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Chilean weeb metal - 65%

S9NE, December 7th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Independent

Japanese idol group Babymetal has been a burning topic in the metal community for quite some time now, and while I personally enjoy their music, I was disappointed by their most recent output Metal Resistance. However, the opening track "Road of Resistance", featuring DragonForce guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman, I found to be its saving grace, working as a follow-up to "Ijime, Dame, Zettai" from their self-titled debut album. Both of these songs are power metal galore, but naturally, the band tends to steer clear in pop music directions to appeal to a wider audience. Well, it seems those two tracks struck a chord with people around the world, as evidenced by this album in question: New Order Kitsune, the full-length debut of Chile-based power metal band Kitsune Metaru.

For those who don't know, "Kitsune Metaru" is romanized Japanese which translates to "fox metal", referencing the so-called fox god who sends messages to Babymetal. That may sound confusing, but that's because it is. On that note, the band sure has a tendency to utilize miscellaneous Japanese words, right down to their aliases and song titles, even though the lyrics are primarily sung in Spanish. I guess they needed something to make them stand apart from other power metal projects, but in the process they just ended up severely copying Babymetal, including their famous black-and-red outfits and fox masks. People say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when that imitation is bordering on cultural appropriation, perhaps they should reconsider their concept.

Going in to this album, I expected it to consist of nothing more than half-assed Babymetal covers, but was pleasantly surprised to realize it was original material. Granted, it's still not really anything special in the grand scheme of things. The riffs are extremely basic for power metal standards, but still get the job done, and the same can be said about the solos. Don't expect anything over-the-top in the vein of DragonForce. It's a shame that the keyboards are sometimes really overbearing, could perhaps had some more balancing in the mix. As for the drums, they're fine, but occasionally electronic effects are added which I'm not the biggest fan of.

This is their first release to feature vocalist Jennifer Boldt who does a decent job throughout. She seems to be in her early to mid-20's, as opposed to the members of Babymetal who were all underage at the time of their formation. From what I can gather, her vocals are what a lot of people have the biggest issue with, and I can see where they're coming from. Though after a few listens, you'll get used to it, as long as you're okay with copious amounts of pop hooks.

The most cringe-inducing, and quite frankly worst, song included here is without a doubt "Neko Nyan". Not only does it include some of the most horrific autotune effects I've ever heard, but also Jennifer trying oh-so hard to sound cute and repeating the word "nyan" (Japanese for meow) too many times. I get that this style of music is supposed to be "kawaii metal" but perhaps it's best to leave that to Japan for better or worse. On the other hand, if I had to pick my favorite track, I'd go with "Yuki Onna". It stands out for including some operatic-like vocals in the bridge which are fairly epic. This is essentially their most straight-forward attempt at power metal, but it ended up resonating with me. Goes to show that you don't always need to rely on a silly gimmick to entertain people.

The second last track is a ballad (or "romantic" as they call it) version of Haruko, and I gotta say, as someone who's a ballad music connoisseur, this track is skippable to say the least. That's not to say ballads don't belong in metal though. Just look at "Trail of Broken Hearts" by DragonForce, that one got the power ballad formula down to a T. This, however, is much weaker in comparison. Perhaps that's to be blamed on the less-than-stellar production value, which applies to the rest of the album. Whatever the case, showcasing more of the guitars here could have made it more impactful.

In retrospect, Kitsune Metaru achieved where Babymetal failed in going full-on power metal, and for that I respect them, but they lack the energy and variety of their original counterparts. Not to mention, how long are they planning to live off this gimmick? I wouldn't be surprised if this was a one-time experiment and they'll eventually go on to focus on personal projects. With that said, if you're feeling impatient waiting for Babymetal to release more material and want something reminiscent of their style (or you're just a sucker for cheesy power metal like myself), I'd say give this a listen. At the time of writing this review, the album is fully available for streaming on the band's YouTube channel, so I'd suggest checking that first.