Band (en)

L to R:
Masaki Ikeda-Bass
Taro Arai-Guitar
Izumi Takeuchi-Violin
Koh Nishino-Vocal
Shingo Uchida-Drums
Makoto Kano-Guitar

– Overview

BELLFAST is a folk metal band based in Tokyo, Japan.

The band was formed in 1993 in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan.
In their early years, the band specialised in progressive hard rock with an Irish/Celtic atmosphere and debuted in 2001 with the six-song EP “Faraway Prayers” (Mustang Records).
In 2006, they evolved into a seven-piece folk metal band with dedicated violin and flute players, and in 2010 signed to King Records, releasing two full-length albums, the first “Insula Sacra” (2010) and the second “Triquedraco” (2017).

BELLFAST’s varied compositions are filled with the aggression of traditional heavy metal as represented by IRON MAIDEN and NWOBHM bands, the folkloric lyricism that exudes the influence of predecessors such as THIN LIZZY and KANSAS, and the heroic Viking breath of TURISAS, ENSIFERUM, and others.
The band’s folk/viking flavour is expressed through the bold use of violins and flutes, while at the same time the classic dynamics of 80s hard rock/heavy metal resonate strongly.
While many folk/viking metal bands around the world are going extreme, BELLFAST’s uniqueness and originality lies in the fact that they try to remain an authentic heavy metal band.

The 3rd album will be released in October 2024.

Current Lineup:
Koh Nishino – Vocal
Makoto Kano – Guitar
Taro Arai – Guitar
Yumiko – Flute
Izumi Takeuchi – Violin
Masaki Ikeda – Bass
Shingo Uchida – Drums

2001 – “Faraway Prayers” (Mustang Records/MR-2021CD)
2010 – “Insula Sacra” (King Records/KICS-1618)
2017 – “Triquedraco” (King Records/KICS-3534)

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– History

Bellfast was formed in 1993 in Nagoya, Japan under the leadership of bass player, Shuji Matsumoto. The band focused on progressive hard rock with the additional important element of Irish celtic music.

In 1999, all the members departed except Shuji who resolved to continue the band and make an album. Assisted by many guest musicians on vocals, fiddle, piano, and many ethnic instruments, the recording was completed in one year and nine months, and in December 2001 the six-song debut CD, “Faraway Prayers”, was released by Mustang Records. The album was regarded as highly original and received a strong positive response from both fans and the media. However, for various reasons, the band’s activity decreased suddenly after the release.

Years passed… and in 2006, Bellfast was resurrected, taking advantage of an offer to take part in a compilation album. Shuji invited his old friends Makoto Kano (guitar) and Koh Nishino (vocals) to join the band. Their song “Celtic Drum” was recorded with several talented support musicians and was featured on the compilation album “Samurai Metal vol.2”. “Celtic Drum” is a traditional metal song featuring flute and violin, and the special folk-vibe of this song imprinted the name of Bellfast strongly upon many Japanese metal fans. Through this recording, Bellfast became active again with very capable members as a solid seven-piece folk metal band.

The band performed gigs, continued to work on songs, and started the recording of their 1st full-length album from the early summer of 2009. All tracks were recorded in Japan, and mixed and mastered by Andy La Rocque (g/KING DIAMOND) at his Sonic Train Studios in Sweden. The album “Insula Sacra” was completed in March, 2010.

This album was given the mysterious title, “Insula Sacra”, (an old Latin name that signifies Ireland, meaning ‘Holy Island’) and the well-known artist/designer Thomas Ewerhard (THERION, AVANTASIA, RAGE, etc.) took charge of the beautiful cover artwork to match this name and the sound of the band. Eleven songs appear on the album, both old and new songs from the band’s repertoire. They combine the aggressive sound of traditional heavy metal like IRON MAIDEN, an ethnic and progressive atmosphere influenced by KANSAS and THIN LIZZY and the brave energy of Viking metal -a unique combination that makes the highly original sound of Bellfast instantly recognizable. “Insula Sacra” has been very well received by both fans and the media, and BELLFAST has successfully put itself at the center of the music scene as the only Viking/Folk Metal band in Asia. The follow-up headline live tour of “Insula Sacra” in the same year was also a success with fully-packed venues in several cities.

In 2011 and 2012, the band joined the “HERITAGE OF IRON Tour” with ARGUMENT SOUL and VIGILANTE. The band also appeared in MAVERICK’s release tour for the album “Natural Born Steel”, at the “OWARI METAL FEST” in Nagoya, “SOUND OF DEATH festival” in Sendai, and other events. Since BELLFAST re-emerged as a folk metal band, the sound has been supported by Haruna Fukasawa on flute and Izumi Takeuchi on violin. While these members have now moved on to other projects, BELLFAST has continued to develop and grow in its sound and features some incredibly talented folk musicians including: sasuke (Yonaga Orchestra), Wakako Tahara (Yonaga Orchestra), Akiko Kawada on violin and Marty (MoDERN B Beard), Lisa Forest Nagaya on flute/whistle.

In 2013, the two year anniversary of the release of Insula Sacra passed, and although the band was busy at work creating new songs for the next release, the actual recording and release got held up for various reasons, On the other hand, in the band’s live activity, BELLFAST has steadily gathered fan support by continuing to appear in popular events such as “TOKYO DARK FEST” and Swedish Northern Europe Metal Legends: OVERDRIVE.

In addition, the individual members of BELLFAST are actively working on their own projects. Koh Nishino (vo) has formed an IRON MAIDEN cover band EDDIE THE GREAT with members of OUTRAGE, participated as a guest on the ELEANOR’s album and tour, Hiroshi Sakakima (dr) has is actively participating in CROCODILE BAMBIE, IB89 and more, Shuji Matsumoto (b) joined the British melodic hard rock band SEVEN’s album. In this way, all the members are continuing to develop their craft in ways that support the continuing development of BELLFAST.

And in 2015, the current flutist, Yumiko, became a major driving force in the team, and the momentum towards a second production rose dramatically. With the lineup including Yumiko and sasuke (violin) in April of the same year, we started pre-production towards a new work. Starting with the demonstration production of two songs “Sign of Paganheart” and “Ancient Celtic Fire”, production work is accelerating.

Other important events continue such as the appearing at “PURE METAL SPIRITS” with SEVENTH SON, HELLHOUND and appearing at “TOKYO DARK FEST 2015” alongside the power stars of VOLCANO, INTESTINE BAALISM, ETHEREAL SIN etc. These events continue to help BELLFAST to appeal its unique presence to the music scene and fans, and led to the decision to devote efforts to album production in 2016, and to head into the recording studio from that summer.

The recording started with the drum track recording at Studio NEWS 90 (Aichi, Japan) as was done in the previous album “Insula Sacra”. The studio owner and engineer for the basss tracks at Studio Perspective (Shizuoka, Japan) is Yoshiyasu Maruyama who was the ex-ARGUMENT SOUL Guitarist and also has experience with and METALUCIFER. Recording work was proceeding smoothly, but sasuke who had added the glamorous sound of the violin for a long time announced her departure from the team due to various circumstances. Instead of falling into a stagnation again in this crisis, a violinist friend of Yumiko, Hoshino Saori (MAKAI) joined the band shortly afterwards. The band developed as a powerful new unit as they entered 2017, the recording of each part is proceeded at Sound Koala Studio (Saitama, Japan) which is owned by Taro Arai (g).

Starting with participation in the festival “nonLinear Metal DynamiX EXTRA Vol.4” held in Club Citta Kawasaki in May of the same year, the band’s live activity resumed for the first time in about 18 months. Recording work was steadily carried out in parallel with that, and the recording was completed by the beginning of July. Afterwards, all data was sent to Andy La Rocque (g/KING DIAMOND) in Varberg, Sweden who created the amazing sound of the previous album. He again mixed and mastered at his own Sonic Train Studios, and the long-awaited second album is coming into the world just seven years after “Insula Sacra”.

“Triquedraco”, This new work is crowned with a mysterious coined word referring to an ancient crest shown on the artwork. The word combines the Celtic symbol Triquetra representing the Trinity idea and Draco meaning the dragon in Latin. “Triquedraco” will be released from King Records on October 11, 2017. (KICS-3534)

While the 1st full album, “Insula Sacra”, included songs that had been written since the band’s formation in 1993, all 11 songs recorded on this 2nd album “Triquedraco” have been written since “Insula Sacra” was released in 2010. Even though this time again the folk/Viking taste which boldly featured the violin and the flute provides the main axis, they do not overwhelm the variety of melodies in the songs. In this album, BELLFAST presents a modern heavy metal sound, while at the same time, echoes the classic dynamics reminiscent of ’80s hard rock/heavy metal such as NWOBHM. Whereas many other folk/Viking metal bands are taking an extreme approach like death/black metal, our approach highlights the uniqueness of BELLFAST’s sound and allows us to offer up this Traditional heavy metal feast.

In early 2023, the band’s 30th anniversary year, BELLFAST experienced its biggest turning point. The band’s founder Shuji Matsumoto (b) and Hiroshi Sakakima (dr), who had been a member of the band since the beginning, both had to leave the band for a variety of reasons. The remaining members decided to further develop the band’s activities with new friends, amongst other options, including whether or not to keep the band alive. The band took a step forward to the next stage with two friends, Ikeda Toshiki from VelmentiA and RAZOR HIGHWAY as regular bassist and Yamazaki Ryuta (dr) from AFTERZERO and HELLHOUND as live support drummer.

In January 2024, while focusing on creating music for the next album, the band succeeded in recruiting Shingo Uchida, one of the most skilled drummers in the scene, who is also active in Kyoto’s dark rock band Rikugo, as a regular drummer. In addition, violinist Saori Hoshino (LIV MOON, soLi, TONERICO), who has contributed greatly to the band for six years since 2017, has found it difficult to continue her participation in the future due to her schedule and other reasons, so the initial members from the production of the first “Insula Sacra” (from 2007 to Izumi Takeuchi, who was a member of BELLFAST from 2007 to 2012, has returned to the band after a 12-year absence.

BELLFAST is currently working on a new album, their third album in total, due for release in October 2024. The following November, the band will tour Japan in support of the new release.