Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
I seem to spend a lot of my time travel between home and Birmingham for gigs. Last night was the Institute for SKYND, tonight I’m heading back to Wolverhampton, to the Halls to be precise, for a night of Hi-Octane rock n roll with Babymetal a sensational Japanese band that effortlessly blends heavy metal with J-pop, creating a unique and electrifying musical experience.
On the undercard tonight we have Scottish Rock duo VUKOVI, formed from the band Wolves, in 2010, the name being appropriate tonight being in Wolverhampton, and ‘The Wolves’ stadium ‘Molyneux’ is just up the road. The name changed when they took on a new line up which consisted of Hamish Reilly, Jason Trotter and Martin Lynch, singer, Janine Shilstone having joined the band when the previous singer left. The band gelled and a rename took place. (it’s actually Siberian for Wolves!). For what-ever reasons Trotter and Irving left the band in 2018 leaving Reilly and Shilstone to continue as a duo, using a dep drummer whilst touring.
VUKOVI are open the night, the anticipation in the air is already electric as the crowd eagerly awaited the explosive performance that is to follow openers, VUKOVI. Hailing from Scotland, this dynamic quartet now on stage as a trio, has been making waves with their unique blend of alternative rock and infectious energy. As the lights dimmed and the roar of the crowd reached a fever pitch, the stage comes alive with the opening chords of their latest single, ‘Creep Heat,’ released just a few months ago in August 2023.
Janine Shilstone, the charismatic lead singer, emerges dressed in camo trousers and a shredded black top, immediately commanding attention. The power of ‘Creep Heat’ is unleashed upon the audience with a forceful opening that shake the very foundations of the venue. Janine, an embodiment of raw energy, threw herself on the floor, writhing in front of the cameras as she belted out the lyrics. It was a visual and auditory assault that continued for the rest of the set.
Without missing a beat, the band seamlessly transitioned into ‘Lasso,’ a track from their 2022 release, Nula. Backlit by powerful lights, Janine continued to mesmerize the crowd, her vocals resonating with a destructively powerful energy that had everyone bouncing in unison. The drums thundered like an approaching storm, and bits of drumstick flew overhead, a testament to the sheer intensity of their performance.
The sonic journey continued with ‘Tainted,’ another track from their latest album, Nula. Janine, now on her toes, swirled around the stage, delivering flawless vocals with a Scottish lilt that added a touch of enchantment to the air. Her spoken voice carried an ASM tone—captivating and lovely, the kind that lingers in the minds of those fortunate enough to witness it live.
The crowd’s enthusiasm reached new heights as VUKOVI unleashed their latest single, ‘Mercy Kill,’ released just a few weeks before the concert in November. Janine, an engaging frontwoman, encouraged the venue to embrace the chaos of a mosh pit. She shared anecdotes of the band’s experiences with previous shows, highlighting how Wolves had blown London out of the water with their passionate reaction to VUKOVI’s music. Surveying the crowd, it was evident that the energy from the band had fully captivated the audience.
The set continued to showcase the sonic diversity of Nula with ‘Slo,’ a crushing delivery that displayed the band’s precision and clarity. Whether labelled as Pop Punk or Noise Pop, the music had heads nodding in unison, reminiscent of the Churchill dog riding on a cobbled street—undoubtedly a testament to the infectious nature of VUKOVI’s sound.
‘I Exist,’ the final song from their knockout album Nula, thundered through the venue. Guitarist Reilly, stationed on stage left, had been a lively presence throughout the set, delivering dirty riffs with animated fervor. The song featured a powerful breakdown of slamming drums and nasty guitar, punctuated by the repeated mantra, “I Am Nula, I Am Free.” The crowd were swept up in the sonic storm, revelling in the intensity of the performance.
As the set drew to a close, VUKOVI took the audience on a nostalgic trip back to their first album with the track ‘LA DE DA.’ It was a moment of reflection, a demonstration of the band’s evolution and growth over the years. The crowd, still buzzing with energy, embraced the return to an earlier track, revealing the depth and versatility of VUKOVI’s discography.
For those fortunate enough to arrive early and witness this supporting act, the concert became more than just a night of music; it was a revelation. VUKOVI’s performance was a testament to the vitality of live music, especially north of the border. As the final chords of ‘LA DE DA’ faded into the night, it was clear that VUKOVI had not just delivered a concert; they had crafted an unforgettable experience that left the audience ready for the reason they’re out on a School night, BABYMETAL. If this is a glimpse of what’s to come from Scotland, were live music is undoubtedly alive and well, and ready to sweep the south, then bring it on. A great set and another great band discovered by getting to the venue for earlier doors when-ever possible.
The stage is cleared of the band’s equipment in quick fashion. The crew at The Halls have the change overs sorted and before long we are ready for tonights headliners “BABYMETAL”, but first a little bit about the band for those new to them.
Formed in 2010, the group consists of three talented members: ‘Su-metal’ (Suzuka Nakamoto), ‘Moametal’ (Moa Kikuchi), and ‘Yuimetal’ (Yui Mizuno), who recently left the band due to poor health after being absent from several live performances. Her place being filled by backing dancer, Momoko Okazaki who became a fulltime member of the band in April 2023, and became known as ‘Momometal’.
One of the distinctive aspects of Babymetal’s live performances is the backing band known simply as the ‘Kami Band’. These skilled musicians provide the heavy metal instrumentation that complements the girls’ vocals. The Kami Band have featured various session members over the years, showcasing the versatility and depth of the musical collaboration and the abundance of talent available in their homeland.
Babymetal’s journey began with the release of their debut album in 2014, self-titled “Babymetal.” This ground breaking album showcased their fusion of metal and pop elements, earning them international acclaim. The tracks, including hits like “Gimme Chocolate!!” and “Megitsune,” demonstrated their ability to seamlessly blend contrasting genres with Japanese culture.
The band continued to evolve with subsequent albums like “Metal Resistance” (2016) and “Metal Galaxy” (2019), exploring new sonic territories and pushing the boundaries of their genre-defying music. Their ability to incorporate diverse influences while maintaining a strong metal core has solidified their status as innovators in the global music scene. Their latest offering, “The Other One” being released in March 2023, continues this recipe for success.
Babymetal’s impact extends beyond their music; they have garnered a dedicated following worldwide, known as “The One.” The band’s energetic and theatrical live performances, complete with elaborate choreography and captivating visuals, contribute to the unique experience that sets them apart.
In terms of influences, Babymetal draws inspiration from various genres, including metal, J-pop, and electronic music. Their fusion of these elements reflects the diversity of the Japanese music scene. Additionally, their incorporation of traditional Japanese imagery and mythology into their visuals and lyrics adds a layer of cultural depth to their work.
In the revamped Halls 3000 fervent fans, some dressed in a kaleidoscope of Japanese fashion are waiting, the air is charged with excitement, anticipation rippling through the crowd as a Star Wars-esque video message heralds the arrival of none other than BABYMETAL.
The ‘KAMI’ band kickstarts the sonic onslaught with ‘BABYMETAL Death’ from the eponymous 2014 album. Red lights bathe the stage as the trio of petite powerhouses—Sumetal, Moametal, and Momometal—burst into action, their hard-hitting performance immediately setting the audience in motion. Guttural groans intertwine with Su-metal’s Japanese verses, setting the frenetic pace for the night.
The assault continues with “Gimme Chocolate,” another track from their debut album. The trio, dressed in black and gold, effortlessly execute intricate dance moves despite their imposing boots. Scorching guitars and lightning-fast beats captivate the crowd, who respond with fist punches and phones held high to capture the mesmerizing spectacle.
The dark gutturals of “Pa Pa Ya!” from the 2019 album ‘Galaxy Metal’ follow, the girls breaking out in traditional dance with a modern twist. The juxtaposition of metal and J-pop proves spellbinding, showcasing their versatility. The performance is a visual feast, accompanied by blinding lights and concussive beats.
“Distortion” from the same album follows, a stunning mash-up of metal and J-pop that has the crowd singing along to the English-spoken parts. The musicianship on display is brutal, with pinched harmonics and thunderous beats creating an electrifying atmosphere. “BxMxCx” keeps the energy at a peak, the crowd relentless in their enthusiasm. As the screen plays images corresponding to the music, “Mirror Mirror” takes over with a bouncing intro, the girls shrouded in near darkness. “Brand New Day” quickly follows, its live rendition featuring a fusion of traditional dance with elements of hip hop, breakdance, and robotics. Su-Metal’s vocals soar, and the crowd responds with cheers and applause.
“Monochrome” from the new album ‘THE OTHER ONE’. (2023) prompts a call for phone lights, turning the venue into a sea of illuminated screens. The crowd joins in with chorus chants, creating a stunning visual display captured on the screen behind the band. The individual members of the ‘KAMI’ band showcase their prowess with scorching solos, leading to the introduction of the legendary Tom Morello on the collaborative track “METALI.”
Jumping back to 2014, “Megitsune” brings a live account of the thunderous performance, setting the stage for the relentless assault of “Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!” from the same year. The night culminates in the epic “Road of Resistance” from 2016, with the audience treated to a live account of this tremendous finale. Hair flies on stage, shapes are cut, and the energy is palpable.
As the show concludes, BABYMETAL have delivered in Wolverhampton, leaving a trail of electrified fans in their wake. The global domination of this Japanese sensation is undeniable, a fitting testament to their unique blend of metal, J-pop, and captivating performances. With their infectious energy and genre-defying sound, BABYMETAL continues to conquer hearts and venues worldwide, solidifying their place in the book of music legends. Their success not only highlights their musical prowess but also underscores the global appeal of Japanese pop culture. As they continue to break new ground and captivate audiences around the world, they blend tradition and innovation in a way that resonates with fans of all backgrounds, selling out huge venues globally. Tonight was just another step on the road to domination!