I’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.
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.