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A highly combustible fist to the face. - 88%

hells_unicorn, July 22nd, 2017
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, AFM Records

When a band has been plugging away for the better part of 25 years and has come to being ten albums deep in a career that has generally been defined by a distinctive combination of aggression and formulaic consistency, veteran status is definitely to be conferred. Brainstorm, in this disposition, could be likened to a German power metal institution unto themselves, avoiding a lot of the ear-grabbing gimmicks that have generally defined both the melodic and speed metal oriented strains of said scene, even though they share a fair degree of affinity with the latter and are equally as catchy as the former. They've developed what can basically be dubbed a trifecta approach to crafting albums, consisting of varying focuses on heaviness, safeness and fun; with whichever one carrying the greater share shifting every now and then. Firesoul is an album that maintains a generally safe songwriting approach with plenty of hooks and has a little fun with the arrangement here and there, but in contrast to recent outings, is an album that is typified by packing a massive punch.

Forsaking any sort of epic additives to establish a lofty gloss over top of their riff oriented craft, things kick off with a prelude that consists solely of a match being struck and the quick flare up of a massive open flame. The resulting opening number dubbed "Erased By The Dark" doesn't waste time in pummeling the ears with a massive heavy array of power, cycling through a series of animated note runs in the guitars reminiscent of the heavier end of a progressive number that would pass for a slightly less technical foray into Jeff Loomis territory, and a thundering, bottom heavy assault from the rhythm section. Anchoring this dissonance between driving grooves and noodling runs is Andy Franck's mid-ranged grit with occasionally higher end wails, organizing this song into a stomping behemoth that has the chunkiness of Mystic Prophecy, but also the nimbleness of latter day Judas Priest. Similar displays of fast paced, skull-crushing goodness emerge later on in the catchy title song "Firesoul" and the riff happy "What Grows Inside", whereas frenetic speeders like "Shadowseeker" and "Descendants Of The Fire" launch right into Painkiller territory.

Though the formulaic aspects of Brainstorm's approach is clearly present and informs the predictable cadence points of what are generally fast and upper mid-paced exercises in heavy aggression, it does give way to some more nuanced moments that might even be dubbed progressive to an extent. Generally this measured degree of experimentation will manifest in this band's ballad material, and the depth of highly memorable half-balladry of "Recall The Real" and "...And I Wonder" have all the makings of a heavier yet equally haunting exercise in what Queensryche or even Franck's former band Ivanhoe might have put together. The former of these songs features a dense atmospheric backdrop and droning clean guitar line that sets the stage for what can be best described as this band's take on a chant section, seeing Andy Franck's voice in an unusually clean and restrained character, and cycles through varying sections of thudding grooves and occasional fits of speed that manages to be equally as memorable as the shorter numbers despite being wider in scope. These songs also underscore the band's generally middle-of-the-road approach to their craft, presenting impressive yet not quite virtuoso-oriented performance, leaving the power in the band's hooks and riffs rather than their technique.

While some bands seem to just get bored and veer off into unexpected territory when they get older, Brainstorm has kept a keen eye to what works best for them, and Firesoul is more akin to the classic heaviness and polish of Soul Temptation and Liquid Monster, albeit ratcheted up to the point of rivaling the most intense moments of Tad Morose and Firewind. At times it almost seems like this album wants to morph into a modern groove/thrash affair where aggression essentially supplants the consonant and familiar character that sets power metal and its more traditional predecessors apart from the rest, but it avoids the convoluted character that tends to typify Nevermore and instead stands as a similarly intense hybrid of traditionalism and modernity that fits right in line with fellow German metal extraordinaires and trustees of consistency Mystic Prophecy. To put it simply, any person who thinks that power metal is only about symphonic pomp, pretty sounding vocals and wizards casting spells should give this album a listen and try to see if it doesn't put his nose straight through his brain.

Power metal that has...power! - 90%

mjollnir, May 10th, 2014

Germany's Brainstorm is a band that has been in existence since 1989 but didn't seem to be able to release a full length until almost a decade later. I'm not sure why because in the world of German power metal this band is criminally thrown to the back burner in favor of the more popular and successful acts. I do believe that the more serious metal fan is well aware of this band's brand of power metal that actually has an emphasis on power. I actually had the good fortune to meet them about a decade ago at ProgPower V and they were down to earth guys that played a set that absolutely slayed! So now we have their tenth full length album, Firesoul, an album that is actually one of my favorite albums of the year.

As I said, this band is considered power metal but their sound does not resemble many of the bands that are considered definitive bands of power metal. They do use some keyboards and symphonic elements but what makes this band stand out from the rest is the riffs. This band uses a crunchier guitar sound with heavy as fuck riffs that seem to fit in more with USPM than with the bands to whom they they share a continent. The opener, "Erased by the Dark" are typical of the Brainstorm sound. This song may have symphonic keys but they do not drive the song. Instead riffs, riffs and more riffs drive this song as well as all the songs on this album. Vocalist Andy B. Franck actually sounds like Harry Conklin on a lot of the songs on this album. This is the best I've heard his voice sound from all the albums I've heard by this band. The title track kicks off with a more traditional flare with the main riff reminding me of old school metal but with that heavy guitar sound that gives this band a heavier feel. The chorus is catchy and the remainder of the song is full of hooks and massive riffs.

The remainder of the album sees the band throwing some variety in the mix with their signature pounding riffs, soaring vocals, and classy solos leading the way but with enough melody to not be a one trick pony. "Descendants of the Fire" seems to kick your teeth in with it's powerful riff work and blazing speed while "Entering Solitude" is a more melodic number with it's traditional metal intro riff and softer parts in the verse. "Recall The Real" is another melodic number with a catchy as fuck chorus that you can not help but sing along to. The keys are subtle but still enough to add that dynamic making this one of the band's best songs in a while. This is Brainstorm doing epic anthems as only they can. This variety is typical of this band as they seem to rely on writing both heavy metal anthems as well as heavy as fuck riff fests so there's something for everyone on this album. Then there is a song like "Feed Me Lies" that combines the heavy riffing with the infectious melodies in the chorus making this another song that will stick in your head. This song's vocals has that Harry Conklin vibe going on again.

There seems to be an energy on this album that may have been missing with the previous couple of albums giving you this feeling like the band has been rejuvenated. Solid songwriting and flawless execution is the formula here making this album by this veteran band an album that is not only worth getting but essential. This is power metal with actual power but with a melodic side that gives this band a very unique sound. Once again this year, a veteran German band has released a quality album. If you are a metal fan and let this album slip by you, you are doing yourself a great disservice.

Deep, powerful metal - 82%

Andromeda_Unchained, April 28th, 2014

I’m sure someone has tainted Germany’s water supply, as this year all of its finest metal exports have been putting out winning albums. Brainstorm joins the crowd, hurling forth Firesoul, its tenth full-length album; and certainly one of its finest to date. I’ve always found Brainstorm to be a highly dependable act, and here the band proves it in spades, doing what it does best.

The last two albums were something of a deviation from Brainstorm’s usual pummeling assault a la Downburst, and opted instead for an understated approach in both songwriting and production. I’ll be the first to tell you it worked on every level – particularly Memorial Roots – but here, Brainstorm rips the lid off and returns to doing what it did so well on albums like Metus Mortis or Soul Temptation. Expect plenty of fist banging anthems throughout, adorned with muscled guitar riffs, pounding rhythms, and Andy Franck’s ever-fantastic vocals.

This is classic Brainstorm through and through, drawing from the vast well of prior experience and blending it all together for a complete experience. The subtle orchestration which ensured Soul Temptation was such a treat returns proudly, whether booming throughout the powerhouse opening track “Erased By The Dark”, or delightfully reinforcing the melodic motifs in the ecstasy which is “Recall The Real”, a song up there with the finest Brainstorm numbers. The savage guitar attack and pulsating rhythms are kicked right back into the foreground as well, recalling Metus Mortis in punchy numbers like “Descendants Of The Fire” or the unmistakably-Brainstorm ripper “Shadowseeker”.

Whilst I can’t really say any new ground is broken here, I will say that the band’s sound has been completely reinvigorated, much like countrymen Primal Fear. However, there is a certain degree of texture to the guitars which I haven’t felt present in the band before, awarding the music a further layer of depth, complimenting the finely honed songwriting, and of course Andy’s killer vocals. Speaking of which, he’s absolutely on the money here, commanding the tracks with the power and dramatic flair they deserve. I also really like the layering he does in songs like “Feed Me Lies” or the aforementioned “Recall The Real”, again adding texture, and I feel retaining some of the elements shown in the preceding two releases – the perfect counterpoint to the towering metallic assault delivered throughout a large portion of this album.

As such, Firesoul has this kind of all-encompassing feel, and like I’ve said, it absolutely shows off everything that Brainstorm does best. For the completely uninitiated, this would be hard-edged German power metal, although a few others (including myself) like to refer to Brainstorm (among others) as “powerful” metal. Essentially a pugilistic, yet undeniably anthemic branch of the style; taking cues from Judas Priest, Dio and Metal Church in terms of structure and vocal performance, with an air of violent, thrash metal conventions present in the guitars and rhythms. Big riffs and bigger choruses are the name of the game when concerning Brainstorm.

If you’re a fan of good, involving heavy metal, then Brainstorm is seriously the band for you. The Germans provide longevity in spades, the likes of which has had me revisiting the various albums in the band’s repertoire for years both past and those to come, I’m sure. Firesoul will be no different, as despite being instantly accessible and identifiable, it houses the kind of depth of songwriting that greatly rewards repeated listens. Brainstorm might never be the flavor of the week, but that’s because it’s better than that; Brainstorm is a band for life.

Written for Black Wind Metal