Review Summary: Superfluous as can be...
Babymetal's entry into the metal genre had its fair share of controversy. Their addition of Japanese pop idols like the ones that are in this band generally yielded extreme viewpoints from "the worst thing ever" to "revolutionary". At the time of the album coming out, I largely ignored it as it did not seem like something that I'd enjoy. However, after a discussion I had recently with some friends about bands that we have previously enjoyed coming out of Asia (and Japan, in particular), I decided to give Babymetal a chance in a time where the hype has largely died down so I can go in a bit fresh. I did not enjoy it.
So, let's get the vocals out of the way as they are easily the most controversial thing about this band. The vocal performance largely vary from decent to annoying with the decent parts being on tracks like "Road to Resistance" and "Tales of the Destinies" while the annoying ones are on tracks like "Karate" and "Awadama Fever". Some of the vocal lines can be interesting but many of the harmonies just feel saccharine and shallow with little variation going on to speak of. Not to mention that they get pretty repetitive at some points. Especially on the previously mentioned "Awadama Fever" where the track just seems to drag on for a minute and a half longer than it really should. A problem that unfortunately hamstrings this album quite a bit. However, what is interesting is that the vocals were not the biggest problem I had with the album. In fact, I think people kind of made mountains out of molehills as far as the vocals go. What I have a pretty big problem with is the composition and production as they are largely what irk me here.
Let's tackle the composition since I feel that it is the bigger problem of the two. Honestly, I feel that this album implements plenty of influences from power metal, traditional heavy metal, industrial and a little progressive metal as well but doesn't really capitalize on any of them well. Honestly, the only track here that I liked that much was "AMORE" due to not sounding overly sanitized and generally overproduced with some genuinely eventful composition and interesting instrumentation. However, it's the only track that really stuck out to me.
The problem with this album is that every attempt a song makes to emulate another subgenre, whether it be melodic death metal or power metal, it comes off as a pale facsimile of said genre. "Road of Resistance" comes off like a generic power metal track with little to really engage the listener (which is exacerbated by Herman Li's lifeless playing and sterile production), "Tales of the Destinies" comes off as a pale facsimile of a progressive metal song that does not impress in comparison to what you could find elsewhere as it ultimately starts to fall apart in the middle, "KARATE" is pretty repetitive industrial metal with completely unengaging instrumentation, etc. Not to mention that a lot of the melodies and riffs are incredibly dull when it comes to the ones you hear on tracks like "Meta Taro and GJ!", making the album particularly uneventful in the middle. The middle portion of Metal Resistance really does feel like filler much of the time.
The production here ranges from dull to abysmal on many of the tracks here. The drums feel incredibly artificial, the added instrumentation on tracks like Awadama Fever, YAVA!, KARATE, etc. feels cheap and obnoxious while also managing to drown out some of the other instruments (especially the bass which you can barely make out at all) and on top of all that, it just feels brickwalled with little dynamics to speak of. If it was generally less sanitized, this album would not have been as much of a strain to listen to as it was.
Ever since I first started listening to Metal Resistance about a week ago in order to see if there was anything I could grasp onto, it has proved to be rather disappointing. I get why there are many who like this band. They do something that shakes things up as far as aesthetics and vocals go. However, from a compositional standpoint, the band largely falls flat. Thus, the band's success is also disappointing to me. They are not simply a superfluity in Japan's massive pop idol scene, they are also a massive superfluity within the Japanese metal scene as a whole. Why listen to Road to Resistance when you can listen to bands like Galneryus, Aion or Concerto Moon instead" Why listen to any of Babymetal's takes on thrash like "Sis. Anger" when you can listen to late Sabbat or Gargoyle instead" Why listen to any of their overproduced and grating takes on traditional heavy metal when you could just listen to X Japan, Anthem and Loudness instead" Why listen to their takes on progressive metal when you could just listen to bands like Alhambra and Saber Tiger" The many claims of the band's eccentricity that I have heard since the its inception have not held water at all and many of their predecessors and contemporaries seem to show this.
The only unique benefit I can see this band offering is the schadenfreude it gives its fans from watching metalheads overreact and froth at the mouth when it comes to its vocalists and while it is understandably amusing, those individuals were correct about Babymetal largely being an idol group with a potentially wasted backing band.