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How in the everloving heck does this have two 100% scored reviews? - 33%

Silicon Messiah, March 21st, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

Remember a couple years ago? Anton Kabanen split with Battle Beast and to prove he absolutely wasn't even a tiny bit bitter he named his new band Beast In Black. Thankfully, it might be said, the new outfit did try for some different approaches to the sound; poppy inflections, over the top synth presence and schlager inspired ridiculousness (that shit's really big around the nordic countries).

And still, the metal that was promised was also delivered in a few obliterating tracks that blew all resistence. Debut album Berserker (2017) did plenty of things right, and it was foreseen that they should only go up from there. Enter album number two, From Hell With Love, and all that balance is seems instantly gone. Many of the metallic elements have been downsized or outright removed, only retaining the skeleton; flashy rhythm section with the blaring drums and a sometimes nasty sounding guitar tone that when you actually listen to it doesn't offer much more than to plod along.

It seems that Beast In Black failed to understand that the glittery garments they embraced did so well only because they were kept in balance by the metallic surroundings and tight songwriting. The song structures are also devolved into the basics, with nothing much interesting on display for the standardized three to four minute tracks. Before, they would go with some lengthy middle parts and bridges to build up the climax, whereas now it’s more like a schlagerized Sabaton, songwriting wise. Granted, the melodics are all big and flashy and poppy, the choruses catchy as they can be, but there is little depth or range to it all.

Take opening track, Cry Out for a Hero; you can get why they would open with it, short, to the point and well executed for what it is, but even then it’s already boring by the second time the chorus comes on. Then the token guitar solo and the bridge that just repeats what was already dull. In the same vein, sometimes poppier, sometimes with a bigger emphasis on the guitars, the album drags on for eleven new songs and two cover songs. (Granted, the cover of Motörhead classic Killed by Death is pretty sweet in its new sounding surroundings, but still.)

By far the best thing about the band is vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos (ex- Wardrum), who has great range and diversity, as well as a masterful technique. Again, he only gets to show off very little of it here, staying with the high shrieks rather being allowed to delve into his highly effective and oftentimes emotionally striking mid range (listen to Major Denial for example). Not even the useless ballad Oceandeep changes that.

As for good sides, there are a few; Heart of Steel standing out the most. The verses are complete 80’s rhythm down to the socks, but here it sounds somehow true to the style, and even though it’s basically in many respects very similar to the rest of the album, the melodies and the chorus, even Papadopoulos’ vocals just sound that much better. Repentless is also decent, but other than that the sameness just keeps going for about 50 minutes, complete with filler and the aforementioned cover songs. In all though, the album is just a complete step back from all the charm the debut showcased.

Standout tracks: Repentless, Heart of Steel


Larry6990, February 21st, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

The beast is back! After blowing the power metal community's collective minds with Berserker in 2017, what was initially considered a spin-off project has now achieved full status. The inevitable comparison to fellow Finns Battle Beast will have to be made but it is most certainly in Anton Kabanen's favour. Beast In Black's debut album completely blew Noora and co's Bringer Of Pain out of the water two years ago and, judging by the quality of "No More Hollywood Endings", they're about to do it again. Friendly rivalry? Hostile competition? Couldn't give a shit. BIB are officially better than BB - and From Hell With Love confirms it with hammering affirmation. Buckle up, fuckers - this is about to get Berserk.

If you are at all familiar with Beast In Black, you are completely justified in expecting more of the usual: completely overblown, hard-rockin' melodic power metal with a heavy '80s pop influence, screaming vocals and cheesy-ass synths. This time, the pop vibe is embedded even deeper into the integral core of the music and, dare I say, is the best thing about this album. I can't stop myself from grinning at almost every bouncy electronic backbeat and blaring synth melody. This is metal for metalheads who are unafraid to smile and shove their tongue so far into their cheek they cause ulcers. Remember "Crazy, Mad, Insane" from the previous record? Yeah. That. But MORE.

Within seconds of opener "Cry Out For A Hero" I guarantee a massive skeletal smirk and the urge to air-guitar and air-keyboard the shit out of this entire record. I hope these guys pioneer a new wave of bands who will start to fuse '80s disco and synthpop with power metal because Beast In Black make it sound so natural - like it was just meant to be. All manner of keyboard effects are layered wonderfully above, and in the middle of, the super-tight metal underneath. Kabanen's orchestration and arrangement talents cannot be denied. The Wisdom guitarist inserts as many cheeky synth-tom fills and sampled handclaps as he can, ensuring From Hell With Love never drops its energy for one second. Not even in the unspeakably beautiful "Oceandeep"; this album's token ballad (and yes, it's even better than "Ghost In The Rain"!).

Now, we all know power metal songwriting frequently revolves around the effectiveness of the chorus. Well, BIB have absolutely nailed the art of chorus-writing. Every refrain explodes out of the speakers with instantly memorable hooks and layered vocals which seem to bounce with sheer vibrancy. Just check out the phenomenally cheesy "Sweet True Lies" or the Sabaton-as-fuck "Heart Of Steel", look me in the eyes tell me you don't already know the lyrics and tune after only one listen. Don't lie, you do. And you wanna hear it again. I understand. However, my number one chorus on this LP has to be the stunning title-track. It's just...unspeakably glorious. These dangerously infectious choruses are aided by the immensely talented Yannis Papadopoulos whose vocal skills are stratospheric. He can melt your heart with sweetness or blow your skin off your stupid face with bone-melting screams; always 100% in tune and full of attitude.  A god among men.

FHWL is structured perfectly. Bookended by two fast-paced rockers, the album is chocked with jaunty power-disco anthems ("Unlimited Sin"), fist-pumping tributes to the Berserk manga ("Die By The Blade") and all-out power metal assaults ("Repentless"). All expertly positioned in such a way that no two tracks sound too similar when experienced in order. Even though every number is basically perfection, my personal favourite is the super-slick "True Believer" which is akin to a 1980s action movie training montage or an NES side-scrolling beat-em-up boss battle soundtrack. There's a flute solo; badass riffs ("No Surrender"); falsetto screams; insanely blazing fretwork; tambourines galore; a lyrical nod to Battle Beast's first album (no joke! It's in the chorus of "This Is War" - cheeky fuckers!) and choruses catchier than tuberculosis. If you need anything else in your life, you're asking too much from this world.

To get a 100% score from me requires some special X factor, an unidentifiable 'something' that elevates the release and lets it transcend our puny human qualms. Beast In Black almost had it with Berserker but, here in 2019, they feel settled in their skin and ready to churn out the band's true vision. From Hell With Love only gets more appealing with every spin - and that's the measure of a truly 'classic' record. What the hell are you waiting for!? Pre-order this shit right now, don those leather trousers you obviously own, hit the disco this Saturday night and BABY BABY TELL ME MORE OF YOUR LIES!!

Black is Back! - 79%

MetalGuard, February 11th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

When guitarist Anton Kabanen was rather unceremoniously dismissed from his previous band, Battle Beast, he set out on a musical tour of revenge, so to speak, by founding his current group Beast in Black, which would go on to essentially deliver the same kind of 80s- and synth-infused brand of Dance Metal that his previous band is already known for, perhaps with even a slightly (and deliberately) cheesier approach. The debut album "Berserker" was released in 2017 via German powerhouse label Nuclear Blast, and the first single "Blind and Frozen" garnered some serious accolades, clocking in at over 12 million views on YouTube as of this writing.

In general, the first album was well received, even if some critics mentioned that the high level of top hits such as the aforementioned "Blind and Frozen" or the superb "Born Again" couldn't be maintained over the entirety of the album. Now in my humble opinion, the same holds true for the band's sophomore outing "From Hell With Love". The first single "Sweet Lies" once again silences all doubters in Anton Kabanen's songwriting skills with an infection 80s-style tour de force, and songs like "Heart of Steel" (not to be confused with the Manowar classic of the same name) and the title track show that on their second full length release, Beast in Black has definitely found its signature sound.

Unfortunately, as with the debut, not all the songs can achieve the same high level of craftsmanship. In some cases, the hooks and lyrics just fall a bit flat, like in the second single "Die by the Blade" or the album's opener "Cry out for a Hero". Don't get me wrong - the puzzle pieces are always there, from Anton's wailing guitars to the classic 80s synth sounds and programmed drums and percussion, to singer Yannis Papadopoulos' sometimes effeminate, sometimes screaming vocals; however the whole picture doesn't always come together absolutely flawlessly in the end.

Nonetheless, Beast in Black's second album does not disappoint, and fans of easy-to-digest pop metal will find a lot to enjoy about this release. Add to some outstanding songs and some agreeable songs also a few fun covers like the legendary "No Easy Way Out" from the Rocky IV soundtrack, and you get an overall highly entertaining album that is certain to push the band to the next level of success.

The black-clad beast gets a sexier upgrade. - 94%

hells_unicorn, February 10th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

The musical journey of Finnish songwriter and arguably ironic innovator Anton Kabanen has been, if nothing else, impossible to ignore. Though arguably born out of the more AOR and restrained incarnation of power metal that was all the rage in the mid-2000s, his original project Battle Beast (which still rages on without him), had a very different take on things that would become one of several alternatives by the dawn of the present decade. Consisting of a marriage of pop songwriting that featured a synthesizer-happy stylistic reminiscence on early to mid-80s post-disco with a melodic yet biting form of female-fronted heavy metal that drew heavy comparison to Warlock and mid-80s Accept (circa the Metal Heart album), Anton and company staked out a niche all their own amid a metal scene that was drifting gradually back towards the fast-paced power metal of the early 2000s. Three albums deep into their rush to the helm of the melodic metal world, Kabanen cut ties with his former band and staked out a fresh take on the hybrid sound he helped popularize, featuring a more power metal-oriented presentation, thus was born Beast In Black.

Following a highly impressive debut effort a couple years ago in Berserker, that some fans of Battle Beast would argue was the true continuation of said band, a veritable monster of a follow up has been unleashed in From Hell With Love. The less than subtle play on the title of an iconic James Bond story and film isn’t the only blast from the past to round out this album’s musical and lyrical contents, yet it comes in a fresh and highly polished package fit for the year that will ultimately end with the demise of the 2010s. Likewise, barring the exodus of drummer Sami Hanninen and the entry of his replacement Atte Palokangas, along with a pristine Amazonian bombshell riding atop the band’s beastly mascot adorning the album cover, this opus opts to change little from the formula of its predecessor apart from further distilling things for a more concentrated punch of melodic hooks and metallic edge. From 80s retro synthesizers, Iron Maiden-inspired riff work, and shred-happy guitar gymnastics to the high-pitched wails and versatile vocal personality of Yannis Papadopoulos with his occasional parallels to Udo Dirkschneider and Heavenly’s Ben Sotto, the sky is the proverbial limit.

Though not a full on clone of Anton’s former band from the same label, their approach is naturally a fair bit similar, including but not limited to their preference to forego instrumental preludes or any other introductory material and cut right to the chase. Rocking at an upper mid-paced groove and loaded to the brim with keyboard and guitar-driven hooks, “Cry Out For A Hero” sets the tone with an arena-oriented fanfare number that’s heavy enough for metal, but also concise and catchy enough for rock radio. This approach proves to be a dominant theme on this album, thought with varying degrees of metallic intrigue as the synth-pop elements function as occasional gimmicks on metallic crushers like “From Hell With Love” and “Unlimited Sin”, meanwhile accessible anthems such as this album’s two promotional singles “Sweet True Lies” and “Die By The Blade”, while lyrically different, could both pass for a heavier version of something off the Rocky IV soundtrack. Interestingly enough, the band wears their pop/rock influences on their shirtsleeve by presenting a truly spellbinding metallic rendition of the Robert Tepper classic “No Easy Way Out” from the same film.

The point of contrast that this metallic beast shares with its female-fronted forerunner largely rests in a greater degree of power metal influences, and this time around those elements are a fair bit more pronounced. Heavy ended and pounding riff monsters like “Repentless” and “Heart Of Steel” listen a bit closer to the sort of war anthem based power of Sabaton and Civil War rather than metal-tinged revamps of the Scarface soundtrack, while “This Is War” could all but pass for either band minus Papadopoulos’ shriek-happy vocals, and even on more hook-obsessed sing-along romps like “No Surrender” the band’s Iron Maiden and Helloween influences hold equal sway with the dance elements. The lone exceptions to this ongoing stylist duality come in a faithful yet denser cover of Motorhead’s “Killed By Death”, which sees Yannis all but perfectly imitating Lemmy Kilmister’s haggard, cigarette-steeped gruff, and a rather auspiciously serene and melancholy ballad in “Oceandeep” that listens close to a number of similarly oriented ballads from Battle Beast and features the same vocalist crooning in a falsetto that epitomizes vulnerability.

Though the debates may rage endlessly regarding whether this band or Battle Beast is the true continuation of beast that gave the metal masses the riveting fit of heavy metal revivalism that was the latter’s self-titled 2013 classic and Unholy Savior, this is the first offering out of either project from 2016 until now to rival the former of those two as an entire package. There is a good case to be made that while this outfit places a higher priority on the metallic side of the equation, that both bands stand on relatively equal footing and offer more of a good thing rather than one or the other being the shell of its former self. Neither shows any sign of slowing down and will likely continue to be cross-town rivals sharing the same record label and the same target audience for the foreseeable future, which is hardly an eventuality that would warrant complaint. For any who want to take a glimpse into the world where Judas Priest, Accept or W.A.S.P. had performed on the soundtracks of a number of iconic mid-1980s Hollywood blockbusters, this is about as close as it gets.

Originally written for Sonic Perspectives ( on February 10th, 2019.

The Beast Comes Out On Top - 100%

KanisMaximus, February 8th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

It’s finally here! The Beast is back with another genre-shattering masterpiece in From Hell With Love. This highly-anticipated album holds nothing back; it is unlimited 80s fury that never fucking stops.

I’ll be completely honest here. There hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t thought about this album since its announcement. Having been a huge fan of Battle Beast since I first heard them years ago, my excitement was immeasurable, and luckily, fully warranted.

From Hell With Love delivers all the mouth-watering cheese it promised with it’s singles, ‘Sweet True Lies’ and ‘Die By The Blade’, plus an assload more. As usual, the production quality couldn’t be clearer and there are too many background parts to count. New drummer Atte Palokangas makes himself right at home with the Beast, and Yannis Papadopoulos’ knockout voice is as vicious as ever. Anton Kabanen’s classic Battle Beast essence is ever-present, but there is no shortage of new elements.

Rather than sprinkling in some 80s pop flavours here and there, this album goes all out and douses the music in all sorts of different layers of 80s glory. ‘Repentless’ has some Rocky-esque fanfare, whereas ‘From Hell With Love’ is more disco pop. There is a huge amount of variety within the album, with the musical influences coming from the entire decade rather than just a single genre of 80s music.

Kabanen once again proves he can write the shit out of a quality ballad, too. ‘Oceandeep’ is emotional and heartfelt, complete with Yannis’ passionately (and womanly, but in the most beautiful of ways) versatile vocals. The solo is tasteful and even gets back up for a second round.

You may be asking, “Hey, what about the heavier stuff we’ve grown to love?” Don’t worry; there’s plenty of that, too. Tracks like ‘Cry Out for a Hero’, ‘Killed by Death’, and even the cover of Robert Tepper’s ‘No Easy Way Out’ are sufficiently powerful. I was kind of disappointed that there was no training montage music video for ‘No Easy Way Out’, though. That’s literally the only thing about the album that comes close to being a problem for me.

The lyrical themes still contain a bit of japanese manga influence, mainly from Berserk (but also Fist of the North Star in ‘Cry Out for a Hero’), as well as more personal and general themes, resulting in a creative songwriting mix.

Now, let’s talk solos. It seems like Kabanen took a turn in style at Battle Beast’s Unholy Savior, and continued in like fashion into Berserker, with more emphasis on technicality than outright shredding. However, it seems that he’s pulled all of the best moves from his bag of secrets to develop an even more lethal combo. A perfect example is in ‘No Surrender’, which begins with an epic riff before exploding into some truly facemelting energy.

Ding Ding. Despite it only being February, I think it’s safe to say that From Hell With Love will conquer the competition and come out as the heavy metal champion of the year. All biases aside, there is nothing that this record could do improve. It’s perfect the way it is. It’ll set your heart on fire until you’re about to burst.

But, with all the guts poured out in From Hell With Love, will the next release be able to stand up and defend the title? It’ll be tough, but they’ll sure as hell try; I didn’t hear no bell.

Originally written for