Babymetal – Babymetal
Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
Japan is a fascinating country that has always set new artistic and technological trends that travel around the whole world. While many people were surprised to hear about Babymetal, I think it’s a typically Japanese prime example for a newly constructed trend, made up by clever management. The Japanese tend to mix otherwise extreme or opposing elements (from a Western point of view), and Babymetal is such a thing. A clever management group put three more or less talented young female dancers and singers together that had already played together in popular idol groups Karen Girl’s and Sakura Gakuin at a very young age. None of the three girls really knew what metal music was when they were put together. The management decided to make them dance and sing along to a weird musical potpourri that mixes death, industrial, and power metal with electronic music such as dubstep, J-Pop passages, and occasional rap elements. The high pitched voices, childish lyrics, and school girl outfits are supposed to invoke a cute and innocent image. That’s why this genre is also called “kawaii metal”, which means “cute metal”. Personally, I don’t think that these girls look particularly cute, but more like average teenagers pimped up by hair stylists and make-up experts and put in fancy clothes. Babymetal might attract younger Asian audiences that are somewhere between ten and sixteen years old, a few curious addicts of Japanese culture and trends like me, those who have recently stumbled over this band due to viral social media marketing strategies and, sadly, people with pedophiliac tendencies and perverted thoughts.
The younger lookalikes Moametal and Yuimetal in this trio are mostly just there for performing weird dances (that make me think of drunken turkeys) and occasional background vocals, childish screams, and spoken word passages. Main singer Su-metal has a good melodic voice, but is not an outstanding performer either. With some more practice and perseverance, she could maybe one day become a successor of performers such as Hamada Mari. What really makes this colourful band stand out is the over-the-top fusion of opposing music genres.
Even though the debut record of this band is obviously artificially flavoured, one must admit that the songs on here are incredibly catchy, almost exaggeratedly diversified, and everything but boring. The almost instrumental opener, “Babymetal Death”, is inspired by bands such as Dark Tranquillity, Dimmu Borgir, and Slayer. “Ii ne!” sounds like a parody mixture of Crematory, Destiny’s Child, and Lil’ Kim; “Onedari Daisakusen” could be a weird fusion of Dir En Grey, Linkin Park, and the Spice Girls; “Catch Me If You Can” feels like a mixture of KoRn, Morbid Angel, and Pussycat Dolls; “Uki Uki Midnight” throws in some trendy Skrillex breaks; “Akumu No Rinbukyoku” reminds me of pseudo dark casting bands like Nu Pagadi; the slightly symphonic elements in “Headbanger!!” recall some Sound Horizon influences; and “Ijime, Dame, Zettai” could be a Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, or X Japan song if the three female vocalists weren’t there. In fact, almost every track on here sounds like several artists or bands that we have probably all known or at least heard of before, but that few would have ever had the courage to mix on one record. Especially “Ii ne!” and “Uki Uki Midnight” still sound surprising and shocking after more than ten spins.
The most outstanding tracks from my point of view are the upbeat “Megitsune”, the weird and silly (but highly addicting) “Gimme Choco!”, and the power metal driven “Ijume, Dame, Zettai”. As much as I can’t stand popular and predictable marketing strategies put together by many music marketers, I must admit that this release is a sort of guilty pleasure. I don’t really want to like it, but I simply do, and the songs are definitely growing on me with each spin.
If you try this band out, be prepared to possibly end up adoring something you instinctively hated at first contact. No matter if you jump on the bandwagon or not, Babymetal’s self-titled debut release is already one of the most curious and memorable releases of the year. Check them out at your own risk.
3,75 // 5