Maximum the Hormone: Death Note and Beyond

Maximum the Hormone

You might not know Maximum the Hormone by name, but you’ve definitely heard the iconic Death Note opening, where Light Yagami strides along whilst his foes lurk in the shadows amongst flashes of distorted visuals and dancing shinigami. Maximum the Hormone’s metal sound and cries of “Hey, hey human sucker! Ah, human human f*cker!” help bring Light’s solipsism and disdain for the humans he considers beneath him into an iconic visual.

Formed in 1998, Maximum the Hormone is an award-winning experimental nu metal band from Tokyo, made of Daisuke-han on vocals, Nao on drums, Maximum the Ryo kun on guitar, and Ue-chan on drums. They’ve performed for a variety of anime in addition to just rockin’ out on their own, known mostly for What’s Up, People! and Zetsubou Billy in Death Note and Rolling1000Toon in Air Master. The world is also hungry for their dose of Maximum the Hormone, having toured with overseas artists like the Dropkick Murphys, Enter Shikari, and Slipknot. 

At the start, Daisuke-han used to head the group, and the lyrics were all in English, as was the  title. That all changed with the departure of the original guitarist and bassist.

Nao, the band’s drummer, actually recruited the talents of her younger brother Ryo, who would then become the band’s lead singer. Nao provides light, upbeat pop vocal accompaniment to the band’s rough, vulgar, often sexual lyrics, providing a deceptively light feeling to otherwise questionable lyrics. Since his induction into the group Ryo, known as Maximum the Ryo kun, primarily sings and writes the lyrics and leaves the screaming and rapping to Daisuke-han. 

Wordplay is the name of the game for Maximum the Hormone. “Hormone” is a play on horumon, a type of yakiniku primarily made of liver, intestines, and other internal organs. Maximum the Ryo kun has said it can also be interpreted literally, like your hormones coming to a maximum boil. This isn’t surprising, considering the high energy of most of the music as well as the seemingly hormone-driven, often sexually charged lyrics. They play around within heavy metal, shifting back and forth at abrupt and dizzying speeds – dark and condemning one moment, then light and playful the next. 

Rise To Fame

The band has released four full length albums, four extended plays, three video albums, and nine singles to date. 

Maximum the Hormone’s first full-length album, A.S.A. Crew, debuted in August 1999 and tanked spectacularly, selling a measly 2,000 copies and failing to chart at all. Their followup album, Mimi Kajiru (Bitten on the Ear) did considerably better – not quite chart quality, but they managed to breach 15,000 in sales.

Their first single to chart was Enzui Tsuki Waru (Medullary Butt Crack), from their Kusoban (Sh*t Disc) EP. It actually had four songs, including Rolling1000toon.

After migrating from Sky Records to VAP, they made the charts with their second album, Rokkinpo Goroshi (Rokkinpo Killing), charting 27th on Oricon. Bu-ikikaesu (Revive to Death), the follow up to Rokkinpo Goroshi, made a huge leap up to number 5 on the charts, and also featured two songs popularized by Death Note: What’s Up, People! and Zetsubou Billy. Bu-ikikaesu also featured Rolling1000toon, featured as the ending song for the volleyball anime Air Master.

Their third studio album, Bu-ikikaesu, may be the most well known in the anime world, if only for featuring two iconic tracks from the popular anime Death Note. Season 2 of Death Note opens up with Maximum the Ryo kun calling human suckers and f*ckers (actually sanka and fuanka) in that classic play on words in ‘Ryo kun!’ 

They also provided the closing theme for the second season. Zetsubou Billy has a direct reference to Light’s alias “Kira”, calling out “KIRA! We are the KIRA!” as if they were followers of Kira. The lyrics call to mind destruction, death walking alongside law and order. Kira himself couldn’t have written it better.

Death Note is just one among many anime tie-ins Maximum the Hormone has performed. In 2015, they performed “F,” a insert song that directly references and praises Frieza, an antagonist from the Dragonball Z series for the movie Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection. Again, the lyrics directly reference Frieza (“His upper arms, pink, pink, pink!”)  and the seven Dragonballs.

The album was certified Gold in Japan, reaching up to over 200,000 in sales. 2013’s Yoshu Fukushu (Pre-emptive Revenge) was a huge success for the group, reaching number 1 on the chart and over 300,000 in sales, making them platinum certified. It was a success on-screen as well: their 2008 single Tsume Tsume Tsume (Claw Claw Claw) won Best Rock Video, and the album itself was nominated for album of the year in 2014 for the Space Shower Music Video awards. It did, however, win the Grand Prix award for the MTV Video Music Awards Japan.

The titular video, Yoshu Fukushu, also won Best Video of the Year at the Space Shower Music Video Awards, and it was well-earned. Different animation styles are depicted in the video, and lyrics stylishly and creatively surround the band, from being projected in the background to written on top of a building. 

Maximum the Hormone Marches On

Maximum the Hormone’s tour game has gone strong and long. They’ve gained some popularity with metalheads worldwide, touring Japan and overseas. They’ve made many appearances at popular rock festivals, and were repeat performers for the Summer Sonic Festival and Rock in Japan Festival between 2007 – 2017. In the US, they’ve toured with Dropkick Murphys, and participated in Knotfest, a metal festival hosted by the well known heavy metal group Slipknot in 2014. In Europe, they were featured guests on Enter Shikari’s tour in 2008, and part of Hellfest in France in 2011. They also featured in the Pentaport Rock Festival in South Korea in 2011.

The group was last touring in 2017. However, in 2018, Daisuke-han was scheduled for immediate interventional surgery due to a slipped disc and all tours were postponed. But they were back to business as usual in 2019, participating in the FireBall Fest in Taiwan.

Since then, the group has released singles via their YouTube channel, the latest being “Hungry Pride” in March 2020.

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