Published Mar 25, 2020Heavy music is inherently scary, especially to those who first encounter the genre. Then, occasionally, a band like Kruelty come along; crafting beatdown music so dense and deadpan serious that the average listener gets caught in a certain duality. Are Kruelty the hardest band on the planet, or just sweethearts playing up a gimmick?
The world is about to learn the hard way, as the Japanese group just released their debut, A Dying Truth, on all streaming platforms last week. In advance of its physical release through Profound Lore, Exclaim! spoke with Kruelty guitarist/founder Zuma while on a train ride amidst Tokyo's nightlife.
How did Kruelty come to exist?
Zuma: Kruelty started in 2017, when I was 22. I'd been wanting to start a hardcore band for a while, but had no good ideas at that time. Spring 2017 — dark riffs like I'd always wanted came to me and I wrote our first two-song demo. We put out that demo as a CD-R, 200 copies, and handed them out at shows.
Who are some of Kruelty's biggest influences? Was it always intended to be this way, or was the vision initially something different?
To be honest, I was bored with a lot of generic hardcore bands. I try to put some sludge and doom influence in my band; Grief, Corrupted, Seven Sisters of Sleep and Crowbar, [and] of course some death metal like Bolt Thrower or Asphyx. We would probably be categorized as beatdown hardcore, but I didn't want to make my band a typical beatdown band. That's why our songs are sometimes long and very slow.
Japan has a rich history of fantastic beatdown music. Would you say where you're from is a big influence?
Yes, man. Straight Savage Style, early Sand, Dyingrace and Second to None — those are my legends — but I tried not to just be a copy.
What makes Japanese hardcore so great, and different from any other scene in the world?
I'm not sure. We create some unique sounds. In the '90s, some of the hardcore kids here could only get information about hardcore by hearing from friends who actually went to shows in other countries. I think that made a good culture here.
Japan has become such a hot spot for hardcore. How does it feel to have so many cool bands and stacked tours coming through, and something like Bloodaxe Festival becoming so established?
I feel honoured you feel that way. Thankfully, we have played with some amazing bands from abroad, although we're young as a band. Bigger U.S. bands made us bigger than before, because most of them talk about us on social media when they come over. It's amazing!
Does Kruelty's world — the very hard stuff — mingle well with Japanese punk and straightforward hardcore? Is Japan as unified and fluid with genres as North America?
Unfortunately, we haven't played with many punk bands. Hopefully that changes. Sometimes we have shows with straight up death metal or powerviolence bands — this is awesome. Hardcore punk and traditional hardcore is unfortunately divided here though.
Let's talk about your live performance. The ski masks, bandanas, T shirts over the face — it's definitely not for the faint of heart.
Yeah, that's just a gimmick we all love. It brings some seriousness to the show I think. I do not want our shows to be peaceful or harmonious, you know? I've grown up on serious pit and serious music.
Sometimes beatdown music is funny and corny, and sometimes it's scary and serious — like you said. Do you think Kruelty finds a good balance of the two?
Yes! I'm friendly on social media, but our shows and music are not. I do not want to be about money, like those beatdown bands with BMWs in their music videos. That's not hardcore. We don't want any fighting at our shows. Those things just reduce the appeal.
Is Counterfeit Killers Syndicate just the name of your 2018 split with Mirrors and Universe Last A Ward, or does that name mean something more to the band?
Yeah, we're a team — not a crew or gang. We just want to make something new in the hardcore scene here. We still don't really know what that is, but we are grinding at it.
You are very funny on Twitter. What do you think of "Hardcore Twitter" as a term?
People are always talking about the most boring shit on there. Like, when some girl from the West coast was saying Nike Cortez aren't for white people? That was so funny. Their moshing is also funny. Mosh is just mosh. Why do they have no idea?
I like what you mentioned earlier about people in Japan could only find out about hardcore in the '90s through friends who'd travelled. That is vastly different from how it is in North America. Twitter and Instagram provide so much more access to the culture.
Yes, exactly. We get bigger from social media. I can absorb new music from overseas easily, and we can put out our music easily from the other side of the world. This is amazing! I think fewer people in the '90s cared about Japanese bands, probably. But now many people there have a huge interest in our hardcore scene. We owe a huge thank you to hate5six as well.
Tell me about how you collaborated with Taylor Young to mix the record. He seems very proud of the work he did.
I hadn't really known him in person until this project started. I messaged him online and asked him to mix A Dying Truth. To be honest, I didn't expect a positive answer, but turns out he'd been interested in our music. Some of the guys from Vamachara had talked about us to him after they played with us in Japan one year ago. I didn't know that. Worldwide friends from hardcore are very precious to me.
Did you message Profound Lore to put out the record as well, or did they reach out to you?
Taylor sent our mixes to them. They liked it. Profound Lore is an amazing label I've loved for so many years, so I feel very much honoured.
How would you describe Kruelty to someone who has never listened to heavy music before?
I only want people who love death metal or hardcore to listen to this record. I put my heart into this record; a love of hardcore and a love of death metal. Kruelty grew up with death metal music and hardcore pit!
You run Dead Sky Recordings. Are there any Canadian bands you have your eye on, or would like to shout-out to?
Mortality Rate in Canada — very good hardcore. Caustic Wound — new death metal by some legends. And Typecaste is by far the best hardcore for me right now.
Where do you foresee Kruelty in five years time?
I'm not sure we will get any bigger, but we're definitely going to do lots of touring overseas. Hopefully we can put out another seven-inch this year. I love to write riffs! Soon U.S. people can finally watch us play in the States. Stay tuned! We hope to play Canada too. I love Canada.
A Dying Truth is available to stream now. It will be released physically on April 1 via Profound Lore.