Fashioned from the Japanese idol scene, and accompanied by a heavily choreographed stage show who’d have thought BABYMETAL would have lasted more than 10 minutes in the ultra-authentic world of heavy metal? Yet, through sheer determination they’ve woven themselves into the fabric of the genre and are now considered as metal as Judas Priest and devil’s horns. Of course, the fact that they’ve released consistently strong albums hasn’t hurt, and their fourth long-player The Other One is a concept record of progressive proportions that’s only going to increase their standing.
The first thing that jumps from opening track ‘METAL KINGDOM’ is that this is a more mature, measured BABYMETAL who are now running a marathon, rather than a sprint. With folky atmospherics ‘METAL KINGDOM’ evolves from small beginnings to become a speaker filler, and one that’s sure to transfer well to the live environment. Full of choral vocals and pounding drums, this cut (and, indeed, the whole album) has a distinctly European feel; it arrives like a fleet of Viking longboats, and with sails pumped full by the wind. “Darker” would be a good word to describe this album; it finds the band moving their sound forward whilst retaining their core elements; it’s heavy as hell, yet there’s a groove underpinning tracks such as ‘Mirror Mirror’ that makes them strangely danceable. The overall aesthetic of this release is far inkier than anything they’ve produced before and you’ll find no anthems to juvenilia such as ‘Gimme Chocolate!!’ and ‘Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!’ here. Instead we get the crushing, warlike depravity of ‘MAYA’ (a song that is far heavier than much of what passes as metal) and the decidedly darkwave ‘Time Wave’. The sound pumping from my stereo is definitely BABYMETAL, but the band have definitely grown, and hopefully their fans have, too. The shelf life of the band’s early incarnation as a kawaii band was definitely coming to an end, and it is hard to imagine the BABYMETAL of 2013 playing a track such as ‘METALIZM’ with its middle eastern flourishes, but now seems the perfect time. On the flip side, it’s hard to imagine the BABYMETAL of 2023 performing the aforementioned ‘Gimme Chocolate!!’, so some reconfiguration of those songs might have to take place in the live arena, but for this moment in time, The Other One works perfectly. ‘THE LEGEND’ is another epic cut to bookend the album, and the introduction of some sorrowful sax adds rich texture, and further evidences the band’s growing maturity. For the past decade it seemed that bands were concentrating on singles, but the album is making a comeback and The Other One is symptomatic of that; from start to finish it ebbs and flows perfectly, and takes the listener on a 40-minute journey.
When BABYMETAL released a cryptic video on 11th October 2021, many fans took it as a hint that the band would be coming to an end. As it transpires, it symbolised a rebirth that has resulted in the band standing before us today, and as The Other One testifies, it was a wise move.
- The Other One is released on 24th March 2023.
- METAL KINGDOM
- Divine Attack – Shingeki
- Mirror Mirror
- Time Wave
- Light and Darkness
- THE LEGEND