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With pandemic restrictions easing, Japanese bands are now boldly crossing borders once again. Our 2023 top list celebrates exceptional visual kei and Japanese rock artists who not only transcended geographical boundaries but also achieved significant milestones this year. These musicians consistently delivered rock music that resonates globally, embodying our mission at JROCK NEWS—bridging cultures through music.

To compile this list, we reached out to you on Twitter (which rebranded to X this year), Facebook, and Instagram, seeking your input on your favorite artists of the year. Your responses have influenced our selections and rankings, resulting in the compilation we present here.


1. BUCK-TICK (visual kei)

This year, we give special tribute to BUCK-TICK, which celebrated its impressive 35th anniversary. However, the milestone was overshadowed by the unfortunate passing of iconic vocalist Atsushi Sakurai on October 19, 2023. Sakurai departed while doing what he loved most—performing live on stage for his devoted fans.

In the aftermath of Sakurai’s passing, BUCK-TICK opened his memorial service to the world, allowing fans to virtually leave flowers and heartfelt messages at no cost to the fans. Even if they couldn’t travel to Japan for the memorial service, this project allowed them to contribute in some way.

BUCK-TICK also made significant musical strides in 2023. They released two singles and their 23rd studio album, IZORA (異空), on April 12, 2023. IZORA not only claimed the 2nd position on the Oricon Albums Chart but also marked the band’s first entry into the Top 3 on the Billboard Japan Hot Albums chart.

2. Versailles (visual kei)

This year marked Versailles’ dynamic celebration of its 15th anniversary. They released three live concert compilations and streamed celebratory concerts globally. On June 21, they made a powerful return with their first single in 11 years, VOGUE, receiving widespread acclaim. Vocalist Kamijo is also credited for founding the Japanese Visual Metal Project, to restart concert activities and promote metal music in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guitarist HIZAKI, known for JUPITER and his solo work, also supported vocalist Hanamizakura Kouki in Barcelona at Japan Weekend Valencia in Spain.

Despite the retirement of drummer YUKI, Versailles remains a leading force in the visual kei scene, continuing to forge ahead.

This year, D celebrated a significant milestone, reaching 20 years in the music scene. Independently, they released four singles and their final full album, Kekkai, under their label, God Child Records. Despite an upcoming hiatus next spring, D embarked on an extensive tour across Japan, providing fans with a spectacular farewell experience.

As with Versailles, D is also a member of the Japanese Visual Metal Project. For their indelible contributions to the visual kei scene and continuous output of independently produced music for two decades, we felt D deserved a spot in the top 5 this year.

JILUKA is rapidly gaining global recognition with their self-coined “Electro Gothic Metal” (EGM) genre. They introduced EGM with the 2022 digital single BLVCK and further explored it with their 2023 singles OVERKILL and VENOM. 2023 saw the band make their North American debut at Anime Weekend Atlanta, the largest anime convention in the southeastern US.

Looking forward, JILUKA is set for another international appearance at EVIL LIVE FEST in Lisboa, Portugal, alongside metal legends like Avenged Sevenfold and Megadeth.

ACME had a notable year, releasing three new singles: Sennou, Tasogare, and ULFEĐNAR. The latter two showcased the band’s versatility, demonstrating the polarity of ballads and metalcore.

They embarked on two US tours, starting with Anime Detour in Minneapolis during the spring and returning in the fall for the “Reborn as the BERSERKER” tour, covering the western seaboard from Sin City Anime in Las Vegas to Costa Mesa, CA, and concluding at Kumoricon in Portland, OR. Additionally, ACME collaborated with fans to organize the “ACME Crossing” boba tea cup sleeve event in Los Angeles, showcasing their originality and commitment to connecting with fans.

See the rest of the visual kei top list:

6. THE LAST ROCKSTARS (visual kei)

10. Matenrou opera (visual kei)


Undoubtedly, SiM experienced a surge in global popularity this year, propelled by their contributions to hit anime series such as Attack on Titan, Kengan Asura, and Chainsaw Man. Their distinctive blend of reggae, punk, and metalcore sets them apart in the music scene, garnering recognition for their commitment to originality. In 2023, SiM toured almost constantly, debuting at the Download Festival in the UK and then crisscrossing the US coast to coast with the expansive Jackpot Juicer tour.

SiM also released its sixth studio album, PLAYDEAD, supported by a slew of dynamic and creative music videos. Vocalist Mah also surprised top Spotify listeners with an exclusive video message in English during the “Spotify Wrapped” event. Now that’s a special touch for their overseas fans!

SiM earns the well-deserved number 1 spot for their substantial international efforts, creative evolution, and unwavering dedication to fans overseas.

Since adding full-time drummer Chika to the lineup, “HANABIE.” has been bustling with activity throughout 2023. The Harajuku core quartet marked their major label deal by embarking on a wild journey across the EU, the US (alongside tour mates Dropout Kings and Fox Lake), Asia, and their home country of Japan. Notably, HANABIE. graced the stage with rap rock giants Limp Bizkit in New Zealand and Australia before concluding the year. Undoubtedly, the kawaii onslaught captured the hearts of numerous new fans.

In another cause for celebration, HANABIE. released their major debut album, “Raise wa Ijin!”.

What a time to be alive for Masters and Princesses! 2023 saw BAND-MAID fly to the US twice for the 10th Anniversary Tour (three times, counting the opening gigs for THE LAST ROCKSTARS), melt thousands of new faces at festivals and uncharted cities, and cap it all off with a record 33-song finale at Yokohama Arena. The maids even added Hong Kong at the 11th hour, weaving new singles Memorable and Shambles as well as yet unreleased Brightest Star and Magie into the set.

With the next chapter already lined up for 2024, including a new album, an anime tie-up, and a special acoustic concert, we happily honor BAND-MAID a top position as one of Jrock’s hardest-working acts.

4. MAN WITH A MISSION (Jrock)

MAN WITH A MISSION wasted no time, launching their “WOLVES ON PARADE” tour abroad shortly after pandemic restrictions eased. The wolfpack traversed the US, UK, and Europe, connecting with thousands of international fans. Additionally, the quintet collaborated with songstress milet on the double a-side single Kizuna no kiseki and Koi Kogare, contributing to the success of the anime series Demon Slayer.

JROCK NEWS had the privilege of interviewing singer and guitarist Jean-ken Johnny this year. You can read or listen to the interview on Spotify here.

Throughout 2023, metalcore band PALEDUSK maintained a relentless pace. Besides gracing prominent Japanese festivals like Knotfest Japan, the band also expanded its reach globally. PALEDUSK appeared at major European and UK Summer Festivals, including Resurrection Fest, Jera On Air, and Graspop, and embarked on a North American tour alongside Australian metalcore giants Polaris.

PALEDUSK released two singles, including the dynamically intense Rumble featuring coldrain’s vocalist Masato. The addition of drummer BOB, and guitarist Daisuke’s ongoing production work with UK heavyweights BRING ME THE HORIZON contributed to the band’s achievements.

As the year concluded, PALEDUSK hosted their event “Koubou” across Japan, and supported the band SiM on the Japanese leg of their “PLAYDEAD” tour. Keeping the momentum rolling into 2024, they announced their new EP PALEHELL, their first new EP in three years. They also revealed plans to tour in Australia and Europe.

See the rest of the Jrock top list:


We hope you enjoyed reading our list this year! Thank you for sticking with JROCK NEWS for yet another year, as we strive to showcase diverse Japanese rock artists.

If you wish to contribute to next year’s top list, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and voice your opinions!

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Top 10 visual kei and Japanese rock artists 2023