Battle Beast is the mane attraction in the Zoo of Missed Potential. After releasing one of the most wildly entertaining power metal albums in years with 2011s Steel1, the band shifted direction toward a more radio-friendly style and their stock began to tumble accordingly. On subsequent albums they slipped to what I call a playlist band, as I would like a few cuts per album, add them to a playlist and street the rest. They broke out of that pattern (barely) on 2017s Bringer of Pain, managing an album’s worth of respectable cuts mixing power metal with symphonic schmaltz and accessible hooks. It was hardly a killer, but it lacked filler and was a light, easy spin. Album number five, No More Hollywood Endings looks to take the same approach and up the accessibility factor even further, and while there are the expected decent cuts, the overall package finds them sliding backward into playlist purgatory once again, significant potential unmet.
They do manage a fairly successful run of decent songs to lead the album off. Opener “Unbroken” sounds like an old Nightwish song injected with Tesla serum in pursuit of dark scientific ends. It’s got a big, attention-grabbing chorus that almost gets overpowered by the faux-symphonic noise they insist on threading through everything, but in the end it’s more good than bad. The title track is also catchy and Noora Louhimo does a good job mixing up vocal styles as the song dances from pop to metal (and dance the video does in one of the most cringe-tastic moments in recent metal history). “Eden” is one of the hardest cuts available here and its urgent, pumping drive is a welcome dose of intensity after the concerted efforts to be more accessible. “The Hero” is similarly urgent and one of the more enjoyable songs. This kind of tune is apparently the best we can expect from Battle Beast at this point, and though it can’t hold a tiny candle to their debut, it’s something at least.
Things start a downward slide by the album’s halfway point, beginning with the truly awful 80s ballad “Endless Summer.” All I can think of whenever this comes on is that the band somehow found a Taylor Dane song that never saw the light of day and thought they could re-purpose it. It’s painfully out-of-place and so damn 80s I can actually see an old timey MTV video playing whenever I hear it. Later on you get another ballad with “I Wish” and it’s better but hardly a show stopper. The album ends with two songs that sound like a hesitant return to their old sound, but only “World on Fire” inspires any enthusiasm. Throughout the album’s runtime it feels like the band was trapped between a desire to play metal and an equally strong urge to be more pop-oriented, and that dooms much of the material to a bleak, Nightwishy-washy limbo where songs go to die over a cruel, cruel summer.
As always Noora shows she has an impressive set of pipes and can project a lot of attitude. The problem is the material she’s projecting over. Her leather lungs deserve better fare than this, and time and again I’m left wishing the band put more muscle and grit in their writing and less hammered dulcimer. The tired, overused symphonics and club beats still infect their writing, making their presence felt but never appreciated. The guitars all too often take a backseat to blaring techno beats and surging symphonic swells, not unlike the recent Within Temptation fiasco. This makes the music sound overly processed, cheesy, and less serious, ultimately leeching the power and vitality from the listening experience
The album title was eerily prescient. There is indeed no Hollywood ending here, just a return to what’s become the norm since 2013. And as with any “playlist class” release, you get roughly half an album of worthwhile cuts to poach, but compared to their last outing, the high points aren’t as high, and the lows are deeper and more treacherous. Step right up, tonight only. See the Battle Beast of missed opportunity in its natural habitat, but beware its cautionary tail.