Babymetal - Babymetal (2014/2015)

It'd be nearly impossible to have avoided the global phenomenon that tore the metal community apart at the seams last year. The collective known as Babymetal - Japan's most popular export of 2014 - was responsible for some of the most heated and awkward debates, even driving one "metalhead" to break down in tears of anger in a YouTube aired rant. The idea of three Japanese teenage girls fronting a metal band... well, that just didn't sit right with those who consider themselves guardians of the gates of heavy music. But despite the objections of the few (or maybe the many), the band saw tremendous spikes in popularity, selling out shows wherever they picked up microphones. Even the fans of the bizarre Lady Gaga were won over after their opening slot on the former's tour. But with their album now receiving a proper domestic release, it's become easier to see where the appeal begins and ends.

This isn't a debate on whether the band can truly fall into the metal genre; the backing band would be enough to sell anyone that fancies themselves a fan of classic thrash. Its how they incorporate the presence of three J-Pop singers that creates the unique sound they've coined. The early stages of the album are perfectly balanced, whether you stick to the symphonic stomp of Babymetal Death or Megitsune. But it's with Gimme Chocolate that the sound evolvesand changes into something else entirely. Compared to the live clips you may have seen, both professionally shot or shaky cell phone camera, the vocals from the studio sessions are produced to a fault, even driving their already higher octave voices into different areas. It becomes a pattern throughout the album, even in the odd rapping section you'll find in Line. Every anime friendly melody is countered with a heavy riff, but the pendulum seems to swing harder to the pop side.

But when the album seems to be coming off the rails, you get a pure power metal ballad like Akatsuki to bring you back. Tracks like this one reaffirm what the band have done with their fusion of styles, producing something that could have broader appeal. That said, not every attempt is a breakthrough success. Doki Doki Morning might prove to be a little too out of line for most dedicated metal fans to truly appreciate. Onedari Daisakusen is a single in the making, one primed for regular play on mainstream rock ready. What it lacks in consistency, it more than makes up for in gusto, at one interval breaking down in a chant of "1 for the money, 2 for the money, 3 for the money, money money money money." It'd be hard not to imagine a sold out venue jumping to the beat here. It's performance art at it's finest, tailor made for a electrified crowd to pump their fist in the air.

Though the album seems to throw a true flow to the wind, there are gems scattered throughout. By the time you've reached the final stages of the album, with Uki Uki Midnight and Headbanger as the most powerful tracks, you've seen a wide variety of styles and moods, all delicately sliced and molded together into one mass. Whether or not that resulting piece is something that will bring you back again remains to be seen. But there is plenty to celebrate here, even if the idea of three teenage girls performing some form of metal makes you want to rant, rave, and cry. When all is said and done, and the last notes fade, Babymetal might not be  a band you hang your hat on for many years to come, but injecting a little fun and uptempo humor into modern heavy music isn't bad for anyone. Don't worry; the International Metal Organization isn't going to take your ID card away if you bang your head...even just a little.


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