Album Review – Battle Beast / Bringer Of Pain (2017)

Bringing to our ears and hearts first-class music inspired by the golden years of Heavy Metal, the most electrified metal squad from Finland are ready to storm the world once again with their brand new kick-ass classy album.

Rating3

battle-beast_bringer-of-painAfter listening to Bringer Of Pain, the fourth full-length album by Finnish metallers Battle Beast, there are two immediate conclusion that come to my mind. First, that the motto “100 % Heavy Metal – 0 % Bullshit!” couldn’t be more precise to describe the electrified Heavy and Power Metal compositions by this Helsinki-based squad. And second, the entire album feels like it was recorded back in the 80’s or 90’s due to its sensational old school aura, but only released now in 2017. And perhaps paying a tribute to the golden years of heavy music was the original goal of the band with Bringer Of Pain, starting with its impactful name. “The title is more than just a catchy punchline,” bassist Eero Sipilä explains. “’Bring the pain’ as a phrase means ‘giving your best’, stepping up against the odds, something that really sums up the spirit of this band and this album. The fact that the name also brought to mind a certain Judas Priest album definitely didn’t hurt either.”

The album’s classic album art, crafted by the specialist of realistic fantasy art Jan Yrlund (Darkgrove), is the perfect depiction of what Battle Beast have to offer their fans this time. “The cover art is mainly involved with the title track of the album, “Bringer of Pain”, which is obviously about this super evil female character destroying stuff. We brainstormed a little around this topic and then sent some sketches to Jan, who returned with the picture, some mean-looking woman who appears like she’s coming through the box art to kick your ass. And since ‘kicking ass’ is pretty much exactly what this band is about, we considered it a very fitting cover.” In addition to that, the main change from their previous album, the flammable Unholy Savior, is the departure of guitarist and main songwriter Anton Kabanen, but that doesn’t mean the band couldn’t maintain their signature sound alive, with newcomer Joona Björkroth fitting perfectly to everything Battle Beast stands for.

The first track of this rousing album, Straight to the Heart, brings to the listener pure upbeat Heavy Metal from the 80’s with the electrified keyboards by Janne Björkroth and the flawless vocals by the fiery metal goddess Noora Louhimo turning it into an instant classic. Put differently, it’s that type of metal music that will put you to dance right away while you scream its chorus from the top of your lungs together with Noora. Albeit the name of the album and its cover art bring the unbeatable Painkiller to our minds, the title-track Bringer of Pain actually reminds me of another high-octane classic by the almighty Judas Priest, “Freewheel Burning”, which obviously means it’s beyond awesome. Furthermore, the frantic performances by Pyry Vikki on drums and both Juuso Soinio and Joona with their blazing guitar riffs and solos, together with the song’s epic background vibe, turn it into the best of all tracks in my humble opinion. Whereas the first single of the album, King for a Day, unites classic Heavy Metal with old school Hard Rock, feeling at times like a modern metallic version of Survivor’s hit “Eye of the Tiger” with another blast of the sensational keyboards by Janne, not to mention its catchy chorus, which will certainly stick inside your mind for a long time (“King for a day / He kills the truth and looks away / King for a day / Lives like the world would end today / King for a day / What do you hide, why do you lie? / Who made the rules for this game? / Who is paying your champagne? / All the mercy in the world / Cannot save you anymore / King for a day”).

battle-beast-2017In Beyond the Burning Skies, Battle Beast deliver a beautiful and inspiring musicality, with Noora stealing the spotlight with her powerful and precise vocal lines while the rest of the band maintains a high level of energy flowing from their instruments. Needless to say, listening to this classy chant will make your day better for sure. Then we have Familiar Hell, a song about our inexplicable fear of change and how change can actually bring happiness and joy to our lives, with Janne and bassist Eero Sipilä keeping the adrenaline running from start to finish (if this song had been written in the 80’s, it would have definitely been a top-chart hit); followed by Lost in Wars, a mid-tempo composition showcasing an epic atmosphere with Noora and guest vocalist Tomi Joutsen sounding like the beauty and the beast, boosted by the song’s heavy riffs and thunderous keyboards. And Bastard Son of Odin might have the cheesiest song name, lyrics and rhythm of all, but that ends up working really well as Battle Beast are masters in crafting this type of music. In a nutshell, their “Viking mode” sounds absolutely great, especially the raspy screams by Noora and the galloping bass and drums à la Iron Maiden by Eero and Pyry, respectively.

We Will Fight, an potent Power Metal hymn tailored for singing along with the band while holding your fists in the air, is another mid-tempo tune that enhances Noora’s vocals through its mystical aura and steady beats, while Dancing with the Beast is a very good surprise amidst so many heavy tunes. The first time I saw the song’s name, I honestly thought it would be more ferocious like any song with the word “beast” in it. However, it’s a smooth 80’s Hard Rock ballad with very gentle instrumental pieces, with the sexy voice by Noora leading its pleasant sonority. On the other hand, Far from Heaven is just a below average song that’s way too mellow, sounding like a lame ballad from any of those generic “top 40” artists, which obviously means it’s the worst of all songs hands down. It’s well-played and very melodic indeed, but it lacks punch and electricity. anyway, if you go for the digipack edition of Bringer Of Pain (which can be purchased HERE), you’ll be treated to three amazing bonus tracks, all displaying the band’s trademark high-voltage Power Metal, with Rock Trash being by far the most awesome of them. This is a superb metal hymn that should have been part of the regular version of the album, perhaps its closing tune instead of that boring ballad.

We can never get tired of the indomitable Battle Beast, right? That’s why the band is always willing to share more of their music and their lives with us, which in the case of Bringer Of Pain comes in the form of three entertaining official track-by-track videos from the band that can be seen HERE, HERE and HERE. And Valentine’s Day might be dead and gone this year, but I’m sure if you give your significant other the “Bringer Of Pain special bundle” (for guys or for girls), his or her love for you will only grow stronger than metal. Or you can go to the official Nuclear Blast webstore and choose your favorite option from several versions available. Battle Beast are more than ready to storm the world once again with Bringer Of Pain, bringing to our ears and hearts another shot of their first-class heavy music, and we should be more than thankful for that, as well as for the band not giving us any sign at all of slowing down or giving up metal. Quite the contrary, it seems that their battle will rage on for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Straight to the Heart, Bringer of Pain, Beyond the Burning Skies, Bastard Son of Odin and Rock Trash.

Worst moments of the album: Far from Heaven.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Straight to the Heart 3:31
2. Bringer of Pain 3:04
3. King for a Day 4:33
4. Beyond the Burning Skies 4:39
5. Familiar Hell 4:04
6. Lost in Wars (feat. Tomi Joutsen) 4:34
7. Bastard Son of Odin 3:34
8. We Will Fight 3:26
9. Dancing with the Beast 3:42
10. Far from Heaven 4:20

Limited Edition Digipack bonus tracks
11. God of War 3:56
12. The Eclipse 4:30
13. Rock Trash 3:13

Band members
Noora Louhimo – lead vocals
Juuso Soinio – guitar
Joona Björkroth – guitar, backing vocals
Eero Sipilä – bass guitar, backing vocals
Janne Björkroth – keyboards, backing vocals
Pyry Vikki – drums

Guest musician
Tomi Joutsen – male vocals on “Lost in Wars”

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Interview – Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear)

Let’s get ready for Power Metal icons Primal Fear to “deliver the black” here in Canada next month with this exclusive interview with one of the best and most respected metal singers in the world, the amazing Mr. Ralf Scheepers. Metal is forever!

Ralf ScheepersThe Headbanging Moose: First of all, I have to say that the new Primal Fear album, Delivering the Black, is a true Heavy Metal masterpiece and it will be for sure one of the best albums of 2014. There isn’t a single moment of the album that’s not pure and direct metal, especially the kick-ass songs King for A Day, Rebel Faction, Inseminoid and Delivering The Black. How was the creative process of the album, and how were you able to come up with such fast and powerful music even after almost 20 years of the first Primal Fear album?

Ralf Scheepers: Thank you very much! I’m glad that you like it!

We are in the great situation to have 4 writing members in Primal Fear, so basically we come up with many different ideas for an album and put them together as a short list of which could be on the album and which might fit to the flowing of an album. This is also a very important key when you put an album together. This time Mat and Magnus were coming up with the basic playbacks of the tracks and we sat together and worked on vocal melodies and lyrics. For some tracks I have worked on the playbacks to find my ideas on it and some of them were written together, as mentioned before.

This is basically how we are working on every album.

THM: I’ve been checking the music charts and it seems that Delivering the Black is doing extremely well, especially in Europe and Japan, and of course the band is huge in South America too. However, it’s not that easy to find your music or many other Power Metal bands available in the stores here in Canada and in the rest of North America. How do you see this “cultural barrier” here in North America against many subgenres of Heavy Metal that are not Death or Thrash Metal? Do you believe the Internet is being of great help for bands like Primal Fear, Chthonic, Amon Amarth and many others to penetrate this quite conservative market?

RS: I don’t consider this as a cultural barrier rather than judging it by seeing the size of the continent and the fact that we all still have to struggle against the illegal downloads. So to answer your second part of the question: I see both sides. I see the possibility to promote yourself as an advantage and on the other side I see the illegal downloading as a disadvantage.

THM: Talking about German heavy music, the past few years have been amazing for most of the bands from your country. For instance, in 2014 we’ve already had really awesome albums from Primal Fear, Axel Rudi Pell, Van Canto, Iron Savior and Gamma Ray, last year we had one of the best Helloween albums of all time, there are also other excellent bands that are not Power Metal like Hard Rock band Motorjesus and Metalcore band Caliban, among others. In your opinion, what’s the secret for such a rich, diverse and creative heavy music scene in Germany? Is it just the beer, or is it something else?

Primalfeardeliveringtheblack2014

Album Review – Primal Fear / Delivering the Black (2014)

RS: It’s definitely the beer, yes! 🙂

Well I think we had the opportunity to jump into this genre as music fans in the 80’s, especially the NWOBH era was creating a lot of great musicians here in Europe…. It’s somehow learning by hearing. So if you had or have the talent to play the guitar or to play the drums or to sing, you change from a fan into a musician by yourself and that’s what happened a lot over here.

THM: Going back to the new album, there’s a very interesting partnership with the gorgeous Liv Kristine in the Japanese bonus track version of the ballad Born With A Broken Heart. How did you guys end up choosing her for this track? In my opinion, this version is more beautiful than the original one, so why didn’t you add it as a regular track instead? And after some stunning duets with Liv Kristine on the new Primal Fear album, Simone Simmons on New Religion, and Tim “Ripper” Owens on your solo album, who else would you love to record a Primal Fear or Scheepers song together on vocals and why?

Liv_and_Ralf

Liv Kristine & Ralf Scheepers

RS: The basic idea was to add a female voice to the chorus for this track, just as an interesting color and so we did that for the album version. For the Japanese bonus track we thought it would be a great idea to remix the track and use more of Liv’s input on it. It both worked out and we’re all happy about both results, for the album and for the bonus.

We never really plan those things in a long term rather than listening to the tracks we wrote. Sometimes we hear additional voices, male or female to add a different color to it. Sometimes we don’t see or hear the reason to do that.

THM: Regarding your solo album Scheepers, from 2011, you re-recorded a song from your Tyran’ Pace years, the excellent Saints of Rock. Why did you choose this song to be part of your debut solo album, and are there any plans for another Scheepers album soon? If so, is there anything you could share with us about it?

RS: As the idea for “Saints of Rock” came up from me back then in the 80’s I thought it would be a good idea to modern up the sound of this track on my solo album. It was so much fun to re sing this one and to do all voices of the chorus on my own this time. Back then Charlie Huhn (Victory) helped me out doing the choir.

There are no plans for another solo album. This year our focus is to tour the world.

THM: You’ve recently finished a series of concerts with the Rock Meets Classic Tour 2014. How did you get invited to be part of this project, how was the overall experience, who were some of the musicians there with you, and what were the highlights of the tour for you?

Rock Meets Classic 2014

Rock Meets Classic 2014

RS: As Mat Sinner is the musical director and co producer of this event he thought it would be a good idea to add some male voices to the already existing female choir. So he has offered me the possibility to join in and I did. In the second and third year I was alone as a male choir member and in the forth and fifth year Sascha Krebs (Musical artist) has joined in. It was and still is a great experience every year! To be on stage with some of my idols and stars from the 80’s music scene is simply an amazing experience! It’s great fun. Every night you hear those popular tracks combined with the classical sounds of strings, trumpets and trombones, it gives me shivers and goose bumps. It’s an amazing vibe and atmosphere on stage!

We had Ian Gillan, Lou Gramm, Paul Rodgers, Alice Cooper feat. Orianthi, Joe Lynn Turner, Steve Lukather, Eric Bazilian, Jimi Jamison, Mick Box and Bernie Shaw from Uriah Heep, Steve Augeri, Midge Ure, Marc Storace, Dan McCafferty, Bonnie Tyler, Robin Beck and Kim Wilde with us. This is listed in no particular following.

THM: You’re not only the frontman of Primal Fear, but you also have your solo career, you’re part of different music projects such as Rocks Meets Classic, you’re a vocal coach, you provide singing lessons, you’re a microphone development consultant, you provide file processing, among many other activities, including your personal life where you have to take care of your son, work out at the gym etc. How are you able to manage all that? And what’s the advice you have for any artists and musicians that want to perform as well as you do on stage without losing track of all other things in life?

RS: I simply juggle duties and do not do everything at the same time! 🙂

Sometimes my focus is more on one thing and then again on the others when it’s necessary. To set priorities is the overall key to all this. I think as a grown up person you don’t need any advices to handle your life right? 🙂

Primal FearTHM: There haven’t been any Primal Fear concerts in Canada since 2010, and even before that there were only very few Canadian dates whenever the band came to North America. Now that you have a fairly bigger tour with four concerts schedule in Canada for 2014, in Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, what is the band preparing for your Canadian fans so eager to see you guys playing live again? Will there be any special songs in the setlist, or any other surprises at all?

RS: We are all looking forward to this and we are happy that there are more cities planned for Canada this year! In our existing setlist we have tried to add the most significant songs. On the other hand we also took care that there is a reasonable change in the flow of the songs of our live set.

THM: Which bands or artists (including all types of music) do you enjoy listening while at home with your family, at the gym or on the road? What about Canadian bands or artists, what are your favorite ones and why? And are there any new bands from anywhere in the world you would recommend us?

RS: When I have time to listen to other music I listen to every kinds of genres. I’m very open to all kinds of bands and songs with melodies. As I am not really up date what’s new at the market I am not able to recommend anything right now.

THM: Thank you very, very much for your time. Please feel free to send a final message to your fans here in Canada and to invite everyone to the Primal Fear concerts here. I’ll be there at the Mod Club on May 3 in Toronto to bang my head with some pure Heavy Metal, no doubt about that!

RS: As mentioned above we are looking forward to perform in more cities of Canada this year! It would be awesome if you all could join in for a show in your city and to rock out and hang out with us for a non alcoholic beer or two. 🙂

Primal Fear North America 2014 – Canadian dates

Primal Fear_NA_2014

May 1, 2014 – Quebec City, Quebec | Le Cercle TICKETS
May 2, 2014 – Montreal, Quebec | Foufounes Électriques TICKETS
May 3, 2014 – Toronto, Ontario | Virgin Mobile Mod Club TICKETS
May 11, 2014 – Vancouver, British Columbia | Venue Nightclub TICKETS

Links
Ralf Scheepers Official Website | Facebook
Primal Fear Official Website | Facebook

Album Review – Primal Fear / Delivering the Black (2014)

Primal Fear once again deliver the awesome.

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Primalfeardeliveringtheblack2014I remember back in the 90’s when Ralf Scheepers left Gamma Ray to form Primal Fear together with bassist Mat Sinner and that some people started calling them a “Judas Priest tribute band”, especially after Ralf not being called to replace Halford in the Priest itself. Well, I’ve always disagreed with that theory due to the fact that you cannot judge a band just because of their music style or type of vocal. In my opinion, you have to see the big picture and analyze the overall contribution of the band to the world of heavy music. Otherwise, we can say every band is like a “Black Sabbath or The Beatles tribute band”, right? Anyway, this incredible German band has always provided us some high quality Heavy Metal, with amazing albums such as Jaws of Death, Seven Seals and 16.6 (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead), and now the “metal eagle” has landed one more time with Delivering the Black, their tenth studio album and I dare to say their best since Seven Seals.

Why not starting the album with a ferocious kick right in the middle of your face? That’s exactly what the band does with the fantastic King For a Day, an epitome of pure Heavy Metal with its perfect riffs, fast drums, amazing solos, and a Ralf Scheepers singing better than ever. It seems he’s following the same path of some of the greatest vocalists of all time like Bruce, Halford and Dio: the older he gets, the better his voice is. Moreover, this track will be perfect as the opening song of their upcoming world tour, as it’s impossible not to bang your head from the very first second.

Primal FearWhy not continuing with the headbanging massacre? It looks like Ralf, Mat & Co. were tired of so much annoyance in the world of music and decided to counter-attack with the heavy and fast song Rebel Faction, where Canadian drummer Randy Black “kindly” reminds us that Canada is still a Heavy Metal nation, and not the pop garbage we see on TV. It’s indeed another track fans will love to see the band playing live. Then comes the first single of the album, When Death Comes Knocking,  which despite not being as incredible as the two initial tracks, is still very powerful and has some good lyrics to sing along with the band (“When death comes knocking / I stand my ground / And I won’t go down / My name stays immortal”), followed by another amazing track called Alive & On Fire, a very traditional Primal Fear track with a Hard Rock approach, perfect for Mat and his strong bass lines. And have I already mentioned that Ralf is on fire in this album?

Primal Fear keep on rockin’ with the title-track, Delivering the Black, another fast tune with great solos, riffs, drums, chorus, in other words, it has the full package! By the way, when you reach this song you’ll already be able to notice how direct their music is in the whole album, with no additional elements or any other bullshit: it’s pure Heavy Metal, just the way we love it. And this metal feast continues in Road to Asylum, with a beautiful combination of Ralf’s powerful voice and Randy’s rhythmic drums. The next track is the longest of all, One Night in December, which is a song with a somber intro, beautiful piano and excellent guitar lines, making it sound as if it had only 3 or 4 minutes, followed by Never Pray For Justice  with its “chainsaw” intro and 100% Heavy Metal sonority.

PRIMAL FEAR DTB deluxe edition

Delivering the Black deluxe edition

The last two tracks of this Heavy Metal avalanche are the lovely ballad Born With a Broken Heart, which gets even better in the Japanese edition of the album as it has the gorgeous Norwegian singer Liv Kristine (Theatre of Tragedy, Leaves’ Eyes) also on vocals, and the fierce Inseminoid teaching us what traditional heavy music must sound like. And if I were you I would purchase the deluxe edition of Delivering the Black, as it also contains a couple of interesting bonus tracks, as well as a DVD containing two music videos and the making of the album. The album art is as good as usual, with Primal Fear’s own mascot, the Metal Eagle, spreading its wings ready to soar, just like the band is ready to rock the world once again.

To sum up, the partnership between Ralf and Mat, which has always been amazing, is definitely getting better and better and Delivering the Black is the perfect representation of their total synergy together. Primal Fear is one of those bands that remind us why METAL IS FOREVER, and I can’t wait to see them live here in Toronto on May 3 “delivering the black”. By the way, I wouldn’t complain if they suddenly played the new album in its entirety, because it’s fuckin’ awesome. Long Live Primal Fear!

Best moments of the album: King For a Day, Rebel Faction, Alive & On Fire and Delivering the Black.

Worst moments of the album: Never Pray For Justice, but not because it’s a bad song. It’s just the less awesome of all.

Released in 2014 Frontier Records

Track listing
1. King For a Day 3:44
2. Rebel Faction 4:41
3. When Death Comes Knocking 6:58
4. Alive & On Fire 4:48
5. Delivering the Black 4:01
6. Road to Asylum 3:48
7. One Night in December 9:18
8. Never Pray For Justice 4:23
9. Born With a Broken Heart 4:36
10. Inseminoid 5:01

Deluxe edition bonus tracks
11. Innocent Man 4:12
12. Man Without Shadow 4:03
13. When Death Comes Knocking (single edit) 4:25

Japanese edition bonus track
14. Born With a Broken Heart (edit version) 4:13

Band members
Ralf Scheepers – vocals
Mat Sinner – bass, backing vocals
Magnus Karlsson – guitars, keyboards
Alex Beyrodt – guitars
Randy Black – drums

Guest musicians
Liv Kristine – vocals on “Born With A Broken Heart” (Japanese edition bonus track)