Spoiler alert: If you’re a sworn defender of ‘true metal’ who clicked through hoping to read a lengthy dissertation on how Babymetal are everything that is wrong with the modern music industry, you’re not going to find much to appease you in this review. So do yourself, and everyone else a favour and go and listen to Black Sabbath’s self-titled record, because unlike me, it’ll never disappoint you. For everyone else, follow me into the brave new world of Babymetal’s Metal Resistance.
Kicking off with the frantic title track Road to Resistance it becomes immediately clear that Babymetal have turned the METAL aspect of their sound up a notch or Jū ichi for their Ni-ban offering. A frantic blend of twin-guitar harmonies and speed-metal rhythms anchored by Su-Metals distinctive vocals that features Herman Li and Sam Totman of DragonForce among the ranks of the Kami Band it’s a piece of world-class power-metal that provides the earliest indication that while the Babymetal concept seems absurd, Metal Resistance is anything but a joke.
Lead single and candidate for the catchiest song, metal or otherwise that you’ll hear this year, Karate follows and it’s every bit as addictive on repeated listens as it is on the first. From the moment the thunderous lead riff drops it’s an exercise in pop-metal perfection, with drums, guitars, bass and vocals all working together in perfect unison to create the ultimate heavy metal ear worm.
Vocally, Karate appears to channel the ‘melodic math’ of modern pop in the verses, while maintaining a definitively metal intensity, before opening up for that Euro-Vision winner worthy chorus. This is the Babymetal track that will convert many of the doubters, but it’s not the only track worthy of your attention, with the possible exception of bizzaro military stomp of Meta Taro (think Scar’s Be Prepared from the Lion King with J-pop vocals) everything on Metal Resistance seems to work, which considering the sheer amount of sonic territory Babymetal cover over the 12 track duration is legitimately impressive.
Babymetal’s ‘divine inspiration’ Kitsune (The Fox God) was definitely in an experimental frame of mind when he crafted these songs and the Kami Band have not let him down with their performances enabling the likes of the joyous YAVA to cross from thrash metal to punk to pure J-pop and back, while sitting naturally alongside the doomy 90’s drum and bass influenced metalcore of “GJ!”, the full-throttle speed-metal assault of Sis-Anger (which is home to a truly great guitar solo) and five minute piano-led ballad No Rain, No Rainbow.
However without the girls unique vocal contributions, Babymetal would not be Babymetal and all three of Su-metal, Yui-metal and Moametal deserve credit for their performances here, with Su-metal staking a legitimate claim as one of the most versatile and gifted vocal talents in metal.
Whether evoking intimacy on the English speaking ballad The One, screaming hellfire and brimstone (I think) on From Dusk Till Dawn or performing impressive vocal gymnastics on the electro-infused barnstormer Awadama Fever, Su-metal nails every note, ensuring that listeners, be they Japanese speaking or not remain completely engaged in every song. It’s scary to think that she’s only 18, she’s already bonafide star.
As to be expected from a project with Sakura Gakuin origins, the production on Metal Resistance is perfect, and it will sound just as at home on pop-radio as it will cranked in your car or blasting out of the main stage of the famed Budokan.
Babymetal claim that the sole purpose of their existence is to introduce a new generation of music fans to the majesty of metal, I admit that I pressed play as a skeptic, but after repeated listens, I’m ready to enlist in the Metal Resistance.
‘Metal Resistance’ is out April 1st, you can grab it here.