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Babymetal “Babymetal”

by Patrick ST. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

It’s not surprising that Babymetal has gone viral. The trio, bringing the seemingly disparate worlds of idol pop and heavy metal together, is a visually striking project perfect for the “weird Japan” fans on the Internet.

What’s surprising, however, is seeing Babymetal’s eponymous debut top the iTunes heavy metal charts in the United States, Canada and Britain — and climbing as high as No. 35 on the American iTunes album chart. Sonically, Babymetal should be one cool idea driven into the ground — how many songs merging cutesy choruses with guttural shrieks can a headbanger take? — but the project boasts just enough musical diversity to make for a good listen.

The dominant sounds throughout “Babymetal” are power chords, breakneck drumming and throaty howls offset by cheery singing, and the group lags when sticking strictly to that combo. However, many of the tracks make subtle changes to keep the album humming along. “4 no Uta” zips from guitar workouts to tropical lounge interludes, while “Ii ne!” takes a breather for a group rap that sounds like it has been ripped from the once-hip witch house subgenre. The lyrics focus on typical idol-pop topics — chocolate, the struggle of waking up — but also spin into subjects such as bullying and, on “Onedari Daisakusen,” tricking your dad into giving you money.

The album’s musical variety stems from the diverse collection of writers and producers that have been brought onboard the Babymetal project. It’s not surprisng to find the likes of Narasaki (of metal act Coaltar Of The Deepers) and Takeshi Ueda (Mad Capsule Markets) in the credits — but it is seeing Vocaloid producer Yuyoyuppe, who brings in EDM-fest-ready bass freakouts to some of the songs.

The best moments on “Babymetal” come when the group ditches the gimmicks. YouTube hit “Gimme Chocolate!!” adds in growls, but it’s the unit’s most straightforward pop song — and an extremely catchy one. Singles “Megitsune” and “Doki Doki Morning” are similarly constructed and memorable.

“Babymetal” indulges in the ridiculousness of both the idol scene and heavy metal, but goes beyond being a joke. It’s a good full-length better than many more “serious” mainstream metal albums (it’s a less cynical, more pop friendly version of Maximum The Hormone’s last album, “Yoshu Fukushu”). Babymetal is first and foremost a visual WTF, but the act (and the musicians behind it) deserve credit for a solid album.

  • John King

    I have troubled with Babymetal. I am addicted to the Japanese girls band, which I don’t understand what they are saying in Japanese, since I had tried to check their songs on YOUTUBE.
    I wish I hate the songs, but I can’t hep myself. Gooosh.

  • Tallwheel

    As a metal fan, I thought the instrumentals were all right when I heard them with a live band at Loud Park 2013. I’d seen them earlier at Rock in Japan 2013 with pre-recorded instrumentals and I didn’t like it – too much electronica sound, not enough metal. In both cases, though, I can’t bring myself to like the vocal style. It hurts my ears.

  • mandraghe

    Don’t like this band at all but Maximum The Hormone kicks ass!

  • David Savage

    As someone from the UK, Scotland specifically, Its such a unique sound and for some reason works perfectly well together. Im not saying their the greatest band out there but they deserve credit for being able to actually take this idea and create something which delivers while providing a good amount of shock quality. This combo was bound to happen one day and im happy that it was babymetal who took up the calling. They have thoroughly delivered and i can’t wait for their European tour

  • ColinJ

    Babymetal is awesome.

    It smokes the likes of horrendous mallcore garbage that everyone is buying like Bring Me The Hair Straightener and Bullet For My Stylist.

    These little Japanese girls run around like for a whole concert and make an incredible show.

  • XxjopkxX

    “It’s a good full-length better than many more “serious” mainstream metal albums” I cant agree more, their music video “Megitsune” will probably be the best metal music video this year.