In case you missed their triumphant rise to international fame over the past two years, meet BABYMETAL: A group of teenage girls from Japan, and every serious metal head’s worst nightmare. Originally members of the idol group Sakura Gakuin, BABYMETAL started as a subgroup melding the heavy metal genre with Japanese idol pop; a notoriously sugary and overly cutesy style of music. While it originally started as a one-off occurrence, what happened when they released their self-titled debut album BABYMETAL was no joke, going from being basically unknown to topping the Billboard U.S. World Albums charts and selling out tours across the globe. And now, with their sophomore album Metal Resistance, they’re preparing for global domination.
The gimmick hasn’t changed, mixing hyper idol music with metal to make for their unique sound, but it has become more light-handed. Songs like Iine! And Doki Doki Morning, with their random trap breakdowns and complete idol choruses never reappear, and metal becomes the number one focus. Their absence is made up by the sheer number of styles covered; YAVA! melds retro guitar pop verses with squealing synths and chugging guitars in their familiar experimental style, while Awadama Fever backs up the metal with a synthetic breakbeat instrumental, giving the song a more frenetic and energetic sound. Meta Taro mixes a militaristic beat with violins that recall the style of Celtic metal, and No Rain, No Rainbow is a serious, totally believable rock ballad the likes of which BABYMETAL have never covered.
It’s a cohesive piece of work that covers a variety of styles, and it shows off the different sides of BABYMETAL perfectly. Even if the idol elements have taken a backseat for the sake of experimenting, that pop edge is constant on even the heaviest tracks thanks to Su-metal’s cutesy yet surprisingly powerful vocals—If you have doubts about her voice, both the closing moments of KARATE and the downtempo electronica-fusion track From Dusk Till Dawn will convince you of her talent—which keeps anything from ever feeling too serious and foreboding. They tackle metal perfectly in every style without taking it overboard, and their music always has an epic feeling that captures the essence of their live performances perfectly. There’s been some serious growth since BABYMETAL, and it’s made Metal Resistance an even more compelling piece of work.
Though BABYMETAL may seem like a massive joke when you first experience them, writing them off in such a manner is incredibly foolish. With a seriously impressive live band behind them and a fresh take on the metal genre, they offer something that feels seriously unique and could even act as a way to bring metal music to an entirely new generation of listeners. Admittedly, they act as a fusion of two radically different niches that many would say have no business meshing together, and additionally still sing in Japanese rather than English which could limit their appeal, but to skip on Metal Resistance would be a grave mistake. BABYMETAL’s quest for global domination is truly starting to take flight.