BabyMetal – Metal Resistance (2016 Bonsai Bonus)

Well, it’s April Fools and I guess you think I’m joking regarding this BabyMetal review, right? Well, I’m definitely not joking (and we’ll have the regularly scheduled Church Of Misery up for the next Bonsai Bonus) as the record came out today and I’ve just finished listening to it. You might remember my review of the debut, in addition to a little bit of history about the band and how they’re technically the product of a Japanese talent agency. I feel no need to get into that right now, but what I will say is that most of the songs on the BabyMetal debut album went all of the way back to 2006 if not further, and were virtually “old” material. Well, Metal Resistance changes all that with something we’ve all wanted from this fucking band – structure. As much as I love the experimental Japanese scene, that record was literally all over the place and it felt as if they had just thrown a bunch of shit together and called it a day. Apparently the several musicians responsible for this project decided that they wanted to make a more cohesive record, that closer resembles that of the current Japanese and western metal scene and offers a slightly different approach with each track. We get that here, but we also get evolving songs that slowly allow for other pieces to come into play, rather than making us play WarioWare with their music, which simply didn’t work all that well. In other words, I can solidify that BabyMetal have made a more mature album that pushes their silliness aside and further showcases not only the impeccable musicianship of the band, but the ever-increasing awesomeness of the band’s J-Pop idol, Su-Metal. Let’s just face facts, Suzuka is absolutely incredible. She’s definitely up there with some of the very best female vocalists I’ve heard in the country, and she really belts it out on this record. But let’s go track-by-track here, so that I can explain to you just what has done here. As a word of full disclosure, you are reading this article as a fan of Japanese female fronted music, whether that be J-Rock, J-Pop or J-Metal. Covering Japanese acts is nothing new for us here at the Tower and I’m glad that I am once again able to do so. If you do not like female fronted Japanese music, you will not like this record in any way, shape or form. You absolutely must be a fan of this genre of music to even be able to grasp what I’m saying for the majority of this review.

The first song, “Road Of Resistance” was originally offered as a bonus track on their last one, but I never heard it – and if I did, I don’t remember it sounding like this. What the band have done here is to channel Dragonforce and with what I’d consider a one-hundred percent musical emulation. The beginning of the album starts out with the sort of grandiose feeling that one might get from a Japanese power metal act, like Dragon Guardian for example. Interestingly enough, despite the Dragonforce emulation (or is that really Herman-Li, I can’t tell?) this track actually features a great duet between the harsh and clean vocals that also opens up for an incredibly Japanese power metal influenced chorus (think Iron Attack) as well as what really might be a solo section from Herman-Li. At this point, I literally can’t tell, and the vocalizing from Suzuka completely accents the piece beyond expectation. People might laugh at you, but the song definitely kills. “Karate” came next, which is definitely a djent piece, but there’s something interesting about it, which doesn’t really begin until Su starts singing. I never thought the J-Pop influenced chorus melody and vocal style would work so well with the grooves, but they do. We are soon reminded that there are two other girls in the band at this point and they prove that they simply shouldn’t exist in this project to begin with. I would have rather heard more lines from Su than to be exposed to their silliness. An atmosphere actually comes into play towards the end of the song, and it continues after one hard-hitting chorus and solo combo. There’s apparently video for this and I’d really like to see it myself. Especially how they tackle the part with the piano, the vocalization and the mist. That’s fucking beautiful.

Moving on, we get into “Awadama Fever” which doesn’t work for me at all. I see what they’re trying to do here with the industrial drum n bass, but it’s a little bit too Studio Ghibli for me. The track evolves into some heavier sections with electronic whizzes, but I just don’t think it works for me. I appreciate the experiment, it’s very cohesive and doesn’t feel like a mess, but it’s just not palatable for me. I guess it is pretty catchy though. “Yava” however, felt a little more interesting. Now this kind of electronic experiment felt a little more authentic to J-Rock and if you’ve heard as much of it as I have, then you’re going to notice that immediately. It’s a very dancey track, with obvious surf-rock flair that is soon decorated with some heavier sections. The chorus is strong, the harsh vocals provide little backing shouts. I guess it’s alright, but the harsh vocal element almost feels unnecessary. It’s extremely catchy and only gets catchier with time. “Amore” comes next, feeling like a ballad at first, but it’s not time for that yet. Instead, we get a very traditional (Iron Attack) female approach to power metal that has some classical influence. So basically, Iron Attack, right? Yeah but hell, most people have never heard this stuff and if it gets them into Japanese power metal, then great. The solo is performed rather well, just as we’d expect. I mean, it’s a Japanese power metal cut. We know what we’re getting and I’m fine with that. I love it. Now here’s where things get interesting, as “Meta Taro” is a triumphant folk-influenced war march. Yes, you heard me right. What it makes me think of, is the possible scenario that could occur should all of our Japanese produced wifu robots decide to rebel against their human masters. What you’re hearing might sound like a happy little march to war, but when I think of wifu bots readying tanks and blasting this out of loud speakers at human troops, I shiver a little bit with fear. Ladies and gentlemen, “Meta Taro” could literally be the war march that signals our demise. I can literally hear the sounds of marching boots in the background as “Meta Taro! Meta Taro!” resounds like an alarm in my head.

One of our special American tracks here is a weird electronic rock thing called “From Dusk Till Dawn.” It sounds like a Celldweller piece with hushed vocals, and feels a bit thrown together. The Japanese get something far different and I’d really like to hear it. It’s called “Syncopation” and you can bet that I’ll be hunting it down. “GJ” however, sounds like a mix of djent, rap and silliness that I absolutely hated with a passion. The track didn’t work well for me at all, and even the chorus couldn’t save it. The next track feels a little unfair. It begins with some sort of evil robotic voice and goes into brutal death metal territory. Suzuka has a strong chorus here, but the approach just doesn’t go with the song at all, especially being as damn heavy as it is. This is the kind of thing we’d hear from an act like Cryptopsy and it doesn’t fit with this vocal style. I think a lot of heads will be very upset with this one and it might make them hate the band even more than they do. I just don’t think it worked and other Japanese bands like Undead Corporation and Merging Moon do a much better job with this stuff. I’m all for experiments, but you might really fucking hate this one. It all depends on your tastes. After such a heavy piece, we’re given what sounds like the ending music to a great visual novel. “No Rain, No Rainbow” is a J-Rock ballad. There is absolutely nothing metal about it and that is fine. This song is purely why I absolutely love J-Pop and J-Rock, because nothing to date has been more passionate in my ears. Whether it is a male vocal, or female vocal, the Japanese express love in a way that musically astound me every time. I should mention that this is a solo track from Suzuka and I’d personally love to see an entire record with just her on it. I’d certainly pick that one up. With every great Japanese rock ballad since the days of X-Japan, there is a simply incredibly solo piece there to accent it as well. This damn piece nearly brings me to tears and it’s one reason I believe there is hope for this band yet. Absolutely fucking beautiful. I’d love to hear this in an anime, game, visual novel or something. It should decorate a wonderful piece of artwork, a powerful romance, something that touches me as much as I have been touched by other Japanese works.

The band is not finished yet though, as one of the most musically complex songs that I’ve ever heard from the band comes up next with the astonishing “Tales Of The Destinies.” Now, I know you’re going to hate it when the other two girls come into vocalize silly lines before Suzuka comes in, because it kills the musical compositions for me. I feel as if they’re defecating over extravagantly good pieces and such vocal sections simply seem out of place. The piece is hugely progressive, think Dream Theater for sure – and it exercises that a great deal through the song in ways that I can’t even describe. There’s even a really awesome keyboard solo piece, that goes into an even more awesome guitar solo. It’s wonderfully constructed and you’re not even going to believe that it’s BabyMetal. They do try to put a little bit of Japanese power metal influence into it, which is something that I’d consider purely Japanese. Amaerican or European acts wouldn’t do that, yet they do pump what might be more pop style elements into their own music. Dream Theater has done this several times and I’ve little complained. The final of Metal Resistance comes in the form of another exclusive bonus track called “The One.” It’s interesting to note that the Japanese version of this track is “unfinished.” Yet here we have a finished version in English, which is actually much better than I’ve heard from Japanese to English vocal translations and seems vocally competent. She almost sounds like a western singer. The piece is a ballad, but it’s a very well performed one and could also be used in a game/anime exc. Perhaps that would be the Japanese version, though. The song is the longest on the record (and there’s a video for it, which I’ll have to check out) and it allows the band to experiment a little beyond the ballad nature of the original piece. Not so much though, as it’s very chorus heavy. The guitar leads for the chorus definitely decorate the piece rather well and escape into the misty end, where it goes into a rather tasteful vocalization. This is a piece that people will be playing for years, as well as the whole album itself.

Observation concluded, it’s safe to say that with an album this strong and musically competent, BabyMetal aren’t going anywhere. I actually expected this to be awful, so you can only imagine how shocked I am. Hell, I’ll almost believe in God, Christ, Heaven and Hell at this point; because I can’t believe that such a record exists. I feel as though I’m in The Twilight Zone and I’m being presented with a record that should not be. This is the literal thing that should not be, folks. I feel that God is going to reveal himself and say to me, “April Fools! This isn’t the real BabyMetal record” as he hands me something that I expected, which would have been more random silliness and slapped together metal. Though facts are facts and what I’ve heard definitely does the Japanese metal scene justice. It’s not Sigh, it’s not Kadenzza, Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation, Dir En Grey or Boris, but it definitely pulls it’s own weight amongst some of those Japanese greats. BabyMetal have certainly cemented themselves and I’d certainly consider this record as memorable as that of Unlucky Morpheus’s Rebirth Revisited and Yousei Teikoku’s Shadow Corps(e). Its further proof that they have a place here in metal, regardless of what some listeners might think. They’ve done justice to the genre and have redeemed themselves in my eyes, which is all that I feel is important. I still feel that Suzuka is the main vocalist of the act however, and as “No Rain, No Rainbow” shows, it should be that way permanently. In any case, I definitely recommend you pick up Metal Resistance, though only if you are a fan of Japanese female fronted music. If you don’t like the base element, you won’t enjoy it being thrown into metal, electronic and various rock realms. Without question, Metal Resistance is one of the most unexpected albums I’ve heard this year, as well as one of the biggest surprises that I’ve had from an album for as long as I’ve been doing this kind of work.

(12 Tracks, 54:00)

8/10

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