Even after touring countless countries for the past 17 years, Crystal Lake finally entered Swedish soil for the first time ever to perform two energetic concerts, joining the metalcore band ADEPT on their 10-year anniversary tour.
The first concert in Sweden took place in Gothenburg, a city known for their love for rock and metal, but we didn’t catch the guys until they played their second show in Sweden, Stockholm, on April 13. We took this opportunity to speak about Crystal Lake’s music style, roots, and what they think about the metal scene in Japan. Is there any space left for metal? Has pop music really taken over Japan?
Before we jump in, we’d like to thank Crystal Lake for hanging out with us, High 5ive for organizing such an amazing event, and John Gyllhamn for providing outstanding photos from the Stockholm gig that you’ll see throughout this interview.
How has the response from the audience been so far compared to in Japan?
Ryo: You know Japanese people are a bit different, they are the craziest people in the world, but yeah, I love the Swedish crowd here. They were so enthusiastic and would sing along and mosh. They were awesome!
Yudai: My friend said that usually, the crowd has their arms crossed during soundcheck, but it was not true. They were so crazy and produced massive screams. Everything was perfect.
Shinya: So Robert, the vocalist of ADEPT told me “I never seen such an audience in Sweden before!”.
Ryo: Yeah, we got such a big response.
You’ve already toured so many countries, what kind of crazy experiences have you had so far?
Yudai: We had a Russian tour with ADEPT, so on the first day, we missed our flight in Moscow.
Ryo: We always run into some trouble every time, like trouble with the airplane, trouble with a band, trouble with the gears. When we got to Sweden, half of our gear got left in Moscow during our layover there.
Looking at your tour list, it’s almost like a dictionary, there are so many dates! How are you even able to sustain this amount of concerts without your body breaking down?
Ryo: [Laughs] Yeah, there’s a bunch of shows but that’s the only thing we can do, is to play the show with energy because that’s what the audience wants! I want that too. So, we just do what we wanna do.
You always manage to get the audience so pumped up! It must be quite intense for you too, right?
Ryo: There are a few bands to do like that, with typical metalcore bands, they are all the same on stage, but we don’t want to be like that.
It’s always reassuring when we see performers headbang, as it shows not only the audience is into it, but the band members as well.
Ryo: Unity is the best way to show that!
Now, let’s talk about your music. With the recent albums, we’ve noticed a shift in style that led to a more complex sound that earlier work didn’t offer. Some works like your Limp Bizkit cover song “Rolling” was a lot more simple and straightforward.
Yudai: Exactly, but with that song, we were actually just messing around with that cover. We all love Limp Bizkit and their music, but the reason why we covered this song was to promote ourselves to the world outside Japan. So we wanted to try covering songs just for the sake of promotion.
Before we released our album The Sign, we did covers so we could get signed to the record label “Artery Recordings”. It was a great challenge for us, and we also got to promote ourselves through the music we enjoy.
Ryo: And then we’re growing as musicians so there are a lot of things that we can do now like complex melodies and tracks.
Yudai: If we’re talking about Rolling, in our earlier work we were able to create a lot of emotional, melodic songs but they weren’t quite what we were looking for.
The way you write melodies now is a little different?
Yudai: Yeah, we can mix many effects from hip hop, EDM, pop, or metal music. Right now we can express ourselves through our music, but in our previous album, we might have written music that was much more generic. But now we have the ability to express ourselves with our music.
Does that mean you weren’t able to fully express yourself in the past, but with your gained experience, you’re now able to do so?
Ryo: Yeah, partly I think. We just do something new and kinda make it “Crystal Lake” original and new. We wanna give people an experience, you know? It doesn’t matter if it’s songs or shows.
Yudai: Yeah, we want to create music that’s new to everyone which they never experienced before.
How about your latest album “HELIX”, it’s is a lot darker in sound than any of your previous albums. What led to this change?
Ryo: The reason this album is darker than the previous albums is because of the lyrics. The lyrics are more personal, well it’s not personal, but I wanted to write about deep emotions such as agony, depression, or anger and madness. I wanted to express that in this album. Every song has each thing, although, everything is about emotions. Happy, sad, and angry, every song has an emotion.
How is that connected to the album HELIX?
Ryo: It’s hard to explain in English, but it concerns the theory of relativity, it’s kind of a time and space thing. We wanted to express that with complex composition, such as breakdowns, tempo changes, strange melodies.
As you might know, a helix is a spiral, and DNA is also shaped this way. Our songs are our own DNAs which consists of our career and history, so that makes the album whole. It creates a body, and it creates “Crystal Lake”.
As you mentioned earlier, each song has a theme and emotions. One that stands out in terms of being emotional is “Devilcry”. Can you tell us more about it?
Ryo: The theme of that song is “lost”. I think everybody has experienced, kind of, you know, feeling lost?
So it’s a tribute?
Ryo: Yeah, kind of. We all lost something. Not only people, but we lost emotions, we lose something, every day.
“AEON”, which is the main track from the album, comes with quite a crazy and eccentric music video. It’s nothing like we’ve seen before when comparing to your other videos.
Yudai: I wanted to express a chaotic image, and also make it stand out compared to our previous music videos. Although, we had to actually spend a lot of money on it to make this cinematic [laughs]. It was quite an interesting experience for us.
Do you know the movies Terminator, and Alien? We wanted to mix sci-fi movies and chaotic music to create something unique using all these elements. So that’s how we ended up with this “extreme” and heavy visuals. I wanted to give you guys a big fucking impact.
We noticed that Ryo appears in other band’s work as guest vocalist. Were there any thoughts behind this?
Ryo: I don’t know, I just did it for my friends. I usually do vocals for bands we have toured with or played with, like The Royal, and ANNALYNN.
Speaking about vocals, the main vocal type Crystal Lake offers is scream vocals, however, you also include monologues and rap. Why do you think it is important to bring such variety to your songs?
Ryo: You know, as a vocalist, I always want to do something new, something different. No one sings the way I do. I do scream, I sing, rap, give monologues, and on top of that, I use many different scream techniques. Nobody does it the way I do it. I think that’s my signature.
Even when you scream, there’s still melodies that come out which we find very interesting. Screams are generally just flat and keep the same note, but not yours.
Ryo: When I scream, I do it as if I’m singing. Because I love to sing, so I hate the idea of the screams being flat. I want to do it with emotions, so the listeners can feel the emotions.
Looking at other bands, for example, Crossfaith. They were a band which only did screams in their early career. But now they’ve gone towards clean vocals, and even switching gears towards a more mainstream sound. Do you feel like it is important to “stay true” to your roots when moving forward?
Ryo: I dislike terms like “stay true” because we always want to evolve, we don’t want to stay the same, not even the same scene. We want to be able to push the boundaries.
Yudai: A lot of people might classify our vocals “scream” and “rap”, but what we want to do is to keep pushing forward to find and offer something new.
Ryo: As Yudai mentioned earlier when we discussed, melodies is one of the most important components for our songs. We’ve been doing melodic songs since this band started, it’s the core of Crystal Lake. It hasn’t changed, and it never will, it just evolved.
Yudai: It is also very important that I mention this. Our style of melody actually stems from Swedish hardcore music. When guitarist Shinya and I started the band about 17 years ago (2002), we were checking out Swedish, European, and American hardcore music.
We came by a band called “SHIELD” from Umeå, Sweden [active between 1993–1996]. They played very melodic and emotional music and became the best reference for our music. That’s how we laid our groundwork in terms of our sound.
There have been so fucking many Swedish hardcore bands that affected us, like “The Refused”. But now we’re more towards the metalcore and djenty style. But essentially, these Swedish hardcore bands forged our sound. So playing here in Sweden is very exciting, it’s been a dream of mine.
That’s quite interesting, considering djent actually originated from Sweden too. With that, how does it actually feel to being here in Sweden?
Shinya: Yeah this is our very first time here in Sweden, and I can’t believe we’re finally here after consuming so much Swedish music, buying CDs and T-shirts from Swedish bands. It’s hard to believe we’re here at last.
While touring, have you gotten any ideas for your upcoming work?
Ryo: We don’t even want to think about that during our tours [laughs]. We just tour after tour, but hopefully, next year? We’ll see.
Since we experience a lot from our tours, there might be things we bring back—things that inspired us—to our upcoming work.
We talked a lot about Swedish music, but what about metal music? Specifically the metal scene in Japan?
Yudai: It’s slowly dying, but we have a big variety of metal scenes in Japan. We got bands like Crossfaith, coldrain, as you already know. And something a little bit different is BABYMETAL. We also have bands like MONO.
Ryo: Yeah, we have a great underground metal scene in Japan. Although, MONO is more like a post-rock band. There’s also Boris, and also Melt-Banana who headlined a lot of festivals in Europe. They’re huge overseas. Yeah, there’s a lot of great underground metal bands, so it’s not all about mainstream rock bands, you know? Crossfaith and coldrain are more mainstream, but there’s so much more to explore.
You mentioned BABYMETAL being “a little bit different”. Do you mean they’re more of a mainstream unit?
Yudai: They’re more of the idol kind of group.
People call it “kawaii metal”.
Ryo: Yeah kind of, they use metal sound to make themselves stand out. But they’re not actually metal. Even though I don’t like them very much, I acknowledge them. They’re doing really well! Some of our friends actually composed songs for BABYMETAL.
Some are even Vocaloid producers, like yuyoyuppe, right?
Yudai: Yes, that’s one of our friends!
Ryo: I provided vocals for one of his projects. [The song “Accept your fate now” for the collaboration between the circle “Draw the Emotional” and “Foreground Eclipse”]
I definitely have to look that one up! But going back to the topic about the Japanese metal scene, you mentioned it’s slowly dying? Is the metal scene not big anymore? Is pop taking over Japan?
Ryo: Well, it kind of depends on how you define “big”. We have a strong hardcore scene from the ’90s, the Tokyo hardcore scene. Like, “Loyal to the Grave”, “Sand”, we have a great arsenal of bands to offer.
I think the hardcore scene is healthier than the metal scene. The metal scene goes up and down, it dies, then it comes back alive, and so on. But in contrary, the hardcore scene in Japan has a more consistent lifecycle. It stays alive with new bands coming out.
Do you consider yourself being in the metal scene?
Ryo: Well, actually, we came from the hardcore scene. We started out as a hardcore band. We played shows with hardcore bands. We’re doing a lot of metal music now but, you know?
Of course, we don’t need to put a label on Crystal Lake! Something you mentioned before about MONO, the post-rock band. Since post-rock is usually very calm and slow, would you consider playing with them?
Yudai: Doesn’t matter what style they play! Usually, in Japan, we play with punk-rock bands and even pop girls band. It’s not a problem at all.
Shinya and Yudai, you two have been in the band since it started 17 years ago. And Ryo, you jumped in a bit later. What kept you together as a band for so long?
Yudai: Stay heavy and passionate, stay strong. And not forgetting my roots, just do it the way we like it and not follow trends. But even the things I write could be very much like mainstream music, like djenty and lots of breakdowns. And even the melodies. As long as it is the music I want to write, I don’t care about anything else.
Shinya: Yudai has been writing our music every since we started, and Ryo is writing all the lyrics. They’re two geniuses in my opinion.
Yudai: We’ve been actively working with our music, promoting it, booking gigs, networking, all by ourselves. We believe it’s very important to DIY (Do It Yourself). So Shinya has been helping out creating flyers, keeping up with our social media, and website, while Ryo and I do our part. We want to do everything by ourselves.
Ryo: Yes, DIY is very important, not to be controlled by anyone by doing it ourselves.
What common goal is it that the members of Crystal Lake share? What is the significance of this goal?
Ryo: I don’t know, maybe a headline tour with Deftones as our support act [laugh]. Yeah, with us headlining!
Every year you organize your own festival anniversary festival. Can we expect one this year too?
Yudai: Yes, every year we hold our own festival. So this year of course, we will continue with that. But in the future, I hope to hold the festival in more countries, like in Europe, China, and Asia.
And with that, the guys are now back in Japan but will be coming back to Europe later this summer! Look forward to that!