Let me start by stating the obvious that Babymetal is a gimmicky "product" band. That's a fact. OK now with that in mind, I can kick the elephant out of the room and proceed with my actual assessment.
My first impression of BABYMETAL was their video for "Gimme Chocolate," from their self-titled debut album, and what an impression indeed. I never would have thought that meshing J-pop and heavy metal could work so well. Even the dance routines are loads of fun to watch! However, I initially thought of the whole premise as a joke; a novelty that is doomed to overstay its welcome. Having listened to the entirety of their debut album only supported my assumption, as it was a very scattered compilation of genre-hopping with very little substance beyond the catchy hooks. With that said, having low expectations for their sophomore release "Metal Resistance" left me pleasantly surprised at the result.
While the catchy hooks and pop bravado stay intact, the overall listening experience is much more cohesive this time around, with a notably better balance between the pop and metal elements, and even hints of thematic continuity. The second track "KARATE" sets up the tone, and carries on to gleefully aggressive tracks like "Awadama Fever," "GJ!," and "Sis. Anger." The biggest improvement though, is the overall quality of each composition, even to a point where several of the songs actually have emotional substance. One in particular that comes to mind is "From Dusk Till Dawn," which evokes lovely ambient glitch & trip hop beds very similar to the likes of a Periphery interlude, coupled with heavily epic breakdowns. It only gets better from there. The last three tracks pull you in like a cinematic journey (and are quite obviously a love letter to Dream Theater) - "No Rain, No Rainbow" opens with a beautiful orchestral arrangement and wonderfully showcases the vocal talents of lead girl Su-Metal. "Tales of the Destinies" packs a wallop of prog-rock virtuosity (how on Earth will the girls dance to that?!). Finally, the closing track "THE ONE" hangs on to a powerful chorus worthy of waving those lighters (or cell phones) to. Did I mention that the song is sung in English?
I'm almost aggravated by how good this album is, because the producers/instrumentalists really outdid themselves in this effort and yet will remain in the background to hold up the Kawaii trio in the spotlight. That's showbiz, though! I certainly did not expect this much quality out of a Babymetal album. To be fair, there is not yet a definitive formula for a Babymetal album; only time and future releases will determine what the formula could be. It's not to say that Babymetal have broken any new ground of originality however; each song can be perceived as either a shameless rip-off or a respectful tribute to specific bands and their signature styles. Meshuggah, Dream Theater, and Dragonforce instantly come to mind (interestingly enough, the latter band's own Herman Li and Sam Totman are guest guitarists in the opening track "Road of Resistance"). If you go into this album expecting anything unique beyond the pop/metal blend, then you will be disappointed. However, if you can forgive that flaw and lose yourself in the sheer power that is Metal Resistance, then this album is a visceral experience you don't want to miss. Babymetal have now proven that they are more than just a novelty band; they are a real force to be reckoned with.
Rating - 4/5