Words by Sam Wolstenholme
Photography by Tam Schilling | @tamcamimages_
Japan’s kawaii metal megastars Babymetal made the headlines here in Aus when they blazed through an unforgettably high-octane set at Good Things Festival 2018 that stood out as one of, if not the highlight of the festival. Fast forward five years, two more albums, numerous collaborations with metal royalty and performances at prominent global festivals including the famed Glastonbury, the badass trio are back down under for their first ever headline tour here, featuring three exclusive shows. Joined by special guests, local rising stars Reliqa, it’s no surprise that most of these shows have been sellouts. It’s a Thursday night, but the 3000-cap Fortitude Music Hall is sold out tonight for the legions of fans who have been waiting a long time to immerse themselves in this unique and electrifying feast for the senses.
I’ve seen Central Coast’s alt metal outfit Reliqa live several times now, but off the back of a recent run of high-profile shows, it’s clear that the four-piece have really stepped it up in terms of stage production for this tour. The lights dim and the Reliqa logo appears in giant ghostly letters behind the stage, adding dramatic flair to the polished set that unfolds. Starting off strong with The Bearer of Bad News and Mr Magic, the band are instantly met with more than a few cheers from the crowd, who are bopping around to the djenty math-rock grooves and catchy melodies for which Reliqa are renowned.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the technical precision from the rhythm section in this band is second to none – between the lightning guitar shreds, intricate bass slaps and tight, proggy drum lines, it’s impressive to witness live. Frontwoman Monique’s dual vocal/keys ballad moments always add an elegant touch and an effective contrast from her anthemic choruses in the heavier tracks. The band really hits their stride with banger Safety, and later on treats us to a never-before-played track that features a belter of a chorus. An extended instrumental then blisters right into the closing bangers which inspire crowd-wide clapping and chanting. It’s been a tight, confident set from these guys tonight that has been rewarded with a very warm reception from the excited crowd.
The arrival of the headliners is announced in a suitably theatrical fashion – with a Star Wars-style video prelude that invites us to embark on a space metal odyssey into the next galaxy and beyond. The core trio march with slow deliberation onto the stage to the rhythm of sombre guitar chugs, and then rapid blast beats signal that the Babymetal spaceship is ready for lift-off. There’s a tribal atmosphere in the air as the frontwomen launch into their famed dance routines, and when Su-metal unexpectedly rips an infernal scream, all hell breaks loose in the mosh even before the singing has begun. Opening with Megitsune is an excellent choice – this pulsating, energetic number is one of the band’s greatest hits for a good reason, and the mosh is absolutely popping off. Feral circle pits break out amidst this hyper EDM DDR metal chaos, and with the 8-bit light show and Matrix-style video background, the audiovisual experience is nothing short of electrifying.
It’s a diverse and impactful set the powerhouse have compiled for us tonight that spans their entire discography, complete with bespoke, impeccably executed choreography. The Bollywood vibes of Shanti! Shanti! Shanti! contrast with the djenty riffs and anthemic vocal melodies of Mirror Mirror, and the nu metal grooves of BxMxC fire up the mosh even further. It’s like a wild tornado is running rampant in there – a moment of solidarity for the bouncers supervising tonight. Monochrome is accompanied by a particularly striking light show, and then Su-metal asks us to light up the night – the raising of 3000 phone lights is quite a memorable sight. There’s something about the marriage of the trio’s dance moves with the crushing breakdowns that adds a layer of intensity to the overall experience as well as theatrical flair. Props must also be given to the rest of the band for providing an unbelievably tight rhythm section framework to these hyperdrive bangers.
The trio have a seemingly endless supply of energy – if anything, their dance moves seem more vigorous as the set goes on. The punters in the mosh preemptively widen the circle in the intro for Distortion, such is the anticipation for the chaotic sound to come, and the pit descends into absolute carnage during Pa Pa Ya!. Blast beats, lightning shreds and candy-sweet vocals during the famous Gimme Chocolate! and Road of Resistance land like a sonic supernova and catapult us into the next dimension. This is ostensibly the end of the set, but for a grand encore of Metal Kingdom that culminates in a dig pit and row pit, and a direct order from the final video interlude that a wall of death must be formed. Sure enough, the mosh loses what little control it still retained for the exhilarating Ijime, Dame, Zettai, which goes out in a blaze of power metal glory.
What tonight’s show has proven is that the Babymetal live experience is no ordinary gig. The combination of ingenious songwriting, sumptuous stagecraft, razor-sharp technical precision, and of course, fabulous choreography and costumes, results in a stunning display (and gets a truly unhinged mosh going). And judging by the crowd response, the appetite for J-pop metal madness is an insatiable one, so here’s hoping the trio return for a much more expansive Australian tour before long.
Thanks to Dallas Does PR + Destroy All Lines