• ''Triumphal march of the Fox God'': A review of Babymetal's ''Live at Budokan: Red Night''

     Babymetal - Live at Budokan: Red Night

    Babymetal has become an international phenomenon over the past two years that has had a considerable impact on metal music. The controversial female trio which is backed up by a solid metal band, a clever management and creative choreographers has played numerous big festivals and venues in Asia, Europe and North America. In the beginning, critics guessed that the girls made mostly playback performances, that they weren't really into their own kind of music and that they were only a short-living trend in the key of ''Gangnam Style'' or ''Harlem Shake''. Over the years, the band has though grown together as a solid, emotional and credible unit of established performers and the best seems yet to come for them. If compared to other idol bands, the band seems to keep its successful line-up together at long sight. The band has even created and influenced a legitimate new sub-genre called kawaii metal since several bands like Fruitpochette are following their footsteps. ''Live at Budokan: Red Night'' is a very strong testimony for the band's early process of maturation. The thirteen tunes that can also be found on the band's eponymous studio debut record were recorded back in March 2014 and released in January 2015. They already show how strong the band was back then. Today, the unique trio has become even better but this live document is nevertheless worth the attention of both critics and fans and those who simply want to discover something exciting, fresh and unusual.

    First of all, the backing band is really solid. The brutal death and thrash metal influenced ''Babymetal Death'' rushes past an amazed crowd like an unstoppable bullet train. The enthusiastic European power metal anthem against bullying entitled ''Ijime, Dame, Zettai'' will bring tears to the eyes of any passionate guitar player. Even the rhythm and blues influenced ''Iine!'' sounds very cool, relaxed and tight on the other side. These outstanding musicians are rarely mentioned in reviews but they are the backbone of the band and deliver a very diversified and enthusiastic yet focused performance.

    The crowd definitely adds to the success of this live record and the three girls sure know how to animate, communicante and motivate their fans from all around the world. The simple yet efficient sing along parts in the rap inspired middle part of ''Iine!'' work even better than on the studio album. The extended instrumental opening of ''Catch Me If You Can'' builds up both atmosphere and energy among the audience. The liberating screams from the three singers in ''Head Bangya!!'' make this track sound much purer and wilder than the studio version and the crowd responds in a similarly unchained manner.

    The songs themselves also stand out because they are more than just simple reproductions of the studio versions. The introductionary samples of ''Megitsune'' are short and simple as they raise the expectations, passion and tension of the audience. The additional Asian folk samples in the opening of the dark and mysterious ''Onedari Daisakusen'' make a rather average tune from the studio album really stand out on this live release. The radio play dialogs in the introduction of the epic ''Ijime, Dame, Zettai'' symbolize the chilling calm before the furious storm since the track ends with endless guitar solos, honest notes of thanks from the three teenagers and a most vivid rhythm section that is finally let loose. 

    The band already sounds more mature than on the debut album even if this live release was only recorded a few months after the studio record had been fully completed. Back vocalists Moametal and Yuimetal still sound quite juvenile but less childish and innocent but more powerful and self-confident than before. They already add a lot of drive to the genre-breaking potpourri of ''Iine!'' and the dark pop rock track ''Onedari Daisakusen'' but they really underline their energizing skills in the extended version of the rather experimental tune ''Song 4''. Main singer Su-Metal already starts to sound like a skilled young woman instead of a little kid on this album. Especially her enchanting performance in ''Akatsuki'' is really powerful and shows that she is more than just a good dancer, entertainer and model and in fact a really gifted singer. Maybe she could one day become a successor of legendary female rock singer Hamada Mari.

    To keep it short, Babymetal's first official live CD release ''Live at Budokan: Red Night'' is a great introduction to the band, should please any fan of the studio record and might inspire harsh critics to make up their minds about the passion, longevity and authenticity of this international phenomenon that has already written history and revolutionized metal music as we have known it. While most groundbreaking metal acts have been ridiculed in their humble beginnings, they have all gone their way and I'm confident Babymetal will do the same. This record is a credible product of the band's enthusiastic and experimental first steps and might get a legendary status one day. That's why it's even worth to spend some money on the Japanese import version of this record or to go for the extended package with an additional concert entitled ''Live at Budokan: Black Night'' and a DVD or Blu-ray version of the two concerts that add the colourful, creative and ecstatic visual component to rate an already outstanding concert release up. Let's hope that there are more live and studio records to follow quite soon and that the band will continue to perform high quality shows around the world.

    Final verdict: 10/10 (highlight)

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