Su-Metal, Yuimetal and Moametal, Japan’s craziest teenagers, better known to the rest of the world as “Babymetal”, are back. And you could say that in the follow-up to their ground-breaking debut album of 2014, they had a lot to prove – to metal fans, to the western world and to themselves. Could their unparalleled fusion of “kawaii” idol fantasy culture and thrash metal only ever be a novelty act, destined to a single moment in musical history? Whatever the future holds for Babymetal, their hotly anticipated second album, Metal Resistance, goes a long way to challenge this.
For an album of largely indiscernible lyrics, Metal Resistance has ridiculously catchy hooks and an incredible variety of genres, flipping through degrees of metal, J-pop, rock, and finishing on more emotional ballads. Infectious opening singles ‘Road of Resistance’ and ‘Karate’ bring to mind similar tracks from Babymetal’s self-titled debut, particularly the anthemic ‘Gimme Chocolate!!’ However, this album marks a departure from Babymetal by offering some of the band’s most complex and experimental songs yet. ‘Tales of the Destinies’ and ‘GJ!’ stand out with clear influences from Metallica and Slipknot, whilst the catchy riffs in ‘Awadama Fever’ conjure up the infectious, crazy energy of South African rappers Die Antwoord, and the ephemeral vocals and thumping rhythms in ‘From Dusk Til Dawn’ sound as other-worldy and hypnotic as Grimes.
Metal Resistance may not resonate with all British and American metal fans, and this is partly due the fact that despite the band’s experimentation with different types of metal, including the “black metal” track, ‘Sis. Anger’, it’s an album which remains true to Japanese idol culture. The clear influence of J-pop is prevalent and led by artists including Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, whose almost unbearable brand of saccharine pop is evident on Metal Resistance; particularly on the stand-out ‘Amore’. However, although Babymetal emulate this “kawaii” element in their live performances – which really are out-of-this-world, complete with matching tutus, pigtails and 90’s girl-band dance routines – on record they have achieved a gimmicky sound that doesn’t merely resemble the Pokémon theme tune by blending modern-day Japanese pop with iconic metal.
The self-confessed Limp Bizkit and Bring Me The Horizon fans clearly idolise western music, but the fact that their own music refuses to neglect their cultural roots is what has made them so individual. The blurring of their off-stage/on-stage personas add to the cryptic, overly-dramatic personality of the band – and explains why they have supported Lady Gaga on her 2015 tour. However, unlike the obvious commercialism of artists like Lady Gaga, Babymetal have a higher level of authenticity about them, which is testament to their Japanese culture. The fact that Babymetal believe their producer, Kobametal, is the only one who can communicate with the band’s guiding idol, known as the “Fox God”, would be a bizarre concept in the western music industry; yet in the case of Babymetal, this becomes just another charming aspect of their identity.
Despite having made history on their world tour this April by becoming the first Japanese band to headline Wembley Arena, the question is whether Metal Resistance, and Babymetal themselves, will stand the test of time in years to come. “Only the Fox God knows!” would be the girls’ response, and honestly, I can’t predict how far Babymetal will go, or whether they will only have been a short-lived experiment… but whatever their future destiny, it’s clear that for now, resistance may be futile.By Jessie Adams