Zippo Encore Stage
Friday, June 8, 2018
By Eric Mackinnon
When Babymetal exploded onto the metal scene they were initially dismissed as a gimmick band. A novelty which would soon wear off.
But Japan's finest metallers are preparing for a second appearance at Download with the festival looming large on the horizon as they look to build on their mega set on the Main Stage just two summers ago with a sub-headline slot on the Second Stage this time around.
A number of music critics, publications and fans peered down their hooters at this new explosion of noise from Japan but a number of years later and Babymetal have stood the test of time.
They have proved to be far more than a flash a pan.
Babymetal are what happens when two musical worlds collide ... near global domination.
The J-Pop and thrash metal hybrid beast which has spawned Babymetal have spent the past 24-months setting new records as quickly as copies of their second album ‘Metal Resistance’ flew off the shelves.
Foot-stomping, hair swinging, fist punching metal riffs were never as catchy as when building towards choruses dripping in sugary sweet pop melodies and more catchy than a cold in a crowded office.
Babymetal are no longer a novelty act. They are a bonafide metal force to be reckoned with. Nobody can now claim otherwise. Metal snobbery aside.
The numbers don’t lie.
Their self-titled 2014 album sat proudly on top of the metal charts on iTunes around the world, despite the band being signed only in Japan and their lyrics being in Japanese.
They have earned support slots around the planet with bands from Guns N' Roses and Metallica to Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Their second full length album 'Metal Resistance' charted at number 15 in the UK Album chart - the highest entry for any Japanese band ever in the UK. Becoming the first Japanese band to headline the Wembley SSE Arena and break the venues merch record in the process.
Yes the world has gone gaga for Babymetal and it’s easy to see why.
'Gimme Chocolate' has racked up a phenomenal 84m views on YouTube and the song has the kind of guitar chops which would get the headbang of approval from any metal guitarist from Dimebag to Kirk Hammett. Of course the metal riffs are twinned with J-Pop heavy choruses which see the pace of the song slow from 100 miles an hour to a melodic sway at times.
Babymetal's fast and furious shredding continues throughout their biggest tracks which are peppered with J-Pop inspired vocals and the occasional synth.
There are nods to prog rock, ska punk and even black metal as the band dip a toe into a variety of metal sub genres ensuring there is something for people from all corners and crevices of the rock and metal family.
But it’s all good and I defy even the most stubborn of musical hearts not to burst with glee and delight at the brilliantly bonkers concept.
What's not to love about super heavy, soaring guitar solos, ear thundering dual-pedal kickdrums, and the Fox God? And the girls, particularly lead singer Su-Metal has a set of pipes which belie her pint sized frame and she makes the metal melodies her own.
Meshing J-Pop with metal shouldn’t work but it does and Babymetal are a band we have taken to both our hearts and our headphones.