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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!

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