Artist: Beast In Black
Album Title: Dark Connection
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of Release: 29 October 2021
Lately, I have been reviewing a lot of really heavy and extreme stuff, so I felt it was time to find something a little different, a change of pace. Whilst scouring my promo pile, I noticed the new Beast In Black album, but I skipped past it because I remembered that I wasn’t overly enamoured by their debut record, ‘Beserker’ released back in 2017. I didn’t review their 2019, ‘From Hell With Love’ as a result. However, seeing nothing else that fitted the bill, I decided to take the plunge with album number three, ‘Dark Connection’.
Given my past experiences, I wasn’t initially setting my expectation levels too high with ‘Dark Connection’, especially given the lurid, luminous front cover that adorns this record, which had set alarm bells ringing early on. But nothing could prepare me for what was to follow. I was even tempted to ditch this review altogether as I never like writing reviews that are particularly negative, preferring to focus on stuff that I like and think is good. But something ultimately compelled me to continue typing…
I don’t ever normally read reviews before I publish mine either, because I don’t want to be swayed by the opinions of others. But quite by accident, I stumbled across a couple of quotes, and the praise was sky-high. Upon further inspection, I found several reviews for ‘Dark Connection’, all of which gave a score of eight out of ten or higher. All I can think is ‘what am I missing?’
I can only put it down to my current mindset because I am struggling to understand the overwhelming appeal of this record. I mean, it isn’t bad per se, because there are some good elements to it; it’s just that overall, I find it too cheesy, and a little bit dull.
On the plus side, there’s vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos, who absolutely belts out his vocals exactly as you would want and expect from a melodic power metal band. He has an impressive range, hitting notes with apparent ease, whilst maintaining a slightly gritty, gruff edge. Throughout, his performance is one of the relatively few highlights.
Also on the plus side to ‘Dark Connection’ are the lead guitar solos, that generally impress thanks to their over-the-top effervescent quality. I also admire the sense of fun and energy that comes across, as well as an attitude of ‘if you don’t like this, we don’t care’. And that’s absolutely fair enough. I know full well that there will be a big appeal to this music out there in the metal world, and absolutely each to their own. However, I’m not one of them, despite an ability to consume my fair share of heavy metal cheese, but I’ve tried.
In terms of the songs themselves, I don’t mind ‘Highway To Mars’ or ‘Moonlight Rendezvous’. In both cases, the melodies created by guitarist Anton Kabanen are up to the standard I expected throughout thanks to the gushing press release and the other aforementioned reviews. They actually stick with me and raise the flicker of a smile on my miserable face.
Unfortunately, the majority of the rest of the songs just don’t have the same impact, generally falling short of what I hoped I’d hear. The choruses are undeniably melodic, but I find them a little uninspiring. I also feel that they suffer from a number of other factors; overbearing synths and electronic beats, a lack of variety, and arguably worst of all, the cringeworthy spoken-word sections that feature, often as introductions to the songs. Once or twice on album I can tolerate, but the frequency with which they appear on ‘Dark Connection’ is way too much. And if I’m being honest, they’re really not that good either. The worst of the lot features on ‘Revengeance Machine’, which is simply appalling, the stuff of nightmares, and one that sets the tone for the song that follows, a song that’s not that memorable to be honest.
When it comes to the 80s influences, and the Euorbeat elements, lets take a look at ‘One Night In Tokyo’, one of the ‘singles’ to emerge ahead of the album’s release. Any metallic element within the song is reduced to a cameo role in favour of bold electronic electro beats and 80s synthetics. There is a vaguely catchy element to the chorus and the guitar solo isn’t hideous, but the stench of Eurovision looms large, reducing any credibility to around zero. And this isn’t the only protagonist, as songs like ‘Dark New World’ and ‘To The Last Drop Of Blood’, which actually benefits from a nice opening guitar lick, are laced with electronics that reduce my enjoyment.
I fully admit that I sound like the Grinch, Oscar The Grouch, or any other miserable fictional character, but I can’t help it. I have tried and tried to understand this record, and the love that it has received almost entirely across the board. But try as I might, that moment of epiphany eludes me and I’m left scratching my head. If you like Euro power metal where the metal element plays a secondary role to a number of other gimmicks and influences, then ‘Dark Connection’ may be just the album for you. And if that’s the case, you’ll love it and will want to add another 15-20% minimum to my score. But for me, this isn’t anywhere near essential, and will probably never be revisited in my lifetime. Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s a ‘no’ from me. Next.
The Score of Much Metal: 66%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: