• The future is dark, it's all that we've got - A review of Babymetal's Metal Galaxy

    Babymetal - Metal Galaxy (2019)

    Japanese kawaii metal pioneers Babymetal who revolutionized a combination of melodic danceable idol pop music and diverse metal subgenres have gone through numerous changes over the past few years. Lead guitarist and member of the band's backing group called Kami Band Fujioka Mikio died from injuries sustained after falling from an observation deck about two years ago. Singer and dancer Mizuno Yui had stopped touring with the band about two years ago and definitely left the band one year ago. She had been replaced by a revolving line-up of different dancers and singers. In addition to this, the teenagers had now become adults with lead singer Nakamoto Suzuka being twenty-one years old and backing singer and dancer Kikuchi Moa being twenty years old as we speak. Most idol bands would have opted for a new line-up but Babymetal's international popularity associated to its original singers would have made such a change extremely debatable. The band doesn't have its youthful charm anymore and must now opt for a new direction. Instead of dwelling on the past, Babymetal has now released a record entitled Metal Galaxy with a new background story and numerous futuristic electronic elements.

    While evolution is generally positive, one can't help but miss the quirky eclectic energy that distinguished the stunning debut record Babymetal five years ago and its even more diversified successor Metal Resistance three years ago. Metal Galaxy features six popular guest musicians and singers varying from Thai rapper F. Hero to Canadian death metal vocalist Alissa White-Gluz but all these collaborations are only briefly entertaining and fail to leave deeper impressions. ''Distortion'' for instance is a faceless and short first single as the solid melodic death metal riffs don't blend in with the heavily distorted and auto-tuned vocals. Nakamoto Suzuka's enchanting clean vocals can't really unfold. Kikuchi Moa's shy backing chants are lacking conviction. Alissa White-Gluz's growls are merely a gimmicky side note. The other collaborations aren't much better. ''Oh! Majinai'' featuring Sabaton's Joakim Broden makes Alestorm sound like serious and professional artists as that failed attempt at a pirate hymn might not even be entertaining enough for a pre-school birthday party at an amusement park. ''Brand New Day' features two guitarists of progressive rock band Polyphia but if you expect this song to be more adventurous than the rest, you've got it all wrong. The staccato riffs sound nerve-firing. The omnipresent electronic elements are plain irritating. The vocal effects take any depth, feeling or soul away from the song. It's a pity that the producers didn't let Nakamoto Suzuka unfold her angelic vocals.

    How about the songs without guest musicians or singers? They aren't much better to be honest. ''Future Metal'' is a bland plodding trance tune that opens the first disc while the overlong ''In the Name of'' sounds like a less convincing copy of the opener from the eponymous debut record. Japanese bonus tracks ''BBAB'' and ''BxMxC'' are as random as their weird titles and materialize as nervous short tunes mixing futuristic trance and dubstep elements with vapid industrial and nu metal riffs but the worst elements are the heavily processed vocals that are much closer to a robot than a human being.

    In order to not be completely negative, there are still a few noteworthy songs. ''Shanti Shanti Shanti'' focuses on danceable Indian folkore music and could come straight from the soundtrack of a Bollywood movie. The song manages to sound creative, enchanting and exotic and isn't too heavily processed. ''Shine'' isn't innovative but sounds refreshing as an epic pop ballad that stands out because it's less overloaded and processed than most of the other songs. Album closer ''Arkadia'' offers epic power metal melodies in the key of Rhapsody of Fire, Helloween and DragonForce that nostalgically recall the spirit of the previous full length effort. It's ironic that what might be the most conservative tune on the new album is easily its best.

    In the end, Babymetal has both moved away from its quirky pop music roots and its numerous metal subgenres and offers futuristic electronic music where too many cooks spoil the broth and quantity outweighs quality. The heavily processed vocals of the brilliant lead singer Nakamoto Suzuka are unnecessary, nerve-firing and even insulting for such a talented artist. Kikuchi Moa's exchangeable background vocals have nothing in common with her energetic screams on the two previous records. Mizuni Yui's absence is noteworthy but it's debatable whether her presence could have improved this vapid plastic product. The instrumental quality has also decreased and one misses Fujioka Mikio's crunching extreme metal riffs.

    The only hope that remains is that the new songs sound more warm, vibrant and organic in concert. Babymetal's quirky shows are still second to none despite the line-up changes. This third studio record however is a step in the wrong direction. Fans are craving for Babymetal and not Young-Adult-Trance. If you happen to be disappointed by Metal Galaxy, try out BRATS' eponymous debut record featuring former Ladybaby singer Rei Kuromiya.

    Final rating: 30%

    « The future is dark, it's all that we've got - A review of Babymetal's Metal GalaxyZhong Guo Ji Zhang / The Captain (2019) - Balancing tearjerking empathy and ominous violence - 9/10 (25/10/19) »
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