For Fox Sake…
Although the outfit formed in 2010, it’s only now that the raucous trio known as BABYMETAL have released their debut album, the eponymously titled BABYMETAL.
Originally formed as a sub-unit of idol outfit Sakura Gakuin under the gaze of producer Kobametal, the BABYMETAL concept was to weld J-Pop and Heavy Metal together. Consisting of the trio of Su-Metal, Moametal and Yuimetal, BABYMETAL set out as an independent outfit, eventually signing to the Toy’s Factory label and releasing their first major label single ‘Ijime Dame Zettai’ in January 2013. The single reached No. 6 in the Oricon charts and managed to sell 190,000 copies in its first week alone. The trio followed it up with ‘Megitsune’, released in June the same year.
BABYMETAL as an album is essentially a collection of the various singles and B-Side tracks from the earlier releases, yet is a surprisingly seamless collection of the energetic tunes that have brought the trio such deserved attention.
The album opens with an ethereal choral piece that heralds the arrival of ‘Babymetal Death’ (originally the B-Side to ‘Ijime, Dame, Zettai’). It’s a suitably dense collage of blistering guitars and foreboding vocals on which the idol-esque element is surprisingly minimal. It’s no surprise that ‘Babymetal Death’ is used as the opening number on the outfit’s live appearances.
Meanwhile, ‘Megitsune’ delivers a stirring slice of rock-orientated tunes with its generous use of electronic instrumentation and percussive rhythms. There’s an element here that suggests the rockier end of outfits such as BiS – an outfit that similarly attempt to straddle several genres at once. Lyrically, ‘Megitsune’ trades on the fox theme that’s an essential part of BABYMETAL’s background, here demonstrated by lyrics that suggest women appear to be deceitful like foxes, but are actually just presenting an illusion by their charms.
But it’s ‘Give Me Choco!!’ (penned by Takeshi Ueda of The Mad Capsule Market) that demonstrates that BABYMETAL know how to serve up that Metal/J-Pop combo in a successful melange of cute vocals and heavy guitar work. The catchy chorus is one that’s tough to shift once it gets into your head on this tune dedicated to chocolate. The subtle vocal treatments and electronic effects add to the appeal, while the relentless guitars give the track a solid foundation.
‘Ii Ne!’ offers a nod to a more traditional idol/J-Pop sound and makes more overt use of tweaking the vocals for effect. ‘Akatsuki’, meanwhile, which originally featured on the ‘Megitsune’ single release, delivers some stylish guitar and yearning vocals that pull at the heartstrings at the same time as they encourage more than a bit of headbanging.
The inclusion of ‘DOKI DOKI☆MORNING’ is a bonus as it’s the song that really put BABYMETAL on the map. Originally released in 2011 on the BABYMETAL x KIBA OF AKIBA joint release, it’s all catchy vocal melodies in a densely layered composition that constantly shifts gear.
‘Onedari Daisakusen’ is one of BABYMETAL’s rarer tracks as it was only issued as an extra track on the Limited Edition release of ‘Megitsune’. It’s a much more muscular production, as is ‘4 no Uta’ which delivers more of a rock-orientated approach – contrasted with an unexpected lilting vocal intermission.
‘Uki Uki Midnight’ has managed to craft itself as one of the most popular BABYMETAL numbers. It’s a bizarre construction of metal, J-Pop and nods to dubstep, but keeps the melodies front and centre. Meanwhile, ‘Catch Me If You Can’ takes the trio back into heavier territory with its brooding vocal backing and wall of sound approach. Conversely, ‘Head Bangya!!’ does exactly what it says on the tin with its repeated pronouncements of the song’s title.
Lastly, the Su-Metal-centric ‘Ijime, Dame, Zettai’ unfolds 6 minutes of epic guitar-fuelled mayhem in a protest song about bullying with more nods to that popular fox theme along the way (‘Fox, Fly!, Fox, Fly!).
With the shifting of boundaries in terms of availability for Japanese music releases, it has to be said that BABYMETAL are one of the outfits helping to pave the way. The album has managed to scoop the No. 1 slot on the iTunes Metal charts on its release (and yes, it is available via UK iTunes), bringing it to the attention of a broader audience.
This accessibility has resulted in the trio getting much more global press coverage than many other Japanese artists of the same level. It’s a development that can’t have gone unnoticed by the other domestic labels aware of the increased global presence of artists such as Perfume (interestingly also signed to BABYMETAL’s management outfit Amuse) and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.
In a music scene that’s suffering from a saturation of retro outfits and generic guitar bands (both in Japan and in the West) it’s perhaps comforting to know that there are outfits such as BABYMETAL that can serve up something that you’re not expecting.