I've written about Babymetal previously for Life Is Noise. It's definitely not for everyone, that's for sure, but it is entertainment. Originally conceived as a once-off offshoot from idol group Sakura Gakuin, the groups mixture of Jpop/idol, electronic and metal gained a huge amount of popularity after their first few singles were uploaded to YouTube. More singles and the eventual debut album led to festival appearances, awards and radio play, and while sales were strong in Japan, the group experienced what can only be described as a cult following around the globe. Babymetal grew from miming to a backing track to arena shows with a proper backing band (led by Takayoshi Ohmura who has played with virtuoso guitarist Marty Friedman) and a intense, over the top live show, playing in Europe and the United States.
Babymetal at this point can be argued occupy a similar position that Rammstein held in the mid to late '90s. A non English speaking band with slick, well produced pop-metal songs backed by a can't miss live arena show creates a word of mouth/internet buzz that grows and grows to international acclaim. In the live show Babymetal eschew Rammstein's use of crazy pyro and, ahem, strap-on dildos in favour of choreography, giant video walls and a concept of a fox god. They have even recently appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (!).
It is interesting to see how Babymetal compare to similar arena filling Japanese acts (I don't pretend to be some expert on Japanese music, just observations). In terms of international appeal bigger selling acts such as Perfume, Kanjani8 and (ugh) Exile/J-Soul Brothers (again ugh) whilst having an international fan base haven't broken out in too many markets outside Asia in the same way Babymetal have (though too be fair to Kanjani8 those guys are tied to over a dozen TV shows, movies and radio commitments plus an agency with a frankly bizarre aversion to allowing YouTube clips outside Japan). On a more rock/punk scale acts such as Boris, Melt Banana and Mono are successful in those non Japanese markets based on a heathy touring schedule, amazing live shows and excellent albums but musically probably aren't going to enter the same realms. On a more underground tip veterans Sigh and Coffins have incredible albums and are playing great shows and festivals, but again it's a different league.
Your humble scribe isn't writing to try and tell you that second album Metal Resistance is the best thing around, some other review sites have been a tad antagonistic and condescending about that, but the myriad of reasons that some people are falling all over themselves to point out why the album isn't worth your time are fairly pedestrian at best.
Some argue that there are better bands that deserve the spotlight and make better music, whilst this is true it's kind of petty: thank you for pointing out other music exists. Others complain about the over produced pop style, again it's not for everyone but this album is a lot heavier overall and Babymetal aren't making music that many power metal bands haven't done in the past. The OTT live show is somethings that some bigger bands wish they have.
Some people also have an issue dealing with songs that are sung by "children". Well not to get super creepy but all the members have grown up in the public eye and are now teenagers transitioning into adults and hey if as an adult you can enjoy movies such as "The Goonies" or "The Hunger Games" then you should be able to enjoy it as entertainment.
Opening the album with last year's excellent collaboration with Sam Totman and Herman Li (Dragonforce's twin shred machine) is a great start, hell Su-Metal could front a band like Dragonforce and it wouldn't be out of place. Second single "Karate" has a very modern metalcore sound that fans of Killswitch Engage and bands of that ilk could enjoy.
Mad Capsule Markets bassist, Takeshi Ueda, is listed in the album credits and indeed his fingerprints are all over the catchy "Awadama Fever". The electronic parts, whilst still a bit cheesy, sound way less forced than on the debut. "Amore" and "Yava!" are very pop and could fit well as some tv drama theme song whilst the faux hurdy gurdy melody of the bouncy "Meta Taro" is an arena sized folk metal ditty that Turisas would be proud of, no joke.
The mid point of the album presents a few duds. "From Dusk Til Dawn" (which I've read is only a bonus track outside of Japan) is a terrible Linkin Park-esque piece of floaty electronica mixed with a faux dubstep breakdown. Similarly to the debut, the group work best (well in this reviewers opinion) when Su-Metal handles the lions share of the vocals whilst Yu-Metal and Moa-Metal add the backups. There are 2 tracks where Su-Metal is absent and one solo Su-Metal. Moa and Yu have improved overall as singers compared to the first album and their two tracks (G.J! and Sis. Anger) are better overall but still lacking. The solo Su-metal outing "No Rain, No Rainbow" is a straight up power ballad, the guitar solos are nice but this track is merely a "hold your lighter/mobile phone in the air" moment for the live shows.
The final two tracks are tremendous. "Tales Of The Destinies" is a crazy mish-mash of melodies that speed up, slow down and plays with a faster reprise of the melody from final track "The One". This track wouldn't be out of place on Devin Townsend's "Deconstruction" opus. Final track "The One" is the group's first single sung completely in English. Again it is reminiscent of the aforementioned Devin Townsend.
As mentioned a few times during this review "Metal Resistance" isn't to everyone's tastes, but it is entertaining. There is an upbeat and kind of refreshingly positive vibe to it. It's unclear as to whether "We are the one / Together We're the only one / You are the one Forever" will be own this generations version of "Wimps and Posers, Leave the hall" (or "If you are a false, don't entry" for the more underground folks) but it is clear that heavy metal is a universal language.
Critical Mass airs every Wednesday from 9PM (GMT+8) on RTR FM 92.1 in Perth, Australia.