One of Japan's more eccentric and intriguing extreme music exports of the late '80s and '90s, self-professed "progressive hardcore trio" Zeni Geva (their name derives from an ancient Japanese word for "money" and a corruption of the German "gewalt," or violence) forcibly fused elements of heavy metal, hardcore, industrial music, noise rock, and the avant-garde, gaining no small underground recognition in the process.
Having already made a name for himself via several experimental outfits (Absolut Null Punkt, YBO2) and collaborations with Merzbow and Null earlier in the decade, vocalist, guitarist, and programmer K.K. Null (real name Kazuyuki Kishino) founded Zeni Geva in 1987, calling on guitarist Fumiyoshi Suzuki and drummer Ikuo Taketani to join him on debut album How to Kill, released on Null's own NUX Organization label. Said album also featured a short-lived vocalist named Elle who was replaced by bassist Bunsho Nishikawa come 1988's amusingly named Vast Impotenz cassette EP, but he too would be gone by the release of 1990's watershed Maximum Money Monster LP, which brought industrial discipline to Zeni Geva's savage sonic outbursts while introducing new guitarist Mitsuru Tabata (ex-Boredoms) and drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, briefly borrowed from Ruins. Finally, Zeni Geva found stability with the recruitment of drummer Eito Noro, and with it came greater international touring and success, beginning with Steve Albini-produced albums like Total Castration (1991), Live in Amerika (1992), Desire for Agony (1993), Freedom Bondage (1995), and others. These efforts reined in some of the band's former flair for chaos with a heavier focus on noise rock, and the final pair was released by Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label, while 1993's All Right, You Little B**tards! constituted a proper Albini/Zeni Geva collaboration.
When Noro decided to leave the band in 1996, Zeni Geva carried on touring irregularly (with American percussionist Blake Fleming stepping into the breach), but recording activities came to a standstill as Null increasingly immersed himself in a string of solo and collaborative releases. The next Zeni Geva album, 10,000 Light Years (featuring Null, Tabata, and drummer Masataka Fujikake), did not emerge until 2001 through Neurot Recordings, and its highly experimental nature clearly reflected Null's recent avant sound exploits. The album also proved to be a one-off, as Null resumed his prolific solo endeavors shortly thereafter and Tabata also remained busy, primarily with Acid Mothers Temple. The Zeni Geva engine was not refueled again until 2009, when onetime drummer Yoshida rejoined Null and Tabata for a spate of touring that yielded 2010's Alive and Rising, but it remains to be seen whether there will be more band activity in the future. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia