PHOENIX — On a mild mid-October evening, with the first signs of fall evident throughout town – as seen in the changing colors of license plates, and the exchange of the brutal dry heat for a slightly less intense dry warmth – a crowd assembled at Arizona Financial Theatre in downtown Phoenix. Next to fine examples of how architecture should not look (brutalist architecture is the unsalted saltine cracker of the construction world) sits the theater. The crowd gathered here this evening had braved the traffic and lack of downtown parking to bear witness to a metal show like no other: Dethklok and BABYMETAL teaming up as co-headliners on the “Babyklok” tour, with Jason Richardson opening the show up. Dethklok – a fictional band that is surprisingly very real – was touring in support of their newest album, Dethalbum IV, and the new movie Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar. BABYMETAL was touring in support of the latest album The Other One, released earlier this year.
Jason Richardson took the stage first. Richardson first broke into the music industry at 17, when he took over for Chris Storey in All Shall Perish in 2009. Since then, he has played in Born of Osiris, Chelsea Grin, and currently plays in All That Remains, filling the massive hole left when Oli Herbert mysteriously and tragically passed away in 2018. He has toured as a solo act, and puts on an absolute masterpiece of a solo show. He played for around half an hour, playing a total of 7 songs, including “Tendinitis” and “Ishimura”.
The history of BABYMETAL is an interesting look into the culture and entertainment of Japan. Formed in 2010 with then-13-year-old Suzuka Nakamoto (stage name Su-metal) as the lead singer, 11-year-old Moa Kikuchi (stage name Moametal), and 11-year-old Yui Mizuno (stage name Yuimetal), the group was a subunit of a group named Sakura Gakuin. Yuimetal left in 2018 due to an illness, and was replaced in 2023 by one of their back-up dancers, Momoko Okazaki (known as Momometal). The idea was to fuse the Japanese idol genres with heavy metal, with the result being a new type of metal called “kawaii metal”. There is a very strong J-pop sound to the vocals, layered over thunderous, earth-shaking metal music.
This is combined with choreography that has near military-like precision, with the trio seldom, if ever, being out of sync. The show is equal parts entertaining and organized chaos, and BABYMETAL fans enjoy every second of it.
The chaos began at exactly 8 p.m., with the words “BABYMETAL WORLD TOUR 2023” coming up on the massive screen behind the band. The introduction drew inspiration from Star Wars, with the opening lines being ‘A long time ago in a heavy metal galaxy far, far away,’ followed by a tale of how the FOX GOD chose the heavy metal spirits to make up the band. At the conclusion, the band erupted into a riff that would make Rammstein proud. Even with the band attempting to rearrange the molecules of the audience members with a sustained sonic blast, the cheers from the crowd could still be heard.
BABYMETAL has released 4 albums over the years, starting with 2014’s BABYMETAL, 2016 saw the release of Metal Resistance, 2019 brought Metal Galaxy and earlier this year the band released The Other One. They leaned heavily on BABYMETAL, opening the show up with “BABYMETAL DEATH”, and following that up with “Gimme Chocolate!!”.
Su-metal and the band said little beyond greeting the audience and giving instructions that were eagerly followed, such as having the crowd turn their phone lights on, getting low (which, in most cases, simply meant taking a seat before jumping back up), and a couple of other actions. While little was said, it is clear that the band has mastered the art of stage presence and crowd interaction. It should also be noted that unlike many recent metal concerts, there was a circle pit from the jump at this show. Watching the dynamics of said pit when the screen showed an overhead view of the audience was also an interesting study. Watching fully grown men slam into each other at full speed while listening to kawaii metal is not something I thought I would write about.
Dethklok answers the question, “What would happen if Weird Al were a metalhead who decided to write NSFW lyrics?” The answer is a bizarre and yet utterly enjoyable hour-long show. The birth of Dethklok came in 2006, when Metalocalypse premiered on Adult swim. The fictional band would soon release a very real album – The Dethalbum – in 2007, which shot to number 21 on the Billboard top 200 list. Lead singer and founder Brendon Small played all the instruments from 2006 until he was joined in 2007 by Gene Hoglan, one of the greatest metal drummers to ever grace the stage.
While the premise may seem a bit odd to an outsider, don’t be fooled. It is pure, silly, and rather metal fun. The show begins with the band members walking to their positions in backlit darkness. Then, the screen behind them plays scenes from the Metalocalypse TV show, including scenes from the full-length movie Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar, which was released on August 22nd of this year, while the real-life band performs. If you are not familiar with the show, it can be summed up as an over the top world where the fictional band accidently murders thousands of people with every show, and is also a massive economic powerhouse, but they can’t buy groceries or cook a meal due to their incompetence.
None of that previous sentence is made up, and the over the top moments mixed with the over the top songs attracted a die-hard following that happened to have quite a crossover into the BABYMETAL fanbase. This should be no surprise, as both bands produce some face-meltingly amazing metal, with a twist.
Oh, and Facebones, an animated skull featured in concerts and the TV show, serves as a well-intentioned character, often tasked with providing guidance and explanations, but invariably finds himself unable to convey valuable information before things inevitably go completely off the rails. He makes a couple of appearances, reminding the audience about concert etiquette, such as the importance of not indulging in excessive pot smoking, as no one wishes to take on the role of caretaker.
It gets very weird very quickly, but that seems to be par for the course considering one of the song names is “I Ejaculate Fire,” with an incredibly bizarre music video that redefines the idea of how destructive an STD can truly be.
Your aunt is likely to pray for your immortal soul upon discovering your attendance at a Dethklok concert. You might feel a tad confused and uncomfortable, but the music is undeniably absurd in the best possible way, with a real-life band producing some of the finest metal sounds you’ll ever encounter. Just don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics, or you might realize you’ve been headbanging to a coffee jingle. Not that anyone could fault you; “Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle” is undeniably a banger that leaves you uncertain about whether to charge through a wall to get some coffee or flee, especially since the video playing behind the band strongly suggests the brand has mistaken “waking up” for “burning alive in a pool of superheated coffee.”
The Babyklok tour ended on October 12 in the Los Angeles area, and while BABYMETAL will continue on with another touring partner in Europe, fans will have to wait for Dethklok to announce their next steps. It is, after all, a concept band that just released a film to conclude the Metalocalypse era and has wrapped up their first tour in 11 years. The fandom can only hope to see another tour or two, but if there are no more, it would be difficult to argue against the idea that they truly exited stage left on a high note.
Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Dethklok & BABYMETAL – Arizona Financial Theatre 10-10-23
Photography © Reagle Photography
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