BRAINSTORM have been among Germany’s finest when it comes down to Power Metal for many years now and offer us their seventh full-length since 1997 with “Downburst” and their previous efforts had all been up there in the upper echelons of the style, raising the bar with each subsequent album, so “Downburst” has had quite some expectations to live up to.
After the first listen a few things came to mind already. For one more symphonic elements such as strings, giving some of the songs a grander sound, a few of the tracks also seems to have an increased amount of catchiness to them and that other than that everything sounds pretty much like BRAINSTORM, as we know them. Well, almost, because if you compare the latest effort to most of their previous releases, the older material seems to have had a slightly darker touch to it.
Now it all depends on your stance on what you think BRAINSTORM should sound like how you will embrace the increased use of symphonics, as they definitely play a bigger role in BRAINSTORM’s sound than they used to and are part of the evolution of the band. And it does in no way mean that they are less heavy than they used to be, just listen to the crunching guitars and thundering drums of opener “Falling Spiral Down” and any such notions are blown away right off the bat. Add to that Andy B. Franck’s trademark voice and you have a surefire winner right then and there!
“Fire Walk With Me” is the single of the album and it can’t fully keep up, catchier and also more modern in the guitars, not a bad song by any means, but it just seems a little more “commercial”, if you want, technically “Stained With Sin” also is very catchy, but it has more of this darker BRAINSTORM feel that makes the difference here. “Redemption In Your Eyes” is a good hybrid of the heavy, dark BRAINSTORM and the more symphonic touches we now find, while the ballad “End In Sorrow” utilizes the symphonic elements to their full extent (and if I say ballad, I don’t mean something sappy and happy, but at times pretty heavy in the guitar department and with “Protect Me From Myself” they have another killer hymn on the album, which stands up there among the best they have crafted so far. And is it just me or does “Frozen” have a certain JUDAS PRIEST touch to it?
Of course the Sascha Paeth/Michael “Miro” Rodenburg production is clear, voluminous and just big, which fits the compositions greatly, resulting in yet another great album by the Swabians, who have yet to disappoint, especially as they continue to evolve whenever we fear that they might start to stagnate, taking another step forward, all hail the storm of the brain!
(Online February 12, 2008)