German power metal. You either love it or hate it in all its intransigent, adamantine (and, let’s admit it, at times ludicrous) glory, and whilst I have to say I’m definitely a lover, at times even my patience is tested as the genre becomes ever more saturated, ever more watered down.
Maximum hails, then, must go to Brainstorm, who, with their Scary Creatures album (their eleventh full lengther, by my reckoning), single handedly restore flagging faith in the medium. This is powerful, intelligently executed power metal which although guaranteed to appeal to the cognoscenti, also contains enough mainstream appeal to snare casual observers and maybe even one or two of the scenes many detractors to boot.
Much of the kudos for this state of affairs goes to vocalist Andy B. Franck, who puts in a bravura performance throughout the duration of the album that is a real sound for sore ears. Surprisingly for a man of such vocal talent, Franck never oversings any of the songs here, maintaining control and power when many lesser singers would just succumb to the temptation of turning everything into a wailfest. Hence the likes of Scars in Their Eyes become slow-burning potential classics rather than dog-bothering feasts of banshee overindulgence.
Similarly the titanic Take Me to the Never, wherein the spirits of Judas Priest and Accept are raised in equal part with neck-damaging results, is a tour de force for Franck. The former Symforce vocalist lets the song do the work, aided by some uber-Teutonic backing vocals from the rest of the band, whilst guitarists Milan Loncaric and Torsten Ihlenfeld supply the crunch and some beautifully melodic soloing to boot. This is truly memorable stuff…
Best track however is the insistent Twisted Ways, a meaty, thundering anthem powered by superb chugging guitars and some nice drumming from Dieter Bernert. It starts up as a sort of general-issue, Maiden-inspired thumper before a spine-tingling chorus erupts out of nowhere, sweeping you along in the pure euphoria of it all. Only the best power metal can do this, and for this song at least Brainstorm prove that they are indeed capable of holding their own against the best the genre has to offer in 2016.
The band has just finished a tour with Primal Fear and Striker (what a lineup that is!), and those two bands are certainly reference points here, but really, if you like anything from the trad metal of Priest and Maiden, through Queensrÿche to the more powerful stylings of classic-period Helloween or HammerFall, then theirs is absolutely no reason why you won’t derive maximum enjoyment form this at times breathtaking record.
Scary Creatures is out now on AFM Records