BABYMETAL - Babymetal - (3/10)
Published on March 11, 2014
There’s something inherently wrong with this album even existing. Besides the obvious fact that it serves to appeal to a very small niche, it just seems to counter everything that metal stands for. This is overproduced, commercialized, and as mainstream as metal could ever be. But the same things have been said about bands like Sonata Arctica, DragonForce, and Metallica. So does BABYMETAL’s debut album, Babymetal, deserve more credit than it’s getting from metal fans? Can transcending the sounds of J-Pop and metal, along with industrial, dubstep, and vocaloid influences, yield a listenable result?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: not really.
First we need to get the weird things about this release out of the way. The “band members” are three teenage Japanese girls, aged 14, 14, and 16. Furthermore, the “lead” singer, the older girl, has been in several J-Pop groups in the past, each probably just as manufactured as BABYMETAL too. Now, I could talk about Japan’s seeming obsession with the youth or the infuriating dance routines the band employs in their music videos, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m going to assume that all of BABYMETAL’s members are fluent in the works of Galneryus, Cannibal Corpse, and/or Megadeth. I’m going to do the unthinkable (!) and take nothing but the music into account. But feel free to receive a chuckle or two out of their videos if you so wish.
I know the premise seems ridiculous, but I’ll be damned if there aren’t at least a couple of decent songs on this release. And by “a couple of decent songs”, I’m referring to the two major singles, “Megitsune” and “Ijime, Dame, Zettai”. It’s no coincidence either that these two tracks allow Su-Metal, the “lead” singer, the most time to shine without having her vocals be processed to smithereens. Both tracks are incredibly catchy and will have you hating yourself for days to come. These are also undeniably the most “metal” of all of the tracks here, with little to no gimmicks thrown in to confuse the listener. Quite honestly, the music itself is not that far removed from other power metal bands. I have no idea what’s being said in the songs, of course, but I’d like to believe it’s about meaningful and empowering messages, à la Lost Horizon, because some of the other songs have bastardized English lyrics, and they have actually made me cringe.
Case in point: “Gimme Choko!!” (Yes, that’s actually the name of the song. It only gets weirder from here). Aptly named, I can only assume the song describes the girls’ utter love for the delicacy of chocolate. I wish I could say that this is just an isolated incident of terrible song names. But you’ll see for yourself how mistaken that statement is soon. For a band named BABYMETAL, they sure do lack metal in the majority of their songs. Most of their songs do maintain a rock beat along with barely-audible electric guitars, but the overall style is much more geared towards J-Pop. Even their self-proclaimed “kawaii metal” genre is misleading. This is much more akin to some of the Hatsune Miku-style metal covers on YouTube. “Ii ne!” features horrendous hip-hop passages, “Do・Ki・Do・Ki☆MORNING” has unnecessary dubstep thrown in, “4 no Uta” uses weird tropical folk elements, and “Onedari Daisakusen” feels more like a Limp Bizkit cover more than anything else.
Truth be told, some of the other tracks could be bearable if not for the pair of 14 year old girls who act as a hype crew for Su-Metal. Their voices are screechy and suicide-inducing, simply put. Songs like “Catch Me If You Can” and “Headbanger!!” become unlistenable due to the girls’ inclusion, which is a shame, since those two are the heaviest tracks out of the whole album due to the harsh vocals that are included. If this project ever wants any kind of acceptance within metal, the younger singers need to improve or move on onto other J-Pop projects. And really, at times this just seems like a J-Pop project gone terribly wrong. The idea of some Japanese music exec discovering vocal demos from the three girls and opting to play metal over it actually doesn’t seem too farfetched. The metal music really isn’t too bad, usually falling somewhere between melodeath and Japanese power metal, but it’s all the other miscellaneous crap that really drags this down. This isn’t something you would recommend to a friend for new listening material, but rather for a little chuckle and/or to be creeped out. Babymetal just doesn’t do its job well at being a metal album, nor is it a good J-Pop album. It’s an amalgamation that doesn’t appeal to either end of the spectrums, and I hope it’s a gimmick that doesn’t overstay its welcome any more than it already does.
But this is Japan we’re talking about, so expect 15 live albums, three new EP’s, 7 music videos, a U.S. tour and dakimakuras to be on the market before the end of the season.