Babymetal's ambitious concept album The Other One proves the band have truly come of age

Babymetal's fourth album The Other One affirms why the Japanese band are now global superstars

Babymetal 2023
(Image: © Press/Fix Square)

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Babymetal are hilarious, wonderful, endearing delirium. Heavy music meets J-pop: a bug-eyed happy-slap rending the biggest cultural divide since Crazy Frog. We’re nine years and three records on from their debut, the Japanese troupe having long shaken off the ‘novelty’ tag. 

But does their shtick still work? The synchronised dance moves, the fever-dream concepts about an imaginary Fox God, the audible rustlings of caution hurled into the wind? Obviously, it still works. 

If Babymetal’s fourth release were a movie, the tagline would read: ‘They ain’t babies no more.’ Vocalists Su-metal and Moametal are 25- and 23-years-old respectively, guiding you through 10 songs plucked from their bespoke, all-caps METALVERSE, each representing a specific theme. 

Immediately, Metal Kingdom establishes a stately, grown-up Babymetal. The orchestral preamble recalls that eat-the-world urgency Crossfaith once had, giving way to Su-metal’s domineering, controlled delivery. The way she grapples this song, dodge-duck-dip-dive-and-dodging the peaks and troughs, etching her mark across the gang vocals, cinematic percussion, glitchy electronics – she’s been Babymetal’s most-improved element on each successive release. Sure, this song doesn’t need to be six minutes, but Su-metal carries it. 

Once that’s done, though, it’s time to bite your tongue lest your gubbins be melted by the sheer heaps of sugar careering down your throat. Divine Attack - Shingeki – packs a downtuned postchorus riff that’d make Mick Thomson quiver, its grubby double-bass evoking Iowa. But as soon as they rip into that refrain? Pure elation, the feeling more Scooter than Slipknot. 

Musically, Babymetal’s daubed Kami Band pull their weight, shrewdly dipping into the zeitgeist as and when. Sick of all those metalcore bands still trying to copy ArchitectsDoomsday? Mirror Mirror and Believing show them up, and that’s just a sliver of both songs’ potential. Want more of the hip hop inflected, trap hi-hattery that’s crept into metal? It’s also sprinkled across The Other One, juxtaposing the Ghost-alike sax solo in the album’s denouement, The Legend

It’s weird to think of a time when you could pigeonhole Babymetal, batty as they are. In the mid-2010s, you could’ve broadly described them as hyper power metal. Now, though? It’s still there, and to paraphrase Stewart Lee: there are maps, but no borders. 

Time Wave’s just Basshunter plus metal. Metalizm is an unhinged, rubber-stamped club tune, blending snappy snare and synth with melismatic Arabic vocalisation and that ye-olde guitar scalery Trivium so excellently wrangled on Shogun. Even the final run of – gasp – mid-tempo songs bangs. 

Unlike 2019’s Metal Galaxy, this record is shorn of glittery guests. No daft Sabaton lad doing a sea shanty; no Alissa-White Gluz ensnaring curious bystanders. Babymetal will forever polarise, but that doesn’t mean they can’t change your mind. 

Now they’re not shoved down your gullet on every festival stage or website available, it’s easier to appreciate them for what they are: an experiment that’s gotten out of hand. The Other One is nigh-on nofiller, and unquestionably their strongest compendium of delirium to date.

The Other One is out March 24