2018 was a tumultuous year for BABYMETAL and their fans, between the tragic loss of guitarist Mikio Fujioka and the unexplained absence of YUIMETAL and her subsequent retirement from the group entirely. These events compounded with a drastic shift in musical style and on-stage setup left many fans, myself included, very apprehensive about the future of the band. For many, 2019 seemed like a make-or-break year.
Coming into the first shows of the year this June in Yokohama, Japan, the main questions on everybody’s lips seemed to be, “how many girls?”, “will they go with a replacement for YUIMETAL?”, “will they have rotating backup dancers?”. This question was answered by the Fox God at the beginning of each show, BABYMETAL will now comprise of SU-METAL, MOAMETAL and one of three brave avengers to be chosen each night by the Fox God. Two of the three avengers have since been revealed to be Sayashi Riho (formerly of Morning Musume) and Fujihira Kano (current student council president of Sakura Gakuin). The decision to return to a trio of girls on stage seemed to be a wise choice by BABYMETAL management as it was the format that the vast majority of fans had been crying out for since the departure of YUIMETAL.
Following on from 2 arena shows in Yokohama and a debut appearance at Glastonbury, all in the space of 3 days, Brixton was to be the first UK headline show since 2016 and a return to the same venue they had played 5 years earlier when they were slowly starting to get noticed in the UK. There was a little concern among fans at the intense schedule the band was following but Su and Moa themselves have since said that they thrive under such conditions. At around 1 pm the day before the concert a few hardcore fans began to wait outside the venue and by the early evening, you could witness what began to resemble a small camp-site on the steps of the O2 Academy. By this point, everyone in line had just witnessed another stellar performance by the band at Glastonbury and expectation levels was the highest they had been in over a year. The only source of slight trepidation was which “avenger” would appear on stage that night. After 20-30 hours of queuing for some fans, it was the moment they had been waiting for.
First to take to the stage on the night were Sleep Token. The band operate under a similar premise to that of BABYMETAL, they are an anonymous collective of musicians who perform in worship to a deity known as “Sleep”. Performing under cloaks and masks, their strange, mellow, atmospheric style of metal brought about mixed reactions from the crowd, with some really enjoying what they saw while others not really sure what to make of it, definitely a band that I think may require a second listen.
The second and final support act of the night were Amaranthe, hailing from Sweden, and what a way to warm up the crowd for the main event. Much more akin to BABYMETAL with catchy melodic metal and a kick-ass frontwoman who knows how to get a crowd going. From beginning to end they had the crowd hyped and by all accounts post-show they seem to have gained a few new fans that night also. Amaranthe will be supporting Sabaton on their upcoming EU tour in 2020 and I highly recommend you consider checking them out.
BABYMETAL entered the stage at around 21:30 to an expected opener of Megitsune, a real fan favourite, and it was revealed tonight’s brave avenger would be Sayashi Riho. From the get-go, the atmosphere was turned up to eleven. Fans were treated to familiar favourites such as Gimme Chocolate!!, Karate and Road of Resistance, but what had people intrigued the most was the prospect of hearing latest single PA PA YA, a collaboration with Thai rapper F. hero and the surprise new track from the Yokohama shows Shanti Shanti Shanti which blends metal with Indian inspired instrumentals and vocals. These songs certainly created the largest pops of the night alongside Syncopation, which had never been played outside Japan before and until that night many believed never would be. I am sure there is not much I can tell you about BABYMETAL’s musical style that you do not already know by now, it’s kawaii, it’s metal, it’s BABYMETAL. For those who haven’t experienced it for themselves live, there isn’t really anything you can compare it to, you simply must experience it for yourself, and you won’t be disappointed.
It is safe to say that BABYMETAL is truly back with a bang and we can expect great things in the coming year from them. With the release of their upcoming album Metal Galaxy scheduled for 11th October, a US tour in 2019 and a European tour announced for the beginning of 2020 it seems team BABYMETAL have delivered on their promise of “big things”.
Photography by: Book