No secret has ever been made of the story behind Babymetal, the Japanese novelty act who fuse the aggression of metal with the cutesiness of Japanese pop. Their brilliant stage outfits sum it up: half ballerina, half battle re-enactment. The group – consisting of schoolgirl teens Suzuka Nakamoto (Su-metal), Moa Kikuchi (Moametal) and Yui Mizuno (Yuimetal) – was created in 2010 by mysterious Japanese producer Kobametal. A backing band plays all the music for them and Yuimetal once admitted, “I’ve never beenin a moshpit. I think I’d get smashed to bits.”
But Babymetal are far from a niche joke: since forming, they’ve signed to Sony, released a self-titled debut that went gold in Japan in 2014, supported Lady Gaga and, at last year’s Reading Festival, inspired a moshpit Slipknot would have been proud of. Yet there’s obviously some irony at work here. Admiration from metallers seems tongue-in-cheek, predicated on the ludicrousness of the band’s synchronised dance moves and the incongruity of their teenybopper image and bruising riffs. Could their shtick be as entertaining second time round?
‘Metal Resistance’ is played straighter than its predecessor, leaning more heavily on rock than pop. First track ‘Road To Resistance’ opens with overblown ’80s hair metal bluster, combining chiming guitar leads with double-pedal drums. Gruff male chanting is then juxtaposed with Babymetal’s sugary vocals, setting the template for the entire album. This may hold your interest in some places – lead single ‘Karate’ is fast and furious until jangling, arpeggiated guitar alters the rhythm – but can be frustratingly repetitive, as on the lumbering ‘Meta Taro’.
Mostly sung in Japanese – English vocals only appear on closer ‘The One’ and briefly on ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ – ‘Metal Resistance’ shines brightest during tracks such as the epic, melodic ‘Amore’, which draws more heavily on J-pop. For the most part, though, its adherence to the aforementioned formula can be quite boring, a word you might not readily associate with a band that claim to worship a ‘Fox God’. But maybe that’s the problem with being a novelty group – there’s not much left once it’s worn off.