BABYMETAL – Metal Galaxy (Album Review)

BABYMETAL – METAL GALAXY
Released: October 11th, 2019

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By now you should be familiar with the [slightly batshit] formula that is BABYMETAL (if you’re not, what are you doing? Get onto it!). It’s a mix of cute and melodic Japanese singing over shredding metal guitars that sounds odd on paper. But fans of the band or even just the casual listener would agree that it’s a formula that works. When the band played at Good Things Festival 2018 (our MELB coverage here), there was a bit of anticipation to see what the live set would bring, and it smashed my expectations. I have a fantastic video of someone losing their drink the second they entered the mental mosh pit. Now after touring extensively over the past years, the wait is finally over to hear the new sound BABYMETAL has promised.

Much has changed between the release of the band’s second album METAL RESISTANCE and latest offering METAL GALAXY, with the tragic death of Kami Band guitarist Mikio Fujioka, known to fans as Ko-Gami (The Little God) and the sad departure of founding member Yuimetal (Yui Mizuno). With all of this change, the official statement coming from the band’s website eluded to changes within the sound as well, saying that BABYMETAL represents “the birth of a new genre of music that combines Japanese pop with metal“. It also said, “just like the Sun and the Moon changes the appearance of this world with its daylight and moonlight, with evermore new type of various sound [sic], their music paints the metal galaxy in different colours.” So does this change reflect in the album and does it reflect positively?

First off I will say that there is quite a bit of variety in this album. The last album was great, and there were some standouts such as single ‘Karate’. However, when listening to the album in full, it did feel like it was metal riff after metal riff and made me feel like I was in a never-ending game of Dance Dance Revolution. I am not saying that is necessarily a bad thing; I just can’t dance for that long. This new album has the trademark flurries of metal but also throws in some variation for a break. The band’s official statement stated that the album would reflect the themes of light and darkness and emotions such as duality and ambivalence. I can say that this is something they have achieved.

First track ‘FUTURE METAL’ straight up smacks you in the face with electro-sounding power chords, while a robotic voice announces that “This ain’t heavy metal, welcome to the world of Babymetal“. This is a great introduction that lets listeners know they have no idea what to expect. The second song ‘DA DA DANCE’ is the familiar frenzied Dance Dance Revolution sound, it is fun and has an epic guitar solo that I assume is played by grammy-winning guitarist Tak Matsumoto, who features on the song. This is where the similarities to the old sound of the band end with some songs drawing on EDM and drum ‘n’ bass inspirations and similarities. Examples of this are the single ‘Elevator Girl’ and ‘Brand New Day’. Speaking of ‘Elevator Girl’, I have mixed feelings about this song. It was released as an English version, and I feel that the simplistic English lyrics lose their punch and the poignant message is lost.

Executive producer for the band Kobametal (Kei Kobayashi) stated that songs on the album were made to reflect the flavours of music from a range of countries which is shines through in the next few songs. First up is ‘Shanti Shanti Shanti’ which has an Indian feeling and I would imagine it is inspired by the Sanskrit chant of a similar name, used to invoke peace.  ‘Night Night Burn!’ Is another internationally flavoured song, with Latin sounds and bongo drums. Lastly is the super fun ‘Oh! MAJINAI’ featuring Joakim Brodén of Swedish metal band, Sabaton fame. This song has a pirate shanty feel, so it’s Japanese/Swedish/kawaii/pirate metal??- petition for this to be a genre- I want to see more bands heading into this kind of sound!

Absolute highlights come from the two singles ‘Distortion’ and ‘PA PA YA!’ coming one after a-face-melting-other. ‘Distortion’ was the first single released from the album way back in May last year and audiences have gotten well acquainted with it in the live set since. These songs are two of many with a guest feature, with Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy on ‘Distortion’ and Thai Rapper F.HERO on ‘PA PA YA!’. The latter of which is my favourite on the album, its frantic, has growling vocals and is so fun to dance along to. Another favourite on this album for me is ‘Shine’ which is the second to last song on the album. It comes after the fist-up anthem ‘Starlight’ and opens with this breaking-dawn, new-world orchestral feeling. It’s like ‘Starlight’ is the call to action, the big fight happens, and no one knows what has happened while the dust is still settling. Then ‘Shine’ starts, and you know that the heroes have prevailed, and the bad guys were defeated. It gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. ‘Shine’ and ‘Arkadia’ are an epic way to close out the album.

This album does what BABYMETAL said it was setting out to do; it mixes dark, growl- filled metal songs with lighter, fun songs with pop, EDM or international flavours. It then rounds out with the feeling of the enemy defeated and the heroes victorious showing us that while dark may cloud our life, light will always prevail (just like the storyline of your favourite Anime).  This album will take you for a ride, and even though you might have no idea what is actually happening, you will enjoy every second of it.

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BABYMETAL – Metal Galaxy tracklisting

  1. FUTURE METAL
  2. DA DA DANCE (feat. Tak Matsumoto)
  3. Elevator Girl
  4. Shanti Shanti Shanti
  5. Oh! MAJINAI (feat. Joakim Brodén)
  6. Brand New Day (feat. Tim Henson and Scott LePage)
  7. Night Night Burn!
  8. IN THE NAME OF
  9. Distortion (feat. Alissa White-Gluz)
  10. PA PA YA!! (feat. F.HERO)
  11. Kagerou
  12. Starlight
  13. Shine
  14. Arkadia

Rating: 7 solid Japanese/Swedish/kawaii/pirates out of 10
METAL GALAXY  is out 11th October via Cooking Vinyl Australia. Pre Order here
Review By Caitlin MacDonald @caitmacca

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