Babymetal
Metal Resistance

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it doesn’t matter – Babymetal are now the Supreme Overlords (or perhaps the Overlord Supremes) of their own Cult of Kawaii. And if you do hate ‘em, then lighten the fuck up. The absurdity of three J-pop teenyboppers fronting a metal band is too ridiculous not to love – and the surprising part is that much of it is real, honest-to-Satan metal. The debut smashed together power metal, death, thrash, ‘core, and unfortunately yes, nu-metal, with sugary sweet vocals, catchy choruses, and the odd sprinkling of hip-hop, techno, and visual kei. And it was more than a guilty pleasure, it was genuinely enjoyable.

Album #2 sees the trio hopping and bopping atop that same collision of style and saccharine, with some new metal influences screaming to the forefront – for better and for worse. On opener “Road of Resistance,” Su-Metal, Moametal, and Yuimetal team up with DragonForce guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman, and as you’d expect, the combination of hyperspeed power metal + hyperactive J-pop vocals works as well as chocolate + peanut butter (or green tea flavor + KitKat, if you prefer). There’s more to follow with the DragonForce-like attack of “Amore,” though I don’t think Li/Totman return here. There’s also a heavier use of electronics on a bunch of songs, and while nothing is quite as audacious as the hip-hop/deathcore/techno one-two-three from “Iine” on the debut, there’s still plenty of wtf glee to be had from “Awadama Fever,”which sounds like a Prodigy track gone very, very wrong, or the spazzy mash-up of techno, ska, and dubstep on “YAVA!” The album’s weirdest moment comes from “Meta Taro,” which starts techno and then turns Viking, with a folk metal anthem (think Ensiferum or Amon Amarth) as its template, but with a nursery-rhyme Barney melody for the vocals. Once you get past the lunacy of the mash-up, you realize that Babymetal singing a children’s song is annoying as hell.

Honestly, as entertaining as all of the mash-ups can be, the formula shows its seams when the metal gets heavier and darker. Perfect example is “Sis.Anger,” where the sing-songy vocals feel Frankensteined into what is otherwise a death metal/deathcore attack. It’s here that Babymetal feels like way more of a gimmick because the music is so frenetic and brutal, but the vocals are so silly and sweet. I’d also like to sweep the leg on first single “KARATE,” which layers grating, staccato vocals atop chunky, stuttery nu-metal/’core, and although the chorus is fun, it could use a more melodic framework in the rest of the song to support it.

The best moments on Metal Resistance are actually where the songs play it fairly straight. “From Dusk til Dawn” is my favorite track here – a moody, gothic metal epic with sweeping synths and skittering percussion, like Nightwish meets M83. The girls’ normally chirpy vocals have been transformed into ethereal falsetto dolphin-song, which works beautifully with the echoing piano and strings, and it all builds up to a soaring chorus. Yeah, the song has a briefly distracting breakdown shot through with chaotic dubstep, but where other tracks feel kitschy and silly, this feels grand and honest.

“No Rain, No Rainbow” is also pure and uncluttered. It’s a heartfelt ballad that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Dream Theater album or over the ending credits of an anime series. It’s got a lovely melody and it’s nicely orchestrated, with great uplifting guitar solos, and it never gets jumbled up with breakdowns or dubstep or growls. (Follow-up “Tales of the Destinies” also sounds like Dream Theater at first, but it fares much worse, as if someone were playing Images and Words and choppy Eskimo Callboy-style technocore at the same time.) The finale, “The One,” has the most ambitious Dream Theater sound of the three closing tracks, with proggy, soaring solos, off-time drumming, and a big gorgeous melody (sung in English!) If you see Babymetal on tour this year, I bet it’ll be their big blue-rectangles-everywhere encore (kids don’t use lighters anymore, you dig?)

As with the debut, if you’ve got an open-mind and don’t take yourself so seriously, you’ll find a lot to like here. On the other hand, if DragonForce, Dream Theater, nu-metal, deathcore, and ska are not your thing (and three of them aren’t mine either), well then you’re excused. I’ll be very curious to hear how the balance shakes out on album #3 (and there will be an album #3, the band is still packing stadiums). Maybe the insane mash-ups will give way to a more even-keeled approach – but given that Babymetal hails from a country that likes tuna, corn, and mayo on pizza, ehhh probably not!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
April 4th, 2016

Comments

  1. Commented by: vugelnox

    I’ve already got plenty of Sigh, Boredoms, Acid Mothers Temple and Melt Banana in my life for oddball Japanese music. Babymetal will never be welcome! :-P


  2. Commented by: vugelnox

    Good review though… but this band makes me feel like I’m having a severe allergy attack.


  3. Commented by: Ben

    Agreed 100% vugelnox. I just can’t get into this. My kids might like it but I can’t bring myself to introduce it to them.


  4. Commented by: E. Thomas

    I dug the heck out of this. So did my 15 year old daughter. take that as you will.


  5. Commented by: peeny

    Joke bands are a joke.no serious metal fan would listen to this garbage.


  6. Commented by: prood

    i like babymetal but only in small doses. the kawaii vocals can get a little irritating after a while


  7. Commented by: Brad

    Good grief. “If you like your music bastardized and super commercial, you’ll love this!”

    This is running dangerously close to click bait territory.


  8. Commented by: Nick K

    I wonder if the Deathkids grew up to be upstanding Death young adults.. nice review!


  9. Commented by: Dimaension X

    I cannot listen to this utter garbage. Put this in the same category as Brokencyde and Twiztid. Terrible.


  10. Commented by: Clauricaune

    It’s not bad for what it is.


  11. Commented by: Myrkskog

    I grew up watching anime so this isn’t that offensive to me. Had never heard of them until I saw the Needle Drop do something about them last week.


  12. Commented by: Jay

    Good review and the only thing I’ll give this band is that they are trying something different and exposing kids to the more straight-up metal and its different offshoots. I’ll take exposure anyway we can get it in our genre of choice!

    Now for my actual opinion: Though the music itself has a lot of metal shred and riff-upheaval to it, the production is clinical, virtuoso style playing that has to be in a certain style for me to get into it and here it leaves me cold. Give me Canvas Solaris all day long if I want a mix of psyche, death, tech metal, electronic beats, upbeat circus freak melodies, keyboards and rampant music insanity that ranges from shredding to upbeat, but this whew…I just can’t catch the groove or actual appeal. I’m a dirt dweller that plays in sludge bands but I’ pretty open for my ilk. For the record, if someone gave me a ticket, I’d go but this has no place on my wall or taking my hard earned dough.

    I like to have fun too and love who gives a fuck lyrics and ideals, but any song about wanting chocolate is just something that I can’t relate to or appreciate just on a comedic level. The vocals are the most egregious sin here. I appreciate how much physical energy they put into a show but I loathe j-pop. And only like a couple of really gory anime movies. This is like Dragonballz set to shred-y tech-metal with such sugar sweet saccharine choruses I feel the instant onset of diabetes. I stretch out from doom pretty often and have spent a lifetime embracing all metal and hell, I’m an Oingo Boingo fan, so I’m not all violence 24/7, just 22/7.

    I just have a hard time that this was all put together by others with the girls not contributing anything but super yippie vocals and kabuki dance moves. I’d like to see them eventually compose a few of their own tunes/lyrics in all Japanese and show that they are more than a dance squad. They’re young, time will tell.

    Despite it being different, after watching a number of good quality videos I’m failing to see how the live show is just nothing like you’ve ever seen before. It looks like the band hanging in the back letting it rip, while every song is filled with choreographed dance moves. Again, if it gets some youngin’s into metal, good for them!

    That’s just my opinion and I’m not bagging on anybody that likes it. I’ve avoided speaking out on this for years, cause I know it’s not a popular opinion but hey, more power to the girls and their band. Let them do their thing.

    I will gladly go out of my way not to listen further to this though and I gave it a pretty good exploration out of curiosity but if a free ticket comes my way, I’ll go see it.


  13. Commented by: Jay

    As for Japanese metal, man, I’ve heard so much good stuff it’s hard for me to warm-up to this. Bathtub Shitter is still the craziest Japanese grind band I’ve heard and their live show in a shitty DIY club blowed my mind with the energy. The singer went into a freakout where he ran in place the duration of the band’s 45 minute set and I just couldn’t be more flabbergasted. Thought his legs would get out and he’d go flying into a garbage can!

    Green Machine, Sigh, Church of Misery, Fugue, 324, Swarmmm, the list of great endless bands from that side of the universe just goes on and on. Hell, CCSO too. None of those bands were normal by grind, doom sludge, experimental, crust standards and I’m just chipping the iceberg. I’ve talked too long, but shit I can’t help but drop by for a fun musical brouhaha with you fellas. If you like it, fuck the naysarers. Do what you want!


  14. Commented by: Jay

    Fuckin’ typos, CSSO!


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