Babymetal’s future lies in Metal Galaxy. It’s a wildly innovative record, taking the high-tempo template of 2014’s self-titled record and 2016’s Metal Resistance, and fusing it with disparate sounds from around the world. Elevator Girl’s languid jazz bleeds into the Indian instrumentation of Shanti Shanti Shanti, which bumps up against Sabaton frontman Joakim Brodén’s gruff growls on the folky Oh! MAJINAI. Other guest stars include Arch Enemy’s own Alissa White-Gluz and Thai rapper F. Hero (PA PA YA!!).
It’s consistent with Babymetal’s modus operandi – moulding things together that usually wouldn’t work, to create something striking. It’s why Kobametal formed Babymetal.
“Before Babymetal started, I had been a metal fan myself, and I wanted a challenge,” he explains, also talking to us via an interpretor. “The name ‘Babymetal’ came from me wanting to give birth to a new type of metal. I wanted to pay respect to the type of metal music that I’ve grown up with, but create a new evolution of metal, and that’s been the theme ever since.”
He explains that through Babymetal, he’s been able to visit different territories – Japan, The US and the UK are still their biggest markets, but they’ve hit Germany, Singapore, Netherlands, France, Australia, Austria, Taiwan, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Italy and Indonesia.
The travelling allowed him to hear diverse types of music, and he wanted to incorporate that range into Babymetal. The ‘Metal Galaxy’, in all its multicultural glory, is a conceit to explore this idea.
“That has been Metal Galaxy’s main concept. Metal has different types of sounds within even the genre, different countries illustrate metal in different ways, and even non-metal genres like Latin music and so on,” he says.
“I saw all of these different types of sounds as stars in the sky. I see Babymetal as a sort of spaceship that’s travelling through these metal galaxies and exploring different types of sounds.”
Kobametal’s always been savvy when it comes to metal’s heritage and landscape, and he’s aware of what we often refer to as ‘global metal’ – music from outside Europe and North America – as well as world music in general.
Last year in the States, Babymetal were supported by Indian progressive metal band Skyharbor (“their sound is very unique and cool”), and this year they’ll be supported by horsehead-fiddle-toting Mongolians The Hu. He sees them as part of the same scene, and it’s something he’s excited about sharing with the band’s army of Kitsunes.
“Yes, I do feel that I’m a part of that community, and that metal itself has a very unique aspect, more so than pop music. In different countries they have their local native sound and a cross between that as well as metal music,” he says. “I want to search for new music in that aspect, but also inspire fans to listen to different songs.”
To kickstart the writing process for Metal Galaxy, he got all the songwriters together in a room to discuss what sort of music they wanted to explore (“which is why it took three-and-a-half years!” he jokes).
They brought in rhythms from Cuba, tribal music from South America and metal from Scandinavia. The Latin-inflected Night Night Burn! was started around six years ago, at the same time as Megitsune, but others are brand new. He refers to uplifting closing tracks Starlight, Shine and Arkadia as “a trilogy of lights”.
“The light to me represents an aspect of duality, and in Babymetal the main colours are red and black – there’s light and darkness,” he says of the trilogy’s theme. “Both are necessary; we can’t just live with light, there’s always darkness. I wanted to kind of illustrate that in an abstract way, in that different people experience music in different ways, and I wanted to show that with the music that I’ve created with the third album.”
Su-metal says she gets a vivid image in her mind when she hears Starlight: “Every time I sing this song, it reminds me of my travels to New Zealand, and the starry nights and 180˚ of star lights,” she says. “It was a vast amount of small lights I can never forget.”
‘Global metal’ is a contentious term, which could imply those bands are somehow separate from, or even worse, inferior to the rest of the genre. It’s even weirder when you’re discussing it with a Japanese band, who geographically, but not commercially or logistically, fall into that category. They have the clout to give bands such as The Hu a platform, but are stoked to have Swede Joakim on their album.
But as the world becomes more connected, there is a sense that increasing numbers of ‘global metal’ bands are breaking through. Kobametal denies he’s jumping on a bandwagon, and is keen to point out how much he just loves metal – especially bands that can alchemise it into original, shining forms.
“I’ve never consciously thought about trends or things of that sort, but with Babymetal I’ve had many opportunities to explore different rock scenes, such as bands like Bring Me The Horizon – their last album is very experimental,” he explains.
“So from the outside world, it may seem like there’s a trend or a movement, but as Babymetal, we’re not trying to get on that trend, it just simultaneously happened. It was very interesting that Bring Me The Horizon, during Glastonbury, had dancers onstage. Maybe they actually have Babymetal in their sights.”
He chuckles. A few days after this interview, Bring Me The Horizon will play before Babymetal headline the second stage at Japan’s Summer Sonic festival. Oli Sykes will say: “We’re just here to warm you up. We’re here for the Fox God!” Babymetal have long taken a pic’n’mix approach to homaging metal and pop culture, but it’s super-odd and brilliant to hear Metal Galaxy’s opening track, Future Metal.
A robotic voice states: 'This ain’t heavy metal, welcome to the world of Babymetal', followed by an electronic flurry. It’s an obvious twist on BMTH’s song Heavy Metal from this year’s Amo record.
“Yeah, maybe, but what I really value the most is the metal masters, the different famous bands that have carried on metal music throughout the generations,” he says.
“I feel that it’s important for these new generation bands, like Babymetal or Bring Me The Horizon, to succeed the metal spirit and try and continue that tradition. But at the same time, the evolution of metal music is very interesting, and I hope that I can create an evolution in metal in that way. Maybe Sheffield is one of the stars in the metal galaxy!”
Yui’s departure could have caused Babymetal to crashland, but Su-metal and Moametal seem content enough inside their metaphorical spacecraft, chatting enthusiastically about Metal Galaxy. Captain Kobametal admits he was concerned about the girls losing a shipmate, but is confident they’re in it for the long haul.
“Yeah, obviously I was worried about them, but at the same time I respect each member, and both of them have become adults, and each of them are continuing Babymetal because they want to, and I definitely appreciate that,” he explains. “Because there’s a sort of trust between this group. Obviously I’m worried, but I just trust that they want to do it.”
He remembers auditioning for his Babymetal crew almost 10 years ago, when the girls were involved with singing and modelling. He immediately knew Su-metal, Moametal and Yuimetal were a winning combination.
“When I first heard Su-metal sing, there’s not that many singers that sing the way she does, it was very direct to me,” he remembers. “Metal bands don’t usually have any dance aspect, so I thought it would be interesting to add that to the new future of metal, hence I selected Yuimetal and Moametal to be the twin factor in the choreography.”
Over the last nine months, they’ve all had to adjust to a new dynamic. At Download festival last year, there were four members onstage, adding new level of animation to their madcap jumps, spins and hand gestures.
This year they’ve settled back into their triangle formation, with the vacant position filled by one of three trained-up, rotating members: the Avengers. They introduced the concept at those Yokohama shows before Glastonbury, via a message on the big screen.
“It was Metal Resistance Episode VIII, and the beginning of the new Babymetal,” explains Kobametal. “On top of Su-metal and Moametal, their supporting Avengers are the chosen dancers that the Fox God had summoned, and that was the main theme of these shows. And who will be chosen is only something the Fox God knows…” Funnily enough, our question about whether Babymetal will ever get a permanent third member is also directed to the vulpine ruler.
One of the new countries Babymetal have visited is Mexico, and Kobametal talks passionately about watching Lucha Libre wrestling there. When we ask whether he’ll ever introduce it into Babymetal, he explains that wrestling theatrics have been there all along. And suddenly, it’s obvious.
“It’s already in it,” he explains. “The wrestling part of it is reflected in the storyline. There’s dramatic storylines where the chosen dancers come out, and in the past we had the Chosen Seven, or the dark themes.”