Metal Galaxy, by Babymetal
Suggested by Rob Wagner
Japan is just weird.
I’ve visited Japan three times in my life thus far. The first two visits saw me performing Shakespeare in a comprehensive tour. The third visit saw me playing cards at a professional tournament. Each time I was there, I saw things that were so oddball, so off the grid, so outright peculiar that all I could do was nod my head firmly and say, “Japan.”
Vending machines that sold tins of hot fish-head soup, complete with beady fishy eyes. Ludicrous carbonated drinks, such as Pokari Sweat (which tasted like sweat) and Jolt Cola (twice the caffeine, twice the palpitations!). Toilets with more bells and whistles, more gizmos and gadgets, than the bottom half of Davros himself.
I drank my first sake, and my only fizzy milk, in Japan. I ate my first sushi, and my only raw salmon eggs, in Japan. I climbed mountains in Japan, and sang Elton John songs in a dentist’s kitchen in Japan. I partied with Buddhist Monks, and played cards extremely badly, in Japan.
Japan is brilliant.
Babymetal are a manufactured band that mashes up Heavy Metal and J-Pop, creating a new genre altogether: Kawaii Metal. Kawaii, for those in the dark, is a Japanese phrase describing a quality of cuteness. Hello Kitty? That’s Kawaii. Babymetal are fronted by two (formerly three) women in the Japanese Idol mould – think Girl Band member, and you’d not be far off. There’ Su-metal (Vocal and Dance) and Moametal (Scream and Dance), with Yuimetal (Scream and Dance) having departed the band through illness. The girls sing and scream and dance over a brutal fusion of thrash metal and bouncing pop energy.
From the very first song, it’s abundantly clear that the pairing of Metal and J-Pop is inspired. The menace of metal is augmented by the saccharine sugar-pop jolliness of the J-Pop sound, but happily there’s no visible seam at which to pick and poke. I can’t comment on the quality of the J-Pop, as it’s not in my wheelhouse. But what we get is high octane, high energy, and incredibly infectious. I can comment on the quality of the metal, however, and it’s brash and brazen and direct. The drumming sequences are particularly strong, especially in the more strident tracks.
As for a standout song, this is an album that offers up song after song that could legitimately claim the crown. My standout song is Future Metal, the acerbic opener. No, my standout song is the Bollywood-infused Shanti Shanti Shanti. No, my standout song is Oh! MAJINAI, which is balls-out Pirate Metal. No! My standout song is IN THE NAME OF, full of pomp and chanting. Actually, my true standout is PA PA YA!! Yes, even with the growling.
Metal Galaxy gets a strong 9/10. Babymetal are ridiculous, gimmicky, nonsensical, overblown, infectious, majestic, uplifting, energetic fun… and wonderfully, wonderfully Japan.