Babymetal – Metal Resistance
The most interesting and exciting thing to happen to metal in years
Few bands have ever fractured the metal community quite so decisively as Babymetal. On the one hand, macho traditionalists accuse the Japanese sensations of being manufactured pop playing metal dress-up (as if that were per se A Bad Thing). On the other, right-thinking humans recognise that Babymetal are the most interesting and exciting thing to happen to metal in years.
Metal's prioritisation of authenticity is both its strength and its weakness. It allows adherents to feel like they've tapped into something real, true and elemental, yet in doing so, it risks taking itself too seriously and denying its own highly constructed, performative aspects. Injecting grim brutality with a heavy dose of super-kawaii idol pop therefore challenges metal's self-image of kultish legitimacy in an extremely confrontational way, especially because the results are so shockingly effective.
Their self-titled debut was an extraordinary collision of seemingly incompatible styles and energies, forced together into unspeakable but oddly beautiful chimeras. Metal Resistance is more of the same, a flickerbook of brutal metal styles rendered proudly poptastic, from empowering hyperspeed anthem 'Road of Resistance' (with guest shredding from DragonForce) to the grimy djent of 'Karate', the vicious tech-death-metal of 'Sis Anger' and the manic, almost-Cardiacs-like patchwork contortions of 'Tales of the Destinies'. It's an onslaught of iron-fisted riffs and glittery hooks, a blunderbuss packed with rusty nails and Moshi Monsters. It's glorious.
And yet it's not quite as intoxicating as the debut – maybe due to a more polished and accomplished blending of genres, or perhaps just absence of the novelty factor on the part of the listener. It leaves the album in an awkward position. In many ways, it's stronger, more confident, better realised than the first, but at a price – namely, a slight softening of the implausibility and conflict that made the debut so astonishing. For good or ill, Babymetal have gone from The Thing That Should Not Be to The Thing That Definitely Belongs In Arenas.
Metal Resistance is out on 1 Apr via earMUSIC.