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Babymetal – Metal Resistance

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Babymetal - Metal ResistanceOMG BEST ALBUM EVER.

Yeah, probably should write more than that.

Precarious, is how you might describe it. Prior to this release, there was a couple of songs floating around, notably “Road of Resistance”, which features Dragon Force, or DragonForce (I’ve no intention of dignifying them with finding out how their name’s spelt). They’re alright, if you’re in a shred kind of a mood; I’ve always been more on the SRV/Malmsteen axis when it comes to that sort of fare. Anyway, it’s a great song in the context of the album (it’s the opener), but it’s emblematic of where this record sits, relative to the first — it’s got a lot of stuff that seems to be be about appealing to metal crowds, whereas the first was quite, quite ridiculous and seemingly only accidentally a bit metal.

Do you know BiS? The J-Pop ones, not the Scottish ones. So this is kind of the model of what BABYMETAL should be doing (also the model for music in general). They also (as you may be aware) did a collaboration with Hijokaidan (fucking Hijokaidan!). It was ridiculous. “STUPIG” sounds like Atari Teenage Riot with proper pop choruses. Now, there’s bit of Metal Resistance which sound like this BiS’ “Final Dance” mixed for metallers — if you keep this song, but put the instruments higher in the mix/drop the vocals a bit, you’ve got a prototype for BABYMETAL. Great. BiS fucking rule. BABYMETAL fucking rule.

The other side of this is a trick that (I think) only appears once on Metal Resistance — take a standard song, and have the instruments double up the tempo. “Amore” is like that; or rather, it’s like a metal band doing an arrangement of AKB48. Fine, but carefully balanced. Slow songs get faster if you put twice as many notes in. Simple musical science [yes, I know it doesn’t work like that. It’s a rhetorical device. Shh].

Precarious, right? What I’m cautious of is that there’s cumulatively A LOT of metal-leaning metal on this album; the thing that’s correct about BABYMETAL is the emasculating effect on metal — which is, as a genre, entirely rubbish. Adding fun/proper melodies/key changes/choreography takes a genre which is utterly inured to its own regressive criteria and makes you realise that teenage girls were always going to do it better. There aren’t any weak songs on here, but when there are some entirely audacious moves — “Sis. Anger” starts off sounding like Nile (fucking Nile!) and has a little swing through some Cradle of Filth-style synth action ending up with mean song values circa thrash. That’s bold. And better, it works.

Savaging genres into stranger shapes, you get “From Dusk Till Dawn”, which has bits of tech metal, proper early ’90s hoover synths, a mildly pointless key change (on which note, all of the key changes are very much of the FUCKING YES THE PILLS HAVE KICKED IN variety except this record), a soupçon of that kind of industrial-epic thing (Evanescence or something) — it’s also pretty weird insofar as the vocals are effected and buried more as a colour than a lead melody. As such, it’s begging for a banging trance remix (what isn’t?, I hear you cry).

Oh, so, yeah, that was a thing I was going to say — one of the things that’s changed a lot since the first record is that MOA- and YUI- METAL have shifted roles a bit; it’s still the case that SUMETAL is lead vocalist, but the other two are less impish punctuators, more backing singers. Maybe what I’m saying is that this album’s slightly, ever so slightly, less batshit ridiculous than the first one; the danger is that at this trajectory they’ll just be a good metal band in two albums time, rather than the best pop band of the last few years.

But the thing is, at the end of the day, is that there really hasn’t been anything in the entirety of human existence as astonishingly FUCK ME FUCK ME FUCK ME amazing as the song “Awadama Fever”. It sounds like Atari Teenage Riot — as in, pretty much the exact same distortion Alec Empire put on that Amen break for most of the ’90s. It mentions chewing gum, which as everyone knows is entrenched in human endeavour as one of the holiest of pop subjects ever since St Donegan did “Putting’ on the Style” (see also The Carter Family‘s “Chewing Gum”, older still than Donegan’s song). It’s got a chorus bigger than several thousand very big things. It’s literally the best thing that’s ever happened. Literally.

Something I’ve been thinking about while reviewing this is Steven Wells (RIP). If you don’t know who he was, he was this preposterous journo for whom everything was either the best thing ever (like Daphne and Celeste) or piss-drenchingly awful (pretty much every other imaginable band). His cancer diaries are utterly devastating, and entirely worth reading. He was a savage, savage writer. And I kind of imagine him genuinely losing his shit in the most preposterous way over BABYMETAL. J-Pop, metal, choruses and brutality. It’s a bit of a late-in-the-day tribute to him. That 2016 is letting this be an actual, actually successful pop band is some kind of perverse sign that everything’s not fucked. Or perhaps it’s more fucked than we think.

There is a slow song on this album (“No Rain, No Rainbow”). It is uncharacteristically, for music, not shit. There is a song with a verse that is terrifyingly close to a skank (“YAVA!”). It is also not shit.

What I’m saying here is that the thing that made us fall in love with BABYMETAL was that it’s an audacious proposition that works astonishingly well. There’s a few clever tricks — heavy palm-muting distorted guitars on a tonic has a rhythmic function which looks “metally” (eg, minor and heavy) but actually just affirms the root of a major key a lot of the time; so what seems like disingenuous “where did that chorus come from?” is actually just using metal effects as a feint to hide decent melodies behind. That caprice works astonishingly well.

There’s some very sharp musical thinking going on here, is what I’m saying. The perils of this record, as I see it, is that BABYMETAL have become stuck inside some sort of minor metal civil war. And that’s fine, there’s big metal elements to this record, they work well… but they’re a band at their strongest when sui generis. Metal audiences tend to be quite conservative, you see, and while BABYMETAL have already got enough good songs to restitute metal hitherto, what’s at stake isn’t introducing metal to liking female musicians, but to the lost arc of BiS; a far more noble aim.

Anyway, I’ve wittered on far too much already. tl;dr – best album ever.

-Kev Nickells-

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