Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost – Album Review

35924622_10155462849531716_370979543948722176_n

Artist: Brainstorm

Album Title: Midnight Ghost

Label: AFM Records

Date of Release: 28 September 2018

Artists often say that inspiration can strike at the most unexpected moments. Well, it appears that the same can be said for listeners of music in terms of that moment of epiphany when the song or the album they are listening to just clicks into place. For me and this album, that moment was unexpected and far from glamorous. It was during a trip around my local supermarket, as I was doing what I refer to as the ‘big’ shop. Or, in other words, the weekly grocery shop for the family.

When I’m not with the family, I have to go around the supermarket with my headphones on, as it calms and relaxes me in the face of misery, caused by retina-stripping strip lighting and a plethora of badly-driven trollies. But on this occasion, I didn’t seem to care. I was in the world of ‘Midnight Ghost’ and, as I began to realise, it was kicking my backside.

I was a little surprised by this realisation too, as Brainstorm’s last album, ‘Scary Creatures’ (2016) didn’t blow me away. It was a perfectly solid record, just not the best of their catalogue, certainly not as good as my personal favourite, ‘Soul Temptation’ that began my relationship with these Germans back in 2003. This album, on the other hand, presses my buttons, reignites the flame and pulls me firmly back under the Brainstorm spell.

The band, comprised of vocalist Andy B. Franck, drummer Dieter Bernert, guitarists Milan Lonacaric and Torsten Ihlenfeld and bassist Antonio Ieva have rarely tampered with their core sound, and once again, ‘Midnight Ghost’ is no different. The central approach remains intact, namely melodic power metal with a proper metal edge. The guitars are chunky, the rhythms powerful and it would be fair to say that there’s a demonstrable classic metal feel, as well as a nod towards the thrash subgenre. As a result, there is a whiff of the familiar about the material on this record, albeit in a positive vein as it is like welcoming back an old friend.

This time though, the friend is in extremely rude health, because the music on this record is quite literally some of the best of their increasingly lengthy career. The reason for this is that, unlike past efforts, there is barely a filler to be heard. The songwriting is honed, the performances are highly professional and almost every song has a hook or a chorus that I guarantee will get lodged in your brain. And what’s more, every time I listen, the material just gets better to the point that I could actually use the phrase ‘bona fide metal anthem’ to describe them.

The energy is infectious, the joyful exuberance oozes from every pore and the whole record is a great deal of fun to listen to. I also like the way in which there is a fair amount of variety on ‘Midnight Ghost’ where shorter, no-nonsense metal barnstormers, like the up-tempo double-pedal-led fury that’s ‘The Pyre’ rubs shoulders with the occasional longer, more epic number, such as ‘Jeanne Boulet (1764)’. The latter boasts the sounds of rain and thunder, moody acoustic guitars, tolling bells and a greater emphasis on atmosphere as well as an overt sense of the dramatic that threatens to tip into pomposity but crucially stops just short of this pitfall. Much of this has to do with the huge melodic and grandiose chorus that sits at its heart, a chorus that wipes away any potential nagging misgivings. It is dominated by the aforementioned tolling bell and Andy B. Franck’s excellent vocals, that show no signs of diminishing with age. In fact, if anything, this record sees Franck deliver some of his best performances at the head of Brainstorm.

BrainStorm1109

Taking a step back and returning to the beginning of ‘Midnight Ghost’ is essential as opener ‘Devil’s Eye’ is one of the album’s many highlights. It skips along at a great pace, almost frenetic as the riffs scythe, the lead guitar wails and the drums blast incessantly. But then the pace cleverly slows to deliver a hook-laden chorus underpinned by that familiar robust and commanding guitar tone, whilst layers of synths and orchestration provide added richness. It’s a breathless and flamboyant start, setting the tone perfectly for the album as a whole as it turns out.

The intro to ‘Revealing The Darkness’ is moody and almost sombre but it is quickly replaced by a slower-paced, riff-hungry song with a greater sense of groove that delivers another superb chorus. Bigger and more expansive it might be, but it once again retains a memorable, melodic core and within a few spins, you’ll be singing along with it.

One of my favourite tracks has to be ‘Ravenous Minds’. I love the riffs, I love the ominous intent within the verses but the bridge and subsequent chorus is a true monster, one of my favourite melodic metal songs released in 2018 for sure.

‘Divine Inner Ghost’ benefits from another excellent chorus and some satisfyingly bruising riffs, whilst the more stadium-friendly vocal Maiden-isms of ‘Four Blessings’ are a welcome addition to the album. ‘When Pain Becomes Real’ is the ubiquitous slower, almost ballad-like composition, which also flirts with more of a classic hard rock approach at times.

In short, ‘Midnight Ghost’ is a slab of genuinely high quality and insanely enjoyable melodic heavy metal, with enough emphasis on the ‘metal’ to ensure that it makes the right impact and doesn’t just fizzle into obscurity. It is an album that, thanks to a greater consistency, better songwriting and improved quality all round, ensures that Brainstorm cannot be ignored, marginalised or overlooked. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that ‘Midnight Ghost’ is easily one of the best melodic metal albums released all year.

The Score of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned
Kingcrow – The Persistence
Cast The Stone – Empyrean Atrophy
Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold
Helion Prime – Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster
Madder Mortem – Marrow
A Dying Planet – Facing The Incurable
Árstíðir – Nivalis
Mob Rules – Beast Reborn
The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex
Aethereus – Absentia
Unanimated – Annihilation
Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 1
Redemption – Long Night’s Journey Into Day
Distorted Harmony – A Way Out
Tomorrow’s Eve – Mirror of Creation III – Project Ikaros
Atrocity – Okkult II
Lux Terminus – The Courage To Be
Kataklysm – Meditations
Marduk – Viktoria
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
Haken – L-1VE
Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s