Prior to their 2014 release Firesoul, Brainstorm was one of the few better known German power metal bands I had not been a big fan of. I had previously thought their brand of extra heavy power metal mixed with elements of traditional heavy metal had potential to be very good but found their songwriting to be a bit inconsistent. That changed a bit when I heard Firesoul and was instantly impressed by how they managed to add more melody and a bit more speed to their music, without taking away any of the heaviness and while sticking true to their usual sound, resulting in easily my favorite album of theirs up to that point, as well as one of my favorite albums of 2014. I have since become a fan of the band and enjoyed most of their releases, though that one and Soul Temptation stand out as my two clear favorites. Not quite two years later, the band is set to release their eleventh full length album, Scary Creatures, and I was instantly struck by the rather unique and colourful, kinda creepy cove art, and wondered how the album itself would sound.
Well, the resulting product shouldn’t be too surprising for longtime fans, as it contains their trademark heavy riffs and powerful vocals, and largely feels like a logical followup to Firesoul, but with a few nice twists here and there to make it stand out. Production wise and sound wise it feels very similar, which should be no shock as Achim Köhler was once again in charge of mixing and mastering. The album continues with the focus on more melody compared to some of their older albums, though I find overall it is slightly more aggressive than its immediate predecessor and I think part of that has to do with the overall darker tone of the album, which is especially noticeable on tracks like “How Much Can You Take”, “Take Me to the Never” and the title track. The last of those is especially noteworthy, as it contains orchestral elements throughout, adding to the overall atmosphere of the epic and rather slow paced track, and in the middle section the orchestra is fully unleashed and sounds pretty impressive. It certainly stands out as my favorite song on the album, though aren’t any real duds here.
Other surprises pop up throughout, some of which can seem disruptive and weird at first, but ultimately end up working out. For example, the slow paced, brooding heavy metal track “How Much More Can You Take” initially surprised me with its use of tough guy sounding gang vocals, which seemed a little bit off putting at first, but once I got used to them I found they fit the song rather well, and go together fine the always outstanding lead vocals by Andy B. Franck. This style of backing vocals is also used on the more melodic and slightly calmer but still dark “Take Me to the Never”, and I find they are used to slightly better effect on that track. Elsewhere, “We Are…” starts out seeming like a typically solid, crushing mid tempo Brainstorm track but with an exceptionally strong chorus, before a youth choir shows up in the middle and it turns into something much more epic, and ends up as another big standout.
In more traditional Brainstorm fare, after a nice orchestral intro, the opening track “The World to See” is a fun mid paced track with the excellent mix of heavy riffs, strong vocals and big melodies you’d expect from Brainstorm. It’s a great track, and one that will instantly feel familiar to longtime fans. Likewise, the excellent closing track “Sky Among the Clouds” is a slower, very melodic track where Andy’s vocals really get to shine, and it feels like it would have fit in perfectly with some of my favorite tracks from Firesoul.
One thing I noticed about this album is that while it still has the huge melodies and choral vocals you’d expect from power metal, it doesn’t have very many speedier tracks. In fact, aside from a couple bursts here and there, the only songs I would consider to be fast throughout are “Where Angels Dream” and especially “Twisted Ways”, which has a very Euro power metal feel to it the whole way through and is another one of my favorites. Fans hoping for more up tempo songs may be disappointed, though I find the overall songwriting strong enough and I find the album has enough surprises that it ends up flowing nicely anyway.
Overall, Scary Creatures is a very high quality heavy/power metal album and while I wouldn’t quite rank it up there with my two favorite Brainstorm releases, it isn’t too far behind. It continues what they started on their previous album by adding more melody to their typically hard edged sound, and also adds in some surprises as well as an overall darker tone, to help make it stand out from previous releases. Fans of the band should be very happy with it, and I recommend it for fans of the more aggressive side of power metal and heavy metal, but with the one warning that they shouldn’t expect too many overly fast paced tracks.
(originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2016/01/04/38466/)