Finland’s Battle Beast is set to see the release of its sophomore self-titled album on Nuclear Blast records, which was released last spring in Europe. For those who have yet to hear the band you are in for a treat if you are a fan of bands who mix symphonic, traditional and power metal with a glam, 80s vibe. If you are a metal elitist, this album will not be for you. There is a definitive amount of cheese and campiness here, in part due to the lyrical content and themes, and in part due to the abuse of keyboard embellishments.
This record marks the debut of new vocalist Noora Louhimo who replaced the departed Nitte Valo. Fans of their debut album “Steel” were perhaps a touch nervous sharing their band with a new vocalist, but Louhimo not only gets the job done, she kicks it up several notches with a voice that sounds like a bastard love child of Doro Pesch and Udo Dirkscheinder. She can deliver a Sharon den Adel style clear vocal line then turn it into a Rob Halford shriek in an instant.
Battle Beast members Anton Kabanen (lead guitar) and Janne Björkroth (keyboards) self-produced the record and did a fantastic job. Likewise, the artwork created by Chilean artist Claudio Bergamin is incredible. It is based on the Beast fighting the machines. The record is a semi-concept record broken into three categories according to Louhimo.
The band opens the album up in true metal fashion with the anthemic, “Let it Roar”. After an 80s-esque keyboard intro the song turns into a powerful, energetic and emotive chugger. We get our first dose of Louhimo’s incredible voice and it is quite impressive. A fantastically melodic guitar solo adds to the songs. A headbanging track to get the record rolling. Fantastically melodic guitar solo.
Fans of manga may recognize a “Berserk” theme on “Out of Control”, courtesy of Kabanen. The song carries a very Nightwish like rhythm through the verses and gets down right Primal Fear-ish on the chorus. Eero Sipilä‘s bass simply rumbles on this track. Björkroth adds great atmosphere throughout the record, but some of the 80′s synth-key embellishments weaken this track as it does in several places on the record.
“Out on the Streets” has a very 80′s glam metal vibe to it, heavy on the keyboards. Nothing exceptional, but not a bad track. There’s even a taste of Manowar here and on “Neuromancer” which has an almost disco feel to it (the beat and the cheesy synth ad libs) overlaid by crisp metal guitars. The song is based on the cyberpunk novel that was written in 1984 by William Gibson. There is a significant amount of sci-fi lyrical content and atmosphere on this record.
Next up is “Raven” which sounds like pure “Painkiller” era Judas Priest, and Louhimo wails like a banshee on one of the album’s heaviest and most powerful tracks. Pure aggression.
“Into the Heart of Danger” is so completely 80s pop/rock that one may have Aquanet and parachute pant flashbacks. This 80′s theme carries over into “Machine Revolution”. Both tracks are catchy and decent bits of ear candy if you can handle the time warp vibe, but once again the electronica synth abuse steals the appeal.
The beautiful Celtic instrumental, “Golden Age” ushers the listener in and prepares the for the battle on “Kingdom”: This track ties back into the “Berserk” theme Anton so admires. Drummer Pyry Vikki keeps his feet busy on this track, propelling the track along, while the bass and guitars rage. There’s a sweet neo-classic guitar solo here that fines of the style can appreciate. Björkroth adds his own keyboard solo which has an Arabian flair.
One of the more notable tracks on the record is ”Over the Top” which is one of the best songs Accept never wrote: Big guitars, massive chanting chorus, and hellacious vocals from Louhimo.
Noora’s banshee cry opens the speed metal juggernaut that is “Fight Kill Die”. Once again Vikki’s double bass thunder pummels away. “It’s a soldier’s life in a world of war…” Kabanen and Juuso Soinio tag team for some of the album’s best guitar work.
“Black Ninja” is the album’s first video and thematically it is rather hokey, but the rhythmic sway of the song recalls a collision of Abba (yes, I said it) and Manowar. The bass throbs while the song sways back and forth. In all it is a fun and infectious track despite the campy banality.
We get more of the powerful, guitar driven (Accept, Primal Fear) aggression on “Rain Man” which has a fantastic riff that draws out the air guitarist in us all. The chorus is not as strong as “Raven” or “Over the Top” but still headbang-worthy. In fact, the chorus is too similar to “Raven”. On the plus side, Soinio and Kabanen saved some of their tastiest fretwork for this song.
There is a bonus track; the riff fueled, “Shutdown”, which is a song about the cyber-world and machines. This track blends together the various elements performed over the course of the first 13 tracks.
Battle Beast came into its sophomore album with a dynamic powerhouse vocalist in Noora Louhimo. In fact, she pushes the album’s best songs to new heights while ascending the other watered down meanderings that weigh the record down. The continuity is missing from track to track, but the band’s ability to write mammoth songs is clearly evident. There are no outright bad songs on “Battle Beast“, but too few live up to the promise of the debut record, “Steel“, or even this album’s opening track. It has often been said that a band finds its balance and signature with the third record, so the promise of greatness remains. What Battle Beast has given us here is a mix of riff happy highs and overly commercial clichéd pop-metal lows.