Burning Point – Arsonist of the Soul Review

Burning Point have a very inconsistent track record in the Euro-power rat race. Early releases Salvation by Fire and Feeding the Flames were decent but a bit too generic to leave a lasting impression. Some subsequent albums just seemed phoned in, further consigning them to second or third-tier status in the Euro-power sweepstakes. It wasn’t until 2012s The Ignitor that they delivered an album that really grabbed my attention and shook it. Full of heavy, aggressive riffs and powerful vocals, it was a punchy, angry dose of power leaning into Mystic Prophecy and Brainstorm territory with good results. Just as things seemed to be heading in the right direction, vocalist Pete Ahonen pulled a Kai Hansen, opting to hand off vocal duties and focus solely on guitar. In came ex-Battle Beast wailer Nitte Valo and we got a lackluster eponymous release which left a bad taste in my burned mouth. I slept on the 2016 follow-up, and here we are 5 years later with Valo out and a new vocalist, drummer, bassist and keyboardist in. Sounds like a recipe for a late-career disaster, no? So how does Arsonist of the Soul withstand the flames of critical analysis? You might be surprised.

This is a heavier, darker release than 2016’s The Blaze, maintaining all the classic tropes of power metal but delivering more aggression and attitude. Opening cut “Blast in the Past” is urgent, aggressive and decently crunchy, in the vein of prime Stratovarius, and new frontman Luca Sturniolo has a good voice and largely avoids the ear-straining upper registers. The guitars walk the line between classic Euro-power modalities and heavier, tougher fare, and all seems well at the Burning Point. I’m happy to report the band delivers some truly scorching cuts this time out that reduced me to little more than a replay monkey. The title track is a moody mid-tempo grinder that exudes a dark, ominous charm and keeps you coming back for more. In-your-face barn burners like “Hit the Night” and “Running in the Darkness” keep the energy levels high, and quirky but memorable moments like “Persona Non Grata” stick like hot tar on feathers.

Oddly enough, it’s the mid-tempo moments that grab me the most tenaciously. “Calling” is a big highlight despite being a languid plodder with nary a moment of Euro-power speed and puffery. The chorus is bigger than Jesus-Kong and it never fails to elicit a raised fist of iron defiance. I keep going back to this one and the title track, and you can add the muscular “Fire With Fire” to that good company with another chorus you’ll struggle to shake loose from your brain bog. Sadly, there are a few missteps amidst the flames of wictory. “Rules the Universe” is the most cheese doodley of power metal songs with a chorus so cheddar-infused it may cause artery closure and bowel blockage. Worse is how badly strained poor Luca’s voice sounds when he goes for those scrotal challenging highs. He also sounds greatly pained when going high on the otherwise fine “Off the Radar.” There are a few decent but generic selections on board too, like “Out of Control” and “closer “Eternal Life” which conspire to bring down the collective goodness. At 49 minutes, a few of these lesser moments could have been forsaken for a stronger album, but what you get is still plenty entertaining despite the blemishes.

I’m fairly impressed by Luca Sturniolo. He bases much of his delivery around a commanding mid-range and at times reminds me of ex-Excalion throat Jarmo Pääkkönen. Should Luca avoid those upper-range warbles? Most assuredly so, but he does a fine job on 95% of the material, and though I would still prefer Pete Ahonen on the mic, he’s a very good fit. Pete and Pekka Kolivuori go back to the blueprint for The Ignitor, delivering a collection of crunchy, ballsy riffs that make the Euro-power actually feel powerful, and the harmonies and soloing are just the right blend of manic and regal. The keyboards by Matti Halonen can sometimes feel overweening, but he does help nail the darker moods and atmospheres on the title track and the other mid-tempo churners. For an almost completely overhauled band, the end result is way better than expected.

I had fairly low expectations going into Arsonist of the Soul and I’m walking away entertained and impressed. There are some top-notch moments of power here and only a few relatively minor slips along the road to metal redemption. Maybe my days of underestimating Burning Point have come to a middle. I look forward to the next outbreak of fire and hope it’s as intense as this one.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AFM
Website: facebook.com/burningpointfinland
Releases Worldwide: October 22nd, 2021

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