By Connor Dziawura
Babymetal is growing up.
The kawaii metal band—“kawaii” is the Japanese word for cute—joined forces in 2010, when its frontwomen were just preteens.
Now nearly a decade later and with its members in their early 20s, the group is set to release its third studio album, “Metal Galaxy,” on Friday, October 11. But before that, the group will stop by the Marquee Theatre with Swedish metal band Avatar on Tuesday, October 1.
In the years since it began releasing music, Babymetal has garnered the attention of many, drawing the support of its devoted followers but contempt regarding its “gimmicky” melding of metal and Japanese idol music from others.
The act was forced to rethink things over the past nearly two years, however. Originally consisting of Suzuka Nakamoto (Su-metal), Moa Kikuchi (Moametal) and Yui Mizuno (Yuimetal)—and backed by the Kami Band, a collective of metal instrumentalists—Babymetal saw a shift last fall, with the departure of Yuimetal due to health reasons and her desire to eventually carry on as a solo artist. Prior to the October announcement, her absence from live performances since late 2017 was largely a mystery, drawing ire from fans in all corners of the internet.
Now, however, the group is adapting, and the band’s image and style have evolved. Among the changes is the addition of several backup dancers to its stage performance.
“We wanted to make sure that we kept the core essence of Babymetal, and our focus was to create the best performance for each show,” Moametal says. “The shift in the dynamics of Babymetal after the departure of Yuimetal was not easy for us, but with the change it has brought us to somewhere new and exciting. And I want to be someone who doesn’t fear change and want to continually evolve.”
On its new record, Babymetal’s goal was to not just be limited to metal—instead exploring a wider range of musical genres, according to a group statement. And that idea goes right back to the album title: “Metal Galaxy.” Over its 14 songs (16 on Japan’s “complete” version), the band is “traveling on a spaceship to the metal galaxies.”
In those galaxies the band has met up with other talents, including Sabaton vocalist Joakim Brodén, Arch Enemy vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, Thai rapper F.Hero, B’z guitarist Tak Matsumoto and Polyphia guitarists Tim Henson and Scott LePage.
Collaborations aside, based on its singles the album appears to be shaping up to follow Babymetal tradition, drawing inspiration from J-pop and all corners of metal. New single “Shanti Shanti Shanti” even takes influence from Indian music.
This diversity is no surprise, as Babymetal has in the past looked to Limp Bizkit (“Onedari Daisakusen”) and nu-metal in general (“Karate,” “Awadama Fever”), power metal (“The One”), hip-hop (“Iine!”) and even reggae (“Song 4”).
“For this album we had the opportunity to collaborate with many artists, and this has widened our range in music and it sounds fresh,” Su-metal explains of “Metal Galaxy.” “I can’t wait for everyone to listen to it.”
In support of the record, the group kicked off its first full-scale headlining U.S. tour earlier this month. And the upcoming Tempe date is Babymetal’s first in Arizona since it supported Lady Gaga at Talking Stick Resort Arena (then US Airways Center) in 2014.
“It was so much fun,” Moametal reflects, “and to reminisce on that tour always gives me a warm and happy feeling. During that time we weren’t used to touring outside of Japan, so to have the honor of touring with Lady Gaga was encouraging for us.
“This time around we have our headline show in Arizona, so I can’t wait to see our own fans. We hope that we can show our fans how much we’ve matured and evolved since our first time in Arizona and can’t wait to see everyone there.”
Now having traveled all around the world—galaxies, too—Su-metal notes there can be differences between audiences at any given show, in any given country.
“We’ve noticed that our Japanese fans tend to sing Moametal’s part and the crowd and us become one,” she says. “When we are touring outside of Japan, everyone does whatever they like. For example, some dance to the beat, some scream, etc. This difference in different regions is so remarkable, and I love (how) the way fans react is different because it teaches us so much.”
Perhaps the group will learn even more as it continues its journey across the United States and gets to share its music with more audiences.
“This is Babymetal’s first time to internationally tour almost two months, so I was very excited,” Moametal says. “And to be able to go to places we’ve never been before and see people we haven’t met (have) been the motivating factors for this entire tour. Through the power of music, to connect with so many people is something I cherish and look forward to the most. I can’t wait to see everyone.”
Babymetal w/Avatar, Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Avenue, Tempe, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 1, 480.829.0607, luckymanonline.com, $49.