The ringmasters of Armageddon have arrived.
Like cells dividing within a living system, the metal world has seen its fair share of band splits that result in two near identical offshoots, though this separation does not always result in two equal outcomes. Case and point, one of the premier acts of power metal’s third wave out of Finland Battle Beast, which made their mark in the first half of the 2010s by marrying the swift and impact-based metallic guitar assault of European power metal with a blend of keyboard-steeped 1980s pop, post-disco and new wave influences. Following the exodus of primary songwriter and 6-string surgeon Anton Kabanen and the subsequent rise of his similarly styled project Beast In Black, the female-fronted original that took the metal world by storm found itself losing some steam and putting forth two studio LPs that were well polished, yet lacking in that signature metallic edge. But 2022 is a new year, and with it has come a reinvigorated beast that isn’t pulling any punches on “Circus Of Doom,” their 6th and latest studio endeavor.
To an extent, it could be argued that Battle Beast has turned back the clock a bit and taken a few pages out of the Kabanen book to inject some additional energy into their songwriting, all the while still maintaining the quasi-symphonic, Nightwish-inspired sound that they’ve been dabbling in since 2017’s “Bringer Of Pain.” It’s not quite to the level of pomp and bluster that typified “Once or Dark Passion Play,” but between the massive choral backdrops and blaring orchestral sounds, it wouldn’t be much of stretch to put this album in similar territory to Amberian Dawn and Dark Sarah, albeit mixed into a template that swings strongly in favor of this band’s 2013 smash eponymous LP. Perhaps the clearest contrast with the typical female-fronted symphonic affair is the raw and raging grit of singer Noora Luohimo, who has lost none of her fire over the past 9 years. Then again, the wild guitar work of Brymir axe man and Kabanen’s replacement Joona Bjorkroth is also rarely encountered in a typical symphonic metal context, and could easily rival some of the top names in the shredding business.
While in all respects this is a highly ambitious undertaking, this veteran metal sextet tempers their sonic triumphs with a concise formula that makes for a fun and accessible experience. Each of this album’s ten songs (twelve for those who seek out the vinyl or 2 CD Digibook versions) are certified bangers that could easily pass for radio, chock full of memorable hooks and punchy grooves. The opening foray into this dark carnival of sounds and title anthem “Circus Of Doom” lays on the symphonic detailing thick enough to rival Beyond The Black, yet barring a few more dissonant and nasty riffing segments, comes across more like a classic 80s heavy metal number with an expanded arrangement than anything else. Other similarly poignant sounding symphonic anthems that hearken unto Nightwish as much as they do Judas Priest or Dio include the riveting “Eye Of The Storm” (sporting an insane Malmsteen-inspired guitar presentation) and the coasting banger “Armageddon”, among a few others.
Nevertheless, the true strength of this album comes into focus when the emphasis is placed on pummeling metallic fury, and this album marks the first time since the 2013 self-titled LP that it’s been laid on this thick. Massive, gallop-happy crushers such as “Freedom”, driving anthems such as closer “Place That We Call Home” and fist-raising thrills like “Wings Of Light” are made to order for anyone who wants their metal catchy yet dripping with attitude. Even when the blaring keyboards and latent hard rock tendencies of this band’s sound go into full force as on the charming metal meets ABBA romp “Russian Roulette”, the energy level is kept to the max and zero apologies are offered. Ironically enough, the most metallic and grandiose material to be found on here prove to be the two bonus songs slated for the vinyl and 2 CD versions, with the thunderous and virtuosic display of “The Lightbringer” and the infectious speed metal number “Tempest Of Blades” (which could almost be dubbed “Raven” part 2) all but stealing the show despite the brilliance that precedes them.
For those who want a Battle Beast that still sounds more like the one that was churning out classic metal with an 80s synth pop twist prior to 2016, this could only accomplish that more completely had Kabanen been brought back into the fold. The line that separates this beast for the other one that emphasizes his preferred color of attire rather than dwelling upon his day job is a little less clear when putting aside the differing vocalist and semi-frequent symphonic flourishes. It’s not a full on throwback, as many of these songs function as better revisions of material heard on the last couple albums where the songwriting has come back into focus, but many existing fans will no doubt find themselves checking their calendars to make sure that they haven’t woken up in the earlier part of the preceding decade. It would behoove those among the fans whom have seen fit to keep score on how this outfit has been fairing in comparison to their black-clad rivals to give the next point to the battle-scarred team, they’ve definitely earned it.
Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: January 21st 2022
Genre: Heavy / Power / Symphonic Metal
“Circus Of Doom” Track listing:
- Circus Of Doom
- Wings Of Light
- Master Of Illusion
- Where Angels Fear To Fly
- Eye Of The Storm
- Russian Roulette
- The Road To Avalon
- Place That We Call Home
After several years of seeking to pave their own path following the exit of principle songwriter and guitarist Anton Kabanen, the remaining members of Battle Beast have reforged the tempered steel that typified their early sound and unleashed a bold, quasi-symphonic masterpiece to kick off 2022