Feb 262014

(Right here, right now, DGR reviews the just-released debut album by Japan’s Babymetal.)

I don’t like Japanese idol music and J-pop. It’s probably one of my least favorite things out there. We often like to sit on our high horses and jaw all day about how all pop music sounds the same, how there are formulas and the artists are becoming so increasingly transparent that you can practically see the marketing department that put them together pulling the strings. Yet, Japan has been doing this for years with their pop music — consistently forming girl groups around gimmicks and novelty, as well as teaming them together in some unholy mish-mash whether they actually get along or not, singing talent aside. They’ve gotten very good at constructing groups and finding formulas and then hammering them into the ground. It’s everything I’ve despised about pop music, cranked up to eleven and made so obvious that you can’t even act like you’re being lied to. You like it because of those reasons. You know what you’re getting into from the get-go most of the time.

So when Babymetal were initially revealed — a combination of pop idol music and heavy metal, like a mad, unholy experiment consisting of throwing darts at a board to come up with another talent group to manage and grind into the ground, as if the girls weren’t human — the eye-roll was tremendous. And when the song “Doki Doki Morning” came out, the groans grew even louder. Yet, over time the group have morphed into something entirely different from the way they began, something that I’m not quite sure the management knows how to handle.

They get trotted out for marketing gigs all the time — including schlubbing it up for the Metallica movie that no one saw anywhere. But the music has gotten progressively heavier. Over time the band have worked more and more heavy metal into the music, taking Babymetal from some unholy mashup into an amusing and surprisingly competent hybrid of death metal, power metal, electronica, and yes, pop music to a lesser extent. Babymetal (The Album) exists in part as an historical document of this transition, as well as providing new material. As the group’s first official CD, Babymetal launches the band from a novelty with a bunch of singles to a group with an album — one about which we can now actually have a serious conversation.

Up front, you’re not going to see me slandering too much of the vocals here. Yui and Moa are both young girls and they perform on the disc as you would expect a young girl to. They’re not the main focal point, instead providing the occasional backing scream as well as some rapid-fire spoken parts and occasional singing. One of them actually raps, which is hilarious in its own right. The story behind Babymetal tells us they were offshoots of a bigger idol band, one of many groups formed by members of the junior class. I doubt any of these girls initially stated, “Hell yes, put me in the goddamned heavy metal band”, but they work damn well with what they were given and remain largely inoffensive. They actually have one song about Chocolate that has them sounding like something of a thrash group up until the chorus, with the two of them just barking out the lyrics.

Su, however, is the main focal point. She has some pipes on her and could easily front a metal band of her own. She really came into her own on “Megitsune” (a perennial NCS favorite, massive breakdown still intact) and throughout multiple songs manages to keep the spotlight on herself no matter what absolute madness is happening on the backing track. Lyrically, her vocals all come through pretty clear, though the lyrics are very simplistic. Trust me, if I can catch about twenty percent of the lyrics to the point where I get the gist of what you’re singing about with my three years of high school Japanese, then you’re probably not kicking out poetry. None of them makes an appearance on the song “Babymetal Death” though, other than to check in. That one is mostly buoyed by the backing band, and it is easily one of the heaviest songs on the album.

Babymetal’s backing band, as far as we’re concerned, are goddamned heroes and all-stars. The musicians in the back of the group really make things work on this disc. Considering that there is only so much in the way of vocals that can be done, they shoulder a lot of the work and pull off the herculean task of keeping the ship afloat. The guitar work on this disc is incredibly varied, and the riffs here are prescient. They seem to be aware of exactly when to throw in a super-heavy, low-end chugging riff and when to become a power metal group. The musicians try very hard to keep things traditionally metal — including adding solos. And you know what? The solo work on this disc is really good; all the tunes include some pretty goddamned sick guitar solos in the midst of the absolute madness that is happening in the rest of the music on this album.

The drummer on this disc kills it as well, seizing every single opportunity to slam in a double-bass roll or two or a gallop, alongside a heavy helping of bass blasts. With the sound so high in the mix, the drumming takes the band from being Idol music mixed with heavy metal to a crushing, heavy metal band. The rhythm section across the board does this, though, with the bass guitar galloping along as well.

There’s a vocalist on this disc as well, who isn’t Su, Yui, or Moa and whose identity I don’t think has been revealed. I like to think of him as the Harbinger — because the moment you hear that dude you know things are about to get profoundly stupid in all of the best ways. The dude brings on some of the thickest breakdowns, including a dubstep breakdown that could potentially challenge The Browning for dumbest mix of electronica and metalcore yet. The guy just dominates on the heavy metal side of things — like a conductor of an increasingly ridiculous show, steering the group through (I shit you not here) a ska section, a bass-heavy hip-hop section (with one of the hugest breakdowns right after it, the transition is nuts), multiple power metal sections, some deathcore gallops and chugging riffs.

Across the board, the band behind Babymetal are crazy people, and I don’t think the three girls in front have been informed. I hope this never changes because the musicians in this band make this group work.

Long story short, you are not prepared for nor expecting what happens on about 90% of this disc. The tough question, after all of this, is where do Babymetal go from here? Do they go even more metal? Because stuff like this only works once. After they have become a known quantity, then we have something of an obligation to approach them as we would real musicians instead of a novel gimmick or some really odd mish-mash of J-pop and heavy metal that seems to work in spite of itself.

This disc goes to very weird places and shows impressive prowess on the part of all involved, musicians and vocalists, with multiple times throughout the disc that make a pretty good case for Su-Metal as a power metal singer in her own right. As noted, Babymetal exists as part archive of everything they’ve done up to this point as well as a modernization and a refining of their sound — which in some senses makes them feel like a real, legitimate group, as crazy as that sounds. Hell, they even managed to work the miracle of making “Doki Doki Morning” relatively tolerable — though it is likely bouyed by how crazy and off the wall the tracks surrounding it are.

On Babymetal, the group prove that they truly have no limits when it comes to songwriting, other than the likelihood that the pop idol stuff will remain in the mix. As you listen,  you can get a sense of the point in the band’s career at which the songs were written, because quite a bit of the music here is crushingly heavy, which I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted when the band first emerged.

You’re going to absolutely hate yourself for liking it, because as corporate as Japanese pop music and idol groups can get, this one has somehow stumbled on, and refined to a T, a formula that works really well. They have taken Babymetal from an amusing gimmick to something more, with some really catchy and really heavy tunes. If it makes you feel better, just pretend you’re on some sort of anthropological expedition when you inevitably get caught up istening to it.

Babymetal is now available on iTunes worldwide and on CD from the band’s web store.



  61 Responses to “BABYMETAL: “BABYMETAL””

  1. At least I enjoyed the first sentence: “I don’t like Japanese idol music and J-pop”.
    In respect of the NCS philosophy I’ll just rest my case, before it gets ugly… like japanese pop-metal performed by children. Ahem!

    • I’m listening to this album at the moment and the smile hasn’t left my face since it started. It’s not my typical fare, but it’s damn fun and surprisingly heavy in places. I love it.

      • I allmost feel bad for ruining the mood here at NCS, by being THAT GUY, but I had to get it of my chest.
        The name alone, Baby… Metal…
        Oh well, if we all had the same taste there would be no diversity in the scene.
        Just listening to Reign in Blood for aeons and aeons, infinitely and forever.

        • Babymetal is actually a play on Heavy Metal…or how it would be pronounced in Japanese. (Heavy Metal is ヘビーメタル while Babymetal is ベビーメタル) It also encompasses the idea that they’re new and fresh…like a newborn, which there genre is.

    • I hate to sound like a missionary or preacher, but let me explain:
      Have you read the whole article and that comments of almighty DGR? It’s not about “trve” or not (I’m looking at you “metalcore hate”). It’s about many things: How? Why? And… why do I meet so many frostbitten Black Metal guys, who can’t dislike it. Listen to some songs first to understand why so many fail to hate it. (especially megitsune, who thought breakdowns could be fun again after the you heard the billionth one?) I’m totally ok with the Album – in the end the whole thing makes it great. Just for those who really, really like some of their “metal only” songs, it’s dissappointing… especially since they turned from starting as one of those Idol Project Ideas “Hey lets mix metal with idol music” to something like Megitsune is impressive, and shows that they didn’t get an ordinary idol treatment. They have two new, very “J-Poppy”, but… actually good songs on the new album (If you are able to be loosen your ears a bit, I think of that choco song as a party track – but I still like it after the innitial dissapointment, that they didn’t go full metal as it was scientifically predicted). But there is a third new track on the cd, which defies the whole fucking Idol business, AGAIN: Just listen: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1dcsd5 That girl is 15 or 16 and has a voice goddamn made for shit like that.
      Another thing is that no big producers or corporations are behind the songs themselves. Somehow someone smart got his hands on this band – with Megitsune as it’s epitome.

      tl;dr: It’s fun. It’s good. For a reason. If the girls dancemoves disturb you, than you didn’t get it and it’s just a thing of “faith”. “NO ONE TOUCH WHAT I BELIEVE! NO ONE TO BREAK MY SPIRIT!”
      If you give it a try, you’ll find yourself drunk freaking out to the song with the rap part, enjoying it to the fullest and listening to the songs that can genuinely be defined as real ass metal, with a really fucking talented girl at the mic, at home.

      If you’re still NOT WILLING TO LISTEN TO THEM (no preaching ofc), click these links (These are versions without any high pitched voice) – and judge if it’s metal or not.

      Hm… after listening to megitsune without vocals, it doesn’t even sound that metal. But it also wasn’t my goal to “prove” they are totally metal. Why? Because it doesn’t fucking matter.
      Here: the megitsune music video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cK3NMZAUKGw just get through the first minute of the “little girls music” part.

      What a fucking useless post :3

  2. I wonder how much control is put in on behalf of the “manufacturers,” for lack of a better word. Which is not to take anything away from the music. I genuinely like it–I just wonder, from an academic stand point, how crazy they let the backing band be, and how much was orchestrated.

    • I think as the band first started out, it was probably more on the management and idol side of the spectrum, especially when you listen to the groups beginning of the career on this disc. But, it seems like as you get closer to now whomever was working on it behind the scenes cranked the metal side up on the controls and took the idol side down quite a bit – which I imagine allows the group playing the instruments more freedom. I imagine whomever is writing the songs is probably given a blueprint to aim for and they get some freedom to go from there nowadays. I think in the beginnings of this project they were probably given some pop music and told to shoehorn it in, which is how you wind up with schizophrenic stuff like Doki Doki Morning.

    • Any musicians involved with Babymetal are hired by the management company and will do what they’re asked to do (in other words they’ll act like professionals). They will treat the girls with complete respect, they understand they are in a supporting role. I know the girls have had input in the past on their dance moves, but I doubt they have any influence over the music or lyrics.

      • The two youngest singers, Yui and Moa are credited with the Lyrics/Music to ‘Song 4’. Moa plays the guitar and is continues to take lessons with the aim of composing more. I’m baffled with exactly how much people expect of these teenage girls as far as songwriting goes. Not everyone’s a Kate Bush and able to knock out award-winning songs while still at school.

  3. I just wonder who will go to their concerts (and what’s their target market), I’m pretty sure the girls won’t say anything like ‘let me see your fuckin horns’ or ‘circle pit!’…on the other hand, this existence (or whatever you call it) may lure some kids into the realm of metal…

  4. I’m kind of concerned about how much I’m liking this. I may need to see a doctor about it.

    • Breathe easily, help is underway
      Method 1: The step-by-step back to Metal:
      First, take the step from baby metal (lower case intended) to kiddie metal http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXhhlYdySqQ
      Than, step up to semi-grown up metal http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFwbrHAyuaw (Don’t worry, the monsters aren’t real), and than almost grown up metal http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwwmglYX7QE etc.

      Method 2: Shock treatment:
      First, get ass-drunk on moonshin, then put this video on repeat on extreme volume, and just go ape-shit-bananas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkSOpmchJiM

      • Face it, Gorger, Babymetal is too subversive for your delicate sensibilities. They’re messing with your paradigms and shit.

        I find I can switch back and forth between Babymetal and Belphegor, Behemoth, Blut Aus Nord, Beastwars or Blodsgard without whiplash (or leaving the Bs). It’s all entertaining music.

        • I think this private crisis of faith has been amazing. Rest assured, I have heavier groups to review coming up.

        • I think my reluctancy towards this concept has to do with with two things.
          1. I’m no fan of child vocal in general. Intense, high pitch, japanese school girl “squalling” might be my leats favorit vocal off all.
          2. I find it hard to respect “bands” that don’t write or performe their own music. I’m on thin ice on this point, cause even if I’ve heard Baby Metal, I’ve never LISTENED, and I don’t know much anout them. Do they write music, or play instruments, or are they just a “design”, like all the boy bands I hate from the bottom of my fart?

          Also, the amount of attension this amusing/queer curiosity is getting from the metal scene makes me headshakingly flabbergasted.

          You can mix in what ever you want into metal, and I’ll normally not have big trouble listening to it. Rap and child vokals are normally my limits. Exceptions, however, exists. IceT’s contribution in Six Feet Under’s One Bullet Left was cool, and 6 Year Old Aaralyn from Americas Got Talent has my horns up.

  5. Could it be Yoshio Nomura (Ayumi Hamasaki’s guitarist) on guitar here?
    Also, since DGR know his chops about J-Pop, I would like to know what he thinks of Aldious. Do they really play their instruments or not?

  6. their backing support bands during live consists of the following:

    Guitar – Takayoshi Ohmura (Marty Friedman band, C4, Liv Moon)
    Guitar – Leda (Ex-Deluhi, Undivide)
    Guitar – Mikio Fujioka (Trick Box, Music Institute Japan Lecturer) – if one of the guitarists above are not available during live, he will be supporting.
    Bass – BOH (BINECKS)
    Drums – Hideaki Aoyama (Ever+Last, JAM Project)
    Manipulator (Programmer) – Usami

    some of their past support bands also include Ryo of Blood Stain Child, Eizo Sakamoto of Animetal and IKUO of Bull Zeichen 88.

    We don’t really know if all of them are also involved in the recording process.

  7. BABYMETAL Kami band on Twitter

    Guitar: 大村孝佳 http://twitter.com/TakayoshiOhmura

    Guitar: Leda http://twitter.com/Leda_Cygnus

    Bass guitar: BOH http://twitter.com/BassistBOH

    Drums: 青山英樹 http://twitter.com/aoyama_hideki

    • Thanks for this. Nice to see those guys getting revealed. Dudes can hammer shit out.

      • But they don’t produce the music. Look one or two comments above where I gave some examples of one of the producers (who works completely independend, and is responsible for Megitsune btw). He mostly releases his music on nicodouga – a japanese otaku (“nerd”) streaming site.
        The music you hear on the disc isn’t played by those guys. Their are “just” the live band.

        • I think its great to have the names out there. The girls are great for what they are there for, but there’s a couple of mad geniuses behind the scenes that know way more about metal than what has surfaced, so its very cool seeing folks get credit for that.

          • *than what they have surfaced.

            as much as I joke about it, first time in a while where i’ve screwed myself on our lack of an edit button.

            • Yes it’s always good to have the names out there. But that’s the thing, why it is hard to hate even the more “poppier” songs: We KNOW that the 3 girls aren’t Babymetal, and those who manage the whole thing, managed to be perfectly aware of their audience(s). The blog post described it pretty well. Usually, everything around Idols and forcibly produced shit from Japan is behind some kind of curtain. Everything must be pure, “there is no one in the background who pulls the strings” yadda yadda. That’s why there is such a big wall some people have in their heads, when it comes to this band.
              This time it’s different. As I mentioned about 14 times in comments here, the fact that someone small, but extremely skilled like yuyoyuppe (Did “Megitsune” and others) was hired by the managent (or whatever the hirarchy is), is astounding.
              The other different producers are high horses in the metal industry, but not just them – the band… holy shit. And not just that – the workflow must have been totally different than it is usually the case with japanese Idols.

              Even though I liked the other songs, I really hated 2 of the 3 new songs, but that feeling COMPLETELY turns around, after you listen to it “with your other ear” (means: I first expected what Megitsune brought us in terms of what is possible, and not the “kawaii” part of the band).

              Also I just got the memo that they will tour in europe, or at least play there once. I hope it’s a real tour, and not just one festival.

              DRG, weren’t you a kind of japanophile? I don’t know where I get that memory from, but in case you know japanese, you should find out more about the producers and people behind the curtain.

  8. Stupidly excited for this, and what I’ve heard of the new tracks sounds pretty killer.

    This album is sorely lacking “Answer for Animation with You.” That’s one of my favorites.

  9. Japan has a huge bedroom pop scene. Bedroom pop is almost completely computer generated and most such releases are self-released, so there are no conglomerates pushing it all. There are actually quite a lot of styles. I’m not much of a pop listener but there are a few exceptions. There are only a few Japanese artists I listen to.

  10. Okay having now listened through the album I see what you mean by ‘you will not be expecting this’. There’s some random stuff in there; I think the dub/reggae interludes threw me the most.

    Favourite tracks are probably Megitsune (which obviously I’d heard before) and Akumuno Rondo – that guitar work, piano line and overall creepier feel to it remind me a lot of Lorelei.

  11. Personally, this is all a little too contrived and slick for me. It’s everything I have a problem with in the music industry in general (well, not everything…). That’s not to say that some very contrived acts don’t crank out some infectiously catchy tunes. It just turns me off.

    My greatest fear, though, is that Babymetal is just too close to Dethklok, only they’re real. I can see a future where I wake up to my Babymetal alarm clock, drink Babymetal coffee while reading The New York Babymetal Times, and at the end of a long work day, throw back a few Babymetal brews with the boys before jumping in my 4×4 Babymetal truck and heading home. :shiver:

  12. For all the silly humans who are genuinely concerned or afraid to find themselves liking things of this sort; if the music calls to you, then why should you reject its energy? Open your mind to the universe, and look deep into your soul. If you find the metal at the core of yourself, then you may have whatever music you damn well please, and transition effortlessly between any number of different genres with no fear of corruption or loss.

    If the metal is in your heart, you can always come back.

  13. Im managing the fan site http://babymetal.net/ and i can tell you right now that the traffic is exploding and coming for everywhere in the world.

  14. The band is right now on every big metal and jpop site, they are even on 9gag, the number of commentary on this very post and on the post from metal suck, metal injection, metal hammer are the sign that something is happening right now in font of our eyes for BABYMETAL, its more then just a «trend».

  15. Just give a look to their live show and now tell me thay are not «metal» 🙂

  16. I really wish the metal press would stop covering this garbage.

  17. Gimme Chocolat is composed by Takeshi Ueda of now defunct The Mad Capsule Markets.
    He’s since formed a new band called “AA=” (aa equal) and is still actively taking part in the business.

  18. All knee-jerk reactions aside, this does raise some interesting questions. I shared this with my insightful partner who doesn’t listen to metal, but isn’t bothered when I do. Her reaction to Babymetal was visceral and incredibly negative, but she asked me a question that threw me a bit.

    How would any of us feel about Babymetal if it was the exact same thing, but with 3 little white American boys? What if it was two little 12 year old white boys and a 14 year old dancing around doing choreographed moves, making cute faces, flashing horns and bouncing around, singing someone else’s songs to some masked band while a hundred thousand people bounced with them in a stadium? So I started to think about what the American version of this vision could be. New Kids on the Block? Backstreet Boys? Just add a little distortion or a pop-metal band behind them, right?

    She thinks there’s an exotic component that somehow makes it more palatable to western audiences, and a completely different expectation in the east that makes it successful there. I think she may be onto something, but I can’t speak for anyone who likes it. I does make me think about Britney Spears and the other kids who grew up out of the Mickey Mouse Club (Christina Aguilare, Justin Timberlake) to launch massive pop star careers in their early teens. This seems so close to that, only with a metal component.

    I have no problem with anyone who’s enjoying this. There are clearly other perspectives that run contrary to mine, and that’s cool. Maybe I don’t understand something and my perspective is skewed. It just isn’t the kind of thing I can appreciate, though. But thanks NCS and crew for writing about it and bringing it to my attention. The discussions alone are worth it.

    • Well personally I’ve enjoyed some J-pop in the past, though it was most always the ending theme for some anime. What I’ve generally liked about it is the different singing style for a language like Japanese. And any of the songs I have weren’t really of the cutesy variety. Now what I think I like about Babymetal is that it’s got some great instrumental work which could totally fit any legit heavy metal band any day of the week. But the J-pop element just creates a completely new sound. I don’t need the girls dancing around to enjoy it, which is why I have it on my iPod. I don’t really get what your partner’s problem is with the girls dancing around since that’s standard practice for pretty much ALL pop music, though to be fair the standard pop act here is generally older than 14-16. But my bottom line for it is that it’s definitely a guilty pleasure. Legitimately heavy music with a much, MUCH lighter side to it

  19. BM now rules my metal world and i like it. and to think that i have been listening to megadeth since the time Rust in Peace album came out in 1990. when i play BM songs, my stereo is in full blast for all the neighbors to hear. and i don’t feel embarrassed about it.

  20. For anyone not convinced, those guys really rip it up. A clip from them playing live at Budokan. The solo’s start 2 minutes into the clip.

  21. Hi baby metal

  22. They need to go on tour with Andrew W.K, Ghost B.C. and Dethklok

  23. BABYMETAL is Love, BABYMETAL for Life!
    No BABYMETAL no Life! 😀

  24. I can’t believe I finally discovered BM about 3 weeks ago, I’m still freaking out. I love pop, and metal, this is the group that I’ve been waiting for, and didn’t know it. Amazing already one of my favorite “metal” groups ever.

  25. Actually, this band is a production more than anything. It’s a new genre of sorts, too. It’s not hard line heavy metal, which is what you’re expecting. The actual genre is “Baby Metal” or little metal. In Japan it’s quite common to infuse many different elements of music styles or genres, that’s nothing new.

    There are other Japanese hard line metal acts out there, if this is what you like, go look for them.

    The group Baby Metal are nothing more than Japanese idols / celebrities with a professional backing band. There are bands in the USA and U.K. that do this kind of thing too. The point of Baby Metal, is metal fusion genre for all ages, including kids between 5 ~ 12 years old and retirees at 65+. It’s like Disney meets Japan meets a giant music festival that includes metal as a forerunner, is the easiest way to explain this production.

    Ironically, all three of the girls in this band are quite capable vocally speaking except they’re under contract to keep it campy / crappy, unfortunately. Maybe sometime in the future, they’ll be able to break free or the ‎Kawaii (Cute) Metal undertones and walk away from Toy’s Factory (their current record label in Japan) for some more adult music / talent label in the USA or the U.K.

    Another reason for the goofiness / quirkiness of this band is their producer. You can read a little more about it here.


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