The past few months my newsfeed was full of Metal Hammer proclaiming Babymetal this, Babymetal that, pictures of three cute Japanese girls with microphones and I ignored it until recently when I saw a picture of the three girls with Slayers Kerry King and I said “Stop the bus! If Kerry King is saying this is cool, this has to be worth a look!”
And what I found was pure gold.
I couldn’t help but love it instantly. This absolute mad mix of metal, pop, dance and (at times) hip-hop and reggae appeals greatly to the metalhead AND pop lover in me. The vocals are so unbelievably sweet, cute, catchy and the music is by contrast evil, dark and heavy- monster riffs and thundering drums- heavy metal music updated with additional synths and electronic elements.
The music itself is only half of it. Babymetal is very much a visual experience- three singing and dancing Japanese girls in co-ordinating outfits performing with a backing-up band.
The self-titled debut album was released in February this year under Toy’s Factory record label and it’s all I’ve been listening to.
You can’t HELP but smile listening to this music, you can’t help but enjoy the chaos, the madness- it seems wrong but it’s definitely right!!!!!
So who is Babymetal?
Sumetal (Suzuka Nakamoto) is the lead-vocalist and the tallest member of the band. She’s 16 years old and a tiny 5 foot 1. She already has enjoyed a career in pop music singing with Karen’s Girl (a female trio who sang theme songs for the anime Zettai Karen Children) until 2009, then founding Sakura Gakuin (an idol group) until 2013 when Nakamoto graduated from junior high school.
Moametal (Moa Kikuchi) is 15 years old and a member of the idol group Sakura Gakuin. She plays guitar.
Yuimetal (Yui Mizuno) is also 15 years old and is a current member of Sakura Gakuin.
I found this blog post which further delves into the creative team behind Babymetal and the music industry of Japan: The Faces Behind Babymetal | Don’t Cross The Streams. Well worth a read. I am an absolute newbie to this part of the music industry, I know very, very little about Japan and its culture (apart from what I experienced when my aunt was married to Japanese man!), I’m just in love with this new musical force!
You must listen to the songs, you must watch the videos- you can’t miss this!
This week’s blog is a discussion of my favourite and least favourite genre of music. Let’s start with my favourite musical genre- rock!
I have been a fan of rock music since I was 15 years old when I became friends with a girl who was already a huge fan. She introduced me to the music of Led Zeppelin and I became completely absorbed in their music very quickly. At the time I was starting to learn electric guitar and this music inspired me greatly to play and progress.
Not long after this, she introduced me to the music of Metallica, the first song I heard was “The Unforgiven” and I fell in love immediately with the gorgeous Spanish guitar introduction and the hard, heavy verses. I had never heard Metallica before this and I remember being so shocked that the band I had always thought of as being the hardest, heaviest, scariest band in the world, could compose something so haunting and deeply beautiful. This was the real turning point in my musical taste and I became completely obsessed with everything Metallica related!
This newly discovered passion for heavy music inspired me to seek out other similar hard rock bands including Rammstein and other forms of rock music. Nu-metal in particular dominated the heavy metal magazines Metal Hammer and Metal Edge and television channels Kerrang! and Scuzz back then. It was mostly through these television channels that I discovered new rock music. The Internet had little or no role in my discovery of music, back then I had only a dial-up connection and wasn’t really allowed to be online anyway!
I still enjoy rock music very much and in particular the music of Metallica and Rammstein. I find their style of music appealing for many reasons, starting with their guitars. I have a deep appreciation for their guitar skills and sounds. I love their style of playing, those chug-chug, heavy, fat riffs, yes they are mechanical and rigid but that appeals greatly to me (see “Devil’s Dance” from Metallica’s 1997 Reload album YouTube link below). I also love their clean, shimmering guitars, always rich in beautiful chords. Rock music in essence is guitar-driven music and that is the number one reason I listen to so much of it.
I usually like the vocal styles of rock singers, I like how grainy and edgey vocalist’s sound and how they combine great, catchy melodies with anthemic phrases. Usually the lyrics stand for something and mean something deep. Take this Fozzy track below for this melodic, rock vocal combined with excellent guitar riffage and those shimmering guitar sounds:
I am a huge fan of hard rock audio production, I love the full wall-of-guitars sound, the huge drum kit with the clear kick drum and cracking snare drum, the raw vocal and warm bass.
Apart from the musical characteristics and audio production of rock music, I’ve always liked the image that came with it. I like the alternative and rebellious fashion combined with moody facial expressions. Full of attitude.
Since my awakening to rock music, I have always viewed this genre as an authentic one. Bands that write and play their own music is greatly important to me and this is of course, the fundamental element in rock bands. Bands work as a unit, they eat, sleep, breathe their own music and work extremely hard to finish their albums. Similar to the indie bands as discussed in this week’s tutorial, rock band members are friends and are from the working class, these being more key elements of their authenticity.
Now on to my least favourite genre of music! This probably comes as a shock considering my favourite genre of music is rock, but I really can’t tolerate death metal! Sorry to all you lovers of death metal! I mean no disrespect in any way! It is simply a genre of music I don’t “get”.
The number one reason I dislike this genre of music is the vocal technique. I can never understand any of the lyrics and I dislike the lack of lead vocal melody, but of course, the music itself doesn’t allow for lead vocal melodies because of the genre defining speedy, frantic guitar riffing and pounding drumming. I don’t like the deep, screaming style. Even when the music itself is down tempo and actually appeals to me, the vocal style just doesn’t work for me. I can’t listen to it. I also don’t like the imagery the bands portray, I find them scary and sometimes grotesque.
Being a rock fan, I can certainly relate to the fans of this style of music though! I appreciate the incredible skill of the musicians who perform these complex riffs and masterclass techniques, I understand the hours upon hours of practise these musicians put into their rehearsals and I marvel at their abilities. I’m sure the fans love death metal for these reasons and probably also for the fact that these bands are real people making their own music, just like my favourite rock musicians. Death metal is every bit as authentic as rock music in my personal opinion.