Beast In Black – Dark Connection (Album Review)

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Vintage Sci-Fi meets the current decade.

There is having an established formula, there is elevating gimmickry to the level of an art form, and then there are bands that plant their flag on doing both with zero apologies. In the specific realm of merging the high-impact and tuneful variety of heavy and power metal that have been all the rage since the dawn of the current millennium with the seemingly bygone days of 80s synth pop, Anton Kabanen’s nimble riffs, wild virtuosic guitar solos and hook-driven songwriting has reigned supreme since the beginning of the 2010s. Since vacating his role as mastermind of the female-front purveyors of keyboard-steeped 80s goodness Battle Beast, he’s been locked in an unofficial contest with his former band mates via his current project Beast In Black over who owns the stylistic niche in question. Suffice it to say, some healthy competition can do both sides a world of good, and Anton’s track record with his current project has now amounted to a brilliant hat trick with the arrival of his 3rd LP with the younger beast dubbed “Dark Connection.”

Relative to the more hard rocking approach that Battle Beast has adopted since Kabanen’s departure, this quintet’s approach has largely mirrored the blustery, 80s metal thunder of the former’s 2013 eponymous sophomore LP, albeit with a gravely high-pitched shriek machine in Yannis Papadopoulos who rests somewhere between a younger Rob Halford and a dirtier Ben Sotto (Heavenly). This time around the aesthetic has leaned a bit more towards the keyboard-oriented, electronic side of the coin, which proves a fitting shift in direction to coincide with a series of songs dealing with Sci-Fi themes comparable to such 80s staples as Blade Runner and Total Recall. It’s a subtle shift when dealing solely with the musical contents of the album and discounting the visual of a scantily clad red-headed cyborg woman with a network of computer transistors in the background, but it is a noticeable one that results in a handful of songs leaning in a more atmospheric and less impact-based direction, naturally for the purposes of serving the more elaborate lyrical content.

Naturally there are plenty of offerings to be found here that bring the metal power as forcefully as occurred on this outfit’s previous outing. The opening cruiser “Blade Runner” has all of the punch and fury that Kabanen brought to the fore on “Let It Roar” back in 2013 with Battle Beast, channeling the band’s Iron Maiden and Accept influences into a metallic wrecking ball that is also painted over with plenty of sugary keyboard hooks and inhuman vocal and shred guitar gymnastics. The somewhat groovier “Bella Donna” delivers a slightly heavier riff set at its onset that’s mildly reminiscent of vintage Herman Frank fodder, though the bulk of the song is a pop-infused sing along romp right out of the Tech Noir scene in the original Terminator film. Other similarly styled metal bangers such as “Dark New World” and “To The Last Drop Of Blood” accomplish the same basic end, albeit with a deeper contrast existing between the punchy, riff-driven moments and the syrupy 80s rock hooks with a disco ball in tow that leaves one wondering when Scarface is going to arrive to try and take down the Bolivian kill squad single-handedly.

While there is no shortage of metal moments to keep the hellbent for leather crowd satiated, there are some noteworthy points of contrast where the post-disco side of the coin gets a little more than half of the proverbial pie. Interestingly enough, the most blatant examples of this are the two singles that preceded the rest of this opus, with the techno-drenched bonanza “One Night In Tokyo” listening like a slightly heavier rendition of something off the ABBA spinoff musical Chess and something from the mid-90s Mortal Kombat film soundtrack, while the slower coasting keyboard fest and longer offering “Midnight Rendezvous” could almost be a dance number as it tells a poignant Sci-Fi tale reminiscent of the plot-line of the 90s anime classic Armitage III. Similarly, the lyrical homage to Total Recall “Highway To Mars” could moonlight as a rave anthem, though Yannis’ dynamic vocal delivery reminds heavily of the latter 2000s power metal luster of Heavenly. One would also be remiss not gloss over the serene, almost symphonic balladry of closing track “My Dystopia”, which is arguably the most memorable selection of the pack.

Perhaps the only thing more indicative of this project’s peculiar synchronous relationship between 80s pop and heavy metal music than the original studio material is their auspicious assimilation of disparate cover songs into their niche. This time around, the sword-wielding heroism and metal traditionalism of Manowar’s seminal classic “Battle Hymn” and the 90s avant-garde R&B ode to discontent courtesy of the King of Pop “They Don’t Care About Us” are given the Beast In Black treatment, the former receiving a smoother yet no less epic makeover, while the latter is refined into a grandiose metallic march that reflects the militant protesting character of the lyrics even better than the original, though Yannis’ apt imitation of Michael Jackson’s signature falsetto ad-lib parts gives it a light-hearted twist. Chalk them up as two massive cherries on top of a very tasty sundae that could alone coax all that are curious to given this band a look, but ultimately point the way to another crackerjack performance from one of heavy metal’s more flamboyant adherents

Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: October 29th, 2021
Genre: Heavy Metal / Power Metal / Arena Rock

Band Members:

  • Anton Kabanen / Guitars, backing vocals, keyboards
  • Yannis Papadopoulos / Lead vocals
  • Kasperi Heikkinen / Guitars
  • Máté Molnár / Bass
  • Atte Palokangas / Drums

Dark Connection” track-list:

1. Blade Runner
2. Bella Donna
3. Highway To Mars
4. Hardcore
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)

Dark Connection” is available as:

  • Digital album
  • CD
  • Black Vinyl
  • Clear/Sky Blue Marbled Vinyl [limited to 300 pieces]
  • Blue Transparent Vinyl [UK exclusive, limited to 300 pieces]
  • Red/Ocean Blue Splattered Vinyl [Bravado Exclusive, limited to 300 pieces]
  • White/Red Inkspot Vinyl [EMP exclusive, limited to 300 pieces]
  • Purple/Silver Inkspot Vinyl [US exclusive, limited to 300 pieces]

8.9 Excellent

Having been at the forefront of bringing the worlds of melodic metal and 80s post-disco/synth pop together for the past decade, former Battle Beast guitarist and mastermind Anton Kabanen, and his current fold of veteran metal warriors, usher in their latest studio venture in effortless fashion, proving that what is old can indeed become new

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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