J-POP/Metal Trio BABYMETAL's Debut Defies Genres, Expectations
Three Japanese pop idols singing over guitar riffs that'd make Cannibal Corpse do a double-take. That about sums up BABYMETAL in a nutshell. When I first heard about this band I had some serious doubts. "What a dumb concept!" I'd exclaim. "It'd never work! They're just another shitty pop idol trio!" In most cases I'd be right on the money, as the amount of drivel the J-POP industry likes to pour out from the likes of Morning Musume and AKB48 tends to drown out real artists like Electric Eel Shock, TsuShiMaMiRe, and Stance Punks. (It also doesn't help that their fanbases love buying their albums and singles in bulk, in a way that'd make even a One Direction fan vomit.)
Well it had to happen sometime: I've been proven wrong. The self-titled debut from BABYMETAL is, in a word, phenomenal. I should feel really ashamed for loving this, but I don't.
BABYMETAL's debut is made up of mostly their singles (with the exception of three new songs), so if you already own those then you've already gotten the gist of the album. Its opener "Babymetal Death" starts up with a creepy church choir before ripping into face-melting guitars and screaming vocals that'll give your average pop idol fan a seizure. When SU-METAL, MOAMETAL, and YUIMETAL introduce themselves, you realize that combining J-POP with the heaviest of death metal is truly a match made in Hell, as they are a monster of stitched-up music genres. The listeners have been unknowingly strapped into an experiment that Dr. Frankenstein would even call maddening.
"Megitsune" showcases how well this mash-up of genres work. As SU-METAL coos about demonic foxes the rest of the band smashes their way through with a sort of intensity usually reserved for the second stage at Ozzfest. "Benitsuki -Akatsuki-," one of the album's highlights, starts off like a great X-Japan track before throwing in some Kirk Hammett-like guitar solos. The song "Onedari Daisakusen" takes a page out of Maximum The Hormone's head-banging melody metal, which not only works in the girls' favor but could lead to the most adorable mosh pit ever concocted if performed in the right venue.
There are times when the J-POP aspect of BABYMETAL is more out in the open than its heavier other half. "Gimme Choko!!" has MOAMETAL and YUIMETAL screaming their love of chocolate, whereas "Do・Ki・Do・Ki☆MORNING" throws in a lovey-dovey melody that'll actually make you dance. (I caught my right hand maneuvering with a pop star grace before forcefully pushing it away in fear of embarrassment.) "Ii ne!" even has a hip-hop bridge that seems out of place, only for it to be destroyed in a mill-second by the trio's ferocious backing band.
It's during one of the newer songs "4 no Uta" where even the band knows how silly of a concept they are. In Japanese the number four has two ways of being said: yon and shi, the latter version also meaning "death". Using the former version instead the girls firmly place their tongues in their cheeks and have a little fun at the expense of Japanese metal-heads everywhere. However BABYMETAL also shows that they put a lot of heart into what they perform, especially in their anti-bullying track "Ijime, Dame, Zettai," a fitting song to close off the trio's debut album.
Turbonegro's Happy-Tom once said this about his famous deathpunk band: "We started up as a parody but ended up as a revolution." In a way the same can be said about BABYMETAL. Two genres that should be nowhere near one another somehow find a way to meet without each side having to compromise on their styles, creating a sound that works on almost every level. Forgive me, Dio, but BABYMETAL's debut album may be the most original and fun metal release of 2014. Here's hoping these girls and their insanely loud backing band take the world by storm, or at the very least see how they fare on Scandinavian death metal grounds.