Brainstorm // On the Spur of the Moment
Rating: 3.5/5.0 —As consistent as taxes and crappy government
Label: AFM Records
Websites: brainstorm-web.net/ | myspace.com/officialbrainstorm
Release Dates: Out now!

Reliability. That’s an endearing quality in a band. Its great knowing you can buy an album by a beloved band without trepidation because they deliver something of quality time and again. Germany’s traditional metal icons Brainstorm have been generating just that type of trust with fans ever since 2000′s Ambiguity. Since then its been album after album full of classy, powerful meat and potatoes metal, falling somewhere between Judas Priest, Metal Church and Pantera. No small part of their success is the vocal talent and songwriting acumen of front man Andy B. Franke. Whether recording with these guys or his more experimental unit Symphorce, the man has established himself as one of the premier metal vocalists out there today and he’s long exhibited an uncanny knack for writing winning choruses. As with classic albums like Metus Mortis and Soul Temptation, On the Spur of the Moment stays close to their tried-and-true formula of crunching guitars, tough but soaring vocals and hooks galore. while there are few surprises, it’s yet another solid outing by these scene vets and it’s a can’t miss for lovers of traditional heavy metal with grit and attitude.

Things take off well with “Below the Line” which is a moody, ponderous potboiler with crunching riffs and typically great vocals by Mr. Franke. Its classy traditional metal with a strong Germanic power metal influence and exactly the type song I’ve come to expect from Brainstorm, melodic, hooky and battle-ready. Franke employs a fairly gruff delivery but smooths things out for the big chorus. Tracks like “In the Blink of an Eye” and “Temple of Stone” ratchet up the intensity and beat some serious ass while remaining catchy and memorable (“Temple of Stone” in particular has tons of tough swagger and great guitar-work). “In These Walls” adopts a more melodic approach that will remind of the Symphorce sound and has a memorable, engaging chorus. Speaking of big choruses, “Still Insane” has a huge one, as do “No Sinner – No Saint” and “My Own Hell.” Basically, Brainstorm takes the style and ethos that worked so well in the past and re-applies it here to craft a bunch of quality tuneage. Not every song will blow you outta your chair but all are very solid.

Aside from the aforementioned vocal talents of Mr. Franke, the guitars of Torsten Ihlenfeld and Milan Loncaric keep the Brainstorm boat afloat with consistently heavy, crunchy and memorable riffs and stellar, tuneful soloing (check out “Temple of Stone” at 2:13 and “In These Walls” at 3:33). There are moments lifted off Painkiller and others that could be on mid-period Metallica albums, yet they manage to create their own Brainstormy sound and style. Now, drop Franke’s vocals on top and the songs always seem to work out and sound great.

So why isn’t this getting a 4.0 or higher? Well, as reliable as these guys are and as good as much of this material is, it’s not up there with their best works and like 2009′s Memorial Roots, they seem to have settled into a safe comfort zone and are content to recycle things a bit too much for my taste. It’s a tough situation for a long time fan. I can’t dispute that they keep crafting good stuff but it’s getting too samey. I miss the edge and experimentation on the older stuff. That said, if this is all Brainstorm does from here on out, I’ll keep buying it and supporting it. If you liked any of the past Brainstorm releases, buy with confidence. That’s what reliability is all about.

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