Remember 2014? Those were much simpler times. It was the year when three teenage girls from Japan took the rest of the world by storm, after their music video for 'GIMME CHOCOLATE!!' went viral. Can you imagine a bunch of 14 to 16-year-olds singing cute melodies over a mishmash of extreme metal in front of tens of thousands moshing fans? Yeah, that sounds like a recipe for a cultural clash. Fast forward to 2019, and if you expected Babymetal to be a one-time fad, you'd be wrong. Throughout the years, the band has somewhat integrated into the Western music scenes, and now they're ready to take on the world once again with their third record Metal Galaxy.
About a year ago the band let go one of their core members, Yuimetal. Leaving just Su-Metal on lead vocals and Moametal as backing vocalist, but Metal Galaxy does a stellar job at not sounding like a mish-mash of musicians thrown together for the sake of it. Aside from their expansive backing band (the Kami Band), Babymetal are also joined by a large amount of guest musicians from across the globe on this new record. Tak Matsumoto from the big Japanese rock act B'z joins the band on 'DA DA DANCE', which is a highly infectious sugar coated metal track. The shredding guitars, blistering synthesizers and soaring vocals are very much what you would expect from Babymetal, and it calls back to the sounds we heard on the first two records.
In contrast to their first records (especially their debut), Metal Galaxy feels less random and erratic. Instead of exploring a new musical style every 30 seconds, the variety of genres is limited to one song at a time. That said, there's a lot of variety to be found. 'Shanti Shanti Shanti' draws heavy influences from Indian music, whereas the following track 'Oh! MAJINAI' is pirate metal by the numbers. There's a Latin American vibe on Night Night Burn!', and the list goes on.
The wide variety in different musical styles really allows each track to stand out from the others. Even in the songs that stay within the metal realm, there's a lot to unpack. From shredding power metal to metalcore to groovy riffs, there's something here for everyone. All of this is held together strongly by the creative songwriting of the backing band, who offer very unconventional moments. The fenomonal performance by Su-Metal delivers a cherry on top of the cake. In the past, Babymetal has often been defined by their concept and their gimmick, but Su-Metal definitely proves her worth as a vocalist in songs like 'Brand New Day' and 'Shine'.
Metal Galaxy is a record that features many highs, and the occasional low, but due to the variety in musical elements, what's considered a high or a low will depend on the listener. The absolute highlight on this record, though, has to be 'Brand New Day', which features the two Polyphia guitarists. The Polyphia influence is very present across the whole track, but the lush guitar licks and sweet Babymetal vocals do nothing less than complement each other.
On the contrary, pirate metal song 'Oh! MAJINAI', which features Sabaton vocalist Jaokim Brodén, is a bit of a dud. The folky chants feel very stale and tacky, and are sadly present all over the track. Not even the change to a half time rhythm in the middle can save this song.
Babymetal's first impact in the Western media was perceived to be just a viral gimmick one-hit wonder band. With Metal Galaxy they prove they're a force to be reckoned with. Musically, they've strayed from shock value in favour of substance without sacrificing any creativity. No matter what kind of metal fan you are, there is at least something for you in Metal Galaxy.