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Babymetal’s self-titled album could hardly be described as ‘new’. The first single, ‘Doki Doki ? Morning’ came out in November, 2011 while the record itself eventually saw the light of day in Japan in February of last year. Their specific brand of what could best be described as ‘metal idol’ has gained a cult following around he world, the sheer ridiculousness of the juxtaposition of petite teenage Japanese girls singing with a Slipknot/horror movie-inspired band catching people’s eye. However, while it is gimmicky there is certainly some substance in play.
The first thing that should be disclosed is that there is very little that could actually be described as ‘metal’ here. This is pop music with hints of metal, at best, and it’s also filled with the sort of musical set pieces that you might expect if you’re at all familiar with J-Pop. The group is made up of three members and…well…the press release probably says it a lot better:
Formed in Japan, the three girls SU-METAL, YUIMETAL and MOAMETAL began their mission to unify the world through Heavy Metal in 2010. Backed and supported by some of the finest metal musicians their native land has to offer and grown from the seeds sown by band overseer KOBAMETAL, their self-titled debut album will finally be released in Europe on May 29, 2015.
METAL, then. This being said, there is something really quite wonderful about their music. It’s fresh, energetic and largely very enjoyable. ‘Gimme Chocolate!!’ is one of the most heavily pop-influenced songs on the album and it’s undeniably fun and bouncy, even if it’s the sort of song you’d be listening to on public transport and turn down the volume a couple of notches just in case anyone else can hear. The thumping, growling ‘Megitsune’ is as surreal and strange as it is epic and great.
As if the original line of intertextuality wasn’t unusual enough there’s a cutesy hip-hop interlude on ‘line!’ that eventually breaks into a sort of video game dance music solo after some cookie monster style growling. Now, there’s a sentence that would look ridiculous out of context. ‘Uki Uki Midnight’ inexplicably breaks into Dubstep at one point. Upon the first few listens this is almost exhausting, there is just so much to unpack that it can send you out the other side feeling drained.
That is not a criticism at all. Pastiche is what they have certainly gone for here and they have pulled it off admirably. At just over an hour, it can drag on and feel a little repetitive at times and it’s difficult to say if their style will hold up over the course of multiple releases. Often with acts as highly conceptual as this it can work very well the first time out and struggle to regain the magic on subsequent releases, but that remains to be seen. On this one, they’ve put together a package that feels fresh, new and is overall very entertaining.