Brainstorm - Scary CreaturesI’ve said it and now I’ll say it again: there are only a few bands I know won’t disappoint me and Brainstorm is the vanguard of those few precious dependables. Sure, some albums are more massive than others, but they’ve yet to let me down with a weak or uninspired effort. They have such a simple, traditional metal formula and yet somehow they wring it for all it’s worth and release quality albums on an almost-yearly basis. Last year’s Firesoul was a huge mass o’ smoking metal madness and roughly a year later we get Scary Creatures. As usual, the sound hasn’t been tinkered with at all. It’s still like Nevermore with bigger hooks, less chaotic vocals, less pretense—a combination that’s obviously solid gold ov steel. I’m actually thankful for the lack of innovation because their formula has worked so well for them, and if it ain’t broke, why the hell would you fix it? That’s just a no-brainstormer [Get it? Get it!? No BRAINSTORMer?!? – Ed.].

It feels like Homecoming Weekend as soon as those big riffs kick in on opener “The World to See.” The heavy crunch is juxtaposed with Andy Franck’s powerful voice which artfully dodges between smooth and raspy at the drop of a dime. He’s one of the best pure metal vocalists out there and he’s in his prime here. But all that would come to nothing without good songwriting and that’s where Brainstorm always delivers. The chorus is big and memorable, the mood is trve and everything feels just right.

The good stuff is only just getting rolling and “We Are” is a classic rabble rousing anthem with a simple but infectious chorus and a commanding performance from Andy. Better still is “Where Angels Dream,” a classic number with a galloping, heavy riff line and dramatic vocals leading to a big payoff at chorus time. The same goes for the burly and stomping title track which feels like a leftover from their excellent Soul Temptation era. Other metalicious moments come with the slow burn of “Caressed by the Blackness” and the powerhouse “Take Me to the Never.” The latter sounds like something off Metallica‘s Black Album beefed up with steroids, bourbon and Cialis, with Andy’s vocals putting the juicy cherry of metal justice on top.

Brainstorm 2016 - Unicorn

With no song hitting a sour note, this is yet another high quality slab of traditional metal with a modern touch. The only complaint I can mount about the music is that the highs are perhaps a bit less high than they were on Firesoul, but only just barely. The bigger complaint is with the mastering job, which is pretty smashed and loud. The guitars have a lot of heft and heaviness but the mix causes them to bleed into an amorphous wall of sound at times, similar to what Sabaton inflicted on us with their early albums1. This crunched sound makes the listen fatiguing at times.

As always, Andy Franck shines on Scary Creatures. When I think back to his days with the frilly prog-metal act Ivanhoe, it’s hard to believe how much his style has changed. Now he’s all piss and vinegar and righteous metal wrath when back then he was all daisies, doilies and rainbows. He has the Metal God shtick down pat and his vocals are always the best part of a Brainstorm album. Though, as per usual, Milan Loncaric and Torsten Ihlenfeld provide excellent backing riffs. These riffs are often simple, but always ear-catching and propulsive, with more prog touches than you expect. Loncaric and Ihlenfeld2 manage to keep things simple, but they decorate the edges with interesting ideas and their leads are always classy and tasteful.

Nine albums into life in their current form and Brainstorm has yet to drop a dud on the fans. How many other bands can make that claim? Few, my droogs, very, very few. If you like your metal traditional, heavy and very catchy, it’s hard to find a better match than these guys. Never mind the scary creatures and almost self-unicorning Cirque du Cheese art, this is a storm well worth experiencing. It always is.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AMF Records
Release Dates: EU: January 15, 2016 | NA: February 5th, 2016

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Though, in Sabaton‘s defense, that was a strategy called “Blitzkrieg” in an effort to be historically accurate. – Ed.
  2. Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like “Smith & Murray” does it? – Ed.
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  • madhare

    What was the thing with the no-brainstormer? ;)

    • It was a joke.

      • madhare

        Can’t tell if ironic response to an ironic comment to an ironic point in the review, or just a sign that irony doesn’t work online. :D

        Endless maelstrom of irony where all meanings are lost. Baudrillard would have been happy.

  • William Hebblewhite

    Always hyped for a Brainstorm album. You could argue that what they do is Formulaic/Generic, but they do it damn well.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Find the panda! I mean, unicorn.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Hey, that’s cheating, SD! They provided a band photo. But…. The Unicorn is quite fetching.

      • 2016 is a no rules kinda year.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Ah, I see. So the staff get to wear jeans all week and not just on casual Fridays?

          • Kronos

            We always wear jeans, but on Fridays we get to wear pairs that haven’t had the seat cut out of them.

          • Assless Chaps and Pizza Day!

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I am still trying to determine if the Unicorn was placed there by Brainstorm or by AMG staff…

  • Reese Burns

    Reading this review, it seemed like this would score higher than 3.5, but I’ll check it out all the same.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Like SD, you probably won’t be disappointed. The fact that it’s a solid album, but not exactly a step beyond what they’re known for likely kept it in the 3.x range.

      • That’s about right. A very good but not quite great album.

      • Reese Burns

        I checked it out on iTunes (I know, I know) and ended up buying their All Highs No Lows compilation album, not bad stuff, not bad at all.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Love that album cover. Makes me want to buy a vinyl copy.

  • Diego Molero

    Am I the only one who don’t like the vocals? I mean they’re ok and in terms of technicaly I know they are good, I just don’t like it that much. Also, who is Ed? I don’t recall any Ed around here

    • Nah, I’m not a huge fan either.

    • Probably Iron Maiden’s mascot made a career change…I guess it’s hard making a career out of appearing on covers of mediocre albums.

      Was slightly disappointed by the embedded track unfortunately. Listened to Nevermore’s Politics of Ecstacy tonight for the first time in some months. Seems I prefer chaotic vocals and pretense over big hooks.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I might be wrong, but I was guessing “Ed.” was short for “Editor”.

      • Diego Molero

        That makes sense I guess, didn’t think of that

    • sir_c

      I think this band can do well on open air festivals, quite like Sabaton. Must say that I think the drums sound really shit in this embedded video, like cardboard or so.

  • And this has been a Zombie production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: WHERE YOU DIE

  • I also feel like there’s some gas lighting going on here between the “Scary Creatures” album title and your use of the word “droogs” the day after David Bowie drops an album containing a song written in Clockworkorangese. It’s ok, I’ll just sit here and wait till everyone around me morphs into Ziggy.

  • Wilhelm

    Sounds good, but it would sound better with 90’s production, or maybe I should just check out their early albums. They can’t be too different from this.

    • FutureBeyondSatan

      Start with Liquid Monster or Downburst. Equally amazing.

    • I’d say start with Mentus Mortis and Soul Temptation. Those are both killers.

      • FutureBeyondSatan

        Guess we can just name the whole back catalogue and you go wrong.

  • Wilhelm

    A bit off topic – has anyone heard Communic? I only say this because those dudes sound even more like Nevermore than this band, which is also similar. I have forgotten about them for a while.

    • I like Communic but they’re more proggy and less catchy than Brainstorm. I don’t think they’ve done anything in a while either.

      • Wilhelm

        Yeah, the last album was 2011, right on the prog thing.

    • FutureBeyondSatan

      I love Communic, especially Waves of Visual Decay.

    • Worldeater

      I listen to Waves Of Visual Decay from time to time and since I am a Nevermore fan I don’t mind their similarities at all. Now I will give Brainstorm a closer look!

    • Siege Bantayan

      Loved Waves of Visual Decay. I like a few songs off of their next 2 albums but I it’s Waves that I go back to the most.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Is it just me or that dude on the cover looks like Beetlejuice?