Deadlift Lolita

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Howdy, weirdlings! It’s Election Day here in America, and I’m sure I speak for many of my fellow ‘Muricans when I say I will be spending the day distracting myself from the sorry state of our democracy by avoiding the news and de-stressing with as many non-American diversions as possible, like Scotch and whatever crazy shit they’re listening to in Japan these days. Which bring us to our weird band of the week: a kawaiicore duo called Deadlift Lolita.

If you’ve already guessed from the above photo what’s weird about Deadlift Lolita, then congratulations — you figured out that one-half of the duo is not actually Japanese. He’s an Australian who goes by the name Ladybeard. Did you also guess why he calls himself that? Man, you’re on a roll!

When I first heard about the existence of Ladybeard, I was inclined to dismiss him as a foreign carpet-bagger — probably some failed musician who jumped on the kawaii metal bandwagon after it blew up internationally thanks to genre progenitors Babymetal. Then I read a story about him on Narratively that traced his Ladybeard persona back to at least 2009, when the writer (who mistakenly credits Ladybeard with inventing kawaiicore — at best, he might have coined the term, but whatevs) spied him rocking out at a death-metal concert dressed in a full nurse’s uniform. Further research (by which I mean that I, uh, looked up his Wikipedia page) revealed that he’s apparently been cross-dressing since he was 14. So I misjudged you, Ladybeard. You are not a bandwagon-jumper but in fact a full-blown weirdo who just didn’t find your calling until you moved to Japan and became the world’s most improbable kawaii idol.

Ladybeard, whose real name is Richard Magarey, studied drama in South Australia before moving to Hong Kong and finding work as a martial arts stuntman and, later, a professional wrestler. Does he still wrestle, I hear you ask? Damn right he does, and he looks adorable doing it.

After moving from Hong Kong to Tokyo in 2013, he broke into the music biz with his first band, Ladybaby. Musically, if we’re being honest, they were pretty much a straight rip of Babymetal, except one of the three girls was replaced by a giant white dude who looked like a ‘roided-out Aphex Twin in pigtails and sang like Chris Barnes.

Not surprisingly, Ladybaby went viral everywhere the headline “Bearded Cross-Dressing Pro Wrestler Fronts J-Pop Metal Band” might get clicks, which is to say pretty much everywhere. More surprisingly, they were a hit in Japan, too, which isn’t always kind to culture-crashing foreigners but was immediately charmed by this ridiculous gaijin dancing around in polka-dot dresses and grinning like Andrew W.K.’s long-lost, gender-non-conforming cousin.

Well, mostly charmed — in that aforementioned Narratively article, Ladybeard admitted that he sometimes got static from male idol fans who were jealous that he got to traipse around with his young female bandmates. “When I was in Ladybaby, they’d give the girls a present at the signing session, then whisper something like, ‘Eat shit, you dirty foreigner,’ in my ear,” he said. “Then those same people hated me when I left the group.”

That’s right — Ladybeard eventually left Ladybaby, which makes sense when you’ve got fans telling you to eat shit, I guess. What makes less sense is that Ladybaby tried to carry on without him — first calling themselves “The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby,” which at least sounded like a cool nod to Prince, then going back to calling themselves just Ladybaby, which makes them the Van Hagar of kawaiicore as far as I’m concerned. Ladybeard, meanwhile, went off and started a new group called Deadlift Lolita with a fellow bodybuilder and pro wrestler named Reika Saiki, and even though their sound still owes a lot to Babymetal, their overall presentation is spectacular. Here, for example, is the video for their debut single, “Six Pack Twins,” which is like a glorious cross between J-pop, Wrestlemania and a protein shake commercial.

Since then, Deadlift Lolita’s music and videos have only gotten weirder — the outfits more outlandish, the music more hyper-caffeinated, the guitar solos more shred-tastic (courtesy of Isao Fujita, who they poached from Babymetal), Ladybeard’s vocals more cartoonish. He breaks out a bizarre falsetto on “Pump Up Japan,” whose video features what I’m assuming are some of his and Reika’s fellow pro wrestlers. Side note: I have zero interest in American wrestling but Japanese wrestling looks ah-mazing.

Sadly, much as David Lee Roth’s solo career languished while everyone rushed out to buy Van Hagar CDs, Deadlift Lolita so far has failed to catch fire the way Ladybeard’s previous group did. The video I’m about to leave you with has a mere 157,000 views a year after its release, while the new Ladybeard-less Ladybaby video has racked up five times that many clicks in just a few months. Maybe people are already over Ladybeard’s kawaii cross-dressing shtick — or maybe they’re just not prepared to accept this much cuteness and muscle definition in one package. Either way, nowhere near enough people have seen the insanity that is “Muscle Cocktail”:

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Cattle Decapitation vomit forth rarities and hit the road for North American tour

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Photo by Pablo Montano

Many of you readers have pointed out that our favorite meat-is-murder goregrind band, Cattle Decapitation, aren’t actually all that weird anymore, since most of their more recent material is no longer quite so specifically about the evils of factory farming and turning cows into cannibals. (And yes, that last part is a thing that actually happens, not just some twisted fantasy of Cattle Decapitation.) But they’re still awesome, so who cares? We’ll continue providing updates on their activities until somebody finds us another deathgrind band with a weirder back catalog and a frontman more unhinged than Travis Ryan.

Besides, their latest release, Medium Rarities, goes all the way back to Cattle Decap’s early days, when Travis would sometimes wear a mask made out of beef jerky and their songs had titles like “Diarrhea for Dahmer” and “Flesh-Eating Disease.” In addition to those early demos, the collection also includes several hard-to-find bonus tracks and all the songs from their 2005 split EP with another of our favorite weird metal bands, Caninus, the dog-fronted grindcore group. Also, the LP comes in special “rare” and “well done” meat-colored versions, as well as European versions that, according to Ryan, “resemble diseased meats.” Those, needless to say, will be highly sought-after collector’s items, at least until the cows rise up from their feedlots and kill us all in an orgy of bovine-on-human torture porn.

Here’s a promotional video for Medium Rarities, featuring its gross-out album art and the 2012 track “An Exposition of Insides,” previously only available in Japan. Oh, and did I mention that Cattle Decap will be on tour starting Oct. 21st, supporting technical death metalers Suffocation? Well, they will be. Full dates after the clip.

CATTLE DECAPITATION w/ Suffocation, Krisiun, Visceral Disgorge:
10/21/2018 Mulcahy’s Concert Hall – Wantagh, NY
10/22/2018 Middle East Down – Cambridge, MA
10/23/2018 Les Foufounes Electriques – Montreal, QC
10/24/2018 Lee’s Place – Toronto, ON
10/25/2018 Magic Stick – Detroit, MI
10/26/2018 The Forge – Joliet, IL
10/27/2018 Amsterdam Bar And Grill – St. Paul, MN
10/29/2018 Riot Room – Kansas City, MO
10/30/2018 Gothic Theatre – Denver, CO
10/31/2018 Metro Music Hall – Salt Lake City, UT
11/01/2018 Diamondz Event Center – Jerome, ID
11/02/2018 Club Sur Rocks – Seattle, WA
11/03/2018 Lola’s Room – Portland, OR
11/04/2018 Oakland Metro – Oakland, CA
11/05/2018 Whisky A Go-Go – West Hollywood, CA
11/06/2018 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA
11/07/2018 Club Red – Mesa, AZ
11/09/2018 Paper Tiger – San Antonio, TX
11/10/2018 Gas Monkey Bar ‘N’ Grill – Dallas, TX
11/11/2018 White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX
11/13/2018 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
11/14/2018 The Cone Denim Entertainment Center – Greensboro, NC
11/15/2018 Ottobar – Baltimore, MD
11/16/2018 Gramercy Theatre – New York, NY
11/17/2018 Reverb – Reading, PA

Weird Live Review: Captured! By Robots

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We humans, for the most part, kind of suck at playing live music. We only have four limbs and can only play so fast. We’re easily distracted and fuck up our parts all the time. Our fingers bleed and our tendons get strained. It’s a miracle every concert isn’t a complete disaster, really.

So why not replace those feeble humans with ass-kicking robots? That’s the idea behind Captured! By Robots, a three-piece grindcore band that is only one-third human. And on a recent night here in Los Angeles, at a venue called Resident, those robots and their human slave, Jbot, proved that it’s a pretty awesome idea.

Captured! By Robots is one of those bands where the show starts before a single note of music is played. The band’s drummer, DRMBOT0110, and guitarist/bassist, GTRBOT666, get wheeled into position early, followed by a series of banners expressing C!BR’s collective attitude towards its pathetic human fan base. You pretty much know exactly where you stand at a Captured! By Robots show, and it’s low on the food chain.

Captured-by-Robots-live1Then the show starts and it’s mayhem. GTRBOT and DRMBOT don’t move around too much — though they do headbang with animatronic gusto — but they churn out a wall of blast beats and riffs denser than anything 20 human musicians could generate. Jbot, clad in rags and chains like some sort of post-apocalyptic death camp escapee, screams, growls and shambles between the stage and the audience, belting out songs with titles like “What Is Wrong” and “No Help Coming.” “Ladies and gentlemen, I was built for one thing,” Jbot declared before the latter tune. “And that’s to suffer alone in a cave.”

C!BR’s vision of the future sounds pretty bleak, but there was one ray of hope — in a drum-off between DRMBOT and a human volunteer from the audience, the human won. I’m not sure if that’s how it goes down every night, but at the L.A. show, at least, as GTRBOT mechanically intoned, “The human has won!”, it made for an almost uplifting moment.

As GTRBOT’s final power chords reverberated through the small venue, Jbot gasped, “Thank you very much, we’re all gonna die, I’ve got merch in the back.” Then he went to work his own merch table and accept thanks, admiration and hard currency from a line of frail human fans. Maybe for his next tour, he’ll have a MRCHBOT, but this time around, it was impressive to see Jbot working so hard to be a one-man operation — albeit one in which he’s cleverly replaced all the instrumental heavy lifting with machines. Or have they replaced him?

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Bow down to GTRBOT666, human scum

I’ve been remiss in not posting this review sooner, but Captured! By Robots do still have some tour dates remaining — see below for a full list. If you live in any of the towns they have yet to invade, I highly recommend seeking them out. They put on a hell of a show. And if you pay your respects now, maybe they’ll go easy on you when they inevitably take over and start grinding our soft, mushy bodies into paste.

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Charamel

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Recently, music biz veteran Eric Alper posted a tweet that read simply, “When you’re overqualified for the job,” and included a video featuring some person in a big red Japanese anime costume playing drums at what seems to be, judging from the music, some sort of children’s concert. (It’s hard to tell because the camera never leaves the drummer, but the music sounds like something you’d hear on the Japanese version of Barney & Friends.) Then, about 45 seconds into it, things take an unexpected turn. See for yourself:

Needless to say, we had to know more. Some commenters on Alper’s Twitter post (which has been retweeted over 70,000 times, as any Japanese anime character playing drums like Dave Lombardo rightly should be) said the character was part of a band called Charamel. Futher digging, with the help of Google translator and KnowYourMeme.com revealed that the character itself is called Nyango Star, and it’s been making the rounds for about three years, releasing drum cover videos like this insane pass at Japanese kawaii metal darlings Babymetal’s “Akatsuki.”

Nyango Star even has his/her/its own website, which includes an origin story that explains the character is a hybrid cat/apple — the reincarnated spirit of a dead cat buried in an apple orchard who was told by the spirit of an apple tree that only by going to Hollywood and becoming famous could it return to its original cat form. So it decided to become a famous drummer. See? It all makes perfect sense.

Somewhere along the way, Nyango Star teamed up with three other costumed characters to form the rock group Charamel. I could find almost no information about Charamel in English beyond their character names — besides Nyango, there’s Funassyi (the lead singer, who I think is supposed to be a canary, or a pear, or maybe a canary/pear hybrid), Akkuma (the guitar-playing bear) and Kapal (the bass-playing turtle). [Update: Our readers inform me that Kapal is definitely not a turtle but a “water goblin,” and Funassyi is a “pear fairy.” They’re also all examples of Japanese “yuru-chara” mascots, which are like American sports mascots except they tend to be cuter and more surreal and can represent anything from cities to corporations to public transit systems.] I think they formed sometime in early 2017 and debuted with this music video, which is probably my favorite thing to come out of Japan since the aforementioned Babymetal. (Give it about 23 seconds; much like Nyango Star’s drumming at the children’s show, it takes an extremely abrupt turn for the awesome.)

I’m sure we’ll learn more about Charamel very soon, as nothing from Japan this amazing stays under the radar for long. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this video of Charamel in concert — the sound quality sucks, but it’s worth watching just to see a glowstick-waving Japanese crowd go apeshit for this stuff. Also, Funassyi’s got some sick moves.

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Okilly Dokilly

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Both Okilly Dokilly photos by Casey Peters

Our regular readers know there’s nothing we love here at TWBITW more than an incredibly specific high-concept band (see: Mac Sabbath, The Metal Shakespeare Company, etc.). So it’s about damned time we gave a little love to Okilly Dokilly, Arizona’s leading Ned Flanders-themed metal — or “nedal,” as they prefer to call it — five-piece.

Formed in 2015, Okilly Dokilly’s premise is simple: Take dialogue from Ned Flanders, the God-fearing, improbably buff next door neighborino from The Simpsons, and turn it into lyrics for epic heavy metal anthems, performed by five dudes in matching Flanderian green sweaters, round glasses and bushy mustaches. Since Flanders’ Christian kindness and relentless good cheer has always seemed like a front for a seething cauldron of repressed rage, it works surprisingly well. Here, take a gander.

To quote Ned: “What a rush! That got my blood pumping in a way I thought only quiet reflection could.”

I’m not really sure what else to tell you about Okilly Dokilly, except to note that their members are called Head Ned, Red Ned, Stead Ned, Thread Ned and Bled Ned, and they have an album out called Howdilly Doodilly, which is available now via Bandcamp or at your favorite neighborhood Leftorium. Oh, and they have one music video, for the song “White Wine Spritzer” — based on an obscure Ned quote from season 10. (To Okilly Dokilly’s credit, most of their Ned quotes are not the most obvious choices — though I do wish they’d turn my favorite outrageous Nedism from The Simpsons Movie into a Satanic dirge: “And I wish you didn’t have the devil’s curly hair!”)

P.S. Thanks to readers Dexter Storer and J (yeah, just J), among others, for turning us on to Okilly Dokilly’s heavy “nedal” thunder.

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Ghost

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A lot of readers have been suggesting for years that we add the Swedish group Ghost (or Ghost B.C., as they were briefly called here in the States) to the Weird List. But we never did, because frankly, once you look past their costumed, pseudo-Satanic theatrics, their music is about as mainstream as it gets. Yeah, the guitars shred and churn in a vaguely metallic way, but they still make My Chemical Romance sound like Slayer by comparison. One of the tracks on their latest album, Prequelle, even features a saxophone solo — and not a screeching John Zorn saxophone solo. More like a Supertramp saxophone solo. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — it’s just not even within shouting distance of weird.

But you know what? A band fronted by a Satanic anti-Pope called Papa Emeritus and made up of anonymous, masked minions called Nameless Ghouls playing what amounts to latter-day hair metal (minus the hair) is, we gotta admit, pretty goddamned weird. Especially at this point in the band’s history, when they’ve been at this for over a decade and managed to achieve something dangerously close to mainstream success while still seeming like an elaborate piss-take of metal’s fascination with Satanism.

The genius and/or huckster (depending on how you feel about Ghost’s shtick) behind all this is a guy named Tobias Forge, whose biggest claim to fame pre-Ghost was fronting a moderately successful Swedish death metal band called Repugnant. For years, Forge managed to keep his own identity in Ghost a secret, only speaking to press in the role of a Nameless Ghoul, even though he played Papa Emeritus onstage from the group’s inception. As word that he was Papa Emeritus began to leak out, he even tried to throw fans and press off by repeatedly firing and replacing Ghost’s evil lead singer with new Papa Emerituses (Emeriti?) — Papa Emeritus II, Papa Emeritus III and short-lived fan favorite Papa Emeritus Zero, who teetered onstage with a cane and an oxygen tank. All were played, of course, by Forge, and most Ghost fans seemed to be in on the joke — but it still added to the band’s air of mystery.

Early Ghost albums mixed galloping metal guitars, pop hooks and Forge’s oddly lightweight vocals (he sounds, not unpleasantly, kind of like a Swedish cross between Billie Joe Armstrong and Placebo’s Brian Molko) with the occasional church organ or medieval-sounding choir, making explicit the idea that they were literally worshiping Satan through their music. Think of it as anti-Christian contemporary rock.

Here’s a taste of their live show. We always suspected Satan was really into Carmina Burana and apparently Ghost think so, too.

In early 2017, Forge’s identity was officially revealed when four former Nameless Ghouls sued him, claiming they were all owed back pay, in some cases stretching all the way back to 2010, and that they were denied treatment as equal bandmates in the project. (Forge hasn’t responded to the suit’s financial claims, but has asserted that Ghost is essentially a solo project, as he writes all the music and is the group’s sole constant member.) The suit, as far as we know, is still pending — but that hasn’t stopped Forge from releasing a new Ghost album, Prequelle, and unveiling yet another lead singer character: Cardinal Copia, who in the video for lead single “Rats” seems less like a demonic clergyman and more like a gothed-out version of Jim Carrey’s character from The Mask, complete with some very Michael Jackson dance moves.

Not surprisingly, a lot of metalheads detest Ghost, which kinda makes us like them even more. Even though this line from a recent article by an angry metalhead for Vice is 100% accurate: “Their entire publicity strategy is like a teenager arriving at Christmas dinner with a face tattoo and then screaming, ‘GOD, LEAVE ME ALONE!’ every time someone points it out.”

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BloodHag

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Underneath all the tattoos and black clothing, a lot of metal fans are nerds. They collect manga comic books, play Final Fantasy, can rattle off the names of secondary Game of Thrones characters, and read a lot of sci-fi. Like, a lot of sci-fi. And that sci-fi permeates the lyrics and imagery of many successful metal bands, from the dystopian concept albums of Fear Factory to the intergalactic space demons of GWAR. But it’s fair to say no band ever took the intersection of metal and science fiction to a more literal extreme than BloodHag.

Formed in Seattle in 1996, BloodHag (or BlöödHag, for those of you who like your metal garnished with umlauts) played short, spastic bursts of throat-shredding death metal about sci-fi authors, from the famous ones taught in high school and college English classes (George Orwell, Aldous Huxley) to the genre heroes known only to those hardcore fans who have “Hugo Awards” in their Google alerts (Michael Swanwick, Robert Silverberg). They did this, until calling it quits around 2010, while dressed like high school math teachers, in white shirts and horn-rimmed glasses, under such learned stage names as Dr. J. M. McNulty (guitar), Professor J.B. Stratton (bass) and Ambassador Brent Carpenter (drums).

Their music, as heard on a handful of albums and EPs with names like Hooked on Demonics and Hell Bent for Letters, was classically thunderous death metal compressed down into punk-like two- and three-minute blasts of growls, double-kick rumbles and and Sabbath-y guitar licks. Combining that with gutturally delivered lyrics like “Along with Asimov, he’s on a list of the most gifted secular humanists in history” (from “Kurt Vonnegut Jr.”) is weird enough, but what really earns BloodHag a spot on the Weird List is this: In 2000, they managed to convince someone in the King County Library System that their “edu-core” tunes were enriching enough to be part of their literacy program. So they embarked on a tour of Seattle area libraries. Playing death metal. The absurd brilliance of this was captured in an eight-minute documentary called BlöödHag: The Faster You Go Deaf…The More Time You Have to Read, which is on YouTube and which you should really go watch right now because you haven’t lived until you’ve seen gleeful children and horrified library staff getting their hair blown back to songs with titles like “Marion Zimmer Bradley.”

We’ll leave you with what, according to McNulty, is BloodHag’s only music video, for their two-minute ode to gifted secular humanist Kurt Vonnegut. We hope these guys do a reunion tour soon, because clearly our increasingly semi-literate society is more in need than ever of being smacked upside the head by a few nice thick Orson Scott Card paperbacks.

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