Review and photos by Greg Maki
I’m a lifelong fan of hard rock and metal, and I’ve been one of two people running Live Metal since early 2006. So I’ve seen and heard a lot when it comes to heavy music, and it’s become increasingly rare to see something truly unique.
That’s where BABYMETAL comes in.
Combining some seriously heavy metal with the bright melodies and dance moves of J-pop—a fusion Wikipedia tells me is known as “Kawaii metal”—the Japanese act is interesting to listen to on record and something else entirely to see live on stage.
Playing the Rock on the Range festival in Columbus, Ohio, for the second time, BABYMETAL headlined the Zippo Encore Stage on the third and final day of the event with a performance designed to usher in a new, darker era for the band. Darkness, of course, is a relative term when there’s still choreographed dancing and a song called “Gimme Chocolate.” It was more the look and feel of the show that signaled change.
While the musicians took the stage in their traditional corpse paint, lead vocalist Su-metal, backup singer Moametal and two additional dancers have lost the cute school-girl look in favor of a harder, sleeker image that included large masks and staffs for the opening song. (The other backing vocalist, Yuimetal, was MIA on this U.S. tour; her whereabouts have not been divulged as far as I can tell, though deciphering the band’s social media posts is a bit of a challenge, even when they’re in English.) The focus typically is on these young women—they remain something of an anomaly in the metal world—but let’s not overlook the band behind them, which was a tight, ferocious unit throughout the 35-minute set.
The novelty of the act has drawn many in, but after watching for just a few minutes, it became clear it’s much more than a gimmick. BABYMETAL is a legitimate band on the rise and could be a large part of the future of metal.