In 1982, the cult science-fiction movie, Blade Runner, fantasized about the future year 2019. In reality, 2019 turned out to be quite something else, even though the seed of the global pandemic that started in Wuhan in December does sound almost dystopian. Whether you love or hate the film, it’s undeniable that its visual effects and style are still celebrated to this day, and it has inspired more than a few artists all over the world. Among those is guitarist Anton Kabanen, who explored cyberpunk themes already in BATTLE BEAST‘s “Steel” and has now decided that it’s time to take it even further with “Dark Connection,” BEAST IN BLACK‘s third studio effort, to be released on October 29th, 2021, via Nuclear Blast Records. Check out our interview with Anton Kabanen here.
“Dark Connection” kicks off with “Blade Runner,” which features a short keyboard intro that plummets into heavy riffage with the focus on the main keyboard melody that is incredibly catchy. It’s an energetic track that feels like it starts off from where the band had left us with their previous studio effort, “From Hell With Love.” The record continues with “Bella Donna,” which was a song I instantly fell in love with. It has an easy chorus that you can sing along to and I’m sure this track will be a fan favorite live, as it has some pretty fun moments. This track makes incredible use of dynamics; after a heavy intro, the verses are introduced, where they play around with more minimal sounds: keyboard-driven melodies go together with Yannis Papadopoulos‘ somewhat poppier vocals, which – during the verses – he always ends with a soar.
A voice-over introduces the next track, “Highway to Mars,” which was inspired by Armitage III. It follows a similar pattern, however, is a bit less energetic than the start of this record. It also has a rather large instrumental break, which I’m sure Yannis will certainly enjoy live. “Hardcore” changes around the album’s atmosphere a little, starting off with a short drum intro by Atte Palokangas. The track sweeps into a mid-tempo feast with a playful chorus.
BEAST IN BLACK is known to always have at least one crazy-ass song on their records – think of “Crazy, Mad, Insane,” for instance. This record has “One Night in Tokyo,” a Eurobeat-inspired wild ride that I expect to include some extra insanity during live shows. If you ever wondered what the soundtrack to your upcoming trip to Japan might be, this song truly embodies the experience of traveling to Japan (as a European citizen). One of my absolute favorite tracks on this record is the heavily synth-wave, cyberpunk-inspired “Moonlight Rendezvous.” It’s a slower track for the band, however, its atmosphere is so incredibly fitting for the overall theme of this record. The voice-over, again, is taken from Armitage III, but Anton has mentioned the track is inspired by many different animes, films, and so on.
“Revengeace Machine” keeps a similar style, with sci-fi synth-sounding soundscapes in the beginning, again, including a voiceover, giving more atmosphere and depth to the tracks. The intro leads into a heavier song, where Yannis Papadopoulos can show off yet another side of his colorful vocal spectrum; this is somewhat in the same style of “Zodd the Immortal” from “Berserker.” Keyboards play a bit of a lesser role in “Dark New World.” Again, this is probably one of the highlights of the record. Its chorus has probably one of the most beautiful melodies that Anton Kabanen has ever written and ultimately sticks in your mind for a very long time.
Yannis Papadopoulos sounds different in “To The Last Drop of Blood,” using a lot more distortion in his lower timbre. Is there anything this man can’t do? “Broken Survivors” slows down the tempo of the record again a little bit and shows a more emotional side of the band, with beautiful guitar solos. I especially like the section after the guitar solos, which has keyboards building up to a final climax. Just as you think that this record lacks a beautiful ballad, “My Dystopia” starts off rather slowly, with beautiful piano melodies that remind me a little bit of the renowned game music composer Nobuo Uematsu, while the harsher, symphonic riffs in between are reminiscent of NIGHTWISH. Ultimately, however, this track is a beautiful ode to science-fiction that flows beautifully from the first second to the last, feeling like the perfect fit to unwind the intensity of the album at the very end of all things.
As an extra, the band also included two cover songs: the heavy metal MANOWAR classic, “Battle Hymn,” and Michael Jackson‘s “They Don’t Really Care About Us.” The latter of these has a distinct BEAST IN BLACK-touch, translating very well into the band’s style. Ultimately, these bonus tracks serve as a nice little addition for fans. Perhaps the band will even include them in their setlist, as they have done with “No Easy Way Out” in the past.
In “Dark Connection,” BEAST IN BLACK are not necessarily doing anything new, however, there are a couple of things that somewhat set this record apart from their other albums. For one, the songs are somewhat interconnected due to their themes, but also sonically. Even though Anton Kabanen mentioned during our interview that he didn’t pick any specific keyboard sounds related to sci-fi, he did pick the ones that would fit the sound best, and somehow they do give that extra sci-fi atmosphere to the tracks (e.g. “Moonlight Rendezvous,” “Revengeance Machine,” and “Dark New World.”) Some of these tracks also have a voiceover included, which somehow gives them extra depth lyrically and creates a matrix of songs that ultimately might sound different, but are incredibly consistent. It’s this consistency that makes this album very strong and maybe even my favorite BEAST IN BLACK release to date. Apart from that, there is also a nice flow on this record, starting off with a sound we are very familiar with that leans more towards “From Hell With Love,” but then gets more experimental as the record progresses, ultimately ending in the most serene way an album could possibly end.
“Dark Connection” shares many similarities with “Berserker” and “From Hell With Love,” ranging from Kabanen‘s favorite chord progressions, incredible guitar solos, catchiness from A-to-Z, to Yannis Papadopoulos‘ vocal extravaganza. Altogether, this makes “Dark Connection” an album that fans of the band will surely enjoy and may even attract some new audiences who like music inspired by cyberpunk; a must-hear of 2021!
1. Blade Runner
2. Bella Donna
3. Highway To Mars
5. One Night In Tokyo
6. Moonlight Rendezvous
7. Revengeance Machine
8. Dark New World
9. To The Last Drop Of Blood
10. Broken Survivors
11. My Dystopia
12. Battle Hymn (MANOWAR Cover)
13. They Don’t Care About Us (Michael Jackson Cover)
Yannis Papadopoulos – vocals
Mate Molnar – bass
Atte Palokangas – drums
Kasperi Heikkinen – guitars
Anton Kabanen – guitars, vocals