Alice Nine were an exemplary J-rock band, combining some heavy guitars with pop hooks, emotional singing, and a general '80s rock influence, as well as the "visual kei" image, i.e., eccentric and elaborate costumes and haircuts to be flashed in promo shoots. However, unlike many bands of the genre, e.g., UVERworld and L'Arc-en-Ciel, they didn't just waltz to the Oricon charts directly from college or high school: Alice Nine were formed in 2004 by musicians who already had professional experience, collecting members of the defunct Givuss, as well as people from several other bands. The group then signed to an independent label and kicked off its career by heavy touring with labelmates and releasing limited-edition singles.
By 2006, Alice Nine had three mini-albums out and played across the whole country, and the efforts started to pay off: both songs from their double-A-side single Akatsuki/Ikuoku no Chandelier made it to the credits of the anime series Meine Liebe, and their first LP, Zekkeishoku, reached number four on the national daily charts. This success led the majors to come calling, and the band was quickly snapped up by King Records. In 2007 they were invited to perform at the Jrock Revolution festival in Los Angeles; during the same year the single "Tsubasa" (Wings) set a record for the band, scoring number six on the Oricon charts, and their major debut LP, Alpha, followed. Even the injury of guitarist Tora, who came down with a hernia in early 2008, didn't stop Alice Nine for long, and they kept on touring, also releasing the single "Mirror Ball," which was used in the official soundtrack of the Japanese movie Aquarian Age.
Their third album, Vandalize, followed early in 2009; on it, they continued to develop their own distinctive style, with a few big numbers that bore a heavy U2 influence. Both Alpha and Vandalize were released in Europe by the German label CLJ. In 2010 Alice Nine parted company with King Records and went to Tokuma Japan Communications, one of Japan's biggest labels. Their debut album for the label, 2011's Gemini, a successful attempt to further establish their own style, was a massive-sounding, grandiose effort with a heavy influence of '70s progressive and hard rock. Perhaps aware that it may have been rather a shock to their fans' systems, on the 2012 follow-up, 9, they retreated somewhat to their earlier sound, featuring shorter, poppier songs. ~ John D. Buchanan & Alexey Eremenko