freezes Overのようなバンドは少なく、キーボードとポップなサウンドを持つ弱虫バンドやポーザーバンド、あるいは聴くに値する実際の曲を作るよりもTwitterに時間を費やすバンドが、多く見受けられます。
RYOTO: 俺たちはこの国ではとても稀な存在だよ。似たようなバンドはいないし、俺たちが"やべえ!"って言えるバンドはほとんどいない。昔のように音楽を心から欲していた日本の姿はもうない。今日本のメタル市場に求められている要素は3つ。1つは, アイドル要素(特に女性であること)。 2つめは, メロディアスさと様式美。 3つめは, 近年のメタルコア的モダン要素。俺たちはこのいずれも満たせていない。市場には必要とされていない。だからこそ自分たちで無理やり居場所を作ってるんだ(笑) 

METALLIAN: 確かに、分かり易い説明ですね。では、Hell Freezes Overに話を戻しましょう。信念やゴールは何でしょう?サウンドが本物のメタルであることは明々白々ですが、HFOというバンドとは何なのか、教えて下さい。
RYOTO: そう、サウンドやプレイでは誰にも負けないさ。バンドとして"この時代に俺たちのようなスタイルで本気で音楽をやること。"それ自体が信念なんだ。それって言葉では表現できないくらいマジでタフなことだよ。耐えられないヤツらもたくさんみてきた。
俺個人の目標は "100年後にも残る音楽をつくること。" 諸行無常のこの世界で、一種の恒久性を追い求めてる。そして俺たちのスタイルは憧れた70〜80'sにかなり影響されつつも、現代的な要素も柔軟に採用するようにしている。 俺たちというバンドは、"信じた音楽を人生を賭けて追求していくヤツらの集まり"ってことだね。

METALLIAN: 東京出身のバンドではないとの認識で合ってますか?
RYOTO:そうだね。俺たちのメンバーはかなり若い時に日本各地からメタルをするため東京に集まってきたんだ。今や日本で東京以外の地でメンバーを集めるのは難しいこと。いや、君がメタルで世界を目指すバンドを組むために東京に来たなら、実際には共通の目的を持った仲間は見つけられないかもしれない(笑) それくらいそういった人材はいないんだ。

METALLIAN: 一年前に活動休止を発表しましたが、何があったのでしょうか?

METALLIAN: 読者に現在のメンバーを紹介してください。どうやらAKB48メンバー以上に入れ替わりがあるようです。
RYOTO:Gainerは優れたボーカリストだ。彼は"自由に生きる"を念頭に置き、それが実現不可にならないよう気をつけてる。 ベーシストのIkumuとドラムのNishi-daはサポートメンバーで、日本の最北端に位置する北海道出身だ。そして彼らはS.H.I.T.というトリオのインストバンドをやっている。 Ikumuはやんちゃで性格通りのアグレッシブなピック弾きベーシスト。でも本当はギタリストなんだ(笑) 彼がふざけてベースを弾いてる動画を見つけて「ウチで弾いてみろよ!」って感じでうちに来た。 Nishi-saは繊細で歌心のあるドラムを叩く。そして彼のいいところは"過ぎない"ところ。全てがMaxじゃないからこそダイナミクスがつく。行き過ぎない心地よさが彼にはある。まあ2人ともとってもいいヤツらだよ。 リード・ギタリストはHirotomo。俺と一番付き合いが長くて俺たちはまだお互い10代の時に出会ったんだ。バンドの草創期から全てのことを共に見てきた。酒を飲むとかなり無茶するけど根性があって信頼できるヤツだ。ギターの技術は俺なんかよりとても高い。 そして最後は俺、Ryoto。ほとんど全ての作詞作曲をし、バンドの行く道を見据え、重大な意思決定をするバンドマスターであり、この音楽地獄に数々のメンバーを引き摺り込んだ諸悪の根源だよ(笑) ただメンバーや数少ない仲間たちは俺をとても信用してくれているんだ。

METALLIAN: 前の質問に関連して、バンド内に暴君はいますか?バンド内は常に張り詰めた雰囲気なのでしょうか?マネージャーもバンドを見捨ててますよね?
RYOTO:暴君は誰かと聞かれれば俺以外いない(笑) バンドの雰囲気は普段はとても和やかなものだよ。でもなんでも緊張と緩和が重要で、やはり大切なスケジュールに向けて努力しなきゃいけない時がある。 そしてバンドメンバーやマネージャーの脱退には以下の原因があると俺は考察している。第一に、上述した通り、現在のシーンに全くそぐわない。需要がないため、必ず無理が生じる。
第二に, バンドの目標設定が高い。週末楽しくバンドをやるわけではない。第三に、 それらから多くの時間、金、精神性を要する。言葉だけで「ロック・スターになりたい」だなんてぬるいもんじゃ続かない。第四に、バンドを最優先として、全てのチャンスを拾いにいくスタンスを取っている。俺はバンドをやると決めた時、両親に「あなたたちの死に目には会えないかもしれない。俺はあなたたちの生存状況が極めて厳しい時もライブがあればそれを優先する。」と伝えた。

METALLIAN: ご両親とのやりとりから、バンド活動への献身さが伺えますね。Anthemのドラマーと一緒に仕事したというのは本当ですか?
RYOTO:ああ、本当だよ。俺たちのデビューミニアルバムSPEED METAL ASSAULTのレコーディングの際、いろいろあってやむなく俺は当時のドラマーをクビにして家に帰らせたんだ。でもレコーディングを辞めるわけにはいかない。その時にレコード会社の社長が元AnthemのMADさんを連れてきてくれた。 彼は全ての曲を譜面に起こして素早くレコーディングしてくれた。こちらとしても言いたいことは最小限に留めて伝えて、無事にDrum Recを終えることが出来たんだ。

METALLIAN: 話は変わりますが、Hell Freezes Overは、一聴するとスラッシュ・メタル・バンドに思えます。しかし、聴けば聴くほど、このバンドはIron Maiden・ミーツ・スラッシュメタルに思えてきます。自分でもそう思いますか?
RYOTO:よく俺たちはスラッシュメタルだと定義される。でもレコード会社のプロモーションは別として、俺たち自身はデビューしてから自分たちのことをスラッシュメタルバンドだと発言したことはないんだ。正にIron Maidenの要素は確実に入っているし、その他NWOBHMの要素も多分に含んでいる。更に俺の大好きなMisfits、Minor Threatなどのパンク。Lynyrd Skynyrdなどの泥臭い要素もよく聞くと感じ取れるはずだよ。

METALLIAN: 有難いことに、私にそれは感じ取れませんね。そういえばHell Freezes Overはとても快調で、我がMetallianでも真剣に受け止められていました。バンドがMetallicaという売れっ子ポップバンドの曲をカバー演奏しているところに出くわすまでは。次は井上陽水かDuran Duranをカバーするのでしょうか?

METALLIAN: 実際BabymetalとMetallicaのどちらがメタルらしくないかは、Hell Freezes Overのバンド名が後者にインスパイアされていると知っていても判断がつかないですね。話を戻し、今一度メタルについて語りましょう。我らMetallianのお気に入りの曲はPhantom Helicopter Attackです。この曲について、背景にどんなストーリーがあるのかなども含めて、一言お願いします。
RYOTO:その曲をフェイバリットにあげるなんてとってもクールだ!この曲はよく「ベトナム戦争についての歌だろ!」と言われる。でも実際には違うんだ。すごく簡単に言うと、社会は生きる屍に溢れてる。音楽業界だってそうだろ?考えることを辞め、探究することも辞め、自分のことすらわからない。妥協と秩序を言い訳に、人はかりそめの社会性と平和を保った振りをしている。 そこに登場するのが神出鬼没のヘリコプターなんだ。彼らはそういった人間を一掃する、ある種のダークヒーローなんだよ。でもそんな彼らはその任務についてどこか深い悲しみも抱えているんだ。でもそれ以上にこの任務を遂行せねばいけないという強い意志を持っている。

METALLIAN: ところで、バンドはカナダ・ツアーを行う予定でした。そもそも、どのような経緯でそのようなことになったのでしょうか?
RYOTO:当時若手バンドだったMidnight Maliceなどに関わった人物と繋がりがあって、その人から話をもらったんだ。彼はかなり俺たちを気に入ってくれてて様々なことを考慮してくれた。だがタイミングが悪くてね。でも実はついこの間、また彼から連絡があったんだ。ひょっとしたら一年以内にカナダツアーを行う可能性もある。 俺はカナダにすごく興味があるからめちゃくちゃ興奮してるよ。

METALLIAN: カナダといえば、アルバムHellraiserのジャケットのキャラクターは、RazorのEvil Invadersのビデオのキャラクターを思い出させますね。あの曲は好きですか?

METALLIAN: カナダの件も新たな情報ですが、バンドは活発にライブ等行っているようですね。他にもHell Freezes Overの新情報や今後の予定について、読者にお知らせはありますか?
RYOTO:うん、昨年末から始まり9公演のツアーを敢行しているよ。それこそその中でカナダのAnvil来日公演でプレイできるのはとても光栄だね。新情報はHellraiserのLPがSleaszy Rider Recordsから今年の6月に発売される予定ってこと!プレオーダーも始まっているからよろしく!俺たちの最高にメタルなアルバムに針を落として頭を振り乱してくれ!

METALLIAN: バンドは他にもレコード契約をしていますか?
RYOTO:今は日本のCarnal Beast RecordsとWorld Wide契約をしている。今度発売されるHellraiserのVinylはギリシャのSleaszy Rider Recordsと契約して発売されるけどね。

METALLIAN: 話は変わりますが、ファミリーマート、ミニストップ、デイリーヤマザキ、ローソン、セブンイレブン。この中で、1番はどれですか?

METALLIAN: それは勘違いです、”道の駅”が一番に決まっています。ではもう一つ質問してみましょうか。日本だけでなく世界中の誰もが最高のウェブサイト名として、上げるのは我らMetallianですが、あなたもそう思うのでしょうか?

Ryotoが提示したリンクはこちら: https://sleaszyrider.com/product/hell-freezes-over-hellraiser-lp-pre-order/ バンドのウェブサイトはこちらまで:https://www.hell-freezes-over.com/

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Hell Freezes Over