It’s not all that often that 1Up Culture takes the time to cover music, but if there ever was a band that warranted it, it was Babymetal. The three piece outfit went viral two years ago with the song ‘Gimme Chocolate’, exciting and confusing viewers the world over with their unusual blend of metal and J-Idol pop. It could have very easily been a flash in the pan, but instead the band has grown from strength to strength, and this year the girls made it the best April Fools Day yet by not fooling us, but instead releasing their second album ‘Metal Resistance’ and renaming April 1st ‘Fox Day’. After the success of their debut album and massive shows both in Japan and abroad, can they continue to ride the wave of momentum with this new album?
The first thing I need to mention is that I will be reviewing the International version of Metal Resistance. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but it’s important in this case because there are three different versions of the album. The international version, the Japanese version and ‘The One’ Special edition, all of which feature different track combinations. The international version has two key differences. Firstly the final track ‘The One’ is sung in English, and secondly, we get ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ instead of ‘Shinkopeshon’ as the seventh track.
Now I can’t speak for the quality of Skinopeshon, but I’d have to consider those who bought the Japanese version as unlucky, because they might be missing out on the best track of the album. From Dusk Till Dawn rocks and it rocks hard. It’s a slow build of electronica, heavy riffs and some spectacular vocal work from lead singer Su Metal. It doesn’t try to throw too much in, instead allowing what is there to breathe. It feels epic even compared to some of their songs that clock in at around twice the length. It’s probably also the least ‘Babymetal’ song they’ve done, as it lacks a lot of the vocal work you’d typically expect from the band.
Comparing From Dusk Till Dawn to the song that proceeds it, ‘Meta Taro’, just shows off one of the band’s greatest gifts – their diversity. The track is a weird blend of marching band and what can basically be described as Viking Metal against some of Su Metal’s cuter vocal work – which is normally the domain of Moa and Yui Metal. As is a tendency of Babymetal, the album seems to jump and dance around various different subgenres of metal while adding their own spin to it. Whether it’s Dragonforce style songs written by the band in question with ‘Road to Resistance’, or breakdown heavy pieces like the lead single and downright awesome ‘Karate‘, it really is impossible to predict what you’re going to get next from the band.
Speaking of Su Metal, she surprised me with her English on ‘The One’. She’s the most competent English speaker among the three as we’ve seen in interviews, but it really shines here when she’s belting out huge melodies in a foreign language. Sure it’s easier in a studio setting where she can get multiple tries at it, but given ‘The One’ is the second single and as such guaranteed to be played on their world tours, there’s a clear confidence behind her abilities. It’s a great song to close out the track, but this and quite honestly most of the songs seem tailor made for live performances. The one exception to this would be ‘Tales of The Destinies’, a chaotic mis-mash styled piece that both the Kami Band and the girls have admitted they’re not sure how they’ll go handling live.
The Kami Band has always been a big part of Babymetal, and on this album their work is really given the chance to shine. Whether you like that the stereotypically manly scene of metal is being invaded by three teenage Japanese girls you can’t deny the talent behind the music. Songs like ‘Amore Aoboshi’ shine against soaring guitar riffs and incessant double kick and their talent allows for the subgenre diversity we see across the album.
It’s not just Su who has shown a clear maturity in her abilities either (seriously she could pass as a metal singer in any female fronted band, not just a ‘manufactured’ one), both Yui and Moa have clearly improved over the years. They get a chance to take centre stage during the ‘Black Babymetal’ songs (the name for the grouping of the two younger girls) and tracks like ‘Sis Anger’ not only shows off their talent, but also lets them really amp up the fun factor that makes Babymetal so easy to love.
One of the main differences between their debut album and Metal Resistance is that there aren’t as many songs here that naturally stick out as ‘single’ material, especially since Karate has already been used. This feels more like a true album that flows from song to song, where as their debut felt more like a compilation at times. While they jump around genres it’s not off-putting to listen straight through. The next song that’ll likely get the video treatment is the hyper-active and undeniably catchy ‘Awadama Fever’. It certainly helps that the bop along chorus is singing about bubble gum and has just enough English that you just have to sing with it. This is one that’ll definitely get stuck in your head.
If I’m being honest, I can’t really approach this review with any kind of objectivity. I love the sheer concept of Babymetal, and have gone as far as to write a thesis about their reach into the Western market. But given I was expecting great things from the sophomore release, it very easily could have been a huge letdown. So it brings me great pleasure to say that not only is it far from a disappointment, but when it comes to the quality of the music, both as individual tracks and as an album, this surpasses their debut release. It hits harder and faster thanks both to an increased presence of the Kami Band and the constant improvement of Su, Moa and Yui, who have come a long way from their Sakura Gakuin days.
If you refuse to like this band because they don’t fit your definition of metal, it’s unlikely you’ll let yourself be swayed by this album. But for everybody else, this gives you everything you could want and more. Bone crunching riffs, kawaii idol singing and an addictive musical quality that’ll have you headbanging one minute and making fox hands the next. Babymetal are here to stay, and I for one welcome our new Japanese overlords.