Music / CD Reviews | LISTENING POST

Resistance is futile to Babymetal's ascent

by Ryotaro Aoki

Babymetal — “Metal Resistance” (Toy’s Factory)

Ever since Western metalheads got word of the existence of metal-idol trio Babymetal, questions regarding the group’s authenticity have come up. To anyone familiar with Japanese pop music, this isn’t an issue; like all idols, the trio is a pop vehicle engineered to cater to a certain niche subculture.

The group is back with its second album, “Metal Resistance.” It debuted at No. 39 on the Billboard album chart, coming just as attention in the West has reached critical mass thanks to an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in the United States. Once again the group brings its signature brand of metal J-pop, complete with the robes of Sunn O))), solos of DragonForce (guitarists Sam Totman and Herman Li even contribute licks on opener “Road of Resistance”) and the riffs of Dimebag Darrell.

And frankly speaking, it’s well done — as it’s supposed to be. Spearheaded by producer Kobametal, “Metal Resistance” keeps many songwriters from the first album, including Norizo of rock band Dugout, Yuyoyuppe of metalcore band My Eggplant Died Yesterday and The Mad Capsule Markets’ Takeshi Ueda. The formula here is pretty much the same, only this time perfected to a T, with what feels like more nods to 1980s hair metal and symphonic metal, which are perhaps more suited for mixing with J-pop than metal’s edgier subgenres.

Which brings up one interesting side-effect of Babymetal’s idol music; various types of metal can exist on the same album. Thus the epic ’80s power ballad “No Rain, No Rainbow” can sit comfortably next to the anthemic groove metal of “Karate” and the drum ‘n’ bass of “Awadama Fever.” The genre-hopping culminates with the technical prog-metal of “Tales of Destinies” and the symphonic closer “The One,” which features vocalist Su-Metal’s first attempt at English lyrics, a clear result of the group’s unexpected success overseas.

The amalgamation will surely drive devoted followers of metal crazy, more so due to just how slick it’s all done. This is the crux of idol music; they know what you like, and they can convincingly make it exactly the way you like it.