“We wanted to show how much Babymetal evolved.” Inside Babymetal's bold new era - and why, with new member Momometal, three is once again the magic number

Babymetal in 2023
(Image credit: Future)

It was the most important live announcement of Babymetal’s career. On April 1, 2023, at the end of the first of two shows at Yokohama’s Pia Arena, a booming voice narrated the words appearing on a big screen: “Here and now, a new Babymetal has been summoned by the god of metal, the Fox God. Vocal & Dance... Su-metal. Scream & Dance... Moametal. Scream & Dance... Momometal.”

A roar of applause went up from the audience.

“Given a new life, the newly reborn Babymetal will begin a new stage and journey into the Metalverse.”

And there, the three figures stood onstage wreathed in dry ice, soaking in the moment Momometal officially became part of one of the most talked-about metal bands of the past 10 years. It was the first time Babymetal had numbered three since Moametal’s original ‘Scream & Dance’ counterpart, Yuimetal, departed in 2018, citing health reasons. While Momometal had been performing intermittently since 2019 as part of a rotating trio of stand-in dancers, dubbed The Avengers, she was now a fully initiated, bona fide member of Babymetal.

“I was most anxious about if I would be accepted or not”, says Momometal today, four months on, as she recalls what was on her mind when the announcement was made. It came a week after the release of Babymetal’s fourth album, The Other One. “A lot of thoughts ran through my head, and I knew that to try and be suddenly accepted through the course of Babymetal’s long history was going to be very difficult. I honestly had absolutely no confidence whatsoever, and couldn’t quite really believe that I’d be an official member until the exact moment of the announcement. I remember I was so nervous that I was slightly shaking.”

She needn’t have worried. While there will always be a subsection of purists who pine for Yuimetal’s return, most of the fandom had been cheering Momometal on since her first appearance with the band at Taiwanese music festival Super Slippa 10 on August 4, 2019. The sound of approval she heard echoing through Pia Arena on April 1 – known as Fox Day in the band’s lore, because they annually reveal a surprise – buoyed her up.

“The moment it was announced, it totally blew me away that the fans roared and shouted with such excitement, and not only did I feel relieved, but it was also as if our fans were relieved, and to me, it felt like they had been waiting for this moment to happen for such a long time”, she smiles.

That gig was called Black Night, while the second was called Clear Night, signalling the lifting of secrecy and darkness.

“Hearing the fans’ excitement helped me gain confidence in myself and I felt very proud to be named Momometal”, she continues. “And just like the performance title Black Night and Clear Night, a lot of things before Fox Day were still vague and unclear – hence Black Night. Since that day, everything has been incredibly exciting for me.”

For Momometal, life has indeed been a whirlwind. Two weeks after she was inducted, she found herself touring Europe, and then embarking on the band’s first headline runs in Asia and Australia. In June, Babymetal’s hyperactive collaboration with rapper Lil Uzi Vert, The End, came out (although it was recorded before Momometal joined the band). After a brief break in July, Babymetal played the Rising Sun Rock Festival in Hokkaido, followed by two dates at Tokyo’s Zepp Haneda venue. Today, they’ve released the standalone single Metali!!, featuring legendary Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello, and are prepping for two appearances at Summer Sonic festival – more on both later.

For band leader Su-metal, it’s been a real joy to have Momometal around – particularly during such a gruelling world tour. Not only has she taught the band valuable skills, she has kept their spirits high.

“In terms of performance, Momometal has a lot of dance moves that she’s really good at, and so Moametal and  I try to get her to teach us how we can mimic her moves”, explains Su-metal. “Momometal is also a very positive person and she really helps elevate the mood, especially when we are getting a bit tired from tour. I feel that we have the perfect balance, and look forward to having more tours and performances together.”

We last spoke to Babymetal in January, when they played two shows at Chiba’s Makuhari Messe venue, ending a year-and-a-half live hiatus during which they had been ‘sealed’ from the public. Back then, Moametal confessed there had “been times when I felt unsure if I could continue or not”. She went on to say that “words or attitude without any love will hurt people. There were times when no matter how much I put into performing, I felt I was not loved.”

Although vague about the circumstances, we surmised she was likely referring to unkind commentators online. Today, Moametal seems happier. Does she feel like there’s some extra support for her, now there’s another Scream & Dance performer in the band again?

“Definitely,” she smiles. “Now that we are a trio, I love that all three of us can share the special moments we get to experience as Babymetal. A lot of what I was carrying is now lighter, and not only on the performance end but also on the communication end. I feel like she is very supportive in all of these aspects. I’ve been in Babymetal for 13 years now, but thanks to Momometal, her fresh perspective on things helps remind me how I was back when I first started.”

As is typical of Babymetal’s management company Amuse, and the ever-elusive Fox God, both are tight-lipped when it comes to talking about the background of the person who has breathed new life into Babymetal – but we do know some basic details. Like Su-metal and Moametal, Momometal – real name Momoko Okazaki – is a former member of Japanese idol group Sakura Gakuin, or ‘Cherry Blossom Academy’. Performers dress in school uniforms and release an album every March, at the end of Japan’s academic year. When they ‘graduate’, they leave the band.

Momoko graduated in 2018 and joined Babymetal as an ‘Avenger’ the following year, alongside fellow Sakura Gakuin alumnus Kano Fujihira, and Riho Sayashi, a former member of girl group Morning Musume. Not one to back down from a challenge, in 2021 she appeared on the South Korean reality show Girls Planet 1999, competing for a spot in a new K-Pop group. She was eliminated in the first round. Today, Momometal is taking stock of her new life. Her biggest challenge as a member of Babymetal, she says, is preparing to go on tour.

“Of course, there are things like rehearsals, performances and photoshoots that are difficult, but I end up really enjoying myself,” she considers. “However, one thing that always gets me is packing for tour... Especially when it’s a long one, like two months. I never know what I need or how much I need to pack, and I’m always going back and forth, and never end up completely satisfied until the moment we have to leave for the airport! I’d love to get used to packing! Ha ha ha!”

Such is the nature of Babymetal’s schedule, there hasn’t been much time for sightseeing. But, Momometal’s high point so far was in Bangkok. Moametal’s love of food is well documented, and the screamer/dancer took them to a lunch place that was “an unforgettable experience”.

“Everything was so delicious!” explains Momometal. “Usually, if we spot truffles on the menu, we definitely have to order them, and I remember seeing so many truffle items on the menu. It was so heavenly! If we have the chance to go back, I’d love to try the other choices on the menu!”

When it comes to shows, she loves performing Road Of Resistance – their infamously fast collaboration with Dragonforce, which the bands played together in 2015 at Metal Hammer’s Golden God Awards. At shows in Japan, encouraged by messages onscreen, audience members unleash their inner pit-starters.

“I feel it best represents what Babymetal is all about, and I love it when our fans make a circle pit and the entire venue becomes one”, explains Momometal. "I also love the part where we have the flags, the call and response part where we get to hear everyone’s voices, and the interlude where all three of us dance together!”

Since becoming an Avenger in 2019, Momometal’s come to know Su-metal and Moametal well. Her favourite thing about Su-metal? Her good nature. “I love that she is always up for anything and everything!” she smiles. “Even if I say something really absurd or stupid, she will always go along with it and we are always laughing together.”

Meanwhile, she describes resident foodie and dance champion Moametal as a “very calm and witty” person. “She teaches me so many things”, Momometal explains. “Also, I’m a very forgetful person and I can’t frequently recall much about what we speak about, so she’s always there to remind me! Ha ha ha!”

Moametal corroborates this. “Momometal’s personality is very cheerful, and I say this in a good way, but she’s sometimes very random and forgetful! Ha ha ha!” laughs Moametal. “She’s very easy to be with! I love that she’s very determined and passionate about Babymetal too, and I really appreciate that about her. I look forward to having more great times with Momometal!”

With Babymetal back to being a trio again, their future seems assured. Or is it...? On January 28, during the first of two nights at Chiba’s Makuhari Messe venue, under the banner Babymetal Returns: The Other One, Hammer witnessed a curious thing. In the middle of Doki Doki * Morning, while Babymetal were performing their high-intensity routine on a circular stage in the middle of the venue, another stage sailed up to meet it. Another stage, displaying another, younger version of Babymetal who mirrored their movements. The next night, the same thing happened.

Two months later, at Yokohama’s Pia Arena shows where Momometal was initiated, it happened again – this time in the middle of Karate. Speculation ran wild until, in July, Amuse launched a ‘Metalverse’ website with a glitchy, holographic background, and some affiliated social media accounts. The first news post announced the band would appear at Summer Sonic festival in Tokyo on Sunday, August 20 – opening the stage, it transpired, where Babymetal would later headline.

‘As many pieces of Metalverse as there are Metalverse Elements, stories are born, and the life forms, plots, and endings that appear in them are constantly changing,’ the cryptic and brain-melting post read. ‘The “Metalverse phenomenon” will occur in a world line different from Babymetal in this summer.’ The post also confirmed two additional Metalverse headlining shows titled Metalverse #1 - Unboxing at the Spotify O-EAST venue in Shibuya, Tokyo, on August 24 and 25, which will have taken place by the time you read this. So, are Metalverse an addition to Babymetal’s world – a band existing in parallel, in a dimension different to ours – or are Amuse setting up their eventual replacements, idol band style? We reached out to the band’s mastermind, Kobametal, for an explanation, but he did not reply. As with so much in Babymetal’s world, only the Fox God knows.

However, reassurance of Babymetal’s longevity comes in the form of stunning standalone single Metali!!, released on the day we speak to the trio. Momometal’s first song with the band, and featuring Tom Morello, it combines the riotous vibes of PA PA YA!! and Megitsune with stomping folk metal and the sounds of a shamisen, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument.

Metali!!’s video features brand new choreography – wilder than anything we’ve seen them do live for the songs on The Other One – and big smiles, while its lyrics are about dancing at a village festival. It’s one of Babymetal’s catchiest tracks yet, described by Tom Morello as a “ferociously rocking collaboration”, and doesn’t seem like the mark of a band slowing down. When we ask Su-metal about the challenges for Babymetal in 2023, she points to the fact that, in a sense, they’re starting over – even the press release for Metali!! described it as “the first song by the newly reborn Babymetal”. While they formed in 2010, they now have a fresh line-up, and there are still many people who haven’t heard of them: 2023 might well be their introduction.

“This year marks the start of the new Babymetal. We were sealed from live performances for a period of time, so we have had to make ourselves known to first-timers and for those who’ve known us from before”, she explains. “We wanted to show how much the newly revamped Babymetal evolved.”

Originally printed in Metal Hammer #379

Eleanor Goodman
Editor, Metal Hammer

Eleanor was promoted to the role of Editor at Metal Hammer magazine after over seven years with the company, having previously served as Deputy Editor and Features Editor. Prior to joining Metal Hammer, El spent three years as Production Editor at Kerrang! and four years as Production Editor and Deputy Editor at Bizarre. She has also written for the likes of Classic Rock, Prog, Rock Sound and Visit London amongst others, and was a regular presenter on the Metal Hammer Podcast.