Artist: Battle Beast
Album Title: Bringer of Pain
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date Of Release: 17 February 2017
I come to this review as a relative Battle Beast novice. I was never offered the opportunity to review any of their previous albums whilst working with Powerplay and so, with my time limited, my only exposure to the Finnish metal band was through a personal inquisitiveness. My subsequent exploration was never strong enough to check out an entire album all the way through though; something just held me back from full unreserved enjoyment.
However, having noticed that the band’s third album, ‘Unholy Savior’ topped the Finnish metal charts, I began to think that I’d missed something. So what better time to fully acquaint myself with Battle Beast and their own musical world than via their fourth album, ‘Bringer of Pain’?
Apparently since the last full-length outing, the band lost their guitarist and principle songwriter, Anton Kabanen to that age old nutshell of irreconcilable musical differences. This makes it, in my mind at least, even more ideal to offer my thoughts on this album, fairly unhindered by the baggage of previous releases and therefore with the benefit of fresh ears.
And my thoughts are that ‘Bringer of Pain’ is a bit of a strange record. A lot of kudos has to go to the remaining members of vocalist Noora Louhimo, guitarist Juuso Soinio, bassist Eero Sipilä, keyboardist Janne Björkroth, drummer Pyry Vikky and new guitarist Joona Björkroth. It can’t be easy to take up the mantle of song writing when you’ve only played a supporting role in this area previously but the Battle Beast guys and gal have not turned up their toes and died; they’ve given it a go.
The problem is then, that there are moments of brilliance and then there are moments of what I can only describe kindly as mediocre at best. In this respect, ‘Bringer of Pain’, with its Doro-esque cover art, is something of a Jekyll and Hyde album which demonstrates that more work is needed for future releases if they are to maintain their rising status in heavy metal circles.
And on that point, there is an argument to say that Battle Beast have more in common this time around with the melodic hard rock genre than heavy metal. There are plenty of heavy riffs, solos and aggressive attitude to be heard within ‘Bringer of Pain’ but equally, thanks to the abundant use of the keytar and elements of 80’s inspired pop nostalgia, the harder edges have been eroded to a greater or lesser extent.
My first exposure of this record was via the second ‘single’, ‘Familiar Hell’. It is an up-tempo hard-rocking number that contains arguably the strongest and boldest chorus on the album. It is infectious and a lot of fun, despite offering a certain amount of dark social commentary along the way. There’s an awfully cheesy spoken word part late on from Noora but this does not derail what is a great song overall and a contender for Eurovision glory in the process.
Equally good is the opening track, ‘Straight To The Heart’, that explodes in a flurry of hard-hitting riffs, lead guitars squeals, and an imposing roar from frontwoman Noora Louhimo. The entirety of the song is driven by a strong rhythm section where the drums and bass pound and there’s the ubiquitous lead guitar solo as well. But dominating proceedings is a huge chorus that is hook-filled and which affords the opportunity for Noora to demonstrate just exactly who the star of the show is within Battle Beast.
And then there’s the title track which is most definitely a full-on bruising heavy metal assault, full of intensity and controlled aggression. The chorus is a little disappointing but the overall feel of the song is positive. ‘Bastard Son Of Odin’ meanwhile features a rather lovely galloping rhythm to recall the halcyon days of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement.
A mention must also be made of the lead ‘single’, ‘King For A Day’. It makes for interesting listening given that it is a bizarre amalgamation of melodic hard rock, metal and 80s pop. The synth sounds are massively retro in tone and the melodies remind me quite a bit of Abba of all things. And yet, strangely, by and large it works, creating an infectious earworm-filled track from start to finish.
But, for all the positive elements of ‘Bringer of Pain’, there are some negatives. ‘Lost In Wars’, for example, underlines a slightly underwhelming middle section of the record as it has a central riff and vaguely Goth/industrial tone that is reminiscent of Rammstein but is ultimately a bit of a numb, paint-by-numbers track.
Even worse in my humble opinion is the electronic pop rock styling of ‘Dancing With the Beast’. Now I’m fairly broadminded when it comes to external elements featuring within heavy metal but aside from a few guitars that make an appearance for appearances sake, this is pure electro-pop, bordering on 80s dance music. I’ll admit that it is quite catchy but nope, this is not for me at all I’m afraid.
And to finish, we have ‘Far From Heaven’, a full-on unashamed power ballad. Again, I’m not averse to a good ballad but this isn’t the best and, when coupled with its predecessor, it threatens to completely undermine the vibe created within much of the remainder of the album.
I can understand what Battle Beast were perhaps trying to do, namely show the world that they still have the ability to write a wide range of music with the new line-up and are not constrained by genre boundaries. Unfortunately, it has backfired as far as I’m concerned. I would have much preferred the Finns to stick more closely to what they are best at and what they deliver over the course of the opening two or three tracks.
As it is, I can’t shake the feeling that ‘Bringer of Pain’ is a bit too messy. It delivers some quality cuts of up-tempo hard rock and heavy metal that I’m sure long term fans will welcome to the Battle Beast armoury. But there are also a few songs that are either ‘meh’ or eyebrow-raising for the wrong reasons. Mind you, I’ll still check out their next album though, because if they get that right, it could be a pretty decent album.
The Score Of Much Metal: 7
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day