Heavy metal has always been a broad church. Some metal delights in being dirty. Think Slayer. Some metal is built on a groove and on keeping things loose. Think Primal Fear. Some metal is built on foundations of precision and a very clinical sound. The sort of bands where you know that no one improvises live, because every note has been carefully considered and planned for. Bands like Rhapsody and Sonata Arctica. These bands are not everyone’s cup of tea (nor is Slayer). But, for people who struggle with that sort of metal, there’s a gateway drug, and for fans, there’s a new band on the scene.
Anton Kabanen was the guitarist in Battle Beast, a terrific power metal band. The second guitarist in his new band, Kasperi Heikkin, is ex U.D.O. Yannis Papadopoulos was in a band called Wardrum. This Greek band is not well known, but hearing his vocals, it’s not surprising to read they have had Judas Priest covers on Metal Hammer CDs. Why Anton left Battle Beast is murky, but it’s clear that his next step has been to gather a group of extraordinary musicians to pursue his musical vision.
The album opens fast and heavy with a title track, Beast In Black. Lots of fast guitar on this one. From here, it’s the single, “Blind and Frozen”, with perhaps the most metal solo on the whole album. This is a great way for the band to stamp their ground, this album definitely is poppy at times and it’s good for metal context to establish itself early. There’s a lot of other big guitar songs on this CD, like “The Fifth Angel” and “Zodd the Immortal”, but also songs like “Eternal Fire”, which is keyboard heavy and starts off sounding like someone trying to figure out ‘The Final Countdown’. That breaks in to Iron Maiden style galloping guitars, and another big, heavy song. “Crazy, Mad, Insane” is replete with keyboards, electronic drums and vocal effects. If you heard it alone, you’d call it pop, but in this context, it’s just another great song and part of the range of expression this band is capable of.
The whole album is high energy and almost clinical in how clean and precise the music is. However, even for people not usually keen on that style of metal, it has an energy that is bound to drag people in and surrender to its infectious sounds. The album closes with a big ballad. It doesn’t get heavy, although there’s a big guitar solo. It slows the pace right down and brings the album to a satisfying close.
The vocals on this album deserve a special mention. Everyone contributes to the overall sound of the band, but it is the vocalist who is extraordinary. Singer Yannis Papadopoulos has a voice that is clean, clear and powerful. His range extends quite high, as evidenced on the piercing shriek heard more than once during ‘Blind and Frozen’ and the energetic performance on ‘Beast in Black’. We checked, and nothing we heard from his former band compares to this, so he’s being lifted up by the musicians around him, but it seems pretty clear he is the star of the show.
This is a new band, formed out of the ashes of one person leaving a band who are very good, but not especially well known. Battle Beast continue to be a fine band releasing great power metal. This is a very different beast though, a slick sounding, polished slab of Euro metal that will both appear to fans of bands like Rhapsody and Sonata Arctica, and to fans of heavy metal willing to broaden their horizons. A smashing debut and a must purchase album.