Babymetal
Babymetal

I don’t know which I love more: Japan, for its endlessly creative, cartoonish, batshit-insane popular culture, or the Interwebz for delivering it all to my newsfeeds and inbox every day. Without either, my life would not have been blessed with the knowledge of black Burger King Darth Vader Whoppers, people injecting saline solution into their foreheads (bagelheads!), kaiju fashion models, magical flying raccoons with oversized testicles, and Babymetal.

I’ve been a casual Babymetal fan since 2011, when their first video for “Doki Doki Morning” went viral. It was the most entertaining thing I’d seen out of Japan since that video of screaming girls with pork chops taped to their foreheads being attacked by a flailing monitor lizard. Japan, I fucking love you.

Anyway, here’s what you need to know about Babymetal: it’s metal + techno + crazy sugary-sweet super-happy J-pop with three little pigtailed metalhead chicks in red and black skirts and knee-high socks bouncing around like Pokemon in a popcorn pan. They call it ‘kawaii metal’. Kawaii refers to anything super cute, like Hello Kitty, or anime characters with big, big eyes, or screaming girls with pork chops taped to their foreheads being attacked by a flailing monitor lizard.

Okay, now that I’ve lost 90% of you, the rest of of you should just go to YouTube and find the video for “Doki Doki Morning.” I’ll wait. “Megitsune” is also amazing. Go watch that too.

Now that you’re back, with an expression of either “WTF” or “That’s fucking rad” on your faces, all I need to tell you is that the rest of the album delivers. (Disclaimer: I haven’t previously heard the majority of the songs on Babymetal, despite most of them circulating on YouTube for the past few years. This is the first time they’ve all been collected in one place and released as a complete album.)

Based on “Doki Doki,” I was expecting an album full of warmed-over Drowning Pool riffs, but man, these girls and their skeleton crew (pretty much the Japanese Ghost) surprised the hell out of me. They actually bring real metal and aggression and virtuosity. I did not expect the thundering intensity of opening track “BABYMETAL DEATH,” or the rapid-fire thrash of “Give Me Choco,” or the grindcore screams and slam death gurgles on “Megitsune,” or the blazing symphonic power-prog of “Akatsuki.” I definitely did not expect the deathcore/techno/J-pop blizzard that is “Iine,” let alone the hilarious hip-hop mid-section. (Again, go find the video for the full effect.) And thanks to the absoludicrous video for the manic “Headbanger,” I fully expect neck braces to become all the rage among young metalheads. (Please don’t.) I also absolutely love the tsunami of effects and techno and craziness going on in the background throughout the album. It’s got traditional Japanese music, blippy synth EMP pulsebombs, symphonic stringed attacks, and all of it rippling and mutating through these songs like Tetsuo at a hentai convention.

The main attraction here, of course, are the Babymetal trio: Su-Metal, Moametal and Yuimetal. They are fantastic front-girls, and despite the fact that none of them were even familiar with metal when the band was first assembled in 2010, they play it straight. The juxtaposition of those super-catchy J-pop choruses against bouncy groove metal, thrash, power-prog, and stuttering breakdowns just kill me. And they’re great choruses too, alternately anthemic or yearning or ebullient, and as hooky as anything you’d hear from visual kei or other Japanese metal/pop genres. Seriously, this album is going to be the only antidote for getting “Let It Go” from Frozen out of my brain. (Somehow I wake up every morning with it just lodged there, wailing away.)

This album could have easily been an Internet joke, a digestable and quickly forgotten eyeroll of a meme; entertaining for a couple of days, and then forgotten amidst the blizzard of pop-culture static that washes across our social networks every day. Instead, this is going to be on constant rotation for a good long while. It’s more than a guilty pleasure, it’s sheer overkill enjoyment. It’s Babymetal, and you are powerless to resist.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
February 28th, 2014

Comments

  1. Commented by: Stiffy

    This sounds terrible. LOL!


  2. Commented by: lalala

    Love them!


  3. Commented by: Crucial BarBQ

    BABYMETAL are awesome, they shame many bands attempting to be heavy in modern times and damn, that shit just gets stuck in your head like some kind of foreign subliminal mesaage…wait a minute…


  4. Commented by: Apollyon

    This is like the Japanese counterpart tp Western bands like Amaranthe — with the exception being that Babymetal is actually entertaining and dare I say, ‘fun’. Probably because there’s something totally vulgar and ruthless about Babymetal, even if it is most likely, in reality, a perfectly coordinated and calculated machinery that aims to find a proper, paying niche in between all the other ‘traditional’ Japanese idols and idol groups. (And even as a ‘novelty’ it still beats Zimmer’s Hole, Crotchduster etc.)

    That being said, the background forces behind the actual music are nearing genius in their way of devouring all things metal (even the obscure), mashing it up all together and making it somehow work. In all honesty, I wouldn’t mind if the backing band would release an ultimate metal album on their own. Just thinking about the music featuring Devin Townsend going batshit insane on vocals… nice.

    But yeah. There’s definitely a drinking game hidden in the music too. Take a shot every time you recognize the source of inspiration (for example, Andreas Kisser-style solo).


  5. Commented by: Brad

    *facepalm*


  6. Commented by: ikillednoe

    holy shit this actually got reviewed! this popped up in my news feed last week, the one with the rap bit in the middle and immense gutturals… they have specific dances moves for their songs from the looks of it. fkn japan… i agree its better then some stuff out there tho, but it is still POP music.
    i cant say i dont like lookin at cute asians, listening to metal. reminds me of those chicks from Blade


  7. […] Teeth of the Divine Babymetal – Babymetal […]


  8. Commented by: Dimaension X

    Just watched a bunch of their videos on YouTube.

    What the frak did I just watch?


  9. Commented by: Grist

    There are worse ways to waste an hour than watching the videos, but I wouldn’t want to associate with anyone who would pay money for this album.

    Also, while I understand the comparison, THIS is the Japanese Ghost: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_(1984_band) — Michio Kurihara played/toured with Boris, so there’s even a tenuous metal connection.


  10. Commented by: Paul

    Coincidentally, I was at the Nihon Budokan yesterday (by mistake, I was supposed to go to the Tokyo budokan which is completely different…) and Babymetal were playing. There was a long lineup of people waiting outside in the rain, 4 hours before the show started, to buy Babymetal merch. There were also big ads for them around Shibuya. So they are quite popular here in Japan now (amongst a certain demographic) and must be making a ton of cash for their handlers….


  11. Commented by: jesusgodallah

    Not metal in anyway.bad bad stuff.dir en grey they are not.


  12. Commented by: DK777

    Jordan, if the album is half as entertaining as your writeup, I’m sold. Thanks for this EVERY entertaining “more than pop culture static” review… can’t wait to have a quiet moment to check out the band.

    But they have their work cut out for them in terms of outdoing your review!

    Cheers…

    -DK


  13. Commented by: JL

    “Okay, now that I’ve lost 90% of you,…” LMAO Great review, convince me to watch the videos. At first I was laughing, now I think I actually like it. It definitely is something different and that’s good.


  14. Commented by: whattheeff

    “…all of it rippling and mutating through these songs like Tetsuo at a hentai convention.”

    Jordan, you are a terrible, awful human being. My poor sides.


  15. Commented by: Old Pick Axe

    I’ve watched these ladies and their “skeleton crew” (who strongly resemble Skullomania from the Street Fighter EX video game series) get bigger and bigger. I’ve watched metalhead friends of mine turn into drooling puddles over this band. I’ve watched them set the world on fire. I’ve watched them open for Metallica and Iron Maiden in Europe.

    Despite all of this awesomeness….I held off on checking them out. I felt that these guys would either be a fad or they would suck balls outright. Well, today I snapped, and listened to “Babymetal Death.” And Jesus Bleeding Christ it blew me away. Marty Friedman’s description of “Babymetal sounding like Meshuggah with J-Pop on top” hit the nail directly on the head.

    Babymetal are quirky, strange, goofy and utterly Japanese. Better than that, they are a must listen for fans of metal, anime and Japanese culture. Flabbergasting!


  16. Commented by: jthebear

    I have enjoyed discovering the band. At first, I thought their videos were amusing. Now I have respect for the entire concept. I just don’t know where it goes. their second album would have to be gigantic to top their first. In the meantime I am delighte.


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