On September fifteenth, Chicago technical death metal experimenters Gigan released their long-awaited third album, Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescensce. As per the norm it is a larger-than-life record, one which seems to pack a few metric tons of musical content into a pretty small package. This kind of outre shredding packs layers of entertainment value: there’s the joy of hearing the music itself, as well as the gawking campy wonder of how they put all that stuff in such a short span of time without breaking their hands. In that sense, Gigan’s music is a pretty valid representation of the band’s namesake: a giant monster played by a man in a suit. And this is far from the first time a metal band’s found thematic and symbolic kinship with a Japanese monster movie.
Gigan first appeared in the1972 film ‘Chikyū Kōgeki Meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan’ or ‘Godzilla vs. Gigan’ as it was retitled in America. Godzilla is the most well-known franchise in the subgenre of films called kaiju eiga. While the term translates to english as simply ‘monster movies’, it’s come to mean specifically movies from Japan that center around a huge monster portrayed by a human being in a suit. Usually said monster or kaiju fights another monster, oftentimes inside a scale model of a city which gets destroyed.
Metal and kajiu films share themes and superficial details. When boiled down to their essence, kaiju films and metal music both revolve around regular people using simple technology to seem larger than life, and to evoke forces beyond human control. Godzilla may seem cheesy, but he’s a potent symbol for the destructive power of nuclear weapons. Keep in mind Japan is still the only country on earth that’s ever experienced a nuclear attack. A movie like ‘Godzilla vs. Gigan’ and a song like “Blackened” both tap into the same real existential anxiety. They underline the temporary nature of civilization, of buildings, and how insignificant human beings seem compared to the destructive forces of nuclear energy.
Metal bands have spent more time cross-pollinating with horror cinema, but there’s more than a few metal bands who have explored the connection between music and kaiju eiga. In honor of them, these are the top ten metal-kaiju crossovers
10. Ritual Object – Destroy All Monsters
Andrew Curtis-Brignell retired his beloved experimental black metal outfit Caina earlier this year, but still makes noise and sound collages as Ritual Object. His album Destroy all Monsters draws all of its inspiration and as near as I can tell all of its samples, from Godzilla films. It’s title comes from a fan-favorite entry in the franchise which featured more than half of the kaiju from the film series up to that point, and the album is likewise a sort of Godzilla film greatest-hits compilation. It lands at the bottom of the list for not really featuring any ‘metal’ on it.
9. Kaiju – Total Monster Armageddon
Illinois death metal quartet Kaiju only have one independent LP to their name. Instrumental tracks like “Attack Battalion” show off their Gothenburg-style melodeath chops, but when the vocals kick in during songs like “Abomination” things get relatively Floridian quickly.
8. Godflesh – “Mothra”
One would think UK industrial metal favorites Godflesh would have named this song after a huge robotic monster like Mechagodzilla. The Mothra of the films is a peace-loving creature which defends the earth from malignant invaders and communicates with mankind through it’s small twin priestesses. Godflesh’s “Mothra”, on the other hand, is a colossal chugging machine. It may be Justin Broadrick’s most accessible song, even if it still sounds like getting crushed by a ton of lead.
7. Oxygen Destroyer – “Vanquished by the Unrelenting Devastation of the Celestial Behemoth”
Seattle’s Oxygen Destroyer draw from the technical and melodic thrash blueprint laid down by German thrash bands like Destruction and Kreator, but fuse that sound with warp speed drums and colorful guitar solos. The band takes their name from the weapon used to kill Godzilla in the original version of his film from 1954, and often plays with kaiju film clips projected behind them. “Vanquished by the Unrelenting Devastation of the Celestial Behemoth” is the first song taken from their upcoming record Bestial Manifestations of Malevolence and Death.
6. Raven – “Destroy All Monsters”
NWOBHM greats Raven have released better records than 2015’s ExtermiNation, but lead single “Destroy All Monsters” capitalizes on all of the band’s strengths. The Gallagher brothers still know how to write a bunch of hooks and string them together. Joe Hasselvander’s drums sound a little thin, but keep the song bulldozing forward, especially during the moshy post-chorus sections of the song.
5. Gigan – Discography
On film, Gigan is a bizarre alien hybrid of machine and flesh. Covered with spikes, armed with a buzzsaw on its chest and modular weapons instead of hands, the kaiju looks indescribable but also totally recognizable. Chicago’s Gigan do their namesake justice. Bolted together from the most deadly bits of Morbid Angel, Voivod and similar serial mind-benders, the trio avoids the draining coldness of many other such progressive groups, but still deliver their psychedelia with mechanical and precise execution.
4. Glassjaw – “Mu Empire”
Posthardcore greats Glassjaw still haven’t delivered the long-awaited followup to their sophomore LP Worship and Tribute. One can’t blame them for dragging their feet, it’s tough to write a followup to a song like “Mu Empire”. The song takes its name from the villainous subterranean nation which controls the sea serpent Manda in the movie ‘Atragon’. Coincidentally there is also a stoner metal band named Atragon.
3. Sepultura – “Biotech is Godzilla”
Depending on your mileage, this tune from Chaos A.D. could be a great throwback to the Brazilian thrash outfit’s hardcore roots, or a preview of the goofy bone headedness that followed. Personally I’m 100% pro-“Biotech”. The song’s raucous and fun in a way Sepultura wouldn’t be afterward. That said, Jello Biafra’s whackadoo conspiracy theorist lyrics haven’t aged well.
2. Gojira – Discography
France’s Gojira named themselves after the Japan’s largest cinema star, but don’t write songs about kaiju per se. The Duplantier brothers’ intense rhythmic attack echoes the thunderous footsteps of city-killing monsters. The band’s consistent environmentalist theme echoes the conscientious subtests of the 90s Gamera films and the campy classic ‘Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster.’ While no Gojira song explicitly references Godzilla, their finest tribute to the king of the monsters might be the king of all riffs: “Flying Whales.”
1. Blue Oyster Cult – “Godzilla”
The love affair between metal and kaiju began in 1977 with the release of proto-metal heroes Blue Oyster Cult’s hit single “Godzilla”. The opener to their classic fifth album Spectres depends on a colossal main riff in studio, but the band often punctuates the song with a large drum solo live.