Babymetal shoot for the stars on Metal Galaxy. Known for pioneering kawaii metal, a captivating fusion of J-pop and metal, on this album, Babymetal combine their penchant for huge, soaring choruses and lightning-fast guitar shredding with synth-pop, dance music, rap, orchestral music and even polka.
Nothing is off-limits for Babymetal. The resulting album isn’t only dynamic, it’s cinematic. The opening track, “Future Metal,” and closing track, “Arkadia,” truly feel like a dramatic build-up and an elaborate send-off, respectively.
“DA DA DANCE” and “PA PA YA!!” both deliver the bombast Babymetal are known for, but with some surprising, generic twists. The explosive “PA PA YA!!” marks the band’s first use of rap, courtesy of Thai rapper F.HERO, but it doesn’t feel out of place at all. The song is rounded out by empowering rallying chants, expertly-used synths, an enthralling melody and a chorus which packs a punch.
“DA DA DANCE” (which features Tak Matsumoto) is eclectic, fun, and energetic. Its inventive, bouncing melody rises in typical Babymetal fashion while incorporating electronic elements like over-the-top vocal effects, dubstep-esque repetition, and dramatic synths.
Babymetal have always been adept at gripping pre-choruses, but the song “Shanti Shanti Shanti” takes that to a new level. The song is heavily influenced by Indian music, and the melody climbs and builds tension from the pre-chorus through to the chorus, in what is potentially the most exciting track on the album.
Babymetal’s sophisticated understanding of rhythm is what makes this record so effective. It’s best exemplified in “Night Night Burn!” where the rhythm is varied in genius ways as the song switches back and forth between electronic and metal music with some funk-tinged guitars thrown in, tonally jumping between dark and fun.
The ability to incorporate all of these new and diverse influences rely on the band’s technical skill and creativity. The interplay and mirroring between the vocal melody and lead guitar parts is a key feature of Babymetal songs and signifies the band’s talents.
Su-metal’s growth as a vocalist is impressive. Her voice is able to expertly adapt to each genre, and her vocals range from aggressive to desperate to joyous. Her confident performance is amplified by Moametal’s backing vocals which add emotion and flair to each song. (Yuimetal, former backing vocalist and dancer and the band’s initial third member, announced her departure from the band about a year ago.) Moametal’s best performances are her ethereal contributions to “Kagerou” and “Starlight,” which give both songs an atmospheric quality.
The guitars are used in versatile and inventive ways, often emulating the sounds of different instruments, as in the synth-pop and R&B-influenced “Brand New Day” (featuring Tim Henson and Scott LePage of Polyphia), where the guitars are played like synths during the chorus.
Even the most dramatic vocal hook can fall flat when it’s used too much in a short space of time, and unfortunately, a few songs fall victim to the repetition trap, including “Distortion” and “Starlight.” Then there are moments where the album is just plain weird. “Oh! MAJINAI,” featuring Joakim Brodén of Sabaton, borrows from Western folk music, most shockingly, polka. The creepy and cartoonish vocals lend it a childish feel, proving that Babymetal don’t take themselves too seriously.
What makes all of the experimentation work so well is that the songs are always brought back to what Babymetal does best: their signature blend of sugary pop choruses and blistering metal shredding. Metal Galaxy takes Babymetal out of this world—and we’re all along for the ride.