Release Date: April 1st
Number of Editions (4): Regular Edition (CD only – Japanese and Worldwide), Limited Edition (CD +DVD | Japan only), THE ONE Limited Edition (Fan Club only)
Less BABY, more METAL
They say the second album is always the most difficult one for an artist: The pressure following the success of the original work represents a considerable weight, the audience becomes larger, and there’s a lot of expectations to meet, but most of all, it’s the moment where to set the aim in the right direction and conquer the crowd. In the case of BABYMETAL, this saying is particularly spot-on: The trio that twisted the Idol scene back in 2010 with their blend of Metal and Idol pop, shaking the Japanese market first and the global audience later, is now at the moment of truth, and the world is keeping the eyes on them.
In case you’re wondering, yes, METAL RESISTANCE is a different album from the previous self-titled record, and the direction BABYMETAL took in terms of sound is clear: This album hits hard. It’s relentless, chaotic, monstrously heavy at times, and it does everything possible to please the Metal and mainstream scenes by adopting several trending influences from both worlds.
This drastic measure comes at a price though, and the album is heavily influenced by this approach both in good and bad ways: The positive side, as you would expect, is represented by the impressive musicianship behind it and the great showcase of SU-METAL’s admirable vocal skills. The bad side, is that sometimes this album pushes its pursuit of meeting certain standards too far, leaving behind some elements that made the core sound of BABYMETAL unique and entertaining: Where at first it was pure fun, now it’s almost dead serious. And this unavoidably comes into conflict with their identity in several occasions throughout the album.
The purest Metal tracks in this record like the Dragonforce collaboration Road of Resistance and the epic THE ONE are well done compositions that showcase great technical skills from both the top-notch musicians of the project and SU-METAL’s vocals, and the result is genuinely good, with the celebrative atmosphere of the closing track particularly worth of mention. Still, it’s fair to admit that at the same time these tracks – while enjoyable – are also nothing more than standard Metal compositions, cause they lack that entertaining and enjoyable ingredient that made the band special.
It’s a shadow that lurks permanently in this album, that desperately presses the accelerator ninety percent of the time to show the world out there that this group is no joke, a brutal approach that works well exclusively when put in contrast with the voices of MOA-METAL and YUI-METAL (known as BLACK BABYMETAL) in the tracks GJ! and Sis. Anger, the first featuring distorted guitars and catchy singing, and the latter being the heaviest BABYMETAL track to date, with furious drumming and relentless guitar riffs. In these numbers, the two young girls bring out part of that funny approach that made their pre-global debut tracks entertaining, making the personality the world loved so much briefly stand out again. Excluding these two tracks though, this could almost be considered a solo SU-METAL album, as the role of the two little girls shifted from relevant vocalists (their influence was decisive in memorable tracks like Headbanger, Ijime, Dame, Zettai and Megitsune) to almost non-existent back singers. Skills and powerful sounds are what amuse a metal fan the most, and this album shamelessly seconds that need by leaving behind the fundamental role of “the girls with the cutesy voices”, which is one of the most noticeable issues with this record.
Still, the biggest problem with METAL RESISTANCE is its attempt at pleasing a way too broad audience, and in adopting the influences to second this illogical purpose, it creates inconsistency, and while it successfully satisfies the mainstream scene with the heavy riffs and catchy chants of KARATE, the utterly repetitive Viking-inspired march META TARO tries to imitate the concept of the North European bands that invaded the metal scene with horns and odes to Odin in the last two decades. Again, the record tries to copycat – literally – progressive metal pioneers Dream Theater in Tales of the Destinies: Comparisons between groups are hardly ever good, and it’s undoubtedly natural to be influenced by relevant bands, but hearing the exact same tone of Petrucci’s guitar and the identical synths used by Jordan Rudess on unusual – for the BABYMETAL standards – endless instrumental sections can’t help but raise a few eyebrows, other than failing at the attempt with an overall messy execution. The totally shallow and forgettable power ballad No Rain, No Rainbow too lacks inspiration and makes no justice to Suzuka’s great vocal skills.
On the other hand, the song that puts the spotlight on SU-METAL, Amore, is one of the high peaks of the record: The singer’s outstanding interpretation flies on a furious but contained base made of melodic riffs, and features what is undoubtedly the most inspired and valid instrumental of the record, with impressive solos by both guitar and bass nestled in a captivating structure. Again, the frontwoman reaches great emotional levels in the electronic-oriented From Dusk Till Dawn, a beautiful atmospheric piece that summons fresh and touching vibes framed by distant high notes, that sadly gets polluted by an unnecessary Metal/Dubstep break that shows once again how this album forcedly tries to be heavy and appealing in any way; Despite this overall minor issue, the track still remains one of the most accomplished works on the record, and a very enjoyable one.
Electronic influences are also the main core of the few tracks that somehow try to summon the classic BABYMETAL sound, but the formula works solely for the Ska-influenced YAVA!, the only number that resembles the former sound of the group with high-pitched synths and punching instrumental breaks despite the still too marginal influence of YUI and MOA, while the relentless Awadama Fever, although bringing intriguing riffs and catchiness, leans too much on the electronic side with a completely lazy structure and overall repetitiveness, failing to create the sufficient appeal to stand out, a misstep not to be taken lightly as it’s based on a formula the group should be familiar with.
All in all, METAL RESISTANCE is an album with few highs, several lows and some average moments, and it suffers from a clear identity crisis: Is it an Idol Metal album? Or a Metal album with a few funny back vocals? Or again, a parody of the Metal/mainstream scene? The group successfully implemented various musical influences in the past, but with this new effort, the impression is that instead of being balanced, these inputs are all thrown together with no logical sense and coupled by a voluntarily exaggerated heaviness that makes this album an almost stressful experience when taken in its entirety. While Amore and From Dusk Till Dawn are outstanding compositions, and the BLACK BABYMETAL tracks along with a few more numbers do the job fine, it’s safe to say that the rest goes from low to barely average quality.
Instead of enhancing the girls’ potential that made the original formula unique, METAL RESISTANCE shamelessly follows the many standards of the Metal and mainstream scenes at the cost of the group’s musical identity, with the disappointing lack of contribute by YUI and MOA and the overly heaviness as the main cause of this misstep. And the fact these girls are now grown-ups with a global success on their shoulders is no excuse to let such an important part of their identity fade away. It’s undeniable that newcomers will find this album enjoyable, that these songs will be a blast to see live at the Wembley Arena thanks to the unquestionable talent of these performers, and that the musicianship behind it is top-notch. Yet, the magic that made BABYMETAL the group it is, partly disappeared in this album to favor standard patterns of music. And considering the unique charisma of this band, it’s a real shame.
Vote: 6.5 / 10
01. Road Of Resistance
03. Awadama Fever
06. Meta Taro
07. From Dusk Till Dawn (“Out of Japan” exclusive)
09. Sis. Anger
10. No Rain, No Rainbow
11. Tales Of The Destinies
12. THE ONE (English version)