LIVE: Babymetal @ The Roundhouse, London

By Katherine Allvey

“A long time ago, in a heavy metal galaxy far, far away,” a cinematic voice intones onscreen as a Japanese man in a magikarp hat raises his glowsticks in heady anticipation at the front of the stage, “the heavy metal fox god chose three spirits and summoned them to the metalverse…” With that monumental science fiction introduction, opening credits sequence and five minute long instrumental opener to greet the crowd with grins and waves, it’s clear from the very start of the show that Babymetal are still unlike anything else in the scene. Or, indeed, the ‘metalverse’. 

A decade ago, when the initial ‘wtf’ moment at seeing three costumed and coordinated teens dance in perfect sync to metal had faded, Babymetal were treated with scorn in many circles. Now, with Su-Metal, Moametal and new member Momometal having reached the age of majority, the trio have put together an incredibly high energy and entertaining performance that leaves the packed Roundhouse out of breath and even more devoted to the poster girls. Yes, you absolutely have to buy into their bizarro-disneyland theatrics, but as soon as you leave your inhibitions behind you, their hour-long non-stop show proves to be incredibly fun in the most wholesome sense. You really can lose yourself for a brief while in their endless, pounding presentation backed by the very able masked Kami Band.  

Twitching fox fingers shoot skyward as Babymetal lead a cheerleader chorus of each letter in their name for opener ‘BABYMETAL DEATH’, which combines equal parts cultish callisthenics class and a mind blasting thrash introduction. A really endearing quality to Babymetal’s show is how aware the members are of their own artificiality but simultaneously how the bonds they create between the crowd and themselves are so genuine. They laugh to each other whenever they catch each others’ eye, because Babymetal absolutely double down on their mix of cute and strange. The three vocalists gleefully mime eating candy during ‘Gimme Chocolate!!’, knowing exactly how out of place each movement would seem in a traditional metal show, while their very serious and unrelenting band behind them politely shreds. Yet the shouts and whoops they receive from their audience are so heartfelt, and bigger than some more ‘authentic’ metal groups. New single ‘METALI!!’ is a firestarter, it’s recognisably exotic intro leading to a filmed, virtual appearance by Tom Morello, and we love every second of it. UV hair gel makes the many slamming heads glow and Download t-shirts are glimpsed by the dozen in the ever-growing pit.

Babymetal do not chat to the crowd between songs. In fact, they rarely speak at all. Every few songs, they take a few seconds off-stage, presumably to rehydrate given the speed and consistency of their dance moves, but that’s the only pause. The band lead a mass head-bang during the aptly named ‘Headbangeeeerrrrr!!!!!’, and it’s clear that the Babymetal brand has matured with the members. They’re now professional performers, clad in iridescent space-samurai dresses, who’ve progressed beyond the slightly troubling coquetry of their earlier years. Holding a hypnotic and incredibly energetic stage presence, Su-metal has one hell of a voice. She never misses a beat or even seems breathless despite rapid-fire lyrics and constant movement, owning the stage with each jump and commanding seasoned metal fans to slam themselves to her high-pitched pop star stylings. 

Of course, Babymetal’s show has ending credits too. Why not? Whoever created the group seems determined to break the unwritten rules surrounding what defines ‘a good time at a metal show’, but in the best possible way. Why shouldn’t we be able to chuck ourselves around the dance floor to songs with far too many exclamation points in the titles and far more beats per minute than anyone can reasonably keep time with? A Babymetal show is a wholesome and somehow innocent experience with all the silliness which characterises the cliches about the metal scene, and all the joy that more serious bands have left in the dust.