BABYMETAL: ‘Metal Resistance’ Album Review

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2016 is poised to be locked as one of the best years in idol music for me. Among various reasons, a large part of this has to do with the two heavyweight champions in my roster: Momoiro Clover Z and BABYMETAL, two progressive groups that are rapidly discovering ways to advance their signature sound and have some of the most impressive lives to be had, FINALLY released new, original albums. However, with great anticipation comes great doubt, and I was terrified at the prospect of being let down; luckily, this has not been the case with Momoiro Clover Z, and it’s not the case here either.

BABYMETAL possessed a short, sterling track record. All of their songs basically existed in a single album. With thirteen tracks, they’ve toured the world and created an army of devoted followers; not something many musical acts can claim. People with deep metal roots wanting something different, people who enjoyed being challenged, metal artists and producers; they’ve rallied in droves under BABYMETAL’s unwavering positivity and was largely accepted by the world — and this album will likely deepen that resonance further.

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Road of Resistance’ is a scorcher of a song that aims to overwhelm with DragonForce’s trademark speed-demon guitar work and larger-than-life arrangement. This song may have been around for a while now, but man is it breathtaking, giving me goosebumps every time I give it a listen; spirited cries, Earth-cracking drums, molten guitar frets and epic scope — a perfect opener.

I’ve written quite a bit about ‘KARATE already, but I’ll say here that it’s a great follow up track to ‘Road of Resistance’ with its more deliberate pace and contrasting style. The group’s greatest strength is the ability to be a conduit of various musical styles, and now it is Djent that gets pulled into BABYMETAL’s gravitation to be thoroughly blended with some intoxicating pop serenades, creating a powerful, impacting track.

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Awadama Fever’, perhaps the most unapologetically poppy song in the album, is one of my standing favorites. Like C-4 camouflaged as a pink birthday cake, the contrast and integration of of the heavenly chorus and the diabolic percussion and guitars make this one of the more “classic” of the BABYMETAL tracks found in the album. While it’s thematically a retread of ‘Gimme Choco’, I found that ‘Awadama Fever’ had a rocket-fueled energy and hook all of its own, carrying a unique signature that has me hold it in the same regard.

YAVA!’ Is a manic track that had me smiling ear-to-ear with its poppy verse and offbeat guitar strums; and the instrumentation keeps up with the breakneck pace, resulting in a blister of guitars, drums and zany synths. It’s a playful track with infectious energy and a hell of a hook, but the song ran a tad long for my taste, not offering quite enough to keep my interest all the way through. As it is, I find myself running into a bit of fatigue towards the last stretch and have my fill by the 3 minute mark of this four minute track.

Surprisingly, ‘Amore’ was a song that I felt could have been released by almost any pop singer, the high production notwithstanding. ‘Amore’ has a theme that is Japanese pop to its very core with 90’s sonic makeup; unfortunately I didn’t find it quite as unique when viewed as a pop arrangement, even if it has blazing power metal instrumentations during the breaks. It’s a very dense track with instrumentation that seems a little intense for what the melody provides, bearing similarities to ‘Ijime Dame Zettai’ — but it doesn’t manage to carry the same kind of energy, even if the instrumentals will try to prove otherwise. it’s not a song I would skip during a casual listen, but it just doesn’t possess the strong hook or dynamics for me that measure up to other tracks in this album in my view.

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From Dusk Till Dawn’ was another track I didn’t expect, a song exclusive to the international release: a four-minute atmospheric number that is mostly instrumentals with some vocal accents. The song is a tug of war between trap drums, dreamy synths and blackened drums and guitar, trading off back and forth and building as it goes on. Hearing electric drums open the song was a bit jarring and unexpected, but once it found its groove, ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ proved to be a nice gothic interlude to have at the midway point before the second act begins.

My preferred track however, would go to ’Syncopation’, the song exclusive to the Japanese release. Its a delirious prog-infused metal song with a ruthless, fantastic vocal arrangement that hits on all areas. There are few songs that hit as fast and as unrelenting as ’Syncopation’ on this album, and that’s saying something; pretty much every element here is peak perfection. A simply massive track with wonderful progression and high production.

The chirpy dance duo have songs of their own, and show that they’re not to be taken lightly. ‘Sis. Anger’ is a satan death metal track that came right out of the fiery pits of hell, and is one of the most aggressive tracks on the album. YUI-METAL and MOA-METAL’s playful nursery rhyme-esque vocals carry a duality to them; the chipmunky, bright voices trail off and drone, revealing shades of sinister malevolence, yielding an eerie sensation you get when you’re in a room full of porcelain dolls staring at you; it seems innocuous, but don’t tell me you don’t feel a slight lingering feeling of threat and danger in the air. ’GJ!’ is pretty much ‘Onedari Daisakusen’ Part Two, another fun YUI and MOA duet with a powerful rhythm, light rapping segments and repeated chanting; but it also contains a nice spirited anthem as the main chorus, which was a change of pace. As a big fan of BABYMETAL’s fun subunit songs, I was over the moon with their offerings in Metal Resistance.

Speaking of fun, ‘Meta Taro’ is a song that starts out most peculiar. It opens with a spacious, resonant chamber with soft vocals and a lone drum beat that grows into a militaristic marching theme that sounds like a national anthem of sorts, only with a army of guttural demon-spawn chanting throughout. The heavy reverb given to the vocals provide a open and bloomy sound that contrasts with the sharpness of the drum and guitar, accompanied by synths that sounds like it came straight out of a Playstation era Final Fantasy game. It’s an oddity that I grew to enjoy, and perfectly fits within the universe in which BABYMETAL and the Fox God reigns.

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No Rain, No Rainbow’ begins with a heart-breaking piano and string combination that’s practically tailor made to become the major theme song of a tear-jerking J-drama. It’s a stirring and tragic melody that allows SU-METAL to show her emotional range and strength as a singer. She has real potential as a solo act, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she began taking more solo projects in conjunction with being a part of BABYMETAL. I wouldn’t be surprised if this track was divisive, being a outlier on the album as a whole; it’s certainly not a track I would describe as “face ripping”, but it’s hard to deny that it’s a well-made track that carries genuine pathos.

Tales of the Destinies’ on the other hand, is the very kind of madness I gravitate towards. There’s a line for many people where a song becomes “too much”, but luckily for me, I haven’t discovered it yet. ‘Tales of Destinies’ is a pure Frankenstein monster that blazes through various stages that include heavy riffs, keyboard synths, and poppy tunes with a interjection of ragtime piano. I have to bring up Momoiro Clover Z’s ‘Gorilla Punch’ (from AMARANTHUS) as a point of reference; a mountain of a song that carries the same kind of madhouse sound found here (and a track I listen to WAY too much). If you love The Black Mages, you’ll feel right at home, as the layered mix of rapid-fire guitar and keyboard is reminiscent of their synth-infused power metal sound. ‘Tales of the Destinies’ is the epic “final boss” theme of BABYMETAL, and it’s a brilliant listen.

Last but not least, there’s ‘THE ONE’, another track I’ve already written plenty of words about. My thoughts on the song still stand; it’s a song that perfectly encapsulates the positive attitude and unifying perspective BABYMETAL has been radiating since they gained traction. While the International release comes with the fully English version, I lean more towards the Japanese version, which has SU-METAL switching between English and Japanese, which I find to be more emblematic of the east-meets-west blend in fanbase that BABYMETAL cultivated. It’s powerful, impressive, sentimental, and kicks ass; a crown jewel that may just be my favorite BABYMETAL track.

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This album receives at least a High Recommend from me, if not going into MUST LISTEN territory, depending on your proclivity or distaste for the metal genre. This album surprises with its experiments, going far beyond what I anticipated; it’s difficult to imagine anyone who claims to be a fan of music turn a complete blind eye to this group for a justifiable reason.

Metal Resistance has a identity that is distinct from their self-titled first album with more developed sound and high gloss production, resulting in a robust and diverse output that integrates progressive metal, rap metal, power metal, black metal, rap metal — you name it, they got it. Instead of leaning far in one direction or the other, the album remains well balanced with its idol/metal duality, choosing a more creatively challenging direction that has harvested some truly compelling hybrid tracks that match up with, if not exceeds those found in their first album.

In the past few years it’s been increasingly difficult to find a album that has more than 4 original songs I could really attach myself to; but only three months into 2016, and I can already say I’ve had more fun with idol music output this year than I’ve had in years. Long live BABYMETAL.

METAL RESISTANCE
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METAL RESISTANCE
Tracklist:
1. Road of Resistance
2. KARATE
3. Awadama Fever
4. YAVA!
5. Amore
6. Meta Taro
7. Syncopation (Japanese edition)/From Dusk Till Dawn (International edition)
8. GJ!
9. Sis. Anger
10. NO RAIN, NO RAINBOW
11. Tales of the Destinies
12. THE ONE (Japanese edition/English International edition)

About Dae Lee

-Dae, aka Mizu -Writer, broadcaster, and podcaster on New School Kaidan

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