Five years ago Battle Beast flattened me with a 50-ton cheese smoother called Steel. In the years since that righteous lactose lullaby, it’s safe to say the band and I had our share of problem. I was less than enthused with their eponymous follow-up and even less keen on 2015s Unholy Savior. It felt like the band was searching for a new direction somewhere between the throwback 80s cheddar of the debut and radio-ready hair metal, and like Beth’s absentee ex-boyfriend, they just couldn’t find the sound. Enter Bringer of Pain, the third album with Noora Louhimo on vocals and it seems like something finally altered the Beasts in a positive way. What they deliver is a peculiar but fascinating collection of tunes sounding like some never-released Pat Benatar metal album from 1982. That means attitude alongside hooks and a whole freight-car of silliness. The band’s tagline reads “100% Metal 0% bullshit,” and while their math isn’t completely accurate, it’s close enough to get a pass this time.
Opener “Straight to the Heart” is a ridiculously infectious slice of 80s metal overloaded with bombastic keyboards and designed to stick in your cranium like a Viking ax. Noora’s raspy, powerhouse vocals hit all the right nerves and the chorus is even bigger than her hair. Metal doesn’t get much more accessible and goofy than this, but hey, if it works, it works. “King for a Day” is another mega-catchy fist-pumping anthem that could have existed during the salad days of Skid Row and Ratt, but it’s heavier and even has a somewhat timely message.
The most hook-tastic cut is the insidiously unforgettable “Familiar Hell” which almost sounds like Heart trying to do metal, which is worth the price of admission in and of itself. The chorus will staple itself to your forehead and there’s even a weird spoken-word lecture mid-song that reminds me of the gibberish proselytizing from Warrior‘s long forgotten “PTM I.” Also paying big dividends is the rowdy, dumb fun of “Bastard Son of Odin,” which is all adrenaline and knuckle dragging.
Then we get to the head-scratchers. “Dancing With the Beast” is essentially a club rock/disco track with big throbbing bass1 and saccharine-sweet keys, recalling the 80s synth nostalgia of acts like Kavinsky. It’s effective in the sense it could probably be played at any dance club without the patrons noticing, but on a metal album it’s an odd, cred-busting choice. Album closer “Far From Heaven” is a super sappy Bonnie Raitt approved ballad that can’t even qualify as a power-ballad due to the utter lack of power. These tracks run back to back to close out what is a mostly fun, punchy album, thereby causing Bringer of Pain to go out with a shimmy and a whimper instead of a snarl.
At a concise 39 minutes, the first 8 of 10 songs fly by quite feverishly with several cuts demanding immediate replay. The sound is a bit too polished and glossy, with big, radio rock drum tracks and an over-emphasis on the keyboards. The guitars could use more sizzle and danger, but that isn’t what Battle Beast appear to be going for as indicated by the Xanadu-like penultimate track.
While I still miss original singer Nitte Valo, there’s no denying Noora can wail like a banshee on meth. She has a nice edge to her delivery and she can hit those stratospheric highs when needed. I miss the Grave Digger-esque supporting vocals that appeared on earlier albums, but she does a good job on her own and sounds convincing on the “metal” cuts. Juuso Soinio and new ax Joona Björkroth provide simple but effective riff-work, and though it’s far mellower than the band’s early days, it accomplishes what they’re trying to do here. Janne Björkroth’s keyboards cull from 80s radio rock adroitly and help make Bringer a bit of a nostalgia trip for those who lived through the early days of MTV. Some of what he does cuts too close to Nightwish (“Beyond the Burning Skies,” “Lost in Wars”) but that’s a minor complaint.
Bringer of Pain is a flawed but amusing slice of 80s metal. When it fires on all cylinders, it will keep you entertained while also conjuring your long-lost Members Only jacket. It’s easily the most endearing and consistent thing they’ve done since their debut and it gives a glimmer of hope for the future. Next time bring a bit more pain and a lot less polyester.