If someone were to ask you to name the biggest thing in metal music now, would you answer: a) a bunch of hirsute Australian men growling about hellfire and blood; b) a bunch of hirsute American men growling about hellfire and blood; or c) a trio of Japanese teenage girls in froufrou skirts who do twirling dance routines and sing sugary pop melodies over thrash metal? It is, of course, the third: headbangers worldwide are having the leather pants charmed off them by a fusion of styles that could only come from Japan.
Babymetal are the pioneers of kawaii, or "cute", metal. You can think of them as Hello Cannibal Kitty and their music as the lost soundtrack to the Japanese Hunger Games precursor, Battle Royale. A typical song, Awadama Fever, interlaces slabs of angry guitar and undanceably fast breakbeats, while the girls squeak about "bubble ball fever" and chewing gum.
The bizarre combination is striking a power chord with fans of heavy metal worldwide. In April, the band released its second album, Metal Resistance, to glowing reviews and a top 10 chart place in Australia, and played a sold-out gig at Britain's Wembley Arena, the first Japanese act to do so. They broke the arena's record for merchandise sold, and in Japan 12,000 fans trooped to cinemas at 4.30am to watch live screenings of the gig.
When the windows to the truck opened Saturday morning, an estimated 2,000 superfans cheered, many wearing Hello Kitty clothing and colors. But by Saturday at 4:30 p.m., those who had waited five hours under the sun finally reached the windows only to be told everything was sold out, and to come back Sunday.
Early customers who reached the front of the line while the truck was still stocked all seemed to order at least one of everything on the limited menu: bow-shaped bottled water ($3), a three-piece cookie set ($12), a coffee mug ($13), a four-piece box of petit four cakes ($15), a five-piece box of macarons ($15), a T-shirt ($25) and an off-menu puffy pink bow headband ($30).