Monday, 24 June 2013

BATTLE BEAST - s/t (2013)

Battle Beast exploded onto the international metal scene in 2011 with Steel, a high-energy slab of speed metal that told the story of a machine-driven apocalypse. The record was over-the-top, loud as hell, and completely refreshing.

The second offering from the Finish quintet is as you may expect: the cyber-themed madness of the first album has been cranked up, and the song-writing has greater scope.

Steel was a fantastic record. and you wouldn't be blamed for wondering if the band could top it, or if they would just be re-treading old ground. However, the first record wasn't without hic-ups, and it seems Battle Beast have set out to correct them this time around.

With new vocalist Noora Louhimo at the helm, the band have brought synths to the forefront without loosing the guitar virtuosity and gravel-gargling vocals of Anton Kabanen.

Louhimo and Kabanen trade off in a few songs, with Louhimo singing the more melodic passages and Kabanen taking on bits and pieces here, primarily in choruses. However, Louhimo's vocal range is boundless, and she seems right at home ripping out some Udo-inspired, visceral snarls.

How much of a role Kabanen plays vocally on the record I'm not 100% sure, although the moments when both voices can be distinctly heard are some of the best, with “Into the Heart of Danger” dripping with super-charged excess.

The band have come further lyrically, as well. Whether consciously or not (I have a habit of reading too much into these things...) the album seems to follow the journey of a space traveller arriving back on a planet to find it has been taken over by machines. Honestly, if that isn't an awesome theme for a metal record, I don't know what is.

I find a lot of concept albums will sacrifice decent song writing for sub-par storytelling, but Battle Beast do no such thing. Each track is a stand alone, cyber metal anthem, working great as a whole but not relying on the listener to be playing the album in full, either.

The record does have a few low-points, with “Golden Age” running a bit too long for such a melodic interlude, but the band redeem themselves as the pan-flutes give way to the powerhouse track “Kingdom”.

Although often lumped in with 80s revival bands, Battle Beast are anything but. The synth sensibilities and penchant for big riffs might come from an obvious 80s influence, but their sound is all their own. The crisp, cold production and hair-raising vocals put Battle Beast a step-above their peers.

To my knowledge, Battle Beast haven't actually commented on whether this is a concept album or not. Either way, the record continues on from where Steel left off but with a more expansive and progressive attitude.

Now we just have to wait for part three...

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