Baby Metal – Metal Galaxy (2019)

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Many of my friends scowl at my taste in music. Listening to it will conjure demons and encourage me to bite the heads of tiny creatures. We often scowl at what we don’t understand. I was tempted to scowl at Babymetal, but in the spirit of global musical unity, I went in with an open mind.

Hailing from Japan, this group has at its front a trio of Japanese girls. Their vocals are typically high pitched and they are joined by other vocalists who contribute rap and demonic growling. They are backed by very competent musicians, who can bring metal swagger one moment, groovy funk the next and “I don’t know what they Hell that is” the next.

This album contains 14 tracks, with a run time of 54 minutes.

“FUTURE METAL” presents us with a robust opening riff, ably supported by synths. A robotic voice welcomes us to the record and from the outset, the juxtaposition of elements is on show – synths, orchestral and staccato percussion, along with choral elements. It’s an effective prelude for the album.

“DA DA DANCE” continues the electro theme, which then morphs into metal with a techno overlay. The baby doll vocals appear. The music is energetic and effervescent in nature – it’s chipmunk-like. Being a metal fan, I was tempted to bite its head off… It’s fast paced and frantic and quite engaging. This track is fun and includes an epic guitar solo.

“Elevator Girl – English Version” takes us to the next floor with an opening that borders on thrash metal. It’s bass heavy, with flashes of keyboards to add density. There’s lots going on musically in the track and the pace doesn’t let up. It’s like being assaulted with a fluffy pillow.

“Shanti Shanti Shanti” has a clear Indian influence and it would be comfortable in a Bollywood production. This track is a thumper and it features a compelling guitar riff. That this band is comfortable in using their music as a cultural melting pot is clear and they do it well, transcending many musical boundaries in the process.

“Oh! MAJINAI” features Joakim Broden from Sabaton, so I was expecting some robust metal! What I got was a pirate shanty that was quirky and syncopated. There are chants to drink rum to in the belly of a wooden boat, or for you to do a horn pipe. There are eccentric vocals, chants and changes in tempo. This track could nestle comfortably in a Disney movie. Not a bad thing.

“Brand New Day” dawned with a pace change, the sound being groovy and expansive. It has a pleasant sound and it utilises really clever power metal elements. The engineering is impressive, with lots of layers that mesh well. Another killer guitar solo features.

“Night Night Burn!” begins with an inferno that is another assault on the senses – there is lots going on. This soon calms a little and the intent is clearer – this is a Latin inspired track. It speeds and slows, building a sense of drama and festival.

“IN THE NAME OF” opens with Georgian style chants and an operatic atmosphere. This continues for a significant time and just as you get comfortable, it bursts into a bass heavy riff. Growling vocals and great percussion make for a robust sound, enhanced by dark lyrics.

“Distortion” felt like something from Lindemann at the beginning and at times during the track. It’s like a tête-à-tête between a schoolgirl and a demon. The pace picks up again and the track shifts from dense to sparse with alacrity. Compelling percussion is used to great effect.

“PA PA YA!!” thrashes form the beginning. Chants are used again and I found them a little annoying. But, that may have been the intent. Thai rap is woven into this track, adding to the eclectic mix.

“Kagerou”is another thumper. It uses acid riffs to open that then transition well into the background. It has an anthemic feel. The vocals are less engineered and they sound all the better for it – sometimes, less is more.

“Starlight” has an orchestral opening, but the pace doesn’t let up. The demon is back, adding a mischievous air. The bass line is more obvious and the percussion steps up a notch. The glorious complexity of this band is front and centre – there’s lots of different styles and tempos in the melting pot.

“Shine” has a reverberating, spaceship-like opening. This is then supplanted by restrained vocals, acoustic guitar and strings. Another twist in the tale! In a seamless transition it then gallops forward with a rich metal sound. This track is strong and smooth, with angelic vocals serving it well. The clever guitar work is restrained and robust and it closes with the guitar, the voice and little else. Then, the spaceship returns, serving as a segway into…

“Arkadia” which continues the reverberating sound, only to metal up again and thrash forwards. This track returns to the frantic and complex sound, leaving you in no doubt what you’ve experienced. The pace is again fast, but the vocals are melodic and unhurried.

This album is frantic and crazy. It’s not subtle and it has relentless energy and boundless enthusiasm. All through, I felt off balance, not knowing what would come next, whether at the start of a new track or in the middle of a track. There are stuttering moments that are quite disorienting.

This album fuses power metal and pop. And pirates. There was groove and face melting metal riffs. There was hip hop, reggae and ska influences. And a demon. Thai rap and Latin influences got a run.

It’s a juxtaposition of styles that are folded together to create something surprising. The cultural influences are done respectfully and in a way that adds to the album.

Yesterday I reviewed and album and likened each song to a meal, where the same ingredients were used in each track, just in different concentrations, resulting in a safe sameness. I longed for spice.

Well, Babymetal just chucks all manner of ingredients in and they combine into something that I’d never tasted before. Very spicy!

For what it is, it is great. I am happy to give credit where it’s due. I am pleased that I heard it.

8/10

Greg Noble.

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