If you’re a fan of heavy metal and/or J-Rock, you will have probably heard of BABYMETAL by now. Mixing heavy metal riffs with kawaii babydoll fashions and J-pop-style dance rhythms, they’ve taken the world by storm thanks to social media and are set to play at the O2 in London this September.
They’ve raised a few eyebrows and made a few enemies along the way – some take exception to the “manufactured” nature of their music, which goes against the true spirit of heavy metal (like so many Japanese bands, they were created by a talent agency and are heavily managed), while others take exception to their rather sexualised image in spite of their young age (several members were pre-teens when the band got together). And then naturally, many aren’t keen on the music itself.
But aside from all these criticisms, what interests me deeply about BABYMETAL is their abundant use of fox imagery. They wear white fox masks, sing about foxes, and they’ve even come up with their own altered form of the “devil horns” hand gesture which looks like a fox. They say that they do this in order to thank the “Fox God” (Inari?) for their success.
I find it fascinating that such a young band has adopted such classical Japanese imagery, and that it’s the fox in particular that they’ve chosen – a symbol of mischief, illusion, transformation, mysticism and deviance. Considering the stir that BABYMETAL have caused in the metal world, such a slippery, ambiguous symbol representing the crossing of two worlds does seem appropriate.
I strongly recommend you check out their music video MEGITSUNE; fox imagery abounds, as does other very traditional Japanese imagery (there’s even a warped tribute to the old Japanese song “Sakura” in there). Look out for the rows of torii gates too! (MEGITSUNE is incidentally the Japanese word for “vixen.”)