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Running on melting ice. - 60%

Diamhea, January 21st, 2018

I have to admit, I have a bit of a soft spot for Battle Beast's self-titled, which introduced us to the charismatic Noora Louhimo and was a fun, easy-to-digest listen with bangers like "Let It Roar," "Out on the Streets" and my favourite: "Machine Revolution." but with Unholy Savior, something seemed to be missing. Pointless orchestral pomp obfuscated a lack of coherent songwriting; I honestly don't remember a single tune from that album. This brings us to Bringer of Pain, which seems to focus more on what simply works; more compact songs, more melody, more suffocating vocal layering. If you are still with me and are familiar with my reviews, you know I'll give anything a fair shake.

And Bringer of Pain works just well enough, even though there are a multitude of faults that hamper the experience. Mainly, the album lacks straight-up heavy metal bangers. Even the faster songs feel tempered in pop sheen and kneecapped by the antiseptic production. It starts on a good foot, with "Straight to the Heart" checking all of the Battle Beast hallmarks without overstaying its welcome. After that, much of the record is a blur, propped up by the more arena-ready poppier numbers like "Familiar Hell," "Beyond the Burning Skies" and "Dancing with the Beast." Noora is at her best when she utilizes her softer voice, which is sultry and evocative. It works well.

What doesn't, however, is the bizarre "Lost in Wars," which sounds like someone cut out a section of a much longer Nightwish tune from the Dark Passion Play era. Just unnecessary, even if the orchestrations are decent. Actually, I think the band missed the mark by making "The Eclipse" and "God of War" bonus tracks. They would have served much better to bulk up the album proper. Bringer of Pain is really lacking in muscle, belying its nomenclature.

Battle Beast is veering dangerously close to Nightwish-clone territory with the overwhelming presence of songs like "Beyond the Burning Skies" and excessive orchestral padding. Good tunes, but is this the ideal next step? I think Noora is kind of bottlenecked here, either by the actual songwriters or production. Her first scream on "Straight to the Heart" tells the story - it sounds sort of half-assed. Either way, Bringer of Pain is a fun listen. Just don't come here expecting the heavier side of the band, because that is largely missing in action. Oh and don't miss the bonus tracks.

Almost a return to form - 81%

MetalGuard, January 5th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Nuclear Blast

I know their fourth output hasn't been as popular with fans as the previous albums, but I don't quite share that sentiment. While I agree that the second, eponymous outing "Battle Beast" is, to me, still the definite Battle Beast record both in terms of songwriting and production, I feel that "Bringer of Pain" once again showcases the band's strengths in distinctly better fashion than its predecessor "Unholy Savior" did.

That album did absolutely nothing for me. Hooks that wouldn't hook, a production that was terribly mellow and watered-down, especially after the searing guitars and heavy drums of the two previous albums - upon hearing "Unholy Savior" for the first time, I was severely disappointed, and my hopes for the new album were curbed even more when I learned that longtime guitarist and songwriter Anton Kabanen had been kicked out of the band (only to form his new one "Beast in Black" in short order afterwards, no less).

However, thankfully, those concerns proved unwarranted. "Bringer of Pain", to me, is more of a return to form than anything else. Agreed, the band has taken a distinctly more "pop" approach with this album, with the songs being written in very similar fashion (but the same has to be said for Anton Kabanen's "Beast in Black" debut "Berserker" as well), with essentially pop choruses being supported by straightforward "four to the floor" kickdrum beats, and overlayed with deliberately cheesy and retro sounding 80s keyboards.

That concept can work well if done well, and it's done well on "Bringer of Pain". Songs like the title track, the stomping "God of War", the entertaining "Bastard Son of Odin" and the outstanding "Beyond the Burning Skies" all immediately sink their claws into the listener's ears, and stay there with grim determination. Singer Noora Louihmo's work is again outstanding, ranging from nuanced quiet parts to soaring, searing screams - this is a bit of 80s "Warlock" mixed with pop elements and then turned up to eleven.

I understand that many metal purists might discard this album as "too soft" or "too poppy", but from a songwriting point of view, it's more than just head and shoulders above the abysmally weak and uninteresting "Unholy Savior".

Saturday Night Battle Beast - 70%

HeavyMetalMeltdownReviews, May 6th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Nuclear Blast

Out of all the Nordic countries, it is safe to assume that Finland have a cornucopia of melancholy, cold, sadness and minor chords that run deep into its heavy metal roots. Finland is the country responsible for the likes of Amorphis, Children of Bodom, also Nightwish and Sonata Arctica to name a few. You cannot fault Finland’s output for heavy metal, it has been consistent for 25 years and growing every year.

Although famous for being relatively reserved, Finland does have its fair share of less melancholic bands that could border on what you would call ‘fun’. One such band is Battle Beast. Battle Beast have had a little bit of the Midas Touch over the course of their career, famous for winning the Wacken Open Battle as well as more Finnish based competitions catapulted Battle Beast into the spotlight alongside prestigious support slots with Nightwish, Powerwolf and Sonata Arctica. In 2012, it was announced that original vocalist Nitte Valo would be stepping down and was replaced by the talismanic almost banshee like Noora Louhimo.

Mid-February saw the release of 'Bringer of Pain', the 4th album from Battle Beast and the first album without Anton Kabanen, the man behind the song writing for the previous 3 albums who is now a full-time member of Wisdom. Kabanen has been succeeded by Joona Björkroth, the brother of keyboardist Janne Björkroth and because of this, you would expect the song writing to take a hit with the rest of the band seemingly picking up the slack.

'Bringer of Pain' throws itself between two corners, from straight up heavy metal Doro style anthems such as 'Straight Through the Heart', 'We Will Fight', the beautiful closing ballad 'Far From Heaven' and the rousing title track to the more pop-orientated 'Dancing with the Beast', 'Familiar Hell' and the disco-to-boot 'King for a Day'. 'King for a Day' has some rather scathing words about a man playing at politics, lying and using buzz words to get people on his side whilst simultaneously screwing them over which sounds a lot like its aimed at a certain President of the United States of America. However, with its gleaming pop production, 'King for a Day' enters a pre-chorus disco beat that could easily be a clone of 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man After Midnight)' by ABBA.

All this pop sheen can slide 'Bringer of Pain' in amongst the guilty pleasure brigade of the year and even though 'Bringer of Pain' is a fun album, full of the melodic hooks and catchy beats which you can’t help but tap your foot to, it does feel as if Battle Beast have taken a slight step backwards with 'Bringer of Pain'. However, you need to take 'Bringer of Pain' at face value, it is a good time record that should bring a wryest smile to even the most miserable and cold hearted metalhead.

With 'Bringer of Pain' seemingly almost dividing their fanbase, this leaves Battle Beast at an important crossroads in their career with 'Bringer of Pain' doing very little to improve on the previous album, 'Unholy Savior', Battle Beast could be in danger of stagnating their sound. Battle Beast still have plenty more to offer and 'Bringer of Pain' will not be anywhere near the top 10, However, don’t take 'Bringer of Pain' with 100% seriousness and maybe you will just about enjoy it.

Bad - 40%

Empyreal, April 20th, 2017

This is a bad album. Battle Beast were an old favorite of mine from their 2011 debut Steel, which I still think is a fucking fun, heavy, cool album - it showed a band excited to play and with some cool, aggressive 80s-style riffing. But ever since then they’ve just been getting less interesting with each subsequent album. Their last one Unholy Savior had some good cuts but then really dropped off in its second half - and now we have Bringer Of Pain, which just feels ultimately disposable throughout.

Oh, sure - there are some decent cuts here, and the band can play. The first few songs aren’t bad, though they tend to sound like a heavied-up 80s workout gym pop spandex band of some kind. Or maybe what Accept’s Metal Heart would’ve been like if the members had been really into ABBA. And the band is sharp and proficient and clean as hell in every aspect. But the ideas are small and so cliche. The songwriting is a lot of verse-chorus monotony, and with an overly commercial, polished sheen over everything that makes it all sound quite safe and toothless, so even the good stuff here gets old pretty fast.

“Lost In Wars,” featuring the guy from Amorphis, is just a confusing misstep, with a Nightwishy symphonic backing and odd harsher vocals, but it doesn’t really flow too well and ends up just checking off the ‘cliche different-sounding track’ criteria a lot of these albums have. It’s ‘different,’ sure, but only because the band needed a song that didn’t sound like the others - it sounds like a forced, manufactured difference rather than an organic choice. And Tomi Joutsen just doesn’t do much for me, not coming off as either passionate or individual so much as just bland. Other songs like “We Will Fight” are equally dull, and the closing ballad is an awful piano-led thing that I doubt even the worst, most pandering Disney crap would want in its soundtrack. Just terrible.

The overall feeling I get from this is that it was written to fulfill some kind of quota. I have no way of knowing whether that’s true - maybe the band did have a lot of passion behind this album. But it doesn’t come off that way to the listener and the band just doesn’t seem to have anything to say. It all just sounds like pre-processed, overly safe music taking the heavy metal sound and turning it into a sort of disposable Product, rather than art or anything genuine. It’s sort of emblematic of what a lot of bands in this new mainstream metal revival have been doing for years - Amon Amarth, Sabaton, some later Nightwish, Hammerfall and the likes. The overly safe, polished and generic writing just ends up sounding way too similar to everything else in the same category, and it’s not even remotely exciting.

At this rate Battle Beast has pretty much done the same thing as Sabaton so far as becoming overly commercialized, slick and dull - so I fully expect them to put out something of the same terrible quality as The Last Stand in like two years, which would really be something, to do the same thing in roughly half the time. Oh well. At least Steel is still pretty damn fun.

Hurt me plenty. - 74%

hells_unicorn, February 24th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Nuclear Blast

Battle Beast is the sort of band that I'd refer to as being a guilty pleasure, if it weren't for the fact that I don't feel an iota of guilt for blasting out their melodic infused, retro-80s goodness at full volume during my commutes and feeling anticipation at the prospect of a new studio LP. Their extremely straightforward approach, which emphasizes crunchy grooves, spacey yet tight keyboard-drenched atmospheres and hook oriented songwriting has all the elements to peg them as the illegitimate sons (and daughter) of mid-80s Warlock and Accept, with maybe a tad bit of earlier 80s hard rock after the mold of Survivor and even Journey elements at the fringes. Basically this is a band that is bound to be polarizing, and the old adage of "you either love them or hate them" actually applies, though more in the sense of inspiring a sense of dismissive jabs from the detractors as being "pop music" and likewise instigating a desire among their fans to pelt the cynics mercilessly with jujubes. Naturally this doesn't mean that there isn't a degree of nuance in this band's various studio outings, and Bringer Of Pain does come with a few flaws.

Perhaps the biggest downturn in quality comes more so due to recent changes in this band's relatively consistent lineup. The absence of co-founder and longtime guitarist/vocalist Anton Kabanen is definitely felt, as while the technical noodling and riff assault of the guitars has remained fairly constant, those signature UDO-inspired gravely shrieks that functioned as a powerful foil to Noora Louhimo's soaring, Doro Pesch inspired vocals are nowhere to be found. Though Noora definitely makes a fine show of lighting up each song with her mixture of gentle crooning and attitude-steeped shouting, there was something truly magical to the sort of 80s heavy metal variation on the "beauty and the beast" duet vocal approach that typified much of the songs found on Battle Beast's eponymous sophomore album. The Accept trappings are still present to a fair degree on songs like "King For A Day" and "God Of War", though each is painted over with a fair bit of recent power metal trappings typical to Sabaton on the keyboard front, but featuring nice bone-crunching riff work and massive background gang shouts.

The Sabaton comparison is actually a fairly good one for much of what is heard on here, reinterpreted to fit in a bit more with Battle Beast's traditional 1985 heavy metal demeanor, but often shifting the chorus sections and much of the introductory material of each song into power metal territory. Ultra catchy and consonant rockers like "Bastard Son Of Odin" and "Beyond The Burning Skies" bring in a bit of a synth-happy Stratovarius and Nightwish twist on things, and the down-tempo and heavier duet with Amorphis' Tomi Joutsen "Lost In Wars" sees the band exploring an occasionally Gothic/industrial path that hasn't really been present in their previous work. Fans of the last two albums will not be without some much needed old school heavy metal fodder in the crunchy groove machine with atmospheric verses "We Will Fight" and the speeding nod to Judas Priest of a title song "Bringer Of Pain". Just about the only complaint that can really be launched at this album from a songwriting standpoint is back-loading too many ballads at the end of this thing, each of which have little metallic moments to speak of, though the three bonus songs on the limited edition offset this flaw a bit.

There is a fine art to mixing things up a bit whenever a ruggedly orthodox style has been the norm for multiple albums, but Battle Beast has shown a fair bit of stylistic growth here, though this time around there are some pacing issues between the ballads being chunked together at the tail end and the speed factor has been downplayed a bit. It is tempting to view this album as a failure on those grounds alone, but when hearing the ruthlessly infectious hooks of most of these songs, it's pretty difficult not to catch oneself singing along and raising a fist to the air (and banging your knuckles on the car roof in the process, which was kind of embarrassing and had some worrying that a road rage incident might be soon to come). The cartoon-like image of lions crushing legions of wicked automatons like an outtake from The Terminator and the references to Tony Montana's plots for world domination may be gone, but the fun shows little sign of stopping.

Bringer of pop sensibilities - 58%

Valfars Ghost, February 24th, 2017

Despite hating when people do this, I was a hair’s breadth away from playing the ‘false metal’ card in this review. While I can’t quite say Bringer of Pain is pop trying to pass itself off as metal, it's only a few steps removed from that. On their fourth full album, Battle Beast once again brings us their blend of metal (of the power and old school varieties) and pop, with characteristics from the latter genre often threatening to take over.

As is frequently the case with this Finnish outfit, Bringer of Pain is loaded with surface level metal elements that are pulled off rather well. Noora Louhimo’s clean vocals and her Halford-esque wailing are both top-notch. The guitar solos are excellent. The tone of the instruments is razor-sharp. Battle Beast's members have energy and passion in abundance and their sparingly-used gang vocals are lively and invigorating when they appear. But for most of the songs, pop sensibilities dominate the writing and execution. The keys have a frequently annoying presence as they drag 80s synthpop into the picture. And, much like in pop, it’s all about the choruses, which are as overblown and lushly produced as they come.

It’s not that Battle Beast can’t pull off this metal-meets-pop idea. As this album shows us a few times, they’re plenty capable of making it work. The chorus on ‘Bastard Son of Odin’ is a shitload of fun (perhaps even a metric shitload), with the pretty keys actually complementing the catchy vocal lines and silly lyrics. The title track also has a fine chorus with keyboard accompaniment that doesn’t diminish its impact. ‘Straight to the Heart’ mixes metal's punch with an over-the-top pop chorus in a way that could appeal to fans of both genres. All three of these songs have the momentum of fast and heavy traditional metal with just a hint of pop sensibility for those catchy, memorable vocal lines.

For some reason, though, every other track on this album sees the pop elements awkwardly at odds with the metal building they’re trespassing in. 'King for a Day' is the first offender, boasting an obvious disco flavoring in the shuffling keys placed behind the chorus’ vocals and in the instrumental section in the song's second half. Just try listening to it without imagining a disco hall filled with people doing that dance where they point diagonally upward and then bring their pointing hand down to near their belt buckles and then repeat. Could you do it? I couldn't. 'Dancing with the Beast' is the most infuriating track here because it’s what would play in an episode of a Disney Channel Barbie show where Barbie and friends start a “metal” band. It’s the exact sort of noxious tune some network executive would smile and approve of because it’s supremely soft and sugary. 8-year-old girls would eat it up and, because there’s one brief section that includes a guitar lead (seriously, just one in what is otherwise a keyboard-driven dance pop number), they’d be convinced they were listening to metal. Songs like 'Beyond the Burning Skies' and ‘We Will Fight’, which switch from hair metal riffing to soft, lush pop passages where nary a sound save Louhimo's voice and some faint keyboards and percussion in the background can be heard are ungainly as well, with neither mode proving to be all that satisfying.

Despite the above complaints, I suspect Battle Beast could serve as a good gateway metal band. Something to serve as an entry point for people wanting to get into the genre because you can't dive straight into death metal. Shit, Disturbed and Dragonforce were two of the three main bands that got me into metal and I turned out fine. In any case, there are a lot of casual metal listeners, and maybe even some more experienced listeners who are unusually tolerant of poppy shenanigans who will find most of these songs more than worth their time. Conversely, people who tend to consider desperately sing-along fluff or glossy synthpop annoying will probably only find a handful of songs to enjoy here.

A Backward Step - 63%

Larry6990, February 17th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Nuclear Blast

Finnish metallers Battle Beast showed enormous potential on their 2013 self-titled album. Their brand of classic Raven-esque heavy metal fused with a cybernetic twist saw them shoot to popularity among other big Scandinavian acts. This potential reached a peak on 2015′s phenomenal Unholy Savior, where all the European power metal influence added much-needed bombast and drama to their sound. However, here in 2017, the sextet appear to have hit their peak, bounced off, and started to roll backwards. Not that Bringer Of Pain is bad – there’s plenty to be happy about – but there lingers the disappointment of unrealized potential.

Without disparaging the instrumentalists (because there is some serious talent among their ranks!), the star of the show, as always, is Noora Louhimo. Never before have I heard a vocalist belt out such a range of pitches with that kind of conviction. The mixing even sacrifices some equality in order to have her voice a level above the rest. Ironically, this would have benefited the previous album far more – as on tracks like “Madness” and “Sea Of Dreams”, she reached stratospheric heights…which she never quite does on Bringer Of Pain. However, the gruff rasps of bassist Eero Sipilä have been sanded down until he sounds as smooth as cream. His rough growls are still intact and effective, but his clean contribution to “We Will Fight” is surprisingly beautiful.

Battle Beast’s overall timbre has been diluted somewhat since their previous outing. The guitar tone is thinner, the song structures are more simplistic, and the keyboards (though still integral) don’t carry as much gravitas. There is more of an emphasis on looking back to cheesy ’80s synth worship, rather than pushing forward with modern power metal. I absolutely adore cheesy ’80s synth, but it’s a shame that the grandiose textures are less present. On the other hand, the synth works incredibly well when employed as stabs (the title-track), or as full-on shredding solos (“King For A Day”). It’s also worth mentioning that this band have officially made tambourines metal as fuck.

Bringer Of Pain survives on two basic song types: the pace-driving hard-rockers; and the down-tempo march-a-longs (fear my hyphenations!). Of the former, the most successful are those that are supremely catchy. The choruses of “Bastard Son of Odin” and “Beyond The Burning Skies” in particular soar among the clouds. The latter bring out the heaviest in the Finns’ catalogue – specifically the monstrous “Lost In Wars” – which sounds remarkably Sabaton-esque. The closing ballad “Far From Heaven” is the sore thumb; a great pity, as Battle Beast proved their ballad-writing credentials on Unholy Savior.

The last three mid-paced tracks taper off in bland fashion, making for an anti-climactic finale. The true meat of the album lies in the first seven songs, as they vary nicely in dynamic and tempo – but never fail to drive the album’s pace. After the epic approach of “Bastard Son Of Odin”, you may as well top the disc spinning – because you’ve heard everything this album has to offer. Bringer Of Pain is overall a disappointing backward step for the Finnish sextet, but any newcomers to the band would find this an excellent starting point. Oh, and that cover art is awful – that’s the biggest step backwards!

Originally written for www.metal-observer.com