Album Title: Scary Creatures
Label: AFM Records
Year Of Release: 2016
Brainstorm are a band with whom I’ve had a patchy history. I discovered the German band whilst on holiday on the Greek island of Corfu of all places. I stumbled upon a record store in the capital and, following the advice of the owner, bought 2003’s ‘Soul Temptation’. I liked the album and, to date, it remains my favourite release from the quintet’s ten-album back catalogue.
Subsequent releases have contained some decent material but the albums have never truly and fully fired my enthusiasm. Nevertheless, when presented with the opportunity to review ‘Scary Creatures’, Brainstorm’s eleventh full length, I naturally felt curious enough to give the promo a spin to see what I thought.
After a solid initial reaction and not put off by the ever so slightly contrived and clichéd cover art and album title, I listened again. This then turned into another listen, then another and so here we are. Those familiar with Brainstorm and their previous output will in no way be surprised by the general output of ‘Scary Creatures’ because from experience, Brainstorm are not a band to tinker overly with their approach. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ would apparently be their strongest motto.
However, for anyone unfamiliar, Brainstorm’s music can best be described as melodic power metal with a classic-meets-thrash metal vibe. The riffs are strong and full of meaty power as they should be with ‘proper’ metal, delivering a genuinely satisfying tone. The guitars are backed up by a metronomic and pounding rhythm section which lays a more than adequate foundation to the songs; the bass rumbles nicely and the drums are an understated delight. Double pedal tempos and tom-heavy fills are the order of the day and you know what? They sound great.
Then, on top, you get Andy B Franck’s vocals. Gritty, powerful and with a gravelly edge to them, they aren’t necessarily unique but they are distinctive, helping to give Brainstorm that harder, more confrontational and aggressive edge than many of their peers within the same niche genre.
I mentioned the word ‘melodic’ in the description above and I think that this is where ‘Scary Creatures’ comes up trumps and finds more favour with me than a few of the previous releases. I’m not saying that previous albums have necessarily been substandard because Brainstorm are one of the more consistent bands out there. It’s just that the choruses and the melodic refrains within ‘Scary Creatures’ come across, at least to me, as some of their strongest and most immediate yet.
To begin with, let’s discuss the track ‘We Are…’ Cards on the table, this is one of the most infectious and rousing metal anthems that I’ve heard for a year or two. It isn’t complex or over-thought. Instead it is a relatively simple number that pushes all the right buttons. From a straightforward, no nonsense opening riff through to a roof-raising and rousing anthemic chorus, it is addictive and is an early contender for one of the songs of the year. Yes, it is that good.
It’s fair to say that ‘We Are…’ does, for me at least, stand above the rest of the album but elsewhere there are further highlights in the form of the stomping ‘Take Me To The Never’, the more grandiose and symphonic, almost cinematic-sounding title track, the groove-heavy hardcore vibe of ‘How Much Can You Take’ and the harder and faster ‘Where Angels Dream’ that erupts into a hook-laden chorus accented by more of Franck’s gritty and quasi-gruff vocals. The album then closes with ‘Sky Among The Clouds’, a slightly softer and even more melodic track that has a great upbeat, feel good vibe to it. The riffs remain big and chunky but there’s a demonstrable melodic hard rock sheen to the song that I find quite irresistible, ending the album in a really positive fashion.
The more I listen to ‘Scary Creatures’, the more fond of it I become. It isn’t perfect and if I’m honest, there are a few moments where I think the quality dips a little. However, it is the strength of the melodies and the no nonsense, pounding heavy metal heartbeat that carries the day, making this one of the best releases of Brainstorm’s career yet.
The Score Of Much Metal: 7.8
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