Once upon a time, Steel Druhm was brought on board the Bad Ship AMG to handle all things traditional and power metal. Since then I’ve branched out and find myself covering much less power-related music, and few albums in the genre get me geeked up these days. Mob Rules are one of the few acts that have restored my faith in the genre in recent years, with a slick, accessible style packed with essential crunch, heaviness and power. As they approach their 25 year anniversary, they’re one of the few power metal acts improving over time, ever refining their Avantasia meets Stratovarius and Iron Maiden style. That brings us to their 9th platter, Beast Reborn, which is more of the same winning style with snappy writing, huge choruses and enough hooks to stock a charter fishing boat. Is that enough to unleash the beast or is this power and fury signifying nothing?
After the usual, somewhat pompous intro piece, the beast gets moving with album single “Ghost of a Chance,” and it’s everything a single should be, with crunchy riffs, soaring vocals and a big, catchy chorus that brings the cheddar, but not so much as to give you lactose intolerance. Klaus Dirks has a pleasing voice tailor-made for power metal and he’s aged well over the decades. He knows how to sell a song and does with aplomb here. “Shores Ahead” is a much more aggressive piece full of vim and vigor, taking the epic elements of Avantasia and jacking them up with more muscle for big rewards. This is one of my favorite power metal cuts of the year and I’m spinning the holy hell out of it.
“Traveller in Time” is another Avantasia-like gem, with a bombastic, over-sized feel and a chorus so catchy you’ll swear it’s a cover of some famous song (it isn’t as far as I can tell). It’s classy and super polished with hooks piled up on hooks. “Children’s Crusade” is yet another huge piece of power gold, anthemic, epic and with a large dose of Maiden to make the chest and back hair grow. The Maiden-isms are strongest on “War of Currents” which is an interesting tale of the rivalry between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. The blend of NWoBHM and classic Euro-power works exceedingly well in the band’s capable hands and I think that’s one of the reasons they always hit the sweet spot for me.
There isn’t a bad song present, though closing power ballad “My Sobriety Mind” could be considered semi-disposable. The only real issue here is the overall length of the album at 57 and a half minutes. That’s a lot of metal even when its quality, and it does feel long by the final third. That said, the best cuts are impossible to resist and the lesser cuts are still pretty damn enjoyable. I’ve come to expect this kind of quality from Mob Rules, and once again they delivered the goods.
Klaus Dirks is the solid core of the band and he’s been one of my favorite power metal frontman for a long time. He can make an average song sound big and a big song sound epic. Give him a song like “Traveller in Time” or “Revenant of the Sea” and he can make something great happen. Luckily, the band gave him a killer set of songs to work with, deftly walking that line between heavy and power metal, taking the best elements from both. Sven Ludke and new axe slinger, Sonke Janssen shine brightly, laying down both aggressive and melodic leads. They avoid being too fluffy much of the time, which is key, and some of the riffs are quite crunchy. Keyboardist Jan Christian Halfbrodt is ever-present but never overly intrusive, providing color without stealing the show. Mob Rules is one of the best at balancing hard and light sounds and this is a great example of when they get it right.
Beast Reborn is a really well executed power album by a band that’s been around a surprisingly long time with consistently strong output. Mob Rules may not be the first name one thinks of when power metal comes up, but at this stage of their career, they’re one of the top acts talent and songcraft-wise. Give this one a spin and I think you’ll see why. Recommended.