Tuesday, 5 April 2016

BABYMETAL DOUBLE REVIEW: Live at Wembley Arena and 'Metal Resistance' Album Review

On April 2nd 2016, BABYMETAL began a world tour at the Wembley Arena in London. Just the day before they had also launched their most recent album 'Metal Resistance'. Now BABYMETAL are an interesting band and one that I assume has managed to find it's way to your ears in some way or another. They've been somewhat unexpected but in a world of Youtube videos going viral, their video for 'Gimmie Chocolate!!' launched them to worldwide fame. Their blend of Metal and J-Pop both being strange and wonderful at the same time. I don't think anyone was quite expecting what was to become BABYMETAL as reportedly they started with the song 'Doki Doki Morning' as a part of Sakura Gakuin. Very quickly they released single after single and now enjoy a place in Metal as strong as most giants of the genre (big irony that the three singers were apparently unfamiliar with metal before starting out). Their debut album 'Babymetal' was made up of many of the singles that created the band in the first place and was a landmark for both the band and for Metal music. This was something never before seen and it connected so well with people, but why?

Having grown up with local gigs and underground bands within Metal I have enjoyed many personal concerts – meaning they were sometimes tiny venues – and so coming to Wembley Arena was a first for me. You're looking at about 10,000 people at this venue and that has been surprising for me, both this time and also the last time I saw them. This was all the more with just how quickly merchandise and tickets sell out! People queued up for hours waiting to get things to support BABYMETAL, it clearly hits people passionately. Of the 10,000 or so people here there were people from all over the globe taking flights particularly for this one show and also families of avid supporters, sometimes wearing the clothes of the three singers. It was endearing to see such support and also such universal support. Then it hit me. Metalheads of all types were here – some extreme some mellow, some weird some standard – all types. I note this because there is a tendency for elitism with some Metal music but here, people are united. Again, why does it hit people so passionately?

Waiting in the frankly epic venue (at least to me!) there was only support from a DJ meaning all were there for BABYMETAL and you could feel the anticipation in the air and the excitement as it all begins. A light – no a projected image – then a video starts. “Metal Resistance, Episode IV, Reincarnation” is displayed on a screen and then we hear with a cheer “A long time ago in a HEAVY METAL galaxy far far away...” this introduction to the band kicks up so much excitement that when the band finally appear you can't help but scream out, throw your horns in the air and get ready for a powerful metal experience. The very crowd almost chant it louder than the music itself! Pyrotechnics only enhance the powerful entrance as they burst into 'Babymetal Death', a song that introduces the band, the members and their music and I feel this may always be their opening song. It's almost as if the venue dances with the three dancers. BABYMETAL focuses on a trio of singer/dancers and are supported by a backing band to perform the instruments known as Kami band. (They used to be known as Babybone and were dressed as skeletons which might be why I'd love to see Devin Townsend back them!) Something instantly noteworthy is how young and energetic the three are! The three are led by Su-Metal (18) and feature the talents of Yui-Metal (16) and Moa-Metal (16). To think they formed in 2010, this feels insane but lends to the very idea of BABYMETAL, featuring such young talent whilst also inventing a new style of Metal – Kawaii Metal. It's surprising just how energetic and how powerful a force they can be on stage.

From here they go straight into new material with 'Awadama Fever' which is eagerly welcomed by the crowd. They are supporting a new album after all but they don't shy away from bringing us many of their classic songs too, 'Iine!', 'Doki Doki Morning', 'Megitsune', 'Ijime, Dame, Zettai' and 'Gimmie Chocolate!!'. Each of these songs being a powerful addition to their setlist and loved so much by the crowd it really lends itself to an energetic group atmosphere. Whilst songs like 'Headbangya!!' were unfortunately absent from their set it was still powerful to find some less known but equally powerful songs from their first album being played too, like '4 no uta' and 'Catch me if you can'. I want to note that it's almost a defining moment for the kind of energy in the venue when you have moments like '4 no uta's quick transition from utter violence to calm and mellow dancing, the pit was brutal and also full of happy cheesy dancing. 'Catch me if you can' also paved the way for a wonderful moment for Kami band to take over and show that they are prominent metal musicians themselves. They are able to have just as much musical presence and the reason why BABYMETAL can be so brutal – despite being cute!

This was all kicking off the introduction of their second album, 'Metal Resistance' that has been eagerly been awaited since songs like 'The One' and 'Road of Resistance' have appeared in previous set lists as previews, or as bonus tracks on their re-issued debut album. Now what BABYMETAL do is very new, the idea of Kawaii Metal, which combines the brutality and strength of Metal with the cute fragility of J-Pop or Idol music, is such a new and bizarre thing, that oddly works, it had to be heard to be believed. This momentum helped secure BABYMETAL as an act and for their debut album to be a hit. However, with 'Metal Resistance' that's already happened. We now know BABYMETAL and we know what they're bringing with their music. We see the classic BABYMETAL cute vocal lines of 'Karate', 'Yava!', 'Meta Taro' and 'Awadama Fever' whilst seeing some inventive use of metal instrumentation with songs like most notably 'GJ!''. Songs like 'Yava!' and Awadama Fever' also show their tendency to reference other forms of music that we also previously saw with 'Iine!' and '4 no uta' amongst others. This lends itself to the style which is so distinctly BABYMETAL that it can be all things and pure BABYMETAL at the same time. It is remarkable to see how the sheer energy and momentum that we saw previously has been kept up, making this a very energetic album almost throughout. Some songs, however, do not quite keep up with the power of the rest allowing them to fall into obscurity. This perhaps makes this follow up album to not be as powerful as its predecessor, despite being a wonderful addition to their catalogue. It does, however, show they will keep coming back with catchy little surprises that will make us want to dance and smile whilst also simultaneously headbanging and moshing. They are truly unique!

The songs of this new album, 'Metal Resistance', though lesser known moulds well into their already impressive set list and any lack of energy is simply due to unfamiliarity. However, they were quickly grab you and the crowd were quick to dance and mosh with a happy face. But I want to attempt to answer those burning questions: why does it connect with many different Metallers? And: why are their music felt so passionately. Whilst the Baby of BABYMETAL is in the new music they offer as well as the youth of the band themselves, the METAL is important for more than just being about METAL. It is no secret that BABYMETAL were constructed by perhaps a fourth member of the band Koba-Metal. Usually working with Idol Music, Koba-Metal had the idea of combining that with Metal and therefore creating BABYMETAL. This does not actually mean they're not passionate about what they do and they do realise the most important part of Metal for any Metalhead. It is a community that is for the outsider and giving a passionate home and sense of belonging for any Metalhead. The video that introduced BABYMETAL is also an important part of their stage presence. It importantly shows how Koba-Metal and BABYMETAL understand what Metal means for people. “The Spirit of Heavy Metal traversed across the world (…) and created countless legends” Furthermore their varied t-shirts make reference to the many important bands within Metal. Though cheesy at times they show the passion that we all feel for our favourite Metal bands with a healthy respect. All this, may be a strong part of their power as a band, and along with the endearing comments by Su-Metal, Moa-Metal and Yui-Metal at the end of show, help to make us all feel connected. A stranger in the pit shouted to me “you're a part of this!” and I don't think there is any better way to sum it up. See you!

Set List Here
Website: babymetal.com
Facebook: /BABYMETAL.jp

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