Archive for July, 2017

Today is the last day of my holiday and it has been a few good weeks. The weather has been less than great but it could have been worse. I have been eyeing some property (if I get it I will show you pictures, this particular shot was taken elsewhere yesterday) and we shall see what comes out of that situation. In any case, I feel good.

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Martin Landau is gone

Posted: July 21, 2017 in General, TV & Movies

Sad to hear that actor Martin Landau passed away about a week ago. Space 1999 was one of my favourite shows in the mid 1970s.

(Thank you Kalle for letting me know)

Minipati

Posted: July 15, 2017 in Babymetal, General, Music (general)

Let us continue on our journey to discover the roots of Babymetal and the years they spent in the Idol Group Sakura Gakuin. The Cooking Club sports a unit called Minipati and this has been going in different lineups since 2010 and are still part of the current Sakura Gakuin activities. The Babymetal related lineup was not the first but here we have Minipati featuring Moa Kikuchi (Moametal, as we now know her), Hana Tagushi and Yui Mizuno (Yuimetal). A couple of Tower Record Cafe´s used to include a Minipati menu, which is kind of cute (customers could buy Minipati mugs and I would suspect that they had Sakura Gakuin product available as well). This version of Minipati did perform on several concerts (Tokyo Idol Festival 2011 was one of them), and the Kawaii factor is actually quite high. Minipati is featured on Sakura Gakuin CDs and DVDs. Now, fans of Babymetal should know that this was going on for Yui and Moa side by side with other Sakura Gakuin projects, like Twinklestars and Babymetal. If this had catched on bigtime, would there have been a Babymetal? Who knows.

(Find images online)

Well, this floored me! I had no idea that HMV in Japan issued a limited edition version of the first Sakura Gakuin album “2010 Nendo: Message” (April 27 2011) with a Babymetal cover, thus making this the very first that they ever had. See what happens when you dig a little deeper! Not sure how many copies we have of this edition out there but this is officially the Holy Grail for the average Babymetal collector as of now. Possibly split by the very first DVD “Live: Legend I, D, Z Apocalypse” that is way up there in the stratosphere on Ebay. But this… I never saw this, never knew it existed.

The hunt is on.

Twinklestars

Posted: July 15, 2017 in Babymetal, General, Music (general)

As you know I have been diving into some early Babymetal related history lately, and I think that the Sakura Gakuin Idol Group that they all came from is pretty interesting. Here we have the Twinklestars, a project that came out of the so called Baton Club. They released a CD single called “Dear Mr. Socrates” on November 28 2010 that was followed by a DVD single on January 26 2011. Both were sold at Sakura Gakuin concerts and online. Fans of Babymetal will spot Moa Kikuchi and Yui Mizuno in there, but as we all know their destiny was to take shape in ernest in the Heavy Music Club that they had joined around this time as well (Babymetal is still the only project in this Club, but then this musical monster is not easy to duplicate is it?). Sakura Gakuin was a good school. Twinklestars existed for about a year in this lineup and they did release a second single called “Please! Please! Please!” on July 6 2011 as well before knocking it on the head. A second version was formed in 2014 but they did not release any product. Although all this is highlighted as it went down on the official Sakura Gakuin CDs and DVDs (see earlier post), so we do have concert appearances etc to check out. All this highlights the J-Pop scene and explains exactly the culture that Babymetal came out of. No other band in the history of Metal ever shared a past like this. I, for one, love that.

(Find images online)

Some day I am sure that we will have a nice Babymetal documentary on DVD (the 10th Anniversary in 2020 could well fit the bill) but fans that want to get into the early history can still find it on the early Sakura Gakuin DVDs. I will highlight two of them today. Created in April 2010 by the Amuse Talent Agency, Sakura Gakuin was to be an Idol Group in which talent could be nurtured and projects could be explored. The girls were involved in a number of different sub-groups that spawned musical projects. One of the first that broke out was called Twinklestars (more on them later), but the most interesting of the lot was to reach fame and fortune in a big way and that was Babymetal. The producer Kobametal (as he is known universally today), wanted to try out an idea in which J-Pop was mixed with Heavy Metal and he picked three of the girls for the project. He knew that Suzuka Nakamoto showed a lot of promise as a singer and he felt that a project could be built around her. To flank her he picked Moa Kikuchi and Yui Mizuni, perhaps the youngest (certainly the shortest) members of Sakura Gakuin. The song “Doki Doki Morning” was recorded and was presented to the girls to work on (vocals needed to be recorded and they had to figure out the dance moves). Glimpses of this process can be seen on the first Sakura Gakuin DVD, “Smile – First Live & Documentary 2010 to 2011” (released on June 27 2012) and so we know that this has been well documented right from the very beginning. This two DVD set also features a full concert filmed at the Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall on March 25 2012 that features all the projects. Babymetal does a playback of “Iine” to a very enthusiastic crowd. The 2010-2011 documentary is called “Smile” and this is were you have the fly on the wall kind of stuff.

The second (single) DVD here is called “2012 The Road To Graduation – Final” (released on July 3 2013) and not only do we get to see Su graduate (this is highly emotional) but we also get to see the girls in Babymetal perform “Headbanger!!” (the single was released in August), to which they also added a very dramatic sounding intro that would have fitted an Ozzy Osbourne concert. This was recorded at the Tokyo International Forum on March 31 2013. A decision had been made to let Babymetal become a professional unit at this point since they had gained popularity quickly. Consequently, this was the last time Babymetal performed at a Sakura Gakuin concert. Yui and Moa had still a couple of years to go so there are more to see on later DVDs. For Sakura Gakuin, Babymetal turned out to be an extremely successful project. Now these DVDs are what they are. For fans of Metal, they are probably not that great. But if you are into Babymetal, this is pure Gold. For fans of J-Pop, well they will probably lap this up too. It is certainly history. All in all, pretty good stuff. Uplifting, happy, sad – it is all included for all to see.

View trailers for these DVDs on YouTube.

I have been watching this DVD on a number of occasions in order for it to all sink in. I have also shown it to some friends to catch their reactions. I will begin there. Sunday July 9 2017. Visits an old friend (Lars), a professional musician (one of the best bass players in the country). Lars is a longstanding fan of Deep Purple, Paul McCartney etc and has a very broad interest in music. He has never heard of Babymetal. So I bring “Live At Wembley” and a few other Babymetal DVDs along and the Wembley show kicks off the night. Lars is notably impressed, he praises the musicianship before long and especially the rhythm section. Before the night is over he seems to be pretty convinced that Babymetal is the real deal. Tuesday July 11 2017. Visits a friend (Ove) that I have not seen in a while. Old school rocker, loves Kiss, the Deep Purple Family, UFO, Black Sabbath etc etc. Hardcore rocker. Is not aware of Babymetal. Same treatment, but with a slight twist. Ove is the owner of a sound system straight out of Hell. He cranks it up and it is like being in the friggin concert hall. Opening track “Babymetal Death” blows him away, he starts to ask questions. Eats it up. The night ends with him being a bonafide fan of Babymetal. These two examples are not isolated but I thought I could mention these reactions here since they pretty much mirrors what I have noticed in the last few months. That Babymetal has an enormous potential to draw generations of hardcore Metal fans in. Babymetal can draw people from just about every corner, and they are pretty much the only act that can deliver this although it will take some time. However, I would say that this is all happening right now and this DVD is going to help them on their merry way. The Babymetal Legion is growing fast.

The “Live At Wembley” DVD was recorded in London on April 2 2016, the day after the release of the second album “Metal Resistance”. Yet they still present a set that is based just as much on the new stuff as the old. Case in point, they head straight into “Awadama Fever” (a brand new song) right after the (extremely powerful) opener “Babymetal Death”. Then it is back to “Iine” and the early happy days. It all connects, the party vibe is way up there and the crowd loves them. They party on with the song “Yava!” which is another highlight from the new record. The pace is relentless, they know exactly how to get the party going. A nice interlude with beautiful lights and a piano introduction follows and then Su-metal hits the stage with “Akatsuki”. She looks so fragile up there as she sings the quiet part in the beginning, then it all goes haywire and we are in Power Metal territory. Blistering solos and theatrics makes it all an experience. And she is The Queen, she owns that stage. Then Su takes a rest and Yuimetal and Moametal hits the stage with the powerful “GJ!”, also from the “Metal Resistance” album. There is so much talent on this stage. These two alone could conquer the world, and so could Su. But right now it is all Babymetal and as the set continues with “Catch Me If You Can” the guys in the band gets a chance to show off. An opportunity not to be missed, and they deliver very powerful and skilled solos. Then the girls are back and the song ends with a happy yet monstrous blend that nobody else in this business can conjure up. Babymetal is totally original, and this song just nails it. The girls are great to watch.

The insane riffing in the ultra happy yet super heavy “Doki Doki Morning” drives the set on and Wembley have been transformed to a very happy place. Just Babymetal and 10,000 close friends sharing an unforgettable evening. Everything they do is catchy, and “Meta Taro” from the new album brings in a folk element that you could expect from Nightwish over a drum idea that is straight out of the 1970s. Add the girls and you have another classic in the making. Hell, everything they touch is going to be classic some day. After some silly (but we all love it) animations that draws from “Star Wars”, Black Babymetal (that would be Yui and Moa) assaults our senses with “Song 4”. I had a hard time with this for a very brief period, but I have embraced this as a bonafide Babymetal classic over time. Also, the girls wrote this one and they are cute as hell as they are all over that stage basically seducing the crowd into submission with their considerable Kawaii Powers. And if you listen closely, the guitar riff that goes on behind it all could be straight out of a Judas Priest album. The reggae bit is unnerving but short enough and helps empower the song in that very quirky way that was typical of early Babymetal. Su is back on stage for “Amore” and this is yet another Power Metal classic. This type of song suits her like a glove and she has a way to present her songs that is beautiful to behold. She really is the Queen of Kawaii Metal. “Amore” is also a vehicle for the guys to shine and I love the dual guitar solos (think Thin Lizzy with a touch of Yngwie Malmsteen). “Megitsune” follows and it has to be said that everybody I have ever introduced Babymetal to loves this song. It has something that is so unique, that Japanese thing that suddenly turns into a heavy super catchy song. Then there is the beautiful middle section and the very impressive routine from the girls. “Karate” is next and this is one of the true classics from the “Metal Resistance” album. Superb riffing that beats the competition to a crisp. I could not care less that the lyrics are all in Japanese, they sound great that way. Later on this tour, they would introduce some singalong action to this song, but they stick close to the original here. Compare it to the “Live At Tokyo Dome” set. Babymetal is slowly evolving to a smooth machine, ready to kill any crowd at any moment. “Ijime, Dame, Zettai” takes us back to the early days and this is a solid Power Metal classic by now. The drummer have to work for his money, no doubt about it. The main set ends with “Gimme Chocolate!!” and as we all know this is the ultimate party song. It all draws to an end with an emotionally charged “The One” in which the audience is being made aware that the show is streamed live to a crowd in Japan – they are all united in their love for Babymetal at this moment. Say what you will of Babymetal, they constantly come up with spectacular ideas and they always make it all look easy. This, of course, is hollowed ground and a major happening in their career. No wonder they decided to capture it on DVD. Preceeding “The One”, we are shown images of Babymetal from earlier visits to the UK. The journey that took them all the way to Wembley. This is a very powerful moment, quite majestic. Almost cinematic. They really do this sort of thing well and it goes back to the very early DVDs. Binge watch them and you will see how they have created this never ending mythology as they climb ever larger mountains. The Budokan, Wembley, Tokyo Dome. The list will grow. The conquest of Wembley ends with yet another bonafide classic, “Road Of Resistance”. More mythology, more everything. It is the ultimate moment of triumph. And the mother of all live endings (only eclipsed by themselves at Tokyo Dome later).

Final words. Sound quality and filming is top notch. Full points. This is one of the best live DVDs on the market today and Babymetal is clearly good enough to kill the competition. Nothing out there touches this today. Nothing.

(Watch the official trailer for this DVD on YouTube)