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2008 has gone off with a bang with one of the better European metal acts, Brainstorm, releasing their 7th full-length CD, entitled ‘Downburst’. After 3 solid releases in a row (‘Metus mortis’, ‘Soul temptation’ and ‘Liquid monster’), Brainstorm have really made a name for themselves, and I myself was looking forward to reviewing their new CD.
Having a unique sound, which is unmistakable; Brainstorm pretty much stand on their own, with no real similarities with any other power metal band. That’s not to say Brainstorm’s music is original, far from it, but their slightly downtuned guitar-driven style of technical heavy/power metal with catchy and melodic riffs gives them an edge over all of the other same-sounding power metal bands that exist in the world.
Brainstorm’s sound has changed slightly over their last 2 CDs (including this one). 2003’s ‘Soul temptation’ was one of Brainstorm’s better releases. Musically, ‘Soul temptation’ sounded quite a bit more technical and creative than your typical guitar-driven power metal band; I dare to use the term “proggy” as well, in their sound. But with ‘Liquid monster’ and now with ‘Downburst’, Brainstorm have really gone back to the basics with their sound. Leading the way with catchy hooks and riffs and heavy bass guitar, their sound is more straightforward power metal than anything else. Having a more “darker” feel than most power metal bands, the voice of vocalist Andy B. Franck completely suits their sound. His emotional, dark and raspy vocals really add another dimension to their sound and improve the overall quality. 'Downburst' also seems just a little bit heavier than previous releases, especially from ‘Soul temptation’ and earlier.
As for the tracks on ‘Downburst’, I really didn’t find any average songs at all; and even the poorest song on the CD ("Surrounding walls") is still good. The CD opens with a bang with “Falling spiral down”. Once you press the play button, you hear the sound of what could be a heavy industrial machine starting up, followed by an awesome riff infused with it, rising to the heavens. A yell by Andy B. Franck and the main riff and double-bass pummelling begins. The song is quite heavy and contains a great sing-a-long chorus to go along with your fist pumping in the air. The song wouldn’t be complete without a kick-ass solo in the middle, and that’s exactly what you get.
“Fire walk with me” follows and is probably the best song on the CD. Totally guitar driven, with a chunk of heavy bass guitar and groove riffs, the track has one of the catchiest choruses on the CD, not to mention the great solo as well. “Stained with sin” is another kick-ass track, which follows “Fire walk with me”. This track is more vocal driven rather than guitar driven, Andy B. Franck’s emotional and strong vocals makes this track a standout in anyone’s language.
The 2nd best song on ‘Downburst’ is the slow pounding “End in sorrow”. Almost power ballad-esk, Andy B. Franck gives us his best vocal performance on the CD. With eerie keyboards in the background accompanied with the slow and chunky guitar riffs, Andy’s soaring and emotional vocals give this song a perfect rating and keeps me pressing the repeat button. The last of the standout tracks on ‘Downburst’ includes “How do you feel”, which sounds like your typical Brainstorm song, with melodic riffs and a catchy chorus. And finally, there is “Frozen”, which sounds quite different from any of the other tracks on the CD. The song sounds almost thrashy, where Franck’s vocals have been altered somewhat to give a darker feel. The effect is cool and makes the song standout. Another dose of heavy riffs and pounding drums can be heard, with yet another catchy chorus.
After numerous spins of ‘Downburst’, I am quite surprised by the quality of this release. I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece, but I also wasn’t expecting something average either. Overall, I am very pleased with this CD and I really like the direction Brainstorm are going in. It’s only early January and we already have a top 10 contender for best metal release of 2008.
Originally reviewed for www.metalcdratings.com (11/01/08)