Babymetal @ O2 Brixton Academy, 02.07.19 / Louder Live
Back in February 2014, Babymetal’s eponymous debut album was released to cement their postion as the most divisive band in metal. Comprising of three teenage girls Suzuka Nakamoto (“Su-Metal”), Yui Mizuno (“Yuimetal”) and Moa Kikuchi (“Moametal”) in addition to an anonymous backing band, Babymetal’s fusion of J-Pop choruses and crushing heavy metal riffs enamoured and infuriated metalheads in equal measure. Five years on and the kawaii-metal band returned to the O2 Brixton Academy, which was the location of their first ever UK headline show for a rare performance on UK soil. Though the location may be the same, there have been many changes for Babymetal during this time, most notably the fact that the band would be joined onstage by singer Riho Sayashi from the J-Pop group Morning Musume as a replacement for Yuimetal, who left the group in October 2018 due to ill health. It is still unclear whether Sayashi is a permanent replacement for Yuimetal, but it certainly seems that way for now following her performance with the band at their Glastonbury debut before making the trip to Brixton. The band also has another album (2016’s Metal Resistance) and a number of new songs to their name to play with this time around, and this fact along with their relative absence of UK headline sets in recent years meant that the diverse crowd filling the Academy were at a level of excitement reminiscent of when they were setting the metal scene on fire the first time they were here.
Another significant difference to five years ago is the fact that Babymetal were this time able to offer two support bands to whet the appetite; the first being the deeply mysterious act Sleep Token. Still a very new act with only two EPs to their name so far, they have nevertheless developed a keen following since their inception with their intriguing blend of indie/emo moods with technical metal guitar-work and akin to the likes of Ghost, their anonymity and stage personas already appears to be inspiring a dedicated fan-base. They stick to their act flawlessly, not engaging with the crowd in any respect, but just playing through a thirty-minute set of a deeply mysterious heavy brand of music. This was a chance to make a statement entry into the UK metal scene for Sleep Token, though the end result was somewhat mixed as it turned out. Though there were undoubtedly many for whom the band’s ambient performance had the desired effect, there were also many who appeared bored by the lack of engagement the band offered, which is perhaps unsurprising given the clear difference in sound between them and the headline act. Additionally, they were not helped by the fact that their sound required an intricate balance to be effective which was not forthcoming. Guitar riffs were difficult to make out and the backing singers the band had were completely inaudible throughout the set, which had the effect of making every song sound identical. The appeal of Sleep Token therefore, is quite evident, albeit the delivery left something to be desired.
Amaranthe followed soon afterwards and were a much clearer fit for a Babymetal support act, as they too provide an energetic blend of pop and metal, though with a more European-style of dance on the one hand and power metal on the other. The six-piece act from Gothenburg comprises three singers Elize Ryd (female, clean vocals), Nils Molin (male, clean vocals) and Henrik Wilhelmsson (unclean vocals) who interchange throughout the songs to produce a frenzied effect on the music. Their set followed this pattern throughout as they sped through eight songs from their five studio releases in the space of thirty minutes. As fun as their sound is to those who do not take their metal too seriously, the band could have sounded better with vocalists often struggling to make themselves heard over each other and the band’s musicians. Furthermore, it is clear that despite the similarities of the bands, there are many in the crowd who were unsure what to make of the upbeat Swedes and frontwoman Elize Ryd did not entirely satisfactorily bridge this gap for those who did not go in as fans of the band. That said, Amaranthe still put on a very entertaining set, despite the circumstances and ensure that the crowd were thoroughly warmed up.
Whatever your opinion on Babymetal, it is impossible to deny the effect that this band has on their fans and that they know exactly how to play up to that. The build-up to the girls’ entrance to the stage was fantastically managed with Brixton Academy being plunged into darkness with only the band’s logo to get the excitement in the room up to full; before they launch into 'Megitsune', which is one of the songs from their debut album that catapulted them to fame. They do not look like a band who have a stand-in member and precious few recent live shows to their name, as the choreography of their dance routines were flawless and the musicianship backing them up was as terrific as it has been since the band started performing live. They spent no time resting on their laurels after this energetic opener, following up straight away with their new single 'Elevator Girl' and three other brand new songs, all of which went down an absolute treat with the crowd who responded with mosh pits, crowd surfing and walls of death galore. The showmanship at work during this time was enough to rival the most theatrical metal bands out there too, as those in the crowd who stood still for any length of time were treated to a spectacular light show and the occasional spattering of pyrotechnics.
Overall, almost half of Babymetal’s set-list was made up of new songs, which brings up the only criticism which could be levelled at them for this performance – it was nowhere near long enough. Comprising only eleven songs (five of which being new) and clocking it at only just over an hour, those who had paid the relatively steep ticket prices could be forgiven for feeling as though they were a little short-changed by the length of the show. What is undoubtedly true however, is that Babymetal got the absolute maximum amount of entertainment out of the time that they had on-stage. Once the new songs had finished, the crowd were treated to the incredible double-whammy of 'Gimme Chocolate!!' and 'KARATE', both of which being such firm favourites among fans that they responded with the utmost enthusiasm. It bears repeating when it comes to songs such as this, that this band is not just a gimmick. The brutally heavy sections in the former is wonderfully contrasted with the controlled riffs and harmonising in the latter. Special credit also must go to Su-Metal, not just for being an enigmatic frontwoman, but for delivering a stunning vocal solo for the penultimate song 'THE ONE', which left the whole crowd in awe. All that was left for the band to close out on 'Road To Resistance' which prompted the audience to go as crazy as possible one final time, before the band bowed out for now, while also revealing a new album Metal Galaxy for release on October 11th, followed by a full European tour next year. With that performance, it seems impossible to think that every single person in that crowd will not be going back to see them again. The predictions five years ago from many that Babymetal were a flash in the pan turned out to be wrong, as the group continue to show why they are one of the most exciting and fun bands you could wish for in a live performance.
'Metal Galaxy' is due for release on October 11th.
Check out the video for the band's latest single, 'PA PA YA!!', below:
Babymetal will be returning to the UK next February for a run of massive shows- dates can be found below and tickets will be available here: