Review Summary: This is definitely a bad album, but not because it's blasphemous to any Metal gospel
Admittedly I was somewhat hesitant to review this album. Mainly because Babymetal is a band who both the broad music community and Metalheads inclusively have made up their minds on. You either have to hate them because they impose a shade of Metal that isn't familiar and/or "makes Metal look like a joke" (because that has NEVER happened before right? *cough* NU Metal *cough*), or you have to wholeheartedly defend them either "ironically" or in spite of those aforementioned Metalheads. There's also that niche who genuinely enjoy Babymetal's music and don't care about the context and controversy surrounding them from the blogosphere (but they're too reasonable to focus on here). I personally had no opinion on the group before listening to this new LP. I skipped their debut back when it dropped in 2014, and I had only heard one single leading up to this project (that being Track 02 "KARATE"). That cut didn't do much to instill confidence in me. I found it rather uninspired, and when I removed the flashy music video and "gimmick" of the group it ultimately sounded like a generic and over-produced Metal song that could have been found on the radio in the early-mid 2000s. But the real question I had was whether or not the parent LP as a whole, and this group, could hold up, or even solidify this much discussion and controversy.
One interesting thing about this album is that both guitarists Hermin Li and Sam Totman of DragonForce contributed a rather significant amount of their chops here. Sonically It's a pretty good fit for this project, and an instantly telling one as well. They seamlessly blend their lifeless and robotic brand of playing with the rest of the over-sanitized instrumentation, and this made me immediately aware of what kind of album I was in for. Across the board the riffs here are boring and uncreative, and the guitar tones are about as dime-a-dozen as one can get. The few times the bass is audible it's performing a technically impressive fill, but the way it's produced leaves it sounding awful. when the percussion are live drums they often stick out as the highlight of their respective track, but when they're digitally produced (and/or played through drum machines) they sound cheap. This is made even worse on a song such as "Awadama Fever" where they're smothered in bad glitched out effects. But while the main instrumentation is produced with too much compression and lacks any humanity whatsoever, it's way easier to swallow than the extra instrumentation. The synths on "VAVA!" are incredibly farty, the midi-strings on "Amore" aren't convincing at all, and the disgustingly cheap digital flute on "Meta Taro" (along with its weak synth intro) all sound like they were produced and composed by an amateur producer who just opened up FL Studio for the first time. And these are only the most forefront and insulting examples. There's plenty more packed in the backdrop of a handful of tracks hidden behind the lackluster mix.
The only time that I found the extra instrumentation to not sound repulsive was when piano was implemented. Whether it be the ballad "No Rain, No Rainbows," or the outro to "Tales of the Destinies," the keys brought a successful and much needed sonic detour. And more importantly it allowed a moment of emotional variance. For the most part this LP stays very one note in terms of energy and emotion, and this is somewhat an aspect I enjoy. The fact that it's so one dimensional isn't rewarding, but I do like how full of energy and sometimes eclectic this project is. The aforementioned "Tales of the Destinies" is an example of this eclectic burst of energy working to the band's advantage. It's also one of the only times the guitar work is a highlight, but this is mainly due to the consistently changing riffs. There is certainly Progressive Metal inspiration when it comes to this track, and that brings me to another high point of this album. I admire the multiple avenues of Metal this LP explores, and while almost none of them go over well they're at least worth giving credit for the effort. But there's a difference between attempting to do something good, and actually successfully executing it. On "Sis. Anger" the band comes through with a series of Black Metal inspired tremolo picked chord progressions and blast beats that kind of make me laugh, because of how surface level and by-the-books they are. The Deathcore/Metalcore elements are sprinkled all over this project, but they're most prominent on "From Dusk Til Dawn" where an absolutely formulaic breakdown is thrown into the mix (and the way at which it's combined with a Dubstep style synth solo is simply tasteless). On "GJ!" I'm at a lost for words for how there isn't a single semblance of redemption. The riff and composition as a whole feels like an ugly blend of Disturbed's brand of NU Metal and any random Post-Hardcore band from the mid-2000s, and the chorus takes an unannounced left field turn to diabetically sweet territories that are never good to explore on a Metal album. But the worst song of the bunch has to be "Meta Taro." As I mentioned earlier it contains an awful flute lead, but that's only scratching on the surface to how terrible this cut is. It centers around a Folk Metal chord progression (which has to be the most awkward thing I heard this trio attempt to sing over), and eclipses in its all encompassing sink in quality with the most stiff, corny, and awkward chorus I've heard all year. Also the chanted cleans and laughably bad background growls don't help matters.
In general the growls and screams on this album are unintentionally hilarious. I would completely wipe them from the LP as a whole. While I don't think Su-metal, Yuimetal, or Moametal are great vocalists by any stretch of the imagination, they do at least show passion and vocal control. These wretched vocals serve no purpose but to try to artificially make the album sound and seem heavier than it actually is. These girls may feel too tame and over-produced in most cases, but at the very least they can capture melodies well and create a catchy hook or two when given a comfortable enough song to sing on.
Overall this is definitely a bad album, but not because it's blasphemous to any Metal gospel. It's honestly harmless in that regard. Babymetal is doing no worse to Metal than bands such as Emmure, Attila, or Five Finger Death Punch. They're honestly better than those bands, because at least they try to be diverse and do something interesting. It just so happens that these attempts end in a string of songs that range from bad to insulting (with the occasional moment of meh to break the monotony).