It’s been a while since there’s been any music reviews on this site, so let’s kick off the New Year with a critique of the latest that idol metal standouts BABYMETAL have to offer.
Many of you have already heard the wild melodic death metal train ride that is “Ijime, Dame, Zettai”. Borrowing heavily from bands such as Arch Enemy, In Flames and even Dragonforce, “Ijime” breaks further away from BABYMETAL’s original gimmick of “kawaii metal” and approaches the realms of “serious” metal musically while hanging on to just a hint of the cuteness.
This is yet another SU-METAL feature song, which I personally don’t mind since she’s my oshimen in the group and I really like her voice. However I do hope that in the next single management gives MOAMETAL and YUIMETAL more of a role than just cutesy chanting and moe appeal.
“Ijime” starts out with an affected piano line introducing the chorus melody and SU-METAL vocalizing along, building up to a chugging guitar and very Dragonforce-esque lead lines. The production quality of the guitar and drum tracks seems to have been stepped up a notch with the move to the major label, which is something I can definitely appreciate. SU-METAL carries the song throughout with power and vocal strength, which is not something that a lot of idol singers can claim. She hits some very high notes, especially at the very end when the key of the song modulates upward and she sings the very last note of the song. At 14 years old (now 15), this girl has some serious singing chops. I can’t wait to see where she and her vocals will be in a couple years.
With the major label comes a major boost in music video quality not seen in previous releases. Note: I said quality, not content. The special effects have been ramped up from color filters in “Iine!” and spinning gears in “Doki Doki☆Morning”, now implementing CG environments and believable false fire.
I found the storyline to be amusing, with a bearded rocker being beaten up by apparently a bunch of hardcore thugs with chainz n’ swag. It definitely fits with the lyrical meaning and provides you with something else to look at besides skeletons and flaming guitars. However, this theme did not last long; as the story was set up briefly in the beginning and then did not return until the very end. Instead, you are sentenced to view panning shots of SU-METAL standing completely still and singing while MOAMETAL and YUIMETAL dance around her. The very first time I watched this section, I felt the initial excitement slowly drain out of me. As the activity in the PV ceased, so did my hype. Although watching MOA and YUI frantically shake their heads to and fro while waving their fists was very entertaining and adorable, the fact that choreography in this song for SU-METAL consisted of just standing still and singing for the most part was kind of a letdown. Granted, she is singing a lot of big lines, but she could at least be walking around during those without excessive movement destroying the vocal quality.
So, I sat, a bit disappointed, until the guitar solo. I was extremely pleased with the girls’ fake guitar playing; they were generally moving their hands to the right positions and actually moving their fingers and picking to the solo. They were probably faking it better than the skeletons behind them. Seriously, bravo. The fact that MOA and YUI probably sat down and took the time to figure out how the solo went means they deserve some props. This is how you pretend to play guitar, not like other idols I could name.
The nod to the guitar technique made popular by Dragonforce was also incredibly funny.
As a whole, “Ijime” is a very energetic, very passionate, ‘running wild’ song and these qualities combined with its message will make you want to go punch bullies wherever you go. Wait, if you bully the bully, then isn’t that…never mind. BABYMETAL can do no wrong in my eyes. Their management knows what they are doing, the girls got the chops, and I believe that 2013 is the year that BABYMETAL’s music will truly meet critical acclaim.
The long-awaited major debut of BABYMETAL is here and they bring out all the stops with better sound production, tastier guitar licks, and more satanic flames than they’ve ever achieved in prior installments.
“Ijime Dame Zettai” really pushes how far idols can delve into heavy metal as a pop genre, as the instrumentals by themselves can easily be stand-alone tracks as 100% straight-faced rock. No hip hop interludes or overwhelming pop synth hybrids here; just honest, hard rock you’d hear from groups like X-Japan. Even the vocals (performed impressively by “SU-METAL” Nakamoto Suzuka) are reminiscent of the melancholy, larger-than-life style ballads that often accompany Japanese heavy metal bands.
Listening to this song, you’d almost forget that there are two other members in BABYMETAL: MOAMETAL and YUIMETAL, Kikuchi Moa and Mizuno Yui respectively. Their roles have been largely diminished after “Headbanger!!”. I normally felt that their helium-infused voices lent themselves well to instill some humorous, idiosyncratic qualities to contrast with heavier rock segments, but their roles have been tempered to such a degree in “Ijime Dame Zettai” that their contributions actually seem out of place and became almost distracting to the song as a whole; and while it remains a very solid release nonetheless, I’d like to see more creative vocal participation from the younger members.
The PV is a great feast for the eyes. It’s just the kind of tongue-in-cheek music video that BABYMETAL deserves: one with an array of impressive technical work and great art design that culminates into a visually striking spectacle. It was great fun from start to finish with airtight execution— I couldn’t ask for anything more. The outfits are also noticeably high in quality, with SU-METAL embellishing an intricately designed medieval-style metallic chest piece that fits with a matching Gothic dress.
I love the variety of locations spanning from what is reminiscent of underground catacombs to a sprawling outdoor canyon— the intermittent, detailed shots of dilapidated and decaying Gibson Flying V guitars that are also planted into the set environments like tombstones (which then are set on FIRE as an impressive visual effect). Images like these stick with you, and they kept me thoroughly mesmerized and entertained the entire time.
Even the narrative sequence involving a lanky, craggy rocker with a comically large grizzly beard and decked out with a studded leather jacket who is continually getting his ass kicked and demoralized throughout the PV adds up to a satisfying and hilariously absurd conclusion. Everything is appropriately over the top and rock solid.
“Ijime Dame Zettai” is an extremely strong contender for best major debut of 2013 and best PV of this year as well, as far as I’m concerned. The song, while not my favorite BABYMETAL song released, is still above average and an impressive feat. This is a group to watch closely this year.