Beast In Black - Berserker - (9.5/10)
Published on October 14, 2017
Genre:Melodic Power / Electro / Pop
A mere eight months between albums is a rare occurrence in the metal community – but Finland’s Battle Beast seem to be keen to make up for the slight misstep that was February’s Bringer Of Pain. 2015’s Unholy Savior showed the band poised to unfurl their power metal wings and explode into true Euro-power majesty. However, the proceeding output was far more pop-oriented, with large doses of classic rock, which was fun but disappointing considering the unrealized potential. But stop the presses! They are ready to correct their backwards move late in the year by striking back instantly with new LP Berserker. And it appears to have done the job! This is definitely the slate-cleaning Battle Beast needed to get them back on the road to glory…
Shit. Hang on…
At first, I was dumbstruck – facepalming at the sheer rip-off-ishness of this act. The single “Blind & Frozen” took all the staple traits of Battle Beast and amplified them to near-parody level. The disco sensibilities, the ’80s influenced synth, the unabashed romanticism, the screaming vocals – it’s all here in droves – and more to the point, perfectly executed. Even the name! Beast In Black?! I mean, come on!! However, quick research revealed that Nuclear Blast hadn’t lost their minds – ex-Battle Beast guitarist Anton Kabanen had just chosen to establish his own project with incredibly similar characteristics. Whether this is a case of one-upmanship, or whether Anton simply can’t not write music like this, I’m afraid both Beasts are going to be compared to one another ’til the end of time.
With all that out of the way, how does Berserker fare musically? Well, I wasn’t really joking in my opening statement. The path of Unholy Savior led right to this new release. Hardly surprising, seeing as Kabanen was responsible for the songwriting duties on that masterpiece. As one of the best power metal albums of 2015, I’m so happy that the pomp and glory has carried straight through to Berserker. The Finns had a big point to make with the opening number being called “Beast In Black” – but by jove did they make it, and then some! This track easily tramples over anything on Bringer Of Pain. Its explosive chorus, Yannis’ balls-to-the-wall vocal delivery, the unrelenting pace, those blasting keyboard accents – man, this is glorious stuff! I dub thee: shameless, pop-influenced power-disco. Consider me a true follower.
The keys really are an essential part of the Beast’s sound – even more so than the other Beast, if you can believe that! The blaring saw leads on tracks like “Eternal Fire” and “End Of The World” carry the melodies triumphantly, in a manner reminiscent of Freedom Call’s “Land Of Light”, and the omnipresent strings are constantly enhancing the atmosphere. This builds a foundation for the superb songwriting to sit on. Sure, this is typical pop song structure worship, but when the hooks are this catchy, the melodies this exciting, it simply becomes irresistible. The build-up to each chorus is filled with anticipation, and certain tracks like “Blind & Frozen” or the amazingly-titled “Zodd The Immortal” utterly nail it. Rarely do I feel this amount of satisfaction when an epic chorus finally drops.
This is still a metal album at heart, despite the frills and obvious influences. “Zodd The Immortal” breaks out some vicious riffage, and the stunning production quality ensures this is a shiny, gleaming album but with some real meat ‘n’ potatoes to back it up. Now, this is obviously not going to be for everyone, but any metalhead with a sense of fun (and preferably a penchant for ’80s pop…and Battle Beast…) will lap this up eagerly with a massive grin. Between the catchy-as-the-plague anthems of “Born Again” and “Blood Of A Lion”, and the almost pure-techno “Crazy, Mad, Insane”, through to the dramatic climax of the balladic “Ghost In The Rain”, Berseker will rock you to hell and back again! The Beast is back, and I’m fucking ecstatic that it’s Black.