Bringing metal to the idol scene in a big way

04 January, 2013 by

In a scene where girl-group is synonymous to idol group, one particular group stands out against the backdrop of pop idols to bring a new sound into the mix. A subgroup spawned from Sakura Gakuin; itself an idol group, Babymetal is one of the ‘clubs’ in the academy setting of Sakura Gakuin, named the Heavy Music Club. Making waves both locally and overseas, we take a look at Babymetal and see whether these girls are as metal as they claim to be.

The group is made up of Su-metal, Moametal and Yuimetal. The first song by Babymetal, Doki Doki Morning, appeared on the 2011 Sakura Gakuin album ~message~. However, this song was only officially released digitally, and the girls have another 2 singles released with the third Ijime, Dame, Zettai (IDZ) coming in the second week of 2013. Over the past year, the girls have shared stages with many artists, including artists like SuG and Tamurapan.



What’s interesting is how Babymetal fits into the idol scene. An example is how the usually (barely) Satanic connotation of the devil horn hand-sign is made into their own by incorporating it into the Babymetal mythos; To them it is instead a fox sign, used to show devotion to the fox god that rules over all of metal. It is one of the many ways to make metal a little less brutal for the masses to consume, and having fun with it.

As the name obviously implies, Babymetal’s sound is metal. While there are other groups that incorporate a rock sound like BiS or Party Rockets, Babymetal’s is the only one whose style you can really call metal. There is a mixture of metal sub-genres spread around their music; for example, Iine! incorporates a style that resembles Attack Attack more than it does Slayer, mixing techno, hip hop and death metal growls.

Their most recent single Headbanger and upcoming IDZ seem to represent a move to refine the sound a little further. The two title tracks are an attempt to go towards a more mainstream metal sound. Maybe IDZ will be similar to Headbanger in that any experimentation will be kept to the B-side of the single (as seen by the dubstep influences of Uki Uki Midnight). It’s not really a bad idea to diversify, so here’s to hoping that doesn’t go away.

Su-metal is the only proper singer in the group, with the two two acting as hype men in live shows and chiming in once in a while. It was a little disappointing to see that they didn’t have her doing the growls, but perfectly understandable when you consider how much damage that would do to a young girl’s throat. Instead the approach to vocals relies on Su-metal’s angelic voice supplementing the heavy music, sounding more like Nightwish than Arch Enemy.

We saw them live last year at AFA 2012, and the girls are great at putting on a show. There are reports of walls of death and them utilizing a live band in shows staged in Japan, but unfortunately there was nothing of that sort in AFA. Hopefully when big enough they will perform full-time with a live band. Off-stage, the girls are mostly bubbly personalities right up to the point where they assume their ‘metal personalities’, at which point they morph from middle schoolers to metal maidens.

The future of Babymetal is a little uncertain, since as part of Sakura Gakuin, they are also bound by its rules, which state that only girls that have not yet reached high school age are allowed to stay in the group. Nakamoto Suzuka (Su-metal’s unassuming alter ego) turns 16 this year and makes that jump; no one really knows the fate of the group post-graduation, and whether or not it will continue. Stopping it would definitely be throwing a wrench into what is possibly the coolest idol group yet.

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Writer who also doubles as the photographer during event coverage. Mus' interests in Japan lie in the language, literature, popular culture and underground rock bands. Having an academic background in Japan, Mus is also particularly interested in the study of Nihonjinron.