Review: Suck It, Haters – Babymetal’s Metal Resistance Is Great

  • Jeff Treppel

If there’s one thing basement-dwelling, true metal warriors hate more than shampoo, it’s pop music. After all, the naked commercial ambition and broad appeal stand directly opposed to underground metal’s outsider philosophy. Even a whiff of falseness sets off a frenzy – just look at the anguished wails that filled the Internet when Watain (a band that will never be played on commercial radio, ever) included clean vocals on their last album.

That’s the root of the extreme reaction to Babymetal (outside of the metal scene’s latent sexism and racism, anyway). They’re a product of the same Japanese idol-industrial complex that produced Perfume and Momoiro Clover Z: incredibly talented studio musicians, songwriters, and producers crafting perfect, sugar-coated jingles for hand-picked, kawaii faces to perform. It’s not like this is a new thing; teenage girls have been used to peddle music since before recording existed (and there has certainly been plenty of ink spilled on that subject). It’s just the first time metal has been used as the base instead of R&B or electronica or other things that aren’t metal, and that drives metalheads nuts.

It’s all a matter of perspective. Viewed as a metal album, Metal Resistance certainly falses the falsest falseness to ever be falsed. As a pop record, however, it delivers the goods in a musical dialect much more appealing to heshers than that of One Direction or Beyoncé or whoever’s popular at the moment. Arriving a little over two years after their self-titled debut – realistically as fast as they could shove the girls back into the studio after blanketing the world with festival appearances and Lady Gaga opening stints – Babymetal’s second album sticks with a formula that clearly works. And that formula consists of hooks, hooks, and more hooks.

Considering that the collective faceless songwriters behind the act (literally, their faces are hidden behind fox masks) had five years to sculpt the impeccable singles for the self-titled debut, it’s impressive how they’ve whipped up a set of tunes as strong – if not stronger — in less than half that amount of time. Hell, if you look at proper American pop albums by Gaga or Ke$ha, they usually crap out after track five or so. Metal Resistance maintains the momentum all the way through, in a large part due to the variety. The key lies in how Babymetal bring different elements of their sound to the surface in different songs. In addition to the more metallic bursts like “KARATE” and “Sis. Anger,” they also toy with trip hop in “From Dusk till Dawn,” get their hurdy-gurdy on the very Eluveitie-like “Meta Taro,” and even throw in a little ska on “YAVA!” Although songwriting credits weren’t available at press time, “Awadama Fever” sounds so much like Mad Capsule Markets’ digital hardcore that it was almost undoubtedly written by their Takeshi Ueda, who also did “GIMME CHOCOLATE!” on their debut.

The three biggest departures come at the end of the album. “No Rain, No Rainbow” has Suimetal belting out a full-on power ballad for the first time, complete with a Brian May-gone-anime guitar solo. “Tales of the Destinies” gives the studio musicians a chance to shine, a progressive metal track with instrumental wizardry that would put Dream Theater to shame. And finally, “THE ONE,” included as a bonus track on the US edition, has the girls singing fully in English for the first time, its epic production (and lack of metal elements) clearly aimed at breaking the girls in the American market. Those are probably the biggest indicators of where the group is going: launching Su-metal into her own solo career, pushing Babymetal in more complex directions, and trying to dominate the States.

We shall see if any of those goals are met. In the meantime, Metal Resistance proves Babymetal’s debut wasn’t just a novelty. It overcomes the sophomore curse spectacularly, no matter what genre you consider it.

The Resistance strikes on April 1 via RAL/Sony Music Entertainment. Pre-order it here.

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