Finland’s Burning Point was always a tolerable “also ran” in the Euro-power sweepstakes, with several decent but unremarkable albums full of by-the-book melodic speed. 2012s The Ignitor however, benefitted from a heavier, meaner sound and had vastly superior writing. It became a dark horse favorite of mine and it’s the only album of theirs I go back to. When news reached me that Battle Beast‘s original singer, Nitte Valo was coming aboard along with two other new members, I was unsure whether to celebrate or despair. With big line up changes come uncertainly, and coming off their best album, the timing seemed to bode poorly. After a few years of waiting, we finally get their self-titled opus, and before hearing one note, I already had serious issues with what the band did here. You see, rather than releasing a full album of new material to introduce the rejiggered lineup, they opted to record only FOUR new tunes and re-record SIX from previous albums. If that doesn’t seem like a sketchy, cash grabby decision to you, I have a few bridges in New York City I’d love to sell you. Oh, I almost forgot the cover version of a marginal KISS song. That makes everything better, right?
First up are the new tunes: opener “In the Shadows” is the best in show, with a raging, rowdy energy and tough edge. It will remind many of Battle Beast‘s debut and that’s a very good thing. Valo is off the leash, belting her lines out like a leather-lunged demon and the backing riffs are heavy and aggressive. This is the kind of material I envisioned when I heard Valo was taking over vocal duties and it’s good, aggressive fun. Sadly, the three other new songs are much less gripping. “Find Your Soul” is decent with a strong Helloween bent to the vocal lines and riffs, but lacks real punch. “My Darkest Time” is a semi-moody power ballad with a nice enough chorus, but it’s a bit dull and Valo’s delivery is too restrained; and “Queen of Fire” is saturated with cheesy 80s synths and keyboards and feels generic. This isn’t an auspicious beginning for the band’s new era and none of these cuts are on the level of the last album’s material.
As for the re-recordings, they selected some of the better songs of yesteryear but the new line up fails to put any kind of unique stamp on them. Valo is more than capable but she doesn’t redefine how these “classics” should sound or make them her own in a major way. Only “All the Madness” truly benefits from her presence, as she gives it a more over-the-top energy and the song itself is in the same epic-cheddar wheelhouse as Battle Beast cuts like “Band of the Hawk.” Part of the problem lies with Burning Point catalog, which just isn’t all that memorable or earthshaking to begin with, and there’s no denying the pedestrian nature of tracks like “Dawn of the Ancient War” (nonsensical title) and “Blackened the Sun.” This makes it all the more perplexing that the band would think we’d want to hear redone versions of them in the first place.
Aside from the whole re-recording thing, which truly sticks in my craw, another big issue is how the band utilizes the talents of Nitte Valo. Her way over-the-top performance on the Battle Beast debut was one for the ages and made that platter very memorable and fun. Here however, she’s mostly reigned in and forced into a less interesting, garden variety power metal delivery. She sings well, but she isn’t adding a whole lot to the Burning Point sound and she’s nowhere near as wild and raucous as she was with her former band. It begs the question, why get such a wildcat vocal talent if you’re just going to muzzle her? Puzzling and disappointing, and ultimately, I ended up missing Pete Ahonen’s vocals more than I expected, considering how much I love Valo’s proven abilities.
Burning Point is essentially a re-recorded “best of” album with a new singer and a few new cuts, and as such it’s decently enjoyable but far from a must hear. If you have the older Burning Point albums, I’d wait for a full-length of new material. If you’re new to the band, I suppose it’s an adequate entry point and indicative of where the band is headed, but I’m much less bullish on their future than I was before hearing this. Now kindly remove your hand from my pocket. This cash grab is over!