REVIEW: Battle Beast – Circus of Doom

0
1481

So, BATTLE BEAST, eh? This band has had a pretty varied history, starting with vocalist Nitte Valo back in the 2000s, winning rising star competitions all over Finland, replacing Nitte with Noora Louhimo, replacing Anton Kabanen with Ossi Maaristo and Joona Björkroth, ultimately leading them to now. Their sixth studio album, “Circus of Doom,” set for release on January 21st, 2022, promises a more thematic approach to their radio-friendly melodic metal, as well as a bit more drama, so we naturally had to check it out.

There are two things I need to be upfront about going into this review. The first one is that Noora Louhimo is a goddess and anyone who says otherwise needs a slap in the face with a hot poker. The other is that this band makes me purely insane for almost never changing their drum beat and the fact that their bass player may as well not exist in the mix, so brace yourselves for me whining about that the entire review. Okay, on to the music then.

So the album starts with a pretty good banger of a track, which also happens to be the title track. It’s got a pretty catchy sound and Noora Louhimo seems to be having fun with the vocal melodies, showing off how fabulous she is. The choirs are put to good use and the backing symphonics are pretty epic. If it wasn’t for that basic disco beat and lack of notable bass, this would be a masterpiece of an intro track. Next up is “Wings of Light,” where the opening vocal melody feels a bit too familiar, but is fortunately dressed up quite well. Compositionally, it’s a bit like THE DARK ELEMENT, in that sort of NIGHTWISH-lite sort of way. The song is pretty straightforward for BATTLE BEAST, a typical track-2-to-maintain-the-energy-after-the-first-song kind of song; nothing especially exciting or stand-out happens, but it’s perfectly fine to listen to, nothing that offends the ear going on. It’ll definitely get fans hyped up at festivals.

We of course already know the single, “Master of Illusion,” which has a pretty great intro, even if it still edges close to NIGHTWISH territory. If I complained about a basic vocal melody in the previous song, this track makes up for it completely with one of the cooler first verses to be found on the album. But gosh, have I heard this drum beat before? They again dress it up pretty nicely in the chorus by hiding it behind symphonics, at least, and the guitar riffing is pretty solid. It took a while to decide, but I think it has won me over because it’s so damn catchy. The balance between the symphonics and the guitar is also very well-done. “Where Angels Fear to Fly” (now that’s an IRON MAIDEN song title, am I right? Well, you’ll be happy to know that Noora wails like Bruce Dickinson in this song) is another single that starts strong but immediately fizzles out into a rather sluggish tempo that might have worked if they had done it in a full marching-beat style. The chorus has a pretty good power metal melody but it lacks a bit of oomph to really soar – hopefully this will get a little more speed live to uplift it a bit more. The soloing over the backing parts is quite cool and Noora‘s melodies aren’t too experimental but she adds so much style to them that it doesn’t matter. It’s not an instant banger, but it certainly has its intrigues.

The singles were grouped together it seems, as generic-metal-song-titled “Eye of the Storm” (seriously, go on your streaming service and look up that song name and see how many hits you get) kicks the energy up a little. I’m on the fence on the vocals here, because they’re some of the poppiest ever heard from Noora, in polished AMARANTHE-y kind of way, yet she shows that Anette Olzon tenderness that many grittier vocalists couldn’t actually pull off if their lives depended on it. The song does a pretty basic time change in the last quadrant that makes it last a fair bit too long, leaving it feeling pretty repetitive towards the end. The outro guitar notes are really nice though!

There’s an absolute clusterfuck of an intro that is kind of awesome to “Russian Roulette,” which takes a surprisingly rock ‘n’ roll vibe as it winds down – nodding perhaps even to some styles from Noora‘s solo album of last year – toying around with a cheeky sound and a (gasp!) slightly different – if still repetitive – rhythm, which is a necessary breath of fresh air at this point. This was the first song on the album that genuinely required a second listen or more to process because there’s a lot going on and more than a few influences have popped out, like some weird keyboard twiddling later on that’s pretty fun, as well as an odd but delightful ragtime/saloon part that comes out of nowhere but weirdly works in the overall chaos of the song. This is probably my personal favorite.

“Freedom” goes so far as to offer some power metal galloping [laukkakomppi] in the rhythm – very early Finnish power metal and/or IRON MAIDEN in style. The chorus is a little boring and I’m not sure about the synth sound in there (it’s maybe a bit too Christmas-y/Rainbow Road/Silverfang) and maybe doesn’t suit the overall sound, but otherwise this is another bit of spice on the album to shake up the beat. This one stays more to the point, not dragging on, before they touch back on No More Hollywood Endings territory with “The Road to Avalon.” Referencing Avalon is also a bit overused… alas, the song names aren’t very creative on this album. The melody in the chorus sounds quite similar to that of “Where Were You Last Night” (originally by Ankie Bagger, but notably covered by NIGHTWISH with Tarja Turunen on vocals). Catchy, yes, yet I’m still not sure if the sci-fi synth sounds quite suit the rest of the band’s sound. Overall, this one toes the line of poppy and too-familiar versus catchy and fun, and Noora is still stylish as hell, no matter what style she’s singing with.

“Armaggedon” has an interesting intro, but put your yoga pants back on, because we’re hopping back into that Richard Simmons gymnastics workout beat again. However, this song also has some of the most delicate balancing of soft-poppy and trademark grit that Noora shows on the album. We had concerns that the poppier vocal style might be too polished, but she is amazingly practiced at adding tiny touches of that rasp in there to make sure it doesn’t sound too clean. Musically, this isn’t a stand-out track, but if you focus on the singing, it really does show off something special. The solo’s not too bad either, but the song would’ve benefited from sort of change-up (not a key change) towards the end to prevent it from getting repetitive. The finale, “Place That We Call Home,” goes on the short-and-sweet principle, steering in a classical power metal direction that works pretty well for them, if you like yourself some ’90s Finnish power metal, wrapping up the album on a pretty good note. Noora rocks the normally clenched-balls-dominated soaring power metal vocals with the best of them, like it’s the easiest thing in the world, while the solo is also pretty good – a pretty strong finale.

So, having braced ourselves for impact with this album, we found “Circus of Doom” to actually land pretty well. Unfortunately, the rhythm section still seems to exist mainly to keep the beat for everything else, which is impossible to totally forgive, but otherwise this album proves to be a pretty strong addition to the roster for BATTLE BEAST. There’s a lot of fun, catchy bits here that’ll definitely work well live, but listening to an entire album of nearly the same beat can be unbearable at times. There’s a good degree of drama and the use of backing orchestrations is actually pretty well done, as long as it doesn’t graze too close to NIGHTWISH‘s pastures. Each song may dance the line between hit-or-miss depending on your preferences – the hardcore metalhead will scoff, yet the metal-tentative pop-lover will find this a nice gateway album into heavier music. But hey, finding out what works for you is half the fun of listening to a new album, right?

Tracklist

  1. Circus of Doom
  2. Wings of Light
  3. Master of Illusion
  4. Where Angels Fear to Fly
  5. Eye of the Storm
  6. Russian Roulette
  7. Freedom
  8. The Road to Avalon
  9. Armaggedon
  10. Place That We Call Home

Lineup

  • Juuso Soinio – rhythm guitar
  • Pyry Vikki – drums
  • Eero Sipilä – bass, backing vocals
  • Janne Björkroth – keytar, backing vocals
  • Noora Louhimo – lead vocals
  • Joona Björkroth – lead guitar, backing vocals

Label

Nuclear Blast Records

Links

Homepage

Facebook

Instagram