Metal 101: The Rise and Rise of Babymetal

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Recently, a new(-ish) band from Japan called Babymetal (or as they like to be called, BABYMETAL) has taken the music world by storm. Their rapid rise to success has caught a lot of people’s attention within and outside the metal community, culminating in a North American tour where they opened for none other than Lady Gaga.

So who are these young teenage girls and what are they doing on stage with a metal band? Are they really into metal? What kind of music do they play? Are they good? What has the metal community’s reaction been to them? Are they the “real deal”? Is life like a flat circle? Let us answer these questions one by one.

Who are these young teenage girls and what are they doing on stage with a metal band? Babymetal are a heavy metal/J-pop/symphonic metal group formed in Japan in 2010. The band is fronted by Su-metal, Yuimetal and Moametal. No, these are not their real names. After Su-metal (eldest amongst the 3 girls) “graduated” from the group Sakura Gakuin, producer Kobametal (not his real name either) started a band with the vision of combining J-pop and metal. Yuimetal and Moametal were selected after an audition, a kickass backing band with top notch musicians was hired and Babymetal was born.

Are they really into metal? None of the girls had ever heard heavy metal before joining the group. Su-metal has gone on record to say that she was very confused and perplexed when she was told about the idea.

What kind of music do they play? The band is comprised of the 3 girls taking over vocal duties, with Su-metal being the lead vocalist effectively and the other two mainly supporting her. Their music is an interesting and potentially polarising blend of heavy metal, speed metal, J-pop and symphonic death metal. They have conventional metal elements like blast beat double bass drums, blindingly fast solos, fast paced, and muted riffs, along with not-so-conventional elements like sing along vocals and harmonies. Their music might be good or bad depending on your musical taste, but no one can argue against the fact that they are different.

Are they good? Whatever your opinion may be about the kind of music that they play and perform, there is no denying that every member is a talented musician. The 3 girls are excellent vocalists overall. Even the backing band is full of top notch musicians. Guitarist Takayoshi Ohmura even plays for ex-Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman’s band. Live, they are one of the most exciting acts to see with their high energy performances. Their live shows are well staged events with choreographed dance routines, elaborate lighting, and heavy use of props. Unlike an average metal concert, their shows are not only about the music, but also about the whole experience. This is not to say that their music is not good, because they really “bring it” on the stage.

What has the metal community’s reaction been like? Polarising. Babymetal has faced a lot of backlash from “tr00” metal fans, the primary reasons being their gimmicky style and that they are just a bunch of musicians who are paid to perform live, and whose music is dictated by record labels. However some metal fans have accepted them with open arms, calling them “a breath of fresh air” in a genre struggling for relevancy. Their fans also include young kids, crossover J-pop fans, and indie fans. Their following is extremely diverse as a result of their unconventional sound.

Are they the “real deal?” Depends on who you ask, but I would say yes. They’re clearly talented enough and they have an audience that is constantly growing, not to mention the fact that they seem to have the respect of “legit” bands like Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax, Deftones, Carcass, etc. In a genre like metal where it’s very easy to be forgettable, they stick out and have made a name for themselves. Where they go from here depends on the band’s management. Su-metal is already 17, and there has recently been talk of getting a new singer to replace her. Only time will tell us how long they last but for now, they seem to be the real deal.

Is life like a flat circle? That, my friends, is a question for another day. Hint: all circles are flat.