Babymetal - Babymetal
“What is Babymetal?!” For months this question has plagued members of the metal community, metal websites, and metal magazines across the world. So, at the persuasion of my best friend Amanda, I decided to find out. What I found was surprisingly awesome.
Much like the fabled boy bands of the late 90's and early 00's, Babymetal began its life as a gimmick concocted by Kay Kobayashi aka Kobametal, a producer for the Amuse talent agency based out of Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. His idea to fuse J-pop idols with heavy metal riffs was strange but amazingly brilliant as the metal world has now begun to embrace this new genre known as “kawaii metal.” Having an already talented singer working for the agency, Suzuka Nakamoto aka Su-metal, he used her as the foundation for Babymetal, adding two young dancers and backup vocalists, Yui Mizuno aka Yui-metal and Moa Kikuchi aka Moa-metal, to surround her and provide a visage that is cute and believable at the same time. The girls ages range from 15 to 17, making them one of the youngest metal acts currently performing today. The girls perform with a ghost band (session musicians whose faces are obscured by masks) behind them, consisting of two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer, all of which are quite talented and able to pull off the metal riffs that define the genre. It may seem as if this attempt to fully commercialize metal is a joke, but once you see and hear the girls perform you find yourself lulled into the idea of how genuinely cool it is, regardless of the profitability of the sheer oddness of having young girls who dress in a Gothic Lolita style and who had never even heard of the metal music genre perform in front of thousands of metal fans at European music festivals.
The album takes many of its cues from American and European metal acts alike, its opening track, 'Babymetal Death,' a classic rendition with a chanting choir and orchestral strings transitioning into heavy, rhythmic riffs supporting a male vocalist chants of 'death' and the spelling of the titular band's name. The next track, 'Megitsune (Female Fox),' was the first I had ever heard from Babymetal, and I thought it was cool and extremely catchy, as if the soundtrack of 'Ninja Gaiden' were pumped up with electric guitars. Su-metal is an extremely capable singer, her melodic voice a nice contrast to the heaviness behind her. All of the lyrics are sung in Japanese, but the music is compelling enough to make the listener know that what she is saying is relevant in every way. 'Gimme Choko! (Gimme Chocolate!)' is a fun, cute song that demonstrates the cute and childlike vocals of Yui-metal and Moa-metal as well as the lighter side of the band.
The next song, 'line! (It's Good!),' would be perfectly at home as a level in DDR, with a stylized hip-hop dance break in the middle of it. With a Metallica-esque riff and slow opening, 'Benitsuki-Akatsuki (Crimson Moon-Dawn),' is the first of many tracks that demonstrates Kobametal's knowledge when it comes to generic metal riffs and how to encompass them into the songs. The song is rounded out by a few cool solos and competent keyboard work. Classic 8-bit video gaming comes to mind when listening to the next track, 'Doki Doki Morning (Heartbeat Morning),' as it utilizes synthesizers and breaks into heavy electronic riffs that you can't help but nod your head to. 'Onedari Daisakusen (Begging Operation),' starts with a riff out of [Rob Zombie guitarist] John 5's playbook, overlaid with traditional Japanese instrumentation and bouncing, electronic beats. The obvious Swedish metal overtones are found in '4 no Uta (Song #4),' but it has an interesting stop-start in the middle that makes use of Bob Marley type reggae beats that work really well. Experimenting with pop and dubstep comprises the meat of the song 'Uki Uki Midnight (Cheerful Midnight),' with the backup singers whispering menacingly between guitar riffs. The fastest song on the album, 'Catch Me If You Can,' has a very Static X type feel to it, making use of electronic and synthetic sounds that increase speed over the course of the song.
Su-metal again showcases her talent in 'Akumu no Rinbukyoku (Rondo of Nightmare),' a song reminiscent of Killswitch Engage, heavy with electronic starts and stops. The exploration of the idea of how metal fans express their true love and support for their favorite bands is represented in 'Headbangya! (Headbangers!),' a catchy, neck pain inducing track that has a cool music video with a neat concept. The final track, 'Ijime, Dame, Zettai (No More Bullying),' starts slowly with a nice piano arrangement and lovely verse sung over it, then immediately bursts into a heavy riff and ends with some pretty decent but generic guitar solos. The song also takes advantage of spreading a message to the would be teenage listeners of the band, as they themselves are still so young and face a myriad of pressures that come with puberty and growing up, not to mention that these girls are growing up in the limelight and have many expectations placed upon them.
It took some time for my brain to get over the confusion of the idea of “cute metal,” but once I did I began to realize how very cool they are and how much potential this band has, considering that its origins are literally constructed from an industry made formula used in many genres of music. Although the band took some time to convince the metal community of its legitimacy, overall the girls have been well received and even have a fan club with over 4,000 members and counting, as well as over 400,000 likes on Facebook. With enough momentum these girls will become known all over the world, and I wish the best for them. It isn't very often that mash-ups like this become so sensational, and hopefully it won't dwindle into nothing more than a fad as people can be fickle when it comes to their favorites maintaining freshness and plausibility. Their debut album has yet to be released en mass in the states, so only time can tell the fate of the band and what lay in their future, but I am sure of their marketability and feel positively about what they could accomplish.