BABYMETAL — Babymetal (review)

BABYMETAL — Babymetal album cover Album · 2014 · Alternative Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Metal is an interesting genre of music indeed. Despite its nearly half century of expanding its sonic tentacles in virtually every direction of the musical spectrum, it has nevertheless for the most part managed to keep itself confined in a self-imposed box of sort. With very few exceptions that are more regarded as “novelty” rather than “true metal,” the genre has remained steadfast in the darkened section of the music store and although the paranoia and social outrage of early Black Sabbath has expanded into the more extreme arenas of Satanism, murder and suicide, the genre has pretty much followed the general trend of remaining a slap in the face for those unaccustomed to its ugly characteristics molded into various shades of palatability.

Then every once in a while, some act dares to break these unspoken conventions and finds a polarizing effect of utmost praise for its original and fresh approach as well as gag inducing condemnation for crossing those nebulous invisible barriers a tad too far. While one gimmick seems to work for a certain band, the next may fail to walk that precarious tightrope act and have a completely different outcome. Such is the case with Japan’s BABYMETAL who emerged in 2014 after gaining independence from serving as a sub-unit of the Japanese idol group Sakura Gakuin. With the idea that the metal market is saturated with not only the old school acts still in existence but countless new strains of the genre, the band was marketed just as was sushi which delivered something completely new to the multi-decade paradigm.

While BABYMETAL is fronted by a mere trio of female teenagers looking more like the next candidate for a tween pop band blasting on headphones far and wide through Japan’s youth, the band is in fact consists of a multitude of musicians and lyricists which creates a more varied sound than would be possible if a mere small group of artists were in charge. BABYMETAL started the trend of taking the unlikely companions of heavy metal and J-pop and mixing them together which means cute cuddly girl vocal pop with serious metallic bombast along for the ride. While tagged in some camps as “trance metal,” a sub-genre that mixes clean melodic styles with melodic death metal, silky smooth symphonic elements and electronic dance music, BABYMETAL delivers a more specialized sound that is known as “kawaii metal,” also known as “idol metal” or “cute metal” on their self-titled debut album which invaded the metal scene in 2014.

This little sub-sub-genre of “kawaii metal” specifically refers to the fusion of heavy metal bombast with J-pop melodies that incorporates everything from hip hop and dance music to bubblegum pop and dubstep. The metal aspects can range from death and industrial to speed, power and classic 80s. Despite the utter contempt heaped upon this band from the old school metalheads who don’t fancy crossing those invisible lines into the world of “cuteness” in their metal, BABYMETAL nevertheless has been quite successful with this debut selling over 100,000 copies in Japan alone and finding a larger audience around the world. These high school age girls have already embarked on many world tours and whether you love em or hate em, BABYMETAL is a band that has managed to capture the attention of just about every metal fan out there, a rare unifying factor almost unheard of in the 21st century.

Yes, BABYMETAL is a gimmick for sure but so is pretty much everything out there. It’s a given that when certain bands whether it be My Dying Bride, Overkill, Pantera or Metallica break free from the style that brought them to the world’s attention find visceral reactions against the sudden change and more often than not revert back to their true and tested style that the fanbase loves to much. Musically this is metal through and though. The bombast of the incessant guitar riffing, death growls, percussive blastbeats and general orotundity pays homage to the world of extreme metal perfectly however it will be the cutesy attack of J-pop melodies and clean girlie vocal charm of Su-metal (Suzuka Nakamoto), Yuimetal (Yui Mizuno) and Moametal (Moa Kikuchi) that will leave the old schoolers shaking their heads in disbelief.

Despite all the downright disdain casted toward this style of music, BABYMETAL in reality cranks out a rather innoxious form of pop metal that while not the cream of crop of pop infused metal hooks is by no means as bad as it’s made out to be. While not exactly my preferred style of metal, i can’t help but find this a refreshing addition to the mostly testosterone fueled metal universe. Cute cuddly J-pop melodies snuggle up with hardcore metal fury. Now that’s not something you won’t hear everyday! Perhaps we should call this “Hello Kitty metal!” A few factors of this debut do keep its originality dampened. Firstly, the tracks tend to start sounding the same as the album approaches the one hour mark. There could have been more variation to keep my interest as many of the tracks start sounding samy. So in the end, i won’t pretend that i have joined the fan club and am anxiously awaiting the next BABYMETAL tour since this is in the same camp as say Dethklok, but it’s certainly no throwaway metal either. The J-pop meets metal possibilities need some more work but offer a new slice of the metal universe to expand upon.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
5 months ago
Yep, i'm working with Hypnotoad on PA, so what does that tell ya? :D
tapfret wrote:
5 months ago
You are pretty much up for any challenge, aren't yoi?

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