Released: Out Now
Released by: BMD Fox, Toy’s Factory
Genre: J-pop, heavy metal
Su-metal (Suzuka Nakamoto) – vocals
Yuimetal (Yui Mizuno) – vocals
Moametal (Moa Kikuchi) – vocals
Takayoshi Ohmura – guitar (Kami band)
Leda – guitar (Kami band)
Mikio Fujioka – guitar (Kami band)
ISAO – guitar (Kami band)
Boh – bass (Kami band)
Hideki Aoyama – drums (Kami band)
Yuya Maeta – drums (Kami band)
Road of Resistance
No Rain, No Rainbow
Tales of the Destinies
On April 1 all-girl-fronted Japanese band Babymetal released their second album called “Metal Resistance” via RAL/Sony Music Entertainment in the U.S. and earMUSIC in Europe. And already last Tuesday American music chart company Billboard put it at No. 39 on the overall album chart and at No. 1 on its World Album chart.
It is the first time a work from a Japanese act has made it into the main chart’s top 40 since Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki and Other Japanese Hits” ranked 14th in 1963. The album has also just become the highest-charting Japanese band ever on the U.K.’s Official Albums Chart, landing at No. 15.
When their debut album was released in 2014, Babymetal went massively viral out of nowhere after YouTube fell in love with their single “Gimme Chocolate,” which they performed on The Late Show. It has reached 47 million views by now.
They supported Metallica on the main stage at the Reading and Leeds festival and Lady Gaga on her “Artrave: The Artpop Ball” tour. They played alongside the likes of DragonForce, Megadeth, Avenged Sevenfold and Slayer. They performed at major festivals in multiple countries such as Sonisphere, Loud Park, and Download and at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards. Most of their shows are sold out.
Is Babymetal an Internet phenomenon, one-hit wonder, or is it a genuine heavy metal band? Perhaps, their second album can answer this question. According to their producer Kobametal (Key Kobayashi), the band has grown up a lot since their debut and the new album sounds older and more mature.
And this is true – listening to “Metal Resistance” one can definitely hear how much more confident Su-metal, Yuimetal and Moametal have become. If at the beginning Babymetal were more of a certain challenge and revelation to the metal scene, now they are offering their music on the same terms as other metal bands.
With “Metal Resistance” Babymetal assert their specialty as a genre chameleon. Of course, the instrumental foundation of their sound is speed metal with its monstrously heavy riffs, fast guitar licks, trademark ferocity and high level of skill. The melodic foundation is obviously J-pop. But in addition to metal and J-pop, their sound incorporates dubstep, trance, drum-and-bass, folk and many other genres.
It would be possible to pin a “Nu metal” label on Babymetal and compare them to Korn, for example. The latter were the first ones to mix electronic and metal sounds. The difference with Babymetal is that they added J-pop and female vocals to the mix. Besides, different composers wrote all the songs. That explains such an extreme diversity of music elements for one band – 23 (!) professionals (lyricists, composers, arrangements, vocals) were credited for “Metal Resistance”.
The first song of the album “Road of Resistance” can be described as a power metal hymn, and it is not a coincidence – Herman Li and Sam Totman of DragonForce appear on it. Kobametal describes the band’s collaboration with Li and Totman: “We thought of doing something with them when we did our demo for Road To Resistance. We offered them to join us, and they accepted! The recording session with them was wonderful and they really kept to their unique style too.” It is worth recalling here that it was DragonForce who invited Babymetal to make a surprise appearance on their set at Download festival despite event organizer Andy Copping stating that he would never book the band.
After “Road of Resistance” goes “Karate”, which the band chose to be their single. The choice is easy to understand, as “Karate” seems to be the most comprehensive song of the album from the point of view of genre, sound and radio format. It contains the elements of nu metal and groove metal. “GJ” is of a similar nature as the same composer wrote it.
“Awadama Fever” strangely resonates with Babymetal’s breakthrough “Gimme Chocolate” until you learn that it comes from the mind of the same musician – Takayoshi Ohmura, who is also Kami band’s lead guitar. Ohmura has a background in punk, metal and digital hardcore and has a similar sound to Tom Morello’s (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave) style of guitar playing. “Awadama Fever”, just like “Gimme Chocolate”, is a fun, unconventional metal song with a lot of electronic elements. It sounds as if someone is switching between different radio stations and in the end decides to listen to Avril Lavigne’s first album.
“Yava!” and “Amore“ are the creation of one composer, Norimetal, and are the closest ones to the purity of metal genre. “Meta Taro” can be imagined to be a closing song of Babymetal’s show at a large stadium – it has a well-defined rhythm pattern, chanting and Viking metal elements. “From Dusk Till Dawn” and “The One” are absolutely exquisite and could be performed by the likes of Nightwish or Paramore, great examples of power pop and symphonic metal.
“Tales of the Destinies” derives from technical progressive metal, and “Sis. Anger” is speed metal driven. “No Rain, No Rainbow” stands out from the rest of the songs in the album. Despite its power-ballad-like guitar solos, it is mostly a pop song that could serve as a soundtrack to a Japanese TV drama.
Coming back to the question whether Babymetal is an Internet phenomenon, one-hit wonder, or a genuine heavy metal band, we can say that it is definitely a metal phenomenon and a high quality product created by powerful Japanese pop industry. It has roots in Japanese idol culture, with idols being young manufactured starlets marketed as someone to be admired for their cuteness.
Although idols are rarely considered as “serious” musicians, Babymetal are lucky enough to make it big outside of Japan and thus, they have a chance to transform into a solid music act, not just a carefully designed promo material. Their second album proves that they are worth listening to and keeping an eye on.
At least, they are the ones that answered the questions “Can metal be cute?” and “How do you dance to metal?” Probably, you have never asked these questions but apparently you have got the answers now. After all HIM had it “Lovemetal” at some point in their career. And by the way, have anyone thought of Grannymetal yet?
Written by Margarita Khartanovich