Review of "Baby Metal (2015) - Baby Metal"

published 21/01/2016 | Nymphypig
Member since : 14/05/2015
Reviews : 316
Members who trust : 67
About me :
Super
Pro Upbeat, cute, catchy, and metal
Cons Bit of a gimmick, but no more so than kiss
exceptional
Originality
Quality and consistency of tracks
Cover / Inlay Design and Content
Value for Money
Lyrics

"Hedobang!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

At first I thought this review was going to be a challenge for me - how on earth do you properly review a band whose lyrics you don't understand, barring the odd few words. Then, having calmed down slightly, I recalled that in my previous ciao incarnation, I quite happily reviewed Andrea Bocelli and other singers who sung opera and classical in languages other than my own native tongue.

Harder even than the language barrier is perhaps trying to explain the concept of the band. That sounds really pretentious - after all, if I was trying to recommend Iron Maiden, Pantera, or Black Sabbath to friends, my recommendation would be all about the music. But with a little more thought, there has actually been a lot of concept metal - Kiss with the face paint, being a prime example.

Suddenly what I thought was new and unusual is not as unusual after all. But they're still a band I love and want to share, so, Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you BabyMetal.

BabyMetal

When you think of Metal music, it's probably safe to say that Japan might not be the first country you think of. You might think of the UK (Iron Maiden, or arguably Motorhead) the USA (Metallica, Slayer) or perhaps some of the big names in Scandinavia (Thy Servant, Twilight Opera). It's unlikely you'd think of Japan, and probably even more unlikely you'd picture a band fronted by three teen girls (all currently 16 and over, but with two of them looking about 12) wearing frilly skirts, participating in carefully choreographed routines, and singing about their love of sleepovers and chocolate, and their hatred of bullying. But with BabyMetal, that's exactly what you get.

Formed of Suzuka Nakamoto (Su-metal), Yui Mizuno (Yuimetal), and Moa Kikuchi (Moametal) the group was put together my the Amuse talent agency in 2010, as a spin off of the Idol-group Sakura Gakuin, making their first stage appearance as a Sakura Gakuin support group. Over the years, they've become a band in their own right, making their UK debut on the Sonsiphere 2014 main stage. They're now so big that in 2016 they have their own world tour, starting at Londons Wembley Arena.

Though the three girls make an adorable and attention grabbing centrepiece, some credit (a lot of it in fact) does have to go to the 'metal' element of BabyMetal in the form of the Kami Band:

Takayoshi Ohmura (Guitar)
Leda (Guitar)
Mikio Fujioka (Guitar)
Boh (Bass)
Hideki Aoyama (Drums)
Yuya Maeta (Drums)

Not only do they play some excellent metal music, but a lot of the time they do this wearing either skin tight skeleton suits, or long Japanese white tunics and long hair wigs to look like traditional Japanese ghosts (think Sadako) and they do a fair amount of dancing themselves in a live show.
Track Listing

This is a CD and DVD set. There are 15 tracks on the DVD :


1. BABYMETAL DEATH
2. Megitsune
3. Gimme Chocolate!!
4. Iine!
5. Akatsuki
6. Doki Doki Morning
7. Onedari Daisakusen
8. Song 4
9. Uki Uki Midnight
10. Catch Me If You Can
11. Rondo of Nightmare
12. Head Bangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!
13. Ijime, Dame, Zettai
14. Road of Resistance (Bonus track feat. Herman Li & Sam Totman)
15. Gimme Chocolate!! (Bonus Track - Live At O2 Academy Brixton)

And five performances on the DVD

1. Doki Doki Morning
2. Iine!
3. Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!
4. Ijime, Dame, Zettai
5. Megitsune

I do have to say that if you're completely new to BabyMetal, this is an excellent set, as, amazing and catchy as the music is, you do need to really see them perform to really appreciate the level of talent and energy that goes into their songs. Watching them perform is exhausting - they bounce around the stage like a demented kangaroo on acid, performing perfectly precise choreographed routines, without appearing to break a sweat (although the reality, seeing them live, is that they understandably have to take a break every few songs, or slow down and just have Su-metal sing whilst the other two sway).

Thoughts

BabyMetal Death is the first track on the album, and probably for a non-Japanese speaker the easiest to review. Lyrically, it basically consists of shouting 'BabyMetal Death' a lot, occasionally changing it up with 'Su-Metal Death! Yui-Metal Death! MoaMetal Death!'. It's not really a track so much as it's a stage intro. At least on the CD, it's relatively short - live it's a ten minute spectacle!

However, with the next track , Megitsune we're onto some proper tunes. Incredibly fast paced,this song (the title of which literally translates to 'Female Fox') is actually one of the first ones I heard, and mixes kawaii J-pop with metal seamlessly. I can almost guarantee that on first listen, you'll find yourself singing 'Sore! Sore! Sore!' (pronounced Sore-ray) along with the choruses, heedless of what the song actually means.

Next up is Gimme Chocolate which has a perfectly self explanatory title - lyrically, this song is all about the girls love of candy. However, as well as the guitar heavy metal introduction, this song relies heavily on a call-and-reply element, with Su-Metal singing phrases that are either repeated or answered by the other two members. The song also suffers a little from accent problems - it's very common in Japanese speech (and in songs) to borrow words from English with slightly different pronunciations - Merry Christmas for example becomes Meri Kurisimasu. At one point in this song, they sing 'Never,never,never,never' which, on several hearings, until I looked up the lyrics, I heard as 'Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger'. This combined with the song title could have led to an unfortunate translation , so I am glad I took the time to look it up.

Line! is the next track, with lyrics delivered in a much more staccato style, and with the tune overall sounding very cute and poppy, the sort of thing that would make a very catchy anime theme tune. Until 1 minute 30 seconds in, where it abruptly switches to hip hop, bordering on rap. There is something very sweet about Japanese girls in sunglasses and hoodies asking 'Are you ready for more', and although it doesn't fit with BabyMetals general style, it's certainly a track that stands out on the album. It does slip back into metal territory a few minutes in, but the odd hip-hop segment does make it stand out.

Akatsuki is one of the bands resting songs, giving an opportunity for those poor exhausted girls to take a moment to step back and stop with the frantic bouncing. It still has some hefty metal guitar behind it, but vocally it's relatively slow with a ballad feel. With my extremely limited understanding of Japanese, I don't know what the song is about, but if feels much sadder than many of the others.

We move onto Doki Doki Morning . Doki Doki is actually a phrase I do understand, being an onomatopoeic representation of the sound of a heartbeat. With a title like that , you might be expecting a deep and emotional love song, but instead the song seems to be about getting ready for school, making sure your bangs are straight, and picking which lipstick to wear. With that said, this song is very easy to pick up the words to, even if they are in another language, and to sing along to. Out of all the songs on the album, this is probably the only one I could actually sing to a friend to give them an idea of the band - it's incredibly catchy, but also they're not in such a huge rush to get the words out. It's not a slow song, but it is by BabyMetal standards.

Onedari Daisakusen is next on the list, and I've been lucky enough to have a Japanese friend with me to tell me exactly what this song is about - essentially it's about a girl using her sweetness to get around her dad, either to get out of punishments or to get something she really wants. ' Dad, you know I love you, can I have 50p for a chocolate bar?' not being a lyric in the song but serving to get the general idea across. I have to say I felt the metal element was very subdued on this track, with the focus more on the cuteness of the singers, and indeed in some parts the music stopped completely to give way to a wheedling voice. Not a bad song by any means, but certainly among the weakest on this album.

Song 4 is a direct cover of Blur's 'Song 2', just with the number changed. Only kidding, it's actually a pretty catchy song.It starts off with a pretty traditional clapping pattern that most Brits will recognise but that I struggle to write down, my closest approximation is 1, 1, 123, 1234.. You'd know it if I clapped it out, but I'm drunk and on a computer, and it doesn't really translate via text. 4 is of course a lucky number in Japan, and the song is about the many ways the number is lucky. Vocally, it's pretty weak, with my attention primarily being grabbed by the instrumentals that reminded me of watching football matches. There is a wee moment where they start playing the riff from ROTM's 'Killing in the name' that did have me headbanging!

Uki Uki Midnight is up next, and it's another one of those songs where the fusion of cutesy pop vocals and metal instrumentals just works. It's not as bouncy and energetic as some of the other tracks, and lyrically it's not very catchy, but it does stand out for having some dubstep elements. I hate dubstep, most of the time, but they only use it for a few seconds and to great effect.

Catch me if you can - Not to be confused with the Girls Generation single of the same name, this in incredibly fast paced, with the vocals accompanied by some fast metal music and a good old manly metal roar. Unfortunately, I found the girls voices on this track seemed distant and very obscured,so it didn't really feel like one of thier songs to me, until the chorus. Once you get to the chorus, the girls voices really shine over the backing instrumentals, and you get a chance to really appreciate that, far from being a gimmick, these girls can actually sing.

Rondo of Nightmare begins with distant guitar thrashing, sounding as though it's coming a long way through an old fashioned telephone line. The metal track is actually pretty subdued for most of this track, with Su-metal singing a mournful solo. The track has a disrant, mournful feel which is perhaps appropriate, as my best understanding of the lyrics indicates that the song is about being chased through dark woods. In parts,the metal track stops, and we just have Su-metals voice against some gentle piano, which is quite creepy.

Now we're onto a favourite of mine Head Bangeeeeerrrrr!!!!! . It's a favourite for many reasons, one of them being the amusement I feel when an English word is adopted by the Japanese, and one of them being that this is one of the few songs where I can figure out some of the lyrics, and not only that, identify with them. Lyrically, the song tells of a girl attending her first metal concert and learning to love the genre, and (whilst I doubt this put-together band actually has that experience to draw on) that's something that makes sense to me, with the result that I'm more than happy to 'Hedobang' when commanded. A contrast of gorgeous girly vocals from the main troupe and metal roars from the backing band, this song is fab.

An albums no good without a strong moral message, and BabyMetal provide this with Ijeme, Dame, Zetta; an anti-bullying track. This track is slowed right down at the intro, getting gradually faster, and bringing in some impressive 80's metal guitars. Vocally, it's pretty slow, allowing for picking up the words easily, and relies to some extent on a call-and-response tactic, with Su-Metal singing the main lyrics, and the other vocalists echoing certain parts back to her in their very sweet voices. There is an element of mournfulness to the verses, even for someone that can't understand them, and this song, out of all of them on the album, is the easiest for me to feel the emotion in.

Road of Resistance is a new track for me, one I've not yet (as far as I know) seen performed live. In contrast to every other song on this album so far, I've never seen it performed,live or otherwise, so I'm not picturing the group in my head. This makes it the first song I've judged on it's musical merits alone. It's a medium paced ballad, with the instrumentals complimentary but not intrusive. Again, it relies on a certain amount of repetition and call-and-response, but it works.

Lastly, at least for the CD part, we have another rendition of Gimme Chocolate, this time performed at the 02 Academy, Brixton. Normally, I'm not that keen on including a live track on a studio album , but actually with BabyMetal I think it really works in giving you an idea of the bands popularity. You can hardly hear the band over the sound of beardy 40 year old men singing along, and you can really pick up the ambience of the venue
The DVD

I feel this review's already gone on too long, but I must say a few words about the DVD. If you already know, and are a fan of BabyMetal, this DVD is not going to show you anything new or groudbreaking- these are old performances you can very easily find on youtube and the DVD serves little use given that a full concert length DVD is not expensive nowadays.

That said, if you're entirely nre to BabyMetal, I have to say you can't possibly fully \ppreciate them until you've seen them perform. You don't have to see them live, but you do have to see them to see just how much energy and enthusiasm they throw into a performance. It's tiring just watching them. If you don't have this set with this DVD, don't worry - there is nothing exclusive on the DVD, and all these performances are freely available on youtube.
Conclusion

BabyMetal is a band that is hard to characterise. I can't easily say 'If you like x you'll like this', not without being ridiculously niche. It's catchy, wonderful to listen to (and to view) and certainly unusual, but probably of limited interest outside of metalheads or japanophiles. If you like BabyMetal, this is a strong album showcasing some of thier best work. If you don't know who they are, I recommend you look them up on youtube, and then, perhaps, buy the album,

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Comments on this review

  • LiveMusicLoverLyn published 13/05/2016
    They are so funny!
  • StewwyB published 27/01/2016
    well reviewed
  • siberian-queen published 26/01/2016
    Excellent review! I saw them at Reading were i went to see Metallica, they were surprisingly better than i thought and had a big fan following with them :0
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