major - active (1991 - )
L'Arc~en~Ciel started out as a visual kei band in Osaka more than twenty years ago. Over the years the band has, in addition to assuming a more mainstream image, crafted songs with a wide range of sounds, from catchy pop-rock numbers to heart-wrenching ballads. This diverse sound has helped them become one of Japan's top rock acts. Not only has L'Arc~en~Ciel's popularity held strong in Japan, but they have also captivated audiences around the globe, a true example of music being a universal language.
author: Lacy, MDS, vulpix (2013-07-03)
line up
  • Drums: Sakura [1993 / 1997 - gone]
  • Guitar: hiro [1991 / 1992 - gone]
  • Drums: pero [1991 / 1992 - gone]
L'Arc~en~Ciel began in February 1991 with bassist and band leader tetsu (now known as tetsuya), vocalist Hide (now known as hyde), guitarist hiro and drummer pero. The name L'Arc~en~Ciel, translated literally as "an arc in the sky", was chosen by tetsu after a movie he'd seen.

In 1992, ken, a childhood friend of tetsu's, replaced hiro on guitar. December of the same year saw pero's exit from the band. tetsu invited drummer Sakura to join after seeing him play, despite not knowing him very well. After going to see L'Arc~en~Ciel play, Sakura agreed to join the band in 1993. Their first album, Dune, was released that year, making it to number one on the Oricon indie charts and gaining the attention of major labels.

In 1994, L'Arc~en~Ciel signed with Sony's Ki/oon division and released their second album, Tierra. Their first major single, Blurry Eyes, was chosen to be the opening of Masakazu Katsura's anime "DNA²." Heavenly was released in 1995, and 1996 saw the release of the band's first million-copy seller, True.

Early in 1997, at a high point in the band's career, Sakura was arrested for heroin possession. He officially left the band on October 4th. When Sakura's arrest was made public, L'Arc~en~Ciel's CDs were removed from shelves and the song The Fourth Avenue Café, which was being used as a theme for the anime "Rurouni Kenshin", was quickly replaced. Despite this low point in the band's history and the postponement of the release of The Fourth Avenue Café, True stayed on the charts for two years.

A few months of uncertainty regarding the band's ability to recover from Sakura's drug scandal followed. In addition to covering songs by Marilyn Manson and Nirvana, L'Arc~en~Ciel poked fun at their own songs when they created The Zombies, a self-cover band.

Their official return was marked by the Reincarnation '97 Live at Tokyo Dome. With 56,000 people in attendance, the first show sold out in a still-standing record of four minutes. This was also the first time that yukihiro (ex-Die in Cries, ex-Zi:Kill) performed as the band's new drummer, although Niji, their first single following Sakura's departure, listed him as a support member. Not long after the release, yukihiro signed on as an official member of the band.

Their next album, HEART, came in 1998, and in 1999, ark and ray were released at the same time, becoming the first Japanese albums to be released simultaneously in both Japan and other Asian countries. Both albums sold over two million copies and they topped the Oricon charts at number one and number two.

In 2000, REAL, which would be their last original album before the members took a break from L’Arc~en~Ciel to pursue solo projects, was released. Their last new song before the hiatus, Spirit Dreams Inside, was used as the closing theme to the movie "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within".

During the band's lengthy hiatus, hyde released two solo albums, starred in the movie "Moon Child" with Gackt and played the part of Adam in "Kagen no Tsuki". ken formed SONS OF ALL PUSSYS with Sakura, while tetsu transformed into TETSU69 and yukihiro became a vocalist for the band acid android. The compilation Clicked Singles Best 13 was also released during this break, featuring twelve songs chosen by fans and Anemone, the band's only new song during this time span.

After L'Arc~en~Ciel's three year hiatus and much speculation over the group's possible disbandment, they surprised fans with the announcement of a series of seven concerts called Shibuya Seven Days and the release of a new single. Used as the opening theme for the popular anime series "Fullmetal Alchemist", READY STEADY GO was released in February 2004. The single not only topped charts in Japan, but through its connection to “Fullmetal Alchemist”, won the band many new fans overseas. Following another single, L'Arc~en~Ciel's much-anticipated SMILE album was released on March 31st.

Previously, while Sakura was still their drummer, the band had done some work under the name D'Arc~en~Ciel. However, with the release of the L’Arc~en~Ciel’s next single came the introduction of P'UNK~EN~CIEL, in which the members switched instruments and re-recorded previously-released L'Arc~en~Ciel songs. P’UNK~EN~CIEL songs have appeared as b-sides on many of their subsequent singles.

On July 31, 2004, L'Arc~en~Ciel appeared before an audience of 12,000 at Otakon, an anime convention in Baltimore, Maryland; the band's first performance in the USA. Noting the incredible response the band garnered, Tofu Records, Sony Music Japan's U.S. label, signed the band in May 2005 and released a DVD of the Otakon live.

Following the release of several singles and a new album, AWAKE, in 2005, the band toured Japan before embarking on the ASIA LIVE 2005 tour, which took them to Seoul and Shanghai before returning them to Tokyo for two final shows.

After wrapping up that tour, the band members once again focused on solo activities. tetsu recorded several singles and an album with Creature Creature—a group fronted by one of his heroes, MORRIE from DEAD END—before releasing a solo single, while yukihiro returned to acid android, releasing a new single and joining MUCC for two performances in Shanghai. hyde composed Glamorous Sky for Mika Nakashima, which was featured in the manga-based movie "NANA”. He also released two singles and another album, FAITH, the tour for which took him throughout Japan and to California in the United States. ken also released a solo single called Speed.

On November 25th and 26th, 2006, L'Arc~en~Ciel played two shows to celebrate their 15th anniversary. Titled L'Anniversary, the shows took place at the Tokyo Dome, with set lists that were at least partially determined by fans via online poll.

L'Arc~en~Ciel released Seventh Heaven, their first single since 2005, in May 2007. This was followed by three more singles before the release of KISS, their first original album in over two years.

In December 2007, the band embarked on their THEATER OF KISS tour, which took them to venues across Japan until February 2008. L’Arc~en~Ciel’s first single of the year, DRINK IT DOWN, was released just prior to the start of their TOUR 2008 L'7~Trans ASIA via PARIS~, which took the band to China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan in addition to Paris, which was the band's very first performance in Europe.

Amidst announcements of new live DVDs, another single and a photo book, the band stated they would be taking a break from performing live until their 20th anniversary in 2011. This did not stop them from releasing new material, however.

In the winter of 2009, a deluxe edition of Hurry Xmas was released, two years after its initial press. A couple of months later, the single BLESS, which was used as the theme song for the 2010 Winter Olympics, also found a release date.

In March of the same year, L’Arc~en~Ciel released another of best-of set entitled QUADRINITY~MEMBER’S BEST SELECTIONS~. However, this compilation had a unique concept, with each disc featuring remastered songs composed by a member. This allowed it to not only highlight the band’s hits, but the musical contributions and personal favourites of each member as well.

2010 also saw the members continue with their other projects. hyde was busy with VAMPS, a band he formed with guitarist K.A.Z from OBLIVION DUST, who also contributed to his solo albums. ken kept active with a solo career and producing for MUCC, while tetsu changed his name to TETSUYA and began releasing new material under that name. yukihiro also continued with his acid android project.

January 1, 2011 saw L’Arc~en~Ciel celebrate their 20th anniversary with a concert entitled L’A Happy New Year! at Makuhari Messe International Convention Complex. The next month they released three greatest hits compilations, with each CD highlighting a distinct era of their career. A box set called Twenity Box was also made available, including all three discs and some bonus items.

Early 2011 also saw the band contribute the song Good Luck My Way to “Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: The Sacred Star of Milos”, continuing their connection with the anime franchise. They also held two 20th L’Anniversary concerts on May 28th and 29th, with the first day centering on their early work and the second on more recent releases.

That fall, the band embarked on their 20th L’Anniversary TOUR, which kicked off at Saitama Super Arena and brought them around Japan. Recordings of a few of the dates from this tour were also broadcast in cities around the world at different points in the year to let overseas fans join in the 20th anniversary celebrations.

2012 was yet another successful year for the quartet. Their single BUTTERFLY was released in February and debuted on top of the Oricon charts. The next month, they embarked on a world tour, hitting 14 cities in 10 countries, including a performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden, which saw them become the first Japanese band to headline the venue. L’Arc~en~Ciel also continued to reach out to international fans by releasing English versions of their songs XXX and Chase digitally. On May 31, the city of Honolulu, Hawaii, honoured the band by establishing “L’Arc~en~Ciel Day”. The band also collected online votes from fans to help plan their next world tour and released a live DVD of their performance at Madison Square Garden later in the year.

As of summer 2013, L’Arc~en~Ciel have released a live DVD of their 2012 world tour, and are still going strong.

L'Arc~en~Ciel is a truly legendary band. In their long career, the members have captured the attention of listeners around the world, and still remain incredibly popular—if not more popular overseas than ever. Carrying messages of love and peace, their music transcends language barriers and genre boundaries. The staying power of this band has been proven countless times, so fans can rest easy, assured that they will continue to make waves in the music scene for years to come.
author: Lacy, MDS, vulpix (2013-07-03)

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