It began snowing yesterday morning, and hasn’t stopped since then. My world is white and slushy and simultaneously pretty and gross. Trees are bending and breaking thanks to all the wet snow clinging to the leaves they never lost when we went directly from summer to winter.
But the incoming cold season is going to be tempered by some HOT NEW JAMS that dropped today: Metal Galaxy, the new album from BABYMETAL.
If you haven’t heard of BABYMETAL (do you even internet?), they’re a Japanese pop idol duo who are backed by face-melting death metal instrumentation. It’s a mash-up of complete opposites, and I couldn’t be more obsessed with them. At least, the closest to literal obsession I’ve ever been. Since I first learned of them, I listen to BABYMETAL nearly every day. I’m sure the fascination will fade eventually -they always do- but it’s been going strong for months now.
Metal Galaxy is maybe the only album I’ve had any pre-release excitement for in 2019. Mostly because I don’t keep up with music very well in general, but also because I’ve been desperate for more BABYMETAL. Listening to their previous album, Metal Resistance, over and over forever is fine, but eventually a boy aches for something new. I do put on their first album, Baby Metal, every once in a while, but the truth is that I’m not really into that one all that much. It leans a little too hard into J-Pop for my liking. But it laid the groundwork for an act that was refined and perfected in Metal Resistance, so I can’t be too down on it. Plus it has “Gimme Chocolate!!” and you’d have to be a soulless monster to dislike that song.
Back to Metal Galaxy, though. Where do you go after you create a perfect album? BABYMETAL’s approach was to go all over the place. From techno to raga to hip-hop to dance, there’s a wide variety of different sounds in this album, each with that mix of idol pop and metal at the centre. While not every song hits the mark, they’re all very distinct. “Oh! MAJINAI” has a weird Irish thing going on, and features vocals from Sabaton’s Joakim Broden. The first half of “IN THE NAME OF” sounds something from Keiichi Okabe, until it mutates into death metal with no actual singing, just metal growls. I appreciate the diversification despite the fact that it makes the album seem a little unfocused. I think it’s a good thing when you couldn’t possibly mistake one of the tracks on an album for another.
We all know that I’m not very good at talking about music, so I’ll wrap this up quick. Metal Galaxy is a very good album. After listening to it only three times, I think I still like Metal Resistance better as a whole, but that could easily change with time and as I get to know the songs more deeply. What I can say for sure is that Metal Galaxy definitely has some of my favourite individual BABYMETAL tracks. “Elevator Girl” is my jam, and I fell hard and fast for “Da Da Dance” which features a solo by Tak Matsumoto, one of my all-time favourite guitarists. “Arkadia” is a suitably epic final song that doesn’t go light on the shredding. And you know how I feel about gratuitous shredding.