Ever since hearing the Ivanhoe albums way back in the late 90s, I’ve been a huge fan of Andy B. Franck’s vocals. He has pipes that could only be destined for a life fronting a metal band, though he possesses the range to do virtually any kind of music. His slightly proggy, but hyper-accessible albums with Symphorce are always in rotation at Casa de la Druhm, as are his many releases with traditional metal act Brainstorm. The latter are especially tasty, blending Judas Priest‘s Painkiller era with the punch and crunch of American power metal like Iced Earth and Pantera, then layering in a plethora of earwormy vocal hooks and monumental, anthemic choruses that cannot be forgotten. Albums like Mentus Mortis, Soul Temptation and Liquid Monster are nearly perfect examples of pure heavy metal and whenever I spin them for someone unacquainted, they wonder how they could have missed the boat. Though recent albums like At the Spur of the Moment and Downburst were a bit less stunning (though still very good), Firesoul sees the band return to the well of metallic inspiration that birthed their finest moments. The result is one badass, altered beast of traditional metal supremacy. Translation: it fookin kills!
Wasting no time before wasting your mind, “Erased by the Dark” delivers the heavy, guitar-driven metal Brainstorm is known for, providing a wall of thick riffs and powerhouse drumming with Andy’s Halford-esque wail soaring over the top. Add in a big chorus and metal-as-hell, foot-on-amp solos and it’s clear the boys are back to their Mentus Mortis best. The title track is a pure metal anthem with crunching riffs and Andy’s harsher vocals and it’s impossible to resist raising your fist in praise (and it has a hilarious video with Andy hamming it up like a metal Vincent Price). “Enter Solitude” is the album standout and features a mega-chorus along with general awesomeness oozing from every nook and cranny like the rich, creamy butter of metal justice. Andy sounds amazing throughout and sells it hard like a car salesmen on meth. “Recall the Real” is another instant win with a moody, brooding mid-tempo grind and triumphant chorus.
“Feed Me Lies” also deserves mention for its simple, aggressive, but addicting energy and Andy’s great delivery, as does the soaring chorus of “The Chosen One” and the power-balladry of “…And I Wonder,” which swims in the same waters as Priest‘s “Night Comes Down” and “Touch of Evil” with a slight touch of Queensryche‘s Rage for Order melancholy. All the songs are great and the whole album blasts along like a rocket from Hades.
Since Andy Franck put Brainstorm on the map, it’s not a stretch to say it’s his show and as always, he delivers big. Though he doesn’t stretch his range like he did in the Ivanhoe days, he routinely impresses with his power and range, hitting highs when needed, while often sticking to a booming mid-range rasp like that of Mike Howe (ex-Heretic, ex-Metal Church). He’s one of metal’s best vocalists and really deserves more praise than he seems to get. The guitar tandem of Torsten Ihlenfeld and Milan Loncaric once again deliver knuckle dusting riffs and keep the music heavy and driving, while showcasing slick, melodic sensibilities that make the songs extra memorable (“Descendants of the Fire” at 2:58). Rounding out the Brainstorm sound is the thunderous drumming of Dieter Bernert, and his double bass thuggery adds that extra punch to drive the songs through your skull.
This isn’t brain(storm) surgery, folks. It’s crunchy, hooky metal meant to be played loud as you do dumb, possibly violent things to friends and foes alike. Leave the fancy stuff for the prog nerds and enjoy what real metal sounds like. Buy this, blast this and all will be right in the metalverse.