If there’s a band likely to produce a “Marmite” reaction amongst metal fans, it’s quirky Japanese act Babymetal. Even here in house there’s no agreement about whether they’re great entertainment or “manufactured shit”. There is no middle ground.
Three years ago I reviewed Metal Resistance and I really enjoyed it. At the time I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the Japanese vocals laid over some cracking traditional metal music worked for me. For better or worse, Metal Galaxy is not more of the same. It’s very much a different album, a sidestep (or several of them) and therefore not pandering to fans who like more of the same.
The staggering variety of songs on here could be its strongest or weakest point. While trying to hit what seems like every metal sub-genre through its running length, Metal Galaxy demonstrates BabyMetal’s ability to write a decent tune without being stuck in a niche, but are they trying to please too many people and spreading their message too thinly as a result?
The album opens with “Future Metal”, rife with synths and altered vocals to give an almost 70s sci-fi feel. OK, so it’s only a short intro number but it’s… odd. “Da Da Dance” is more along the lines of the pop/metal hybrid we’re familiar with, but it’s one of only a few. Once the song is halfway through, a noticeable prog influence jumps in with syncopated rhythms and the like. Jump forward to “Oh! Maijinai” and all semblance of sanity is lost with what’s essentially folk metal aided by Sabaton’s Joakim Brodén chucking throaty vocals around. It’s utterly mental. Catchy, and a bit on the heavy side, but just… mad.
Alissa White-Gluz also pops up on the album, on the song “Distortion”, lending her trademark death growls… to a techno/metal track. Fast-paced and unrelenting, it’s an odd mixture – clicked together like a series of Lego bricks rather than smoothly blended. Someone called “F.Hero” guests on “Pa Pa Ya!!” and I wasn’t surprised to hear that he’s a rapper because – yup – we hit rap metal with this one. The prog is strong on “Brand New Day” featuring, as it does, two members of Polyphia and you’d almost expect Herman Li’s name to be on the credits for closer “Arkadia” (maybe it is as a writer, but he doesn’t actually guest on the track) so similar it is to most DragonForce outings.
Oh, and we need a twee song. Check out “Shine” which would incur the full wrath of the Sugar Tax’s upper bracket.
Reading this, you’d think I didn’t enjoy Metal Galaxy. Bizarrely, I did. I’ve listened to it about a dozen times to draft this review. I’m just not sure how well it’ll go down with middle-of-the-road rock and metal fans. It’s a bit “all over the place”. Perhaps one for those with more eclectic tastes compared to their earlier releases.
Metal Galaxy is out now.