Bassist Shane Embury of British grindcore pioneers NAPALM DEATH is the latest musician to defend BABYMETAL against the "gimmick" tag given to them by critics who liken them to the success of Swedish occult metallers GHOST.
Established in 2010, BABYMETAL is the offshoot of the Japanese pop idol group SAKURA GAKUIN that performs a distinctly Japanese mix of schoolgirl J-pop and heavy metal.
BABYMETAL's members — Suzuka Nakamoto (a.k.a. Su-Metal, who handles vocals and dancing), Yui Mizuno (a.k.a. Yuimetal) and Moa Kikuchi (a.k.a. Moametal), the latter of whom both scream and dance — admit that they had never listened to metal before joining the group. The girls wear gothy schoolgirl costumes, do choreographed dance routines and bang their heads violently.
Many heavy metal fans have been reluctant to embrace BABYMETAL — which also includes producer Kobametal and a backing band of corpse-painted virtuosos — with some Internet forums calling them "the definition of a gimmick", "awful" and "metal for hipsters."
In a special article for UK's Metal Hammer magazine, Embury said: "I know young kids who already listen to grindcore. There are people who turn up to our shows with kids that are eight or nine years old, and BABYMETAL is obviously way more accessible than what we do. I don't think that's a bad thing — I've got a baby girl who is eight months old, and if she starts bopping around to BABYMETAL or their equivalent, I'd be cool with that."
He continued: "If you look at SLIPKNOT, they took the heavy guitar to a massive audience. You can look at a SLIPKNOT fan and a NAPALM DEATH fan and sometimes there's a crossover and sometimes there's not at all, but either way, those people are getting used to the heavy guitar and drums and it makes it easier for them to explore other bands later on. In the same way, BABYMETAL will more than likely cross over to young kids and get them used to that heavy sound.
"Some people are also offended simply by BABYMETAL being labelled as metal. Why? Why would you get offended? It's a big genre, metal. There's all kinds of bands crossing over. Bands like EVANESCENCE or the whole folk metal thing. Some people could find it ridiculous, but I wouldn't be that negative. I might not like it, but I find it interesting that heavy guitars are used in different ways. For me, BABYMETAL is an extension of that."
Embury's fellow British extreme metal pioneer Jeff Walker of CARCASS expressed a similarly welcoming stance when the subject of BABYMETAL came up at this past July's Sonisphere festival. He said:"I'm starting to warm to the idea of what [BABYMETAL is] doing. It's actually fun, you know — like GHOST, to be honest. Some people get very reactionary about a band like GHOST or BABYMETAL. It puts a smile on people's faces. That's what music's about, isn't it?! Enjoying it and not being so serious." CARCASS guitarist Bill Steer added: "I mean, obviously, we don't cover this ourselves, but the fun, entertainment angle [in music], it is important."
One of the Nameless Ghouls from GHOST was also quick to defend BABYMETAL when TeamRock spoke to him at Sonishere. GHOST performed on the main stage at the event immediately after BABYMETAL, and the Nameless Ghoul admitted: "I actually stood on side stage when [BABYMETAL] went on and I watched the chaos and the weirdness that surrounded them.
"They obviously attract so much attention wherever they go, and for a reason, of course — they are bizarre in many ways. I mean, we obviously like bizarre, so they are obviously doing something right.
"But, yeah, I mean, J-pop [Japanese pop] is always gonna be very weird.
"They seem to be a cool band, I guess. I've seen their 'Gimme Chocolate!' video, and I don't really know what to say about it. Someone really knows what they're doing behind it, but I'm not sure if [the girls] themselves know what they're doing."