Okay good, my time outside of blogging has not affected my sarcasm levels. But I did seriously get a request to review something by Babymetal.
I should also mention that I got a Prizmmy request, but since they haven't released anything recently, it's Babymetal that I'll be reviewing today! Some of you may already be familiar with this idol trio but for the rest of you, a brief history: Babymetal is a subgroup of junior high idol group Sakura Gakuin. Apparently, Sakura Gakuin does this thing where they create a bunch of subgroups with varying images and themes. Like they have a science group, a baton group, a tennis group, a newspaper group, you know, school-themed groups! Maybe one day they'll have a celibacy group! Anyways Babymetal was conceptualized as a "fusion of metal and idol" which is exactly what you think it is: metal and cutesy idol pop. The group was lead by Su-Metal aka Nakamoto Suzuka and backed by Yuimetal and Moametal who provide the "screams." After Suzuka graduated from Sakura Gakuin due to being old, Babymetal looked to be disbanding. However, due to popularity, management decided that Babymetal would continue on as a unit independent from Sakura Gakuin. And so here we are. I will be honest, I knew of Babymetal before I got a request to review something from them, but I never really followed them. I'm not a metalhead, so I never had much interest in reviewing a metal idol group. But the few songs I've heard from Babymetal are decent so hey, maybe they're a cool group! I figure the best way to find out is by reviewing their eponymous debut album! So I hope you've got a neck brace because we're about to do some serious headbanging! Or I assume so. Do metalheads actually headbang or is that just a cliche?
1. Babymetal Death
So the first song opens with some ethereal choir chants that wouldn't be out of place in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It reminds me of Momoiro Clover Z's Neo Stargate, although maybe not as bombastic. The chanting is kind of calming, which only makes me believe that at some point the song is going to go absolutely crazy. And what do you know? It does! The guitar comes in and then there's guttural screaming spelling out the group's name! The guttural screaming continues throughout Babymetal Death, moreso than the girls' actual vocals. Actually, Babymetal Death serves more as an introduction song to the album, albeit a very long one. I probably could have done with the song being cut down a bit, because it starts to drag a little over halfway through. Not to mention you don't really get to hear the girls sing at all in this song. We do get to hear some crazy guy scream and chant though! Which is kind of creepy. I guess if I liked metal more, this song would be kind of cool?
Now I have heard Megitsune. The beginning reminds me of Mizuki Nana's Etsuraku Camellia; I guess because both songs start with a semi-traditional sound. But then Megitsune goes into metal mode and the guitars and synthesizers come in at full swing! And thankfully we get to hear the girls sing! I'd like to take this moment to say that I really love Su-Metal's voice. Like even before I reviewed this album, I've always liked her voice. It sounds very clear and powerful. Maybe not the best voice for a metal singer, but for an idol singer, her voice rocks. And in Megitsune, I think Su-Metal's voice is utilized to the fullest! There are long, drawn-out notes and crescendos. The music itself is also very neat. I always love to hear to genres of music blended together, especially two very different genres. The blend of traditional and rock in Megitsune gives the song a lot of punch. I'm kind of surprised I didn't pay more attention to this song in 2013.
3. Gimme Choko!!
A song called Gimme Chocolate? Well, I can get behind that! Gimme Choko!! does sound like the deranged ramblings of someone desperate for chocolate... Which is not exactly a good thing. Gimme Choko!! has the same problem that BiS's StupiG had in that it's really disjointed. I think that may have been intentional, but that doesn't mean I enjoyed it. There are parts where Gimme Choko!! goes into Autotuned electropop, hard rock, pop, and none of those musical styles blend together the way they did in Megitsune. I feel like I'm listening to several different songs. If Gimme Choko!! wanted to go all the way with the crazy for chocolate concept, musically, they should have taken it farther. In its current state, Gimme Choko!! is kind of a mess. A mess that can be cleaned up with time and effort but still a mess. There are parts of Gimme Choko!! where it's more fun, mainly in the chorus so I wouldn't say the song is an irredeemable wreck. It's just... very disjointed.
4. Ii ne!
Um... I am still not sure what I listened to. I guess Ii ne!'s kind of electropop... ish? But then it's also metal? Like the middle of the song has this very calm rapping and then... more metal? Ii ne! is this really weird combination of cute and perky and hardcore and brutal and robotic and... many other things. Look, I don't get this song at all. I really don't. It's trying to be fifty different things over the span of several minutes. And nothing works together. There are a few nice parts but they're quickly overshadowed by all the different vocals and sounds clamoring for attention in this song. I guess Ii ne! shares the same problem that Gimme Choko!! had in that it's really disjointed. But hell, Ii ne! makes Gimme Choko!! look absolutely cohesive! I mean, I get that Babymetal supposed to be a fusion of idol and metal, but Ii ne! fails to properly fuse them together. Instead we get... whatever this is. I don't know, I had to lie down after listening to Ii ne!
5. Benitsuki -Akatsuki-
So after Ii ne! is more of a straight-up death metal song. It starts with some pretty pianos then the drums and guitars come banging in. Admittedly, Benitsuki -Akatsuki- is one of my favorite tracks on this album. I think what really sells the song are the vocals. Suzuka's voice works really well in a song like this, where the instrumentals aren't overwhelming her vocals. And she sounds so good. There's also a lot less screaming in this song. In fact, I don't think there's any at all. Are Moametal and Yuimetal even vocalists on this track? It sounds like it's all Suzuka. Maybe they do some of the backing melodies? As much as I hate to say, I would actually be 100% okay is Suzuka just went solo, especially if she got more songs like this one. No offense meant to Moametal and Yuimetal; I'm just not a huge fan of screaming in music. There's such power behind the vocals and the instrumental of Benitsuki -Akatsuki-. I definitely recommend this one!
Ah, here's the single that started it all. DoKi・DoKi☆Morning was the first taste the world experienced of Babymetal, and it definitely sounds like it. Unlike the later singles from Babymetal, DoKi・DoKi☆Morning has a much more idol-y sound. There's a lot of idol chanting, the melodies are very idol-friendly, the chorus is about as perky as I've heard metal get, and it just... sounds like idol music. As a metal song, this is probably not a very good song. The instrumental does throw in some metal, but the vocal arrangement is primarily idol pop. I don't really mind; I review idol pop all the time, and idol pop with some metal mixed into it is at least an interesting musical choice. DoKi・DoKi☆Morning is catchy in the way that so many idol songs are catchy, but ironically, it's doesn't leave a very strong impression with me. It's an all right song, I suppose, but probably not my favorite Babymetal A-side I've listened to.
7. Onedari Daisakusen
Bringing back the semi-traditional sound of Megitsune is Onedari Daisakusen... but nowhere near as good as Megitsune did it. I have no idea what's going on in this song. It's like someone took the vocals from a really cute idol song and put them over a really hardcore metal backing track. That can work, but for me, it does not work in Onedari Daisakusen. I just can't get into this song; I'm not completely sure why either. I don't know, I feel like every time this song finishes playing, it doesn't leave a huge impression on me despite being incredibly weird. I think it's one of the songs on the album that features only Moametal and Yuimetal? I don't know what it is about idols talking in songs, but it very rarely works for me. It does not work in Onedari Daisakusen at all. It all sounds so awkward and weird and... Okay, I know it's probably supposed to be weird, but this is too weird for me. Like I have a line between enjoyable weird and awkwardly weird, and Onedari Daisakusen crossed it.
8. 4 no Uta
Next up Babymetal goes into reggae! Man, first Furikaeru to Iru yo, now this? Next thing I know Hello! Project will be bringing back 7nin Matsuri! The thing I've noticed about idol music and reggae together in one song is that it either works really well or... doesn't. In 4 no Uta, I'm not sure. I feel like the reggae bits are too choppily separated from the metal parts. I kind of have the same problem with 4 no Uta that I did with Gimme Choko!! and Ii ne! It's really disjointed. That and is Suzuka even featured on this song? It just sounds like Moametal and Yuimetal. I mean, I guess they can get a song on the album to but... I just really like Suzuka's voice better. Oh well, a song featuring only Moametal and Yuimetal could have been so much worse. 4 no Uta does balance the line between cute and metal pretty decently. I think it just depends on how much you personally like reggae and how much you can get into this song. For me, 4 no Uta was okay.
All right, this is gonna sound weird, but U.ki.U.ki★Midnight sounds like a Momoiro Clover Z song. Okay, maybe if MomoClo turned into a metal idol group but still! I could hear this song on 5th Dimension, couldn't you guys? Is it just me? Oh well, there are parts of U.ki.U.ki★Midnight that I like and others I don't like. I'm not digging the backing vocals that much, but that's probably because, again, I am not a metalhead. Have I mentioned that enough yet? I feel like I've said that fifty times by now. Also, what's up with the electronic breakdown in the middle of this song? It's really... I don't know, uncalled for? I think U.ki.U.ki★Midnight would have sounded fine without it. Because all the other parts of this song sound great. They're really upbeat and energetic; the chorus is the best part! I don't want to completely discredit U.ki.U.ki★Midnight; I feel like it has the chance to grow on me over time. For now, I think it's an all right song, but not exactly geared to my tastes.
10. Catch me if you can
You know when you're listening to a song, and you know that it's good but you're still like, "Yeah, this is not for me..." Not only can that apply to my entire feelings toward Dempagumi.inc, but it also applies to Catch me if you can. In another dimension, if Nia were a metalhead, she could probably get into this song. She'd probably enjoy this song a lot for combining metal and idol pop into one song. But this dimension's Nia does not feel the same way. Switching back to first person, I like the pop-ier parts of Catch me if you can, but I could do without all the hardcore metal bits. In fact, this probably isn't even hardcore metal, but to my innocent ears, it sounds hardcore. The fun parts of Catch me if you can are really fun, but they're drowned out by all this screaming and chanting. It's just too much for me. I know, I'm quite the wimp, aren't I? Well, I can be a wimp and still not like Catch me if you can! It's really just not something I personally don't want to listen to...
11. Akumu no Rinbukyoku
So this song's got a really cool song title! It translates to Nightmare's Rondo and sounds like something out of The Addams Family! This is also another Suzuka solo, or at least I think it is. I can't hear Yuimetal or Moametal in the song, so even if they're just backing vocals, Akumu no Rinbukyoku is primarily driven by Suzuka's vocals. And once again, she sounds great! I'm noticing she sounds very consistent in all the Babymetal songs. Like even if I don't like a song, Suzuka still sounds good. Akumu no Rinbukyoku is appropriately nightmarish-sounding for a song titled Nightmare's Rondo. I assume the piano backing the song is a rondo, but it's hard to tell with all the other instruments layered over it. Even if it's not a rondo, the rest of Akumu no Rinbukyoku is very enjoyable to my ears. And after finding the last few songs on the album to be not my cup of tea, Akumu no Rinbukyoku is a breath of fresh air. Definitely another one of my favorite tracks!
Oh hai, song I've actually listened to! I am no stranger to Headbanger!! nor the music video and all its neck-brace wearing goodness. I think this was actually the first Babymetal song I'd ever listened to. At first, I didn't know what to make of it. Metal is not my preferred genre of music so to my ears, so Headbanger!! sounded insane. Like BiS levels of insane with a dash of Momoiro Clover Z insane. Giving it a re-listen, Headbanger!! is just as crazy as it was back in 2012. But it's crazy awesome. There's so much energy ricocheting around in this song; my favorite part is the chorus! And yet again, Suzuka's vocals are so strong. I don't even mind Moametal and Yuimetal's backing vocals; in some of these songs they feel kind of unnecessary. But in Headbanger!!, they give the song this strangely adorable edge. I don't quite know how to explain it. Overall, Headbanger!! is loud, explosive, slightly demented, and a totally fun listen all the way through.
13. Ijime, Dame, Zettai
And closing out Babymetal is one other song of theirs I'd heard beforehand, Ijime, Dame, Zettai, which roughly translates to No more bullying. A pretty good song topic in my opinion, especially for an idol group. The piano intro to this song is actually really pretty, and the repetition of that melody in the chorus is even stronger. So Ijime, Dame, Zettai is naturally about bullying, but I will admit the lyrics are vaguer than I thought they would be regarding the subject. Still, I think the subject is broached pretty well for an idol metal song (who'd a thunk I'd ever use that phrase in a sentence?). And the overall structure of Ijime, Dame, Zettai is really well-done. The song is about six minutes long, but it's paced perfectly. I think Ijime, Dame, Zettai ends the album on an extremely high note. Between this and Headbanger!!, both songs are probably my favorite Babymetal songs. Maybe it's not Keibetsu Shiteita Ajiou, but Ijime, Dame, Zettai stands strong as its own metal-fused take on bullying.
You know that feeling when you're showing your friend something really cool like a movie or a TV show? But then about halfway through showing them, you realize they're nowhere near into as much as you are? Well, I would be that friend if someone was playing this album for me. As I have said a bajillion gazillion trillion times by now, I. Am not. A metalhead. I have never been able to get into that genre of music, it's too abrasive, the vocals are too harsh, etc. etc. So an album consisting of metal and idol pop fused together already would be playing against my tastes. Now don't get out your pitchforks yet, I'm not gonna slam this album! Personally, I was not able to get into this album. However, I can still take a step back and appreciate Babymetal for what they are trying to do. I always like seeing idol groups push the boundaries of idol music, like BiS and Bellring Shoujo Heart do. But Babymetal pushes it into a genre that is I am simply not a fan of.
However, the album wasn't a complete waste for me! There were several songs I liked! All the A-sides featured on Babymetal I enjoyed tons, except maybe for DoKi・DoKi☆Morning. I especially think the last third of the album (which included two A-sides and Akumu no Rinbukyoku) was really strong. But when the pop got washed out in favor of the metal, that was when I couldn't really get into this album. Most of the songs in the middle of Babymetal I will probably not listen to again, unless they magically show up in a playlist someday. But that doesn't mean they're bad songs! I'm certain metalheads out there looking for a strange bridge between pop and metal can really get into songs like Catch me if you can and Ii ne! Even if Babymetal isn't my favorite album ever, I do at least think Suzuka is a really good singer, especially for her age! I think her voice is ultimately what prevented some of these songs from being outright terrible for me. So in the end, I wouldn't say this album got me into Babymetal, but I can at least respect them for trying to do something different. Speaking of unconventional idols... I'm pretty sure I have a BiS album review to start typing up now...