Battle Beast - No More Hollywood Endings - (7/10)
Published on February 22, 2019
Round 1: Anton Kabanen’s massively successful Beast In Black sweeps his ex-bandmates, Battle Beast, aside with 2017’s phenomenal Berserker utterly trouncing the slightly lacklustre Bringer Of Pain. Round 2: Beast In Black release From Hell With Love early in 2019 and completely exceed all expectations with a nearly-guaranteed ‘album of the year’ spot. Now the original Beast are on the counter-attack, looking to achieve a quick recovery and, if they’re lucky, a hefty uppercut at their opponents with No More Hollywood Endings. The bikini-clad lady with the sign has walked, the bell has rung, and they’re off…
I would apologize for the daft analogy, but the competitive nature of these two outfits cannot be denied – even if the fracas is 99% the fault of the fans. I can’t recall either band ever referencing the other … but it’s fun to speculate! So, does the new Battle Beast album deliver the jab to the jaw that the Finns so desperately need after the disappointing previous effort? To be quite candid, no it doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean a fan of the band won’t enjoy No More Hollywood Endings. In fact, there are some absolute gems on this record. The issue lies in the encroaching pop sensibilities that have always been present, but now are becoming intrusive. Whereas Kabanen and co. have perfectly fused the ’80s pop timbre with their power metal core, Noora and co’s pop influence is decidedly more ’90s, and often creates an odd, schizophrenic feel throughout the album.
Before any berating, let’s state the obvious: Noora Louhimo’s voice is still godly. She’s simply one of the greatest vocalists in metal and shows no signs of weariness. Joona and Juuso’s guitar tones are sufficiently chunky and they can solo like nobody’s business. In fact, all performances are spot on and I don’t mean to disparage the awesome talents of the band members (though I do question the need for two keyboardists). Opening track “Unbroken” might lull you into a false sense of security by its sheer power and drive. It’s classic Battle Beast action and the section at 3:13 is one of the band’s greatest moments – pure fucking brilliance. On the other end of the spectrum, the jaunty, almost Bryan Adams-esque “Endless Summer” is anything but classic BB – and it leaves a sour, insincere taste in my mouth. The rest of the record covers plenty of layers in between these two extremes.
On the shaky side, there’s the lamenting “I Wish” which succeeds in drama but falls down on staying power. There’s the melancholic “Bent & Broken” which has a beautiful chorus melody but ultimately does very little with its material. There’s the peculiar “My Last Dream” which definitely shouldn’t have been the finale. There’s even the quite forgettable “Unfairy Tales” and “The Hero” which come across as painfully average (something I never thought I’d say about this band!) – though they’re still catchy, I suppose. Compare these to the anthemic powerhouse that is “Raise Your Fists” or the rapid-fire full-on power metal hymn “The Golden Horde” and the difference in both energy and enthusiasm is night and day. These two tracks, in particular, would’ve fit nicely on 2015’s Unholy Savior (still BB’s best album to date).
There are other assorted highlights on No More Hollywood Endings. The title-track, which has been heavily criticized by fans already, actually makes the movie-themed drama work for itself and results in a theatrical track which lets Noora shine. The piledriving “Piece Of Me” is basically a wrestler’s theme song in all its gloriously cheesy badassery (I swear I can hear some DJ scratches in there somewhere!). Both “Eden” and “World On Fire” contain wonderful choruses that soar among the clouds in the same fashion as “Beyond The Burning Skies”. So you see, this is a real mixed bag. Whether the Finns were aiming purely for a varied album, or to appeal to a wider demographic, we’ll never know. What’s certain is that Beast In Black’s newest effort, once again, outdoes Battle Beast’s. I’m glad both acts exist, but I can’t help feeling a certain spark is missing from the original outfit. It’s still there in the shape of “The Golden Horde”, “Raise Your Fists” and “Unbroken” – but here’s hoping they don’t let it ebb away completely.
Oh, and I never want to hear anything like the opening of ”Unfairy Tales” ever again. This is Battle Beast, not Britney Spears.