Beast In Black – Berserker – Album Review

Beast In Black - Berserker - Artwork

Artist: Beast In Black

Album Title: Berserker

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date of Release: 3 November 2017

I try to always see the best in things – it is my personality. I also try to steer clear of writing reviews of albums that I don’t like all that much. I figure that there are far too many good albums out there to have the time to worry about the bad ones. But there are some records that manage to split me squarely down the middle and leave me a little torn and confused. This is one such album.

‘Berserker’ is the debut album from a brand new band entitled Beast In Black. If you’re a fan of Battle Beast, you’ll want to read on because Beast In Black is the new vehicle for ex-Battle Beast guitarist and principle songwriter Anton Kabanen. And, it has to be said, the similarities are striking.

What you get with ‘Berserker’ is nine tracks of hugely melodic euro-metal, where the choruses are obnoxiously large, the tempo is generally upbeat and the polished pop sheen drips from every instrument. Kabanen has been joined in his new venture by vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos, guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen, bassist Máté Molnar and drummer Sami Hänninen.

The keyboards are handled by Kabanen himself. I mention this separately because, as you might expect, the keyboards are enormous and arguably the single most dominant instrument on ‘Berserker’. The guitars are prominent of course, as is the sufficiently robust rhythm section that pulls the tracks along at a swift pace for the most part. However, it is the keyboard that sits front and centre, liberally flavouring the music and giving it the impact that it has.

Now, before anyone comments, I do have a soft spot for modern, melodic metal music. Amaranthe are a big hit in my house for example, as is the new CyHra record. So I certainly don’t have an agenda against material of this nature. But, with Beast In Black, I’m very much undecided. On the one hand, there are some killer hooks and many of the choruses beg to be sung at the top of your lungs. On the other hand, I listen to ‘Berserker’ and think ‘this is just too much’. I also think ‘do Beast In Black actually know what they want to be?’

When I reviewed the latest Battle Beast record, ‘Bringer of Pain’, I concluded that it was ‘a bit too messy’. The quality evident at times was sadly lacking across the album as a whole and one or two of the choices made were questionable at best. It’s almost a case of déjà vu because I could say exactly the same of ‘Berserker’.

The opening track is actually a very good power metal song, full of energy, aggression and comes rattling out of the gates with genuine intensity. The riffs take the lead, supported by some galloping rhythms, with the keys initially tinkling nicely underneath. The chorus is a belter, full of well-placed melody, whilst the suddenly the more overt synth symphonics add a layer of pomp. The lead guitar solos are fast and slick, which I like too. Papadopoulos’ voice is satisfyingly commanding, with a gritty edge and his range is impressive, hitting some impossibly high notes along the way. It all adds up to a promising listening experience to follow.

BeastInBlack2017a

Instead, what follows is a bit of a disappointment. ‘Blind And Frozen’ changes direction quite drastically, opening with a fully synthetic pop beat. And, although Papadopoulos screams with gusto atop distorted guitar riffs, the song descends into unashamed Eurovision territory in the chorus. There’s no denying the energy and the catchiness, but the almost feminine vocal delivery of Papadopoulos in the verses and the overt electronic ingredients are simply too much. For me anyway. I hate using the word ‘cheesy’ when describing music, but on this occasion, I feel it’s completely justified.

And yet, ‘Blind And Frozen’ is not an anomaly. If anything, there are worse offenders. Take ‘Crazy, Mad, Insane’ for example, which is almost pure electronic pop. The guitars play a relatively minor role overall and the worst of the excesses of the 80s is writ large across the toe-curling song. ‘I love all the things you hate’ is a very apt line from the lyrics too, because it seems to have deliberately and eagerly put together many musical ingredients that I personally dislike.

Then there’s ‘Eternal Fire’ which is an unashamed homage to ‘The Final Countdown’ era of Europe. The keyboards have almost the same sound to them as that track and the melody is not a million miles away. I like ‘The Final Countdown’ – who doesn’t if they are honest? But the final result with ‘Eternal Fire’ is nowhere near as strong. And this is something that is echoed through the album, because, for all the good moments, there are too many that fall short.

That said, I do like ‘Zodd The Immortal’ which opens with a fierce drum intro and a scything riff before launching into a passionately-delivered and energetic power metal chorus. The guitars once again delight with their exuberant lead extravagances, whilst Papadopoulos heads for the stratosphere with his ridiculously high notes. ‘The Fifth Angel’ also has a nice hard rock vibe to it, although the chorus could have been even stronger than it is.

All-in-all, ‘Berserker’ is a thoroughly frustrating listen. There is some immediately infectious and well-presented melodic metal on offer that tickles my fancy and presses a few buttons. But this is counteracted by too much material that fails to hit the mark. ‘Berserker’ also feels disjointed, lacking focus and crucially, it lacks a clearly discernible identity. Beast In black try to do too much and be all things to all people. Unfortunately, they have not succeeded.

The Score of Much Metal: 6

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Serenity – Lionheart
Sorcerer – The Crowning of the Fire King
Daydream XI – The Circus of the Tattered and Torn
CyHra – Letters To Myself
Devoid – Cup of Tears
Ne Obliviscaris – Urn
Sons Of Apollo – Psychotic Symphony
Enslaved – E
Samael – Hegemony
Vuur – In This Moment We Are Free – Cities
Power Quest – Sixth Dimension
Iris Divine – The Static And The Noise
Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Anubis Gate – Covered In Black
Protean Collective – Collapse
Cradle Of Filth – Cryproriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. – The Antithetic Affiliation
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
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

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2 Thoughts

    1. Oh no, how? Did I misinterpret my own opinion of this record? Blimey, if I can’t decipher my own subjective opinion on an album, I think I’m in the wrong business. Terribly sorry old bean, I’ll look into this malfunction asap ;-)!!

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