I Get into Arguments: Maniac vs. Alex Shenmue

It is the Official Policy of Homicidols.com* that Babymetal is cool and good. Metal Resistance is not a perfect album, but it is a very good one, and even the parts of it that I was most critical of initially are winning me over.

Alex Shenmue, the big brain behind his self-named blog, was one of the very few reviewers of Metal Resistance to give the record a not-good score, and one of the even fewer to do it with, like, reasons and stuff.

Despite being mistaken and wrong and probably someone who steals candy from children, Alex is clearly an intelligent human, and he proved that by accepting my challenge to a debate of sorts:

We reviewed one another’s reviews. I formulated very smart and good arguments; I think Alex may still be trying to cope with the depth of self-loathing he must feel to be so bitter and angry, as he was unable to convert being smart to having good arguments, and the only logical conclusion thereupon is that he has lost the capacity to think.

Anyway, we had some fun assaulting one another’s opinions. Check it out! 

Maniac: Alex, thank you so much. Your grace and charm are well-known. Please know that everything I say from here on out is with the utmost respect.

Alex: I appreciate that, Maniac, and thanks for having me.

Maniac: Great. I’ll get this started.

Point: You have a not good, but bad, opinion of “Tales of the Destinies.”

You wrote, “The biggest problem with METAL RESISTANCE is its attempt at pleasing a way too broad audience, and in adopting the influences to second this illogical purpose, it creates inconsistency” and then you peed all over “Tales” for sounding too much like Dream Theater but not pulling it off.

But please allow me to retort. As you may guess from my hyperbolic reactions to various idols, ridiculous, nightmarish sounds are basically gold to me, and “Tales” sounds like a bad dream Su-metal had while recording in Australia. It’s disjointed and thematically bizarre and has too much happening sometimes and it’s absolutely beautiful when it finally comes together.

Alex: It sounds like a nightmare and that’s it to me. The similarities with Dream Theater are exaggerated and almost embarrassing. And I’m really sorry for that. I’ll give you my address, send me bullets in a white envelope.

Maniac: Well aren’t we a salty one? You may think that Babymetal should never change or adapt, but I personally hope they keep trying to push genre boundaries with the same neophyte’s vigor that birthed them.

Alex: That’s what I hope too. But again, a lot of METAL RESISTANCE sounds much more standard to me.

Maniac: /pretends to give Alex the stink-eye

Alex: My turn.

Point: Nothing in this album is better than the previous one

Alex: You wrote: “This isn’t a perfect album, but it is a very good one, one the entire Babymetal team should be proud of, often better than the debut but also missing in a few spots.” I honestly think none of these tracks are better than anything that was in BABYMETAL.

Maniac: Bite your tongue.

Alex: First off: I never pretended this album to be like their debut. It’s obviously different, but I couldn’t hear anything that was better. There’s more technique, and the Kami Band truly went into Berserk mode more than once, but again, skills and speed aren’t necessarily synonyms of quality. What’s better here when compared to the first album in your opinion?

Maniac: In almost every sense, the first album is like a time capsule for an idol/band as it grew up, so I feel like I have to strip away the purely fun (“Onedari Daisakusen”) and the Classic Babymetal (“Doki Doki Morning”) from everything “good” to ID what’s more objectively great, and I come away with the no-brainers “Megitsune” (arguably still their best), “IDZ” and “Headbangya!!” I’ll also throw in both Sulos, “Akumu no Rondo” and “Akatsuki,” as personal favorites.

For this album, the more I listen to it, the more impressed I am with similarly three songs: “Amore,” “Sis.Anger” and “Tales of the Destinies.” I realize that I’m in the vocal minority on “Tales” and I don’t care because its’ better to be right than be popular. But others get it, too – “Amore” is so gorgeous that it might be the literal apotheosis of idol-meets-metal, and “Sis.Anger” is not only peak BLACK BABYMETAL (seriously, read the lyrics), it’s dangerously close to going down as their single most brutal song ever.

Those three songs alone beat about half of Babymetal and could be put into any stack-ranking engine with the original Big Three, but then toss in other highlights. “Road of Resistance” has no peer. “The One” might as well become their theme song. “Syncopation” alone trumps almost everything from the original.

I’m actually convincing myself more and more: Metal Resistance is a good head taller than Babymetal. Maybe you feel differently because you don’t feel the totality of BLACK BABYMETAL’s presence on the album. So:

Point: This album is like a coming-out party for BLACK BABYMETAL.

They’re way more involved than they seem. I covered that, anyway, but look: Between the first genuine trio parts since Legend D and big contributions on several other songs, and the fact that they got “Sis.Anger,” easily one of the best songs on the album, I don’t know how BLACK BABYMETAL could have been more included.

Alex: I agree, they rocked the shit out of GJ! and Sis Anger. But otherwise, yes and no. Their vocal contribution was much more relevant before. You know, the “Dame! Dame! Dame!” of Ijime, Dame, Zettai, the “Atatatata zukkyun” of Gimme Choco!!, the genial “Hedoban-ban-ban-ban” of Headbanger. That stuff made those tracks unforgettable and super charismatic, and still fire up the crowd at live shows. The most relevant thing in here are their chants in KARATE, which work great. They get a lot of space in META TARO, but geez, that track is friggin horrible to me.

Maniac: I agreed with you on that one when I reviewed it, and I did until like yesterday. It’s too infectious. It should be inserted into children’s toys and used to indoctrinate the world.

But back to the matter at hand. With what I see as an expanded role and with the really heavy stuff falling to BLACK BABYMETAL, I think this could be heralding a change in the whole idea of what Babymetal’s about.

Alex: Have you been drinking? I can’t imagine what they’re gonna do with their vocals to be honest. I’d just love to hear them more, in a way or another. Some tracks in here barely feature them. Do you mind if I go again?

Maniac: A little bit, you person with weird opinions, but go ahead.

The rest was just standard metal I could hear anywhere else.

— Alex Shenmue

Point: ‘KARATE’ does the job right, and it’s better than many other tracks in here.

Alex: When “KARATE” first came out, it was immediately clear that it was a friendly, catchy track to promote the album, and it did the job right. I like Yui and Moa’s chants here, they are relevant and give a proper contribution to the track (same for YAVA!, one of my favorites), something that misses 80 percent of the times in this record excluding the BLACK BABYMETAL tracks. It’s less technical, less complicated, definitely more “simple”, but it does the job very well and it’s the best track in here when it comes to balance of their voices. It’s nothing outstanding, but clearly one of the few tracks here that screams “BABYMETAL.”

Maniac: Is it too late to find another debate partner? I’ll give you that “KARATE” is better than … “Awadama Fever” and “Dusk.” The song honestly bores me. I didn’t care for it when the first fancams popped up after Yokohama, I didn’t like hearing it as the lead single, and while I can concede that the video is boss and the total package in that regard is okay, it’s just so—you say “simple”—I say “safe.” “What’s the most rock radio-friendly song we can get away with?” is basically the formula.

Also, now I know why you have such a bad read on BLACK BABYMETAL; insofar as those two devil children can ever be less than great, “KARATE” is by far my least favorite contribution of theirs pretty much ever. #hottake!

Now I have a good one for you.

Point: What you dislike about ‘From Dusk Til Dawn’ is one of its few selling points.

I know that I promised in multiple places to not treat Metal Resistance as anything other than a Babymetal album, with all of what that entails, but it’s perfectly natural to expect a metal band to have metal in their songs. That being said, if not for those little proto-breakdowns, those little flashes of sonic heaviness, the song wouldn’t have any kind of place on the album. It’s already more at home on a Massive Attack record and—

Alex: I’m not familiar with Massive Attack.

Maniac: How are we talking again? Damn, son. Go look up “Teardrop” and get back to me.

Alex: Maybe later. No, I love this track so much. It seriously gave me the chills when I first heard it. The break could have been fine if it wasn’t for the friggin dubstep. It was so out of place and forced. It was fine in Uki Uki Midnight, but not here. They think it’s trending stuff, but even Skrillex barely makes that stuff anymore.

Maniac: Then we actually have something in common here, I think. Because while, yeah, things are going to happen in the booth, but to digitally alter Su-metal’s voice just for the sake of doing so is a crime against humanity.

Alex: I kinda agree, but it works great with this track. It’s not that altered, it’s just adapted to the vibe of the track. Live is gonna be crazy. [Ed.: They didn’t play it at Wembley! Probably because it is butt.]

I think we’re getting to a key point here, and it’s this:

Point: This album really changes according to your perspective

Alex: Despite my review having analyzed several negative aspects, I had no problem in highlighting the good ones, and after all I ended up giving it a positive score, despite not being a high one. Do I think it’s a bad record? Nope. It’s actually a nice one. But I’ve also noticed many different takes on it, with fans loving the fact “they don’t care about genres and try many different things at once” when I just see it as “Ok, there’s a Dragonforce track, a semi-Dream Theater track, a shallow power ballad, and an imitation of a Viking march” and so on. From my point of view, it’s sometimes annoyingly sycophantic, like how they are always walking around taking pictures with famous metal people.

Maniac: Wait. You dislike that?

Alex: It’s cool until a certain point, but their management brought it too far in my opinion. It’s less “meet your heroes” and more “see, haters, Slayer likes us.” Stop playing to the masses and just play.

By the way. BABYMETAL has changed during the last few years, and it’s a natural consequence of the huge global exposure they got and are still getting, which is great. But with the group, the perspective and expectations changed as well, and everyone’s got their own. I personally was expecting an evolution of their sound and identity, something that I found only in “Syncopation” and other two or three tracks. The rest was just standard metal I could hear anywhere else.

Maniac: You know that old saying about giving someone enough rope to hang themselves?

Alex: That’s terrible. So agree to disagree, then?

Maniac: Only if we can agree that “Awadama Fever” is butt.

Alex: I have mixed feelings about it. Everyone keeps telling me it’s way better live. A lot of fans seem to dislike it. It has issues, I think it could have been much better to be honest, but it’s a catchy track overall.

Maniac: Somebody get this man medication.

Alex: If you really feel that strongly, why not say what you did like? What’s your top five?

Maniac: In no particular order, “Amore,” “Syncopation,” “Sis.Anger,” “Tales of the Destinies” and “The One.”

Alex: Not bad. You know I’ll take “Dusk” all day, and I agree on “Syncopation” and “Amore.” But my BLACK BABYMETAL song is actually “GJ!”, and I’ll take “YAVA!”

Maniac: Well, at least your opinion there isn’t completely bad.

So what did you think? Yes, Alex is very wrong in his view of Metal Resistance, but that’s okay! We played this little game together specifically because one of us (Maniac) had one set of (good) ideas and one of us (Alex) had (bad) ideas that conflicted with them.

What are your ideas? Did we give you something to think about? Comment below here, or head on over to Alex’s site and leave your comment there. But the best thing will be how we’ll all get a sense for how a collection of really unique music can be viewed, and we’ll probably all be able to appreciate it more.

Well, except for Alex.

You can check out Alex’s multitude of very good reviews on his very good blog here.

There is no such thing!


2 thoughts on “I Get into Arguments: Maniac vs. Alex Shenmue

  1. One of the things I’m noticing about this record is how people most and least favourites are all over the place. I personally think Tales and NRNR are the weakest tracks, and I initially didn’t care all that much for Amore, though it has grown on me immensely. On the other hand, I love From Dusk Till Dawn, think it’s one of the best tracks on the record, slightly below Sis Anger and The One. I do agree with you on Karate however.

    Yet lots of fans completely disagree with me on all of this. That tells me BM have probably succeeded in their intent: satisfying almost everyone in their incredibly diverse audience. That in itself is quite an accomplishment I think.

    • Yeah, and what keeps creeping up on me (like today, when I had a long run to listen to the whole thing) is that it’s almost impossible to “just review” a Babymetal album; you can maybe give a total points score to the whole against an arbitrary rubric, but it’s almost impossible to apply normal rules because there’s nothing normal about Babymetal. They’re throwing convention completely out the window and just smashing together whatever works.

      To whit, I’ve actually completely revised my revised position on “Dusk,” which I had come around to viewing as a perfectly good song, but not really one for this album. But what does that even mean? And listening to it again, it doesn’t fit all that well, but it *is* beautiful, damn it, and anything that puts Nakamoto among those atmospherics has to be a good thing.


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