(Sony Music Entertainment)
It seems everyone in metal has an opinion on Babymetal, as if the band were a political issue worthy of a CNN-sponsored debate. The fact that a J-pop/metal hybrid group even exists clearly enraged a great deal of the neck-bearded metal blogosphere, so Babymetal’s “kawaii metal” (cute metal) style was a major turn off from the get go. For those of us that can actually survive without being upset that something like this gets lumped in with classic Death or Emperor records, Babymetal is anything but an abomination. “Megitsune” and “Ijime, Dame, Zettai”, from the band’s debut, were jams, ushering in a pitch-perfect mix of overly sweet pop with Grade-A styles of metal (electronicore and power/thrash, respectively). Sure, the idea of J-pop in my metal is weird (and it’s OK to admit that), but listen to those two songs and tell me they don’t put a smile on your face. Now, with a sophomore record ready for release, Babymetal must prove that this gimmick is enough to sustain a career, and they aren’t just a short-lived batch of empty fun.
Thankfully, Metal Resistance is a great example of how to take a neat idea and make it better. This record allows the backing band to shine even further. In order for a weird hybrid to work, both sides have to kill it (spoiler: they do). Here, even moreso than on the band’s debut, the backing metal band nail different styles throughout the record. Unsurprisingly, metalcore (“Karate”, “GJ!”, and “Sis. Anger”) and power metal (“Road of Resistance” and “Amore”) are well-represented, and all of these songs are definite highlights, playing up to the group’s strength for fast-paced, aggressive metal backed by wonderfully bubbly vocals. Elsewhere, folk metal, industrial, prog metal, and even ska are brought to the forefront, with impressive results. “Tale of the Destinies” is a definite ode to Dream Theater, except it’s much better than anything that band has put out in quite some time. Plus, the ending power ballad “The One” shows up James LaBrie’s love of cheese and ups the ante, to wonderful results. The highlight is definitely “YAVA!” a song that shows how well synthesized, bubble gum ska can work, featuring the best chorus and breakdown the band has ever done, barely besting “Megitsune”.
It’s impossible to just praise the backing band when the three girls/young frontwomen are so damn great at what they do. I don’t profess to be well-versed in J-pop, but it’s clear that lead vocalist Su-metal is talented enough to start her own career. She stole the show in the band’s debut, and she is even better throughout Metal Resistance, able to slightly tweak her melodies enough to fit each song well. That’s really why Babymetal works so well: sure, this is musical dissonance at its best, but is it really all that dissonant? Hell, is it even all that silly? Would “Sis. Anger”, a song that could fit well with Born of Osiris fans, sound that much less silly with typically growled vocals? Once you open your mind to a little something different, you’re well immersed in the world of kawaii metal.
This record certainly ups the metal quotient a bit, which makes sense given the fact that it seems everyone involved grew more comfortable with not only the idea of a this hybrid sound but also the execution of it. Plus, Yuimetal and Moametal are just 16, and Su-metal is 19, so it makes sense that the group can grow along with these three. With all the little improvements and expected sonic adventurism, Metal Resistance sees Babymetal with a firmer grasp at what makes them so unique and fun. They haven’t lost that sense of pure sonic joy, and the result is a supposed novelty act showing they are here to stay with Metal Resistance. (Nicholas Senior)