VII ARC – A theatrical metal band inspired by Visual Kei

VII ARC is a metal band from Germany, but with a unique influence: pretty much all members enjoy ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) and have been adding the inspiration they’ve gotten from the Japanese artists to their work. Perhaps you caught their performance in Amstelveen in 2017, where they supported MORRIGAN during their European tour, but if not, don’t fret: these guys are planning on visiting their neighbor-country more often to play more shows here.

I did see these guys back in 2017 as one of the support acts for MORRIGAN, but unfortunately I couldn’t talk with them that night, and I was unable to ask for an interview for that simple reason. But when I heard they would be returning to The Netherlands again today I couldn’t help myself. Even though they’re not a Japanese band, they do enjoy the music as much as you and I do. So why not? I asked the guys and they were more than happy to do so!

Just one warning in advance: we had to cut this interview short due to time constraints, and since the guys were enjoying it so much (honestly, it has been a really long time since I laughed so hard myself during an interview!) we decided that if we couldn’t finish it in person, we’d finish it over the computer. So, with that warning out of the way…

 

Let’s start!

Okay guys, I can tell the readers about your band, but I think it would be way more fun if you did so yourselves, right? I saw your bio on your website, but please tell me about the seven deadly sins?
Bena: (jokingly) But we’ve just answered this question in our previous interview! (Which was with Saetori.)
Stephany: But… Guys… I wasn’t a part of that interview, I wasn’t allowed to be in the same room, so I sadly didn’t hear the answer! (everyone starts laughing)
Bena: Basically we’re just five guys from Germany who have formed a band together. But we’re very inspired by Japanese rock and metal music in general. Of course there are influences from other styles, bands and countries as well, but the core influence comes from Japan. This makes our sound heavy, crazy and experimental, but we have a melancholic vocalist that sings clean, beautiful lines over this chaos, as well as adds to it with screams. I scream too, though…
Grazel: I scream too!
Bena: That’s the description of our band.
Stephany: Melancholic, I scream. Got it! (laughs)
Z’ev: Write that down! (As you can see, I did write it down!) (everyone laughs)
Bena: So, very heavy, but on the other side very melancholic as well. We try our best to bring that to the audience when were on stage through our performance. We are very theatrical. This is how I would describe our band to someone who has never heard of us before.

Vocalist Kay
Vocalist Kay during the performance at the Popcentrale in Dordrecht.

Staying on the topic of the seven deadly sins, there are so many interpretations of this theme. Why did you decide to use it for your band? Did you follow a “set universe” like “Dante’s Inferno” for instance, or did you create your very own world around this concept?
Grazel: We had a song called “Gluttony”, which was the first song that had any connection to the seven deadly sins. We really liked the idea of “seven”, and it was already in the band’s name too. We really liked the idea of pulling our listeners into this setting, and now we have different songs that don’t really lead to this setting as well. “Love it or leave it” is a sinful or lustful song, and “Ira” translates to wrath and anger, both are connected to the theme. We’d really like for the listener to get an idea of this concept, because it’s easy to grasp here in Europe due to the influence of the church. There are a lot of sounds for the familiar atmosphere, like we use a church organ on “NIL” to set the mood, setting and theme. This makes it easy to convey a certain dark setting.
Z’ev: And despite all of this, none of us are religious. (everyone starts laughing)
Bena: If you’ve read the text for “DOXA”, you’d know this too!

You’ve chosen a different visual theme for every album you’ve released so far. But how do you decide what you want to wear on stage?
Bena: We’d need about 10 different outfits in the back to recreate everything perfectly, so we just go for something neutral, a bit of a fusion of everything we’ve released so far. But I do think that we’ve created a different type of image for ourselves on stage, since we behave differently with each song we play. When we play “Ira” we are a very angry-looking band, for example. So I really think that with every song it’s a unique image during a live performance.
Kay: I’m the one writing the lyrics, and for me as a vocalist each song has a different message which I have to bring to the audience in a different way every time. So I think it’s like you’ve said, we have to approach each song individually. The music videos are mostly for people who don’t know us yet to have access to us. For these videos we tailor our outfits specifically, but for a live show we focus on the message of each song.
Grazel: With the album “ATONIA” and “Reflected Upcoming” we created the second part of “ATONIA” to set a mood. You can see this from the album cover already. It’s a very dark place with stones, something weird in the background and a woman in the middle. She has to convey this atmosphere of a very unsettling feeling which is related to the songs on the album. With the next album we want to make a twist on this, but also combine all of it.

 

The influence from Japan

Guitarist Fu
Guitarist Fu during the performance at the Popcentrale in Dordrecht.

The ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) scene from Japan is a big influence in your work, but how did you first learn about this unique genre? Did you see something on TV, online, or did a friend introduce you to it maybe?
Fu: My very first encounter with ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) was about 13 or 14 years ago. A girl I had a crush on at that time was really into Gackt and Malice Mizer. I didn’t know them at all, so I looked into them to learn who they were and why the girl liked them. My first reaction actually was “who are these weird girls?”. I checked them out, listened to their music, and was simply blown away. I moved to hide and X JAPAN from that, and their music actually inspired me to start making my own.
Bena: I saw the music video for “最終列車 (Saishuu Ressha)” from MUCC on TV.
Grazel: When I was in school we had a German class where the “BRAVO” magazine was used as a topic for the lessons. There was a small review of the “It Withers and Withers” DVD from DIR EN GREY on a small corner, and it intrigued me because it said “shock rockers from Japan”. I started Googling on my old-school dial-up modem, having to wait 5 hours to load a single video, but then I could finally see the uncensored version for their song “OBSCURE”. I was about 9 or 10 years old at that time and I thought “that’s pretty fucked up”, but I told my sister. She was collecting issues of “BRAVO”. At that time D’espairsray was also featured in one of the issues. I still have the poster too. (everyone starts laughing)
They’re half naked and such…
Bena: I bet that’s worth thousands now!
Grazel: I was really fascinated by it all and I think it was on the MTV Viva chart or something, but a video from MUCC was shown on TV as well. The very first CD I got was the “666” album from MUCC, either from a Saturn or Media Markt at that time. It’s my favorite album by them too.
Z’ev: I actually got introduced and connected to all of this music by these guys. (pointing around the room at the other members) I started playing with them. I was looking for a band to play in and uh-…
Bena: It was the last option for him! (everyone starts laughing again)
Z’ev: And look at me now!
Kay: He was alone, in despair, and he needed friends… (more laughing from everyone) And now he’s sitting here, with us! But for me it was the same as for Bena. I also saw the “最終列車 (Saishuu Ressha)” video on TV. My mom caught me watching it and said “What’s this? It looks interesting!”. I listened to it and thought “wow”, because I only knew Japanese music because of anime. I didn’t know that they also made rock and metal music. I did some research and came to the “Coll:set” album from D’espairsray, the “Vulgar” album from DIR EN GREY. ナイトメア (Nightmare) actually released their singles “ANIMA” and “LIBIDO” in Germany, and メリー (Merry) released their “New Chemical Rhetoric” and “PEEP SHOW” albums here as well. Then came the GazettE with “[NIL]”, and by then I was totally into it.
Bena: Memories!
Kay: Since then I’ve never been able to escape from this scene, so I’ve been listening to Japanese music exclusively up to today, and I don’t regret it, at all!

Being inspired by the scene means there are some artists who’s work you follow out of personal interest, right?
Bena: I think that the last three years our music has had a lot of similarity to DADAROMA or the heavy side of NOCTURNAL BLOODLUST, but I do think that the GazettE is a great example of our opinion of good music and the style we want to play on stage.
Kay: Because I’m a vocalist myself I’m obviously more focused on other vocalists, but some bands have had a huge impact on me by the way they perform. Such an impact from a vocalist actually came from HYDE, from L’Arc~en~Ciel. I’ve admired him so much, I got to meet him, take a photo with him and-
Bena: (jokingly) Fanboy…
Kay: Well, yes. Absolutely. I’m such a fanboy for this band. We went to a concert and I really wanted to touch his hand and such. But other vocalists I admire are RUKI from the GazettE, 綴 (Tsuzuku) from MEJIBRAY, よしあつ (Yoshiatsu) of DADAROMA and Aki from アルルカン (Arlequin) because of their screaming style. He does his screams the same way I do mine. I checked his style and figured “I can do that”. When they perform I get a lot of inspiration from them. Same for Gackt. His vocal range is incredible.
Grazel: I would also like to say Gackt, because he’s one of my favorite singers. Despite his recent Tweets… I got to know him through AMV’s of Harry Potter made by fans. So I listened to that and thought “What is this Indian metal?”, due to his vocal style.
Fu: Like I said, I like hide, X JAPAN and other old 80’s and 90’s ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) bands like LUNA SEA, but also pop-rock bands like 清春 (Kiyoharu). But nowadays I listen to a lot of Western bands too, like glamrock and folk metal.
Z’ev: (sighs deeply) Me… Not! I’m mostly inspired by rockers, drummers mainly. I listen to Soul Work and even pop-rock songs from Britain like Porcupine Tree, drum wise. I mostly listen to Western music because I hate it when I can’t understand what they sing about. I don’t want to learn Japanese just so I can understand. The lyrics are very important for me, so that’s why I prefer to listen to Western music.

Guitarist Bena
Guitarist Bena during the performance at the Popcentrale in Dordrecht.

What made you decide to pursue such a theatrical genre as ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) here in Europe? Since the “market” for it is a lot smaller here than in Japan, especially for non-Japanese bands…
Grazel: We don’t see ourselves as a ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) band. Or at least, we don’t try to be “only” that. We are inspired by the things we like and we try to transform that into something that feels natural to us and we’d like to perform. In ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) you have this enthusiastic, theatrical and extreme way of performing, but it’s also in the music itself. The videos are extreme, the music is extreme, their gear is extreme… So it doesn’t have to be as extreme on our end. We just do what feels natural to us. We try to express ourselves with different makeup and looks, and we just do it. ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) is still a part of us, but we don’t focus on being a band in that genre. We’re trying to be a metal band, or a rock band because we want to make it accessible for as many people as possible. We’ve seen that people come to conventions to express themselves at such an event, and when they see us they like us because they can connect with us in that same way.
Z’ev: We often call ourselves a “visual metal band” because of the metal we produce and us adding a visual part to it.
Bena: We just do what comes natural to us, we play what we like and we look like this because we like it. We already looked like this before the band started, we haven’t created these looks for the band. On stage we are more extreme versions of ourselves, but this is just who we are. I don’t think it’s particularly a ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) style, but we definitely do have some similarities with them.
Kay: I think it’s really strange if you attach yourself to one specific genre like ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei), and then not do anything related to the genre with your own band. For me it was natural to put on makeup because I was like this as a teenager already. It never went away.
Grazel: When I joined the band I just looked like… Myself. But an alpha-build version of myself. I always wanted to have bleached blonde hair, and I always wanted to do certain things, but when I joined the band it was like “let’s do this”. I bleached my hair, and I’ve had white and purple hair too since. Whatever, really. I got the clothes I wanted to wear on a regular basis, I didn’t just wear them on stage. I also wear these clothes in private. The band really enabled me to do things rather than saving it for the stage alone.

 

Moving to a digital platform

Because the guys had so many interesting things to share during their answers we actually ran out of time to do the rest of the questions I had prepared in person. All of the guys are extremely upbeat and social in their own way, so when they encountered someone they could have a conversation with like a new found friend they couldn’t stop adding to their answers.
They did feel bad, and told me to send my questions to them through the wonderful magic of the internet and they’d answer them that way. And so they did! Unfortunately this meant that Z’ev couldn’t add his thoughts to these remaining questions anymore, since he had a very busy schedule.

Kay, you are a big fan of Japanese music, but you have a large Korean tattoo on your chest… What’s the story behind this one?
Kay: This tattoo is a remnant of the time I was really into K-Pop music. Yeah, I went through this phase too, where I was really hyped by all these talented and exploited artists. They dance like devils, sing like angels and look adorable to me. But after about two or three years I had to acknowledge that my heart belongs to the heavy, crazy music from Japan. The tattoo is an illusion to the song “내가 제일 잘 나가 (Naega jeil jal naga)”, or “I am the best” in English, by 2NE1. I don’t think “I’m the best” at all, but I thought it would be funny to have that sentence on my chest. I am proud of who I am, and I love to provoke.

Bena, you’re easily the most outgoing member of the group, but does this make it easier or harder for all of you as a group to come up with this? Are you the one who brings suggestions first, or do you wait for the wishes and ideas of the others before you share your own?
Bena: Well, most first suggestions for things actually come from Kay. Fu also gives me inspiration on styling. If these two wouldn’t slow me down I would look way over the top and act as such too, I think! (laughs) But yes, for the visual aspect of the group, this is mostly Kay’s influence.

Bassist Grazel
Bassist Grazel during the performance at the Popcentrale in Dordrecht.

Grazel, the others have shared their preference for more “oldschool” ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) artists, but you’re more into the direction of cyberpunk yourself with your personal work. What is this like in the band? Do you have to adjust to the wishes of the others a lot, or not at all?
Grazel: We always want to do what works best for the songs and our performances as a band. I think there is a lot of musical value in atmospheric sounds, and that serves our songs very well! In fact, we all share a lot of music we listen to with each other, but we all have a different approach to it. In the end, that’s what makes our songs very unique!

The audience that comes to ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) shows here in Europe is getting smaller and smaller (well, depending on the artist…), but what about you? Do you enjoy going to these shows, or do you prefer to stick to the DVD-releases of shows held in Japan?
Grazel: It’s true, there are less and less artists coming to us from overseas. But I got the impression that bands like NOCTURNAL BLOODLUST were received very well. We all went to the concert in Cologne in 2016 and from what I remember this was a sold out show. With a more open-minded mentality and bold advertising overseas bands like キズ (Kizu), JILUKA, DIMLIM, DEZERT, THE GALLO and アルルカン (Arlequin) should be able to have a similar level of success! Oh, and they should come more often, too…
Kay: I visited quite a lot of Japanese concerts since 2006, and I am really sad that almost no bands are coming here anymore. I’m totally hyped for the GazettE in June though, and even more for our tour with Jupiter before that. So at least I’m able to visit some concerts this year! XD
Apart from that I watch a lot of concerts on YouTube as well, to get inspiration from them. I do hope that newer bands will make the step towards the non-Japanese market because there are still people who would enjoy this music even now. If good bands that are hyped will come, people will get interested in the scene and style again, no matter how strong the impact of K-Pop is.
Bena: I will go to the GazettE’s concert too, and it happens to be on my birthday! Whenever there is a cool band from Japan touring here in Europe, we will be there. When possible even as a support act! (laughs)
Fu: I’ve been to quite a lot of Japanese concerts back in the day, but since there are less and less bands I’m interested in coming here these days I rarely visit a JRock or VK-concert anymore. I would love to go to some lives in Japan though, and yes, I’m going to see the GazettE too.

Japan has had a big influence on all of your lives, but what about seeing the country for yourself? Have you ever been to Japan?
Grazel: I’ve not been to Japan yet. I dislike heavily touristy spots, so I would try to visit more rural and natural areas, but visiting Tokyo would be very interesting in my opinion too!
Kay: I’ve been to Japan and visited Tokyo together with Fu in 2009. We’ve been there for two weeks, and I’ve been wanting to go again ever since. But money and time are both very rare. My dream to play a show in Japan still lives deep inside my heart though!
Fu: I can only second what Kay just said, I would love to play a show in Japan, but also attend some as a visitor as well.
Bena: I’ve never visited Japan, but I really want to. There are many other places I want to visit too, and Japan is so far away and expensive that it was never a chance for me up until now. But it’s definitely on my list!

Drummer Z'ev
Drummer Z’ev during the performance at the Popcentrale in Dordrecht.

And with that question we’ve reached the end of my list for this interview… To close it off, is there something you’d like to share with everyone who has read our conversation up until now?
Grazel: If you’ve never heard of our band VII ARC then please give us a chance. Watch our videos, and if you can, please come to our live shows. Because it’s there that you get to experience what VII ARC really is, rather than the internet version. We’d be really happy if you’d give us a chance and let us play our music for you!
Kay: Please come to our shows, because we can express ourselves a lot more through them than just through our music. If you come to the shows you’ll see the real versions of us, you’ll have fun, and you’ll get hit by the spark that will make you enjoy it and have a good time!
Z’ev: Just like ordinary, crazy people.
Grazel: I think we’re something for the ordinary people too, but it’s very hard because we’ve got positive feedback from all kinds of directions. Kinda. But there are always people who aren’t open towards our work. Watch our music videos because they have lots of effort in them and are very artistically made. We are also on Spotify and on Discord we have a large sever with over 100 members as of right now. So “komm dabei” (“join us” in German), and chat with us too! We also reply to messages on Instagram, and we just like to have a good time!

 

Extra information

I did ask the final question of the interview before we had to switch platforms, so that’s why Z’ev could get his answer in that question and not the ones before it. This interview has been quite difficult to actually complete, but this wasn’t because of the guys from VII ARC in the slightest. They’re super outgoing and they clearly love music with all their hearts.
Aside from that, they mentioned that the GazettE is a good example of music they enjoy, and this really returns in their live shows as well. So long story short, if you happen to see a live from VII ARC in your area and you have time to attend… Please do so! You won’t be disappointing. These guys are more than capable of putting down a good show that will keep you engaged and entertained from start to finish!

We also took photos of their performance at Popcentrale (Dordrecht, The Netherlands). You can find these photos on our photography portfolio, Arlequin Photography, by clicking the image below!

 

Follow VII ARC around the web

VII ARC
Kay

Bena
Grazel
Z'ev

 

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