REVIEW: BEAST IN BLACK – “Berserker”
Beast in Black are about to release their debut album ‘Berserker,’ due out this November on Nuclear Blast records. The band is the brainchild of former Battle Beast guitarist Anton Kabanen who left the band in 2015 under some hazy circumstances. Without missing a beat, Kabanen had recruited a line up for his new project, Beast in Black.Within 12 months, they had songs, a sound and had already played a live show where they opened for Nightwish. Since then, Kabanen and his band have been writing, composing and producing their debut album. Signing with Nuclear Blast seems to have been the icing on the cake for Kabanen, who said in a recent release that the bands “wildest dreams had come true.”
The album ‘Berserker’ was influenced by a Japanese manga and anime called Beserk. An interesting place to gather inspiration. I was curious about hearing how the heavy weights that Kabenen had pulled into the band would sound together,so got into the album.
First track “Beast in Black” comes out hard and fast with singer Yannis Papadopoulos shrieking “BESERKERRRRRRR!” within the first 15 seconds. Papadopoulos is equipped with a fantastic voice, and the combination of his very high range, drummer Sami Hanninen’s powerful pulse and some very noticeable keys – it’ a good start! The chorus is catchy and has a sing-a-long feel to it that one would expect from Kabanen’s previous work. Guitarists Kasperi Heikkinen and Anton Kabanen take the dueling solos out for a walk, with some impressive melodies. Towards the end of the song, Papadopoulos takes the spotlight with a quick tempo change before powering home with that addictive chorus and his exceptional vocals. It’s a strong start to the album.
Next song on the list is “Blind and Frozen” and here comes the cheese. The keys in this song are just too much. The first five seconds of the intro is like a time jump back to the 80’s and it does not tone down for the duration of the song. Listening to the lyrics of the song sounds like a tragic, broken-hearted love song: “Now I live with the pain/every night every day/as I read those letters you wrote me” and then the chorus clincher: “I will wait in the name of love.” Yikes. The keyboard assault continues throughout “Blind and Frozen” and they are still too much.
Enter “Blood of a Lion.” The cadence of this song is a bit slower and already feels like an improvement on the previous track. The keys are in check and complement the rest of the music well. Strong drums from Sami Hanninena raspier sound from Papadopoulos, some excellent guitar work from Kabanen and Heikkinen and two cheeky key changes!I like “Blood of a Lion.” It’s one of the better songs on the album.
“Zodd the Immortal” showcases a different sound to the rest of the record. Papadopoulos flips between rough and falsetto effortlessly and sounds a little bit out of control in some parts which I like. There’s a wild, untamed element to this track, in the drums, guitars and outrageous vocals. It’s a strong song!
Unfortunately, that’s about as good as it gets for Beast in Black. The balance of band versus keys is just out of whack on this record. Tracks like “Crazy, Mad, Insane” sound like they are the worst part of the new-wave era of the 80’s and the not-yet-developed techno samples of the 90’s. What is that?! Chase that down with “Eternal Fire” – an intro of cheesy keys and I’m done. I don’t know if I’m listening to a metal album, a pop album, or a recreation of “The Final Countdown” by Europe. With songs like these on the record, I’m not convinced that Beast in Black know who they are yet.
A very wise radio station manager once told me that background music is like truffle oil in radio – use sparingly for best results. I feel the same way about keyboards. If used properly and for the power of good, keys can add a new element to a record. They can add a depth to a band and really make an album. In this case, they break ‘Berserker.’
The other observation that I struggle with is this – every band member in Beast in Black is exceptionally talented and that is evident all through this record. However, this album doesn’t offer the listener anything new or innovative and as such, I struggle with its authenticity. Beast in Black has a lot of potential as a band, I think they just need to find the sound that is true to them.