BABYMETAL attempts to transcend novelty status

“Metal Resistance” stands as the J-pop metallers’ push towards lasting validity.

Maxwell Heilman , Writer

BABYMETAL has unabashedly combined modern metal with Japanese idol music since their inception, culminating the fairly obvious connection between contemporary Japanese music and heavy metal. While bands like X-Japan brought Japan’s uniquely nuanced metal scene increased recognition, the theme songs of anime like Attack On Titan’s emulation of metal’s energy, grandiosity and instrumentation also make this connection apparent.

BABYMETAL’s 2014 self-titled debut represented new levels of cross-cultural exploration. Dubbing their genre “kawaii metal,” three veterans of the J-pop idol machine — named Su-metal, Yuimetal and Moametal — bring cutesy positivity to adrenaline-pumping songs. Not everyone is happy with this conglomerate’s popularity, but the waves they have made cannot be denied.

Transcending novelty status

BABYMETAL’s output has often degressed to gimmicky fodder for react videos rather than anything of lasting validity. Their sophomore LP attempts to transcend novelty status, and almost succeeds.

Metal Resistance” wastes no time in clarifying its intentions. “Road of Resistance” features the guitar wizardry of Herman Li and Sam Totman of Dragonforce, essentially sounding like Dragonforce featuring a J-pop trio. Galloping rhythm and propulsive tempo send the track stampeding through ultra-technical guitar solos and sing-along melodies, making the song feel like a real power metal song in its own merit.

KARATE” — my personal favorite on the album — follows a similar pattern. It’s hard-grooving riffage would get any crowd throwing down as hard as they would to Hacktivist or Bring Me The Horizon. Both of these tracks accentuate their sonic foundation with J-pop so seamlessly that the more gimmicky aspects of BABYMETAL begin to fade.

This album boasts an incredible amount of variety. “Gj!” and “Amore” may fit into the respective metalcore and power metal elements already introduced, while “YAVA!” incorporates upbeat EDM and ska. Even the progressive bombast of “Tales of the Destinies” only scratches the surface of what “Metal Resistance” offers.

Impressive stylistic breadth

Putting viking metal, death/thrash metal and even an ‘80s power-ballad into the same album is a gutsy move, but BABYMETAL still treats each musical foray as part of a larger whole. BABYMETAL does more than their share of genre hopping without repeating the jumbled mess their debut tended towards. However, these are the building blocks for a functional album, not a thoroughly enjoyable one.

The stylistic breadth “Metal Resistance” covers is impressive, but several of BABYMETAL’s choices were questionable. J-pop vocals made “Meta Taro” sound like a nursery rhyme rather than a battle cry, something rather insulting to associate with viking metal. “Sis. Anger” is much harder to digest. Deathrash elements clash with J-pop when they were made to harmonize.

“Sis. Anger” also emphasizes the lack of overt brutality on “Metal Resistance.” It missed the savage growls and breakdowns featured in BABYMETAL’s previous album. Time will tell whether their future material will embrace less complacent structures.

The final track is the first in BABYMETAL’s history to feature English lyrics, accentuating my favorite part about them. No matter what sub-genre they are thrust into, Su-metal, Yuimetal and Moametal bring a smile to my face. Hearing something so positive in a historically dark movement is refreshing. This is what keeps me coming back to BABYMETAL. Although “Metal Resistance” did not completely transcend its vices, it certainly solidifies the band’s place in heavy metal.

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