Babymetal mixes genres, defies expectations

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

At first, the mix of the two opposing genres takes a minute to process, but give Babymetal a chance to settle into your ears and you might be pleasantly surprised at just how powerful the mashing is.

Babymetal consists of a base group of masked musicians well versed in modern styles of metal, called the Kami Band, and three teenage girls who provide vocals in the style of J-pop, or Japanese pop music.

Open-minded listeners who want a taste of something different can give the band’s second full-length album “Metal Resistance” a try.

Released last Friday, the album contains strong, energizing tracks that are fun to listen to while stretching the boundaries of multiple genres in a brilliant defiance of convention.

The album opens with “Road of Resistance,” a colorful collaboration with the lead guitarists from British power metal group DragonForce.

The DragonForce style of speedy, dual guitars perfectly complements the epic atmosphere created by the Babymetal sound, making for a solid welcome track to the album.

The next song is the lead single, “Karate,” which kicks in with chugging riffs in a Killswitch Engage style and establishes the degree of heaviness that follows for most of the rest of the album.

Each song has individual character, infusing various elements from melodic to death metal and thrash, all topped off with a layer of high-pitched pop vocals.

Many listeners, especially metal fans, will find the vocal style hard to palate. Even for listeners of mainstream pop, this style is different in its distinctive Japanese touch.

But for the J-pop/idol style the girls emulate, they are well-trained singers. Su-metal, who takes the lead on most songs, really begins to show her skills.

Her voice carries the album, as she is able to sustain high notes and create anthems out of a kaleidoscope of songs.

Babymetal switches things up even further on the song “No Rain, No Rainbow,” a ballad toward the end of the album, pushing the boundaries even further on what can be considered a metal album.

The album may not seem unified, but the experimental element creates for an interesting set of songs, and as a sophomore effort, “Metal Resistance” seems to be leading the band in the right direction.

Aside from an English version of the closing track “The One,” most lyrics are in Japanese, but that should not create too much of a detachment for those who cannot decipher precisely what is being sung about.

Babymetal songs have definite mood and impact regardless of their specific words; this band and its music are quintessentially Japanese, and one cannot appreciate their art fully without welcoming the musicians’ native language.

However, “The One” as an attempt to connect more with international audiences certainly works on this album.

Babymetal has gotten more worldwide attention lately with the release of “Metal Resistance;” the band is currently on a world tour and performed on an episode of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”

Undeniably, Babymetal will not resonate with certain audiences; even some diehard fans of metal or J-pop do not find the meshing appropriate to the aesthetics and appeal of either genre.

However, Babymetal is becoming hard to ignore and could be considered an important innovator for breaking down musical and cultural barriers later down the line.

At the very least, give Babymetal a chance and take a listen to what “Metal Resistance” has to offer.

Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or samarkham@eiu.