REVIEW: BRAINSTORM – “Scary Creatures”
Germany has a reputation as the country that created and defined the power metal genre. Of course, we all know the giants of said genre like Helloween, Gamma Ray, Grave Digger, Running Wild, Rage and such, but there are tons of lesser-known German class acts that are just as good (and in many cases, better) as those, as is with Paragon, Powergod, Rebellion, Stormwarrior, Sinbreed and so on. Oh, and you can add Brainstorm to the latter as well.
Tracing their career as far back as 1989, with the band releasing a few demos before launching the great ‘Unholy’ in 1997 – an album acclaimed in the power metal underground community upto this day – Brainstorm adopts a heavier, darker approach to power metal, with a more polished and refined sound than the average act, molding the genre and making it their own by including thrash metal elements. Following the monster album that was ‘Firesoul’, Andy B. Franck (vocals), Dieter Bernert (drums), Antonio Ieva (bass) and the dynamic duo of Milan Loncaric and Torsten Ihlenfeld (guitars) grace us with their 10th studio effort, ‘Scary Creatures’.
Having had a near-perfect run since the beginning, with just a few bumps along the way (I’m looking at you, ‘Liquid Monster’ and ‘Memorial Roots’) and releasing classics such as ‘Ambiguity’, ‘Metus Mortis’ and ‘Soul Temptation’, ‘Scary Creatures’ has big shoes to fill. So, is this a worthy follow-up to the already great ‘Firesoul’?
The album kicks off with a classic Brainstorm introduction in “The World to See”, then exploding into a classic Brainstorm tune with powerful double-pedal drumming and heavy riffs. Despite going at a faster tempo, the chorus slows the song down a little and resembles songs like “Blind Suffering”. In fact, this album has a lot of elements from ‘Metus Mortis’, which is a good thing. The follow-up track “How Much Can You Take” has a heavy approach and a lot of punch, with a characteristic choir full of anger.
The (dis)honor of “weakest song” here however goes to “We Are”, and although resting below the average quality for the album, is nevertheless a good and catchy tune, especially at the end part. “Where Angels Dream”, “Caressed by the Blackness”, “Take Me to the Never” and “Sky Among the Clouds” are classic Brainstorm tunes relying heavily on those characteristic choirs, more melodic choruses, and the inspired riffing of Loncaric and Ihlenfeld, with the latter being the least exciting of them.
The title track does a good job justifying its name by adopting a darker and menacing atmosphere with a masterful performance by Andy on vocals, but it’s with “Twisted Ways” and “Scars In Your Eyes” that the band really shines. “Twisted Ways” has one of the best choruses Brainstorm has ever made, and while it’s overly melodic for the band’s standards, it actually excels because of this, resulting in a near-masterpiece that explodes in its climax. “Scars In Your Eyes” shows the evil side of the album with a bombastic melody and a masterful solo.
Speaking of which, the solos throughout the album are top-notch, with the right mix between virtuosity and heaviness. But it is Andy, once again, who steals the show; He hasn’t lost a bit of the vocal power from his heyday and is actually sounding even better than before.
Quoting a song from the same, ‘Scary Creatures’ is an album with “Highs Without Lows”; so, yeah, this is a worthy follow up to ‘Firesoul’. As a matter of fact, ‘Scary Creatures’ has surpassed the quality and maturity of its predecessor and turned into one of the best Brainstorm efforts ever. It is not often that we hear a power metal album that detaches itself from the sea of copies that flood the genre, and this needs to be recognized and deserved. Buy this, share this with your friends, and show them that power metal is not all about dungeons, dragons, swords and keyboards. Trust me, ‘Scary Creatures’ is one of the best power metal albums of the last decade and most definitely the power metal album of 2016.