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.

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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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Metal Chick of the Month – Noora Louhimo

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Let It Roar, Noora!

It is a well-known fact that all Finnish women are pretty and charming, absolutely no doubt about that. But it’s when a girl from the land of ice and snow releases her inner beast that things get even more exciting, which is exactly the case with our Metal Chick of the Month, the ravishing Noora Louhimo, lead singer of Finnish Heavy Metal band Battle Beast. And if you don’t like the voice and the looks of this blonde “warrior princess”, honestly, I don’t know what to say.

Noora was born on November 6, 1988 in Tampere, Finland, around 180km north of the capital Helsinki, and she has been singing since she was only 4 years old. She had many hobbies before she started focusing on singing, such as dancing, acting, drawing, painting and anything else she could do to express herself. When she was around 13 years old, she had her first band at school, singing Finnish pop songs as well as love ballads from artists like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.

Despite being a huge fan of Heavy Metal from the 80’s when she was a teenager, when she was 16 years old she had some classical singing lessons, before starting to study music in a more Pop/Jazz-line and doing some jam sessions at bars at the age of 19. That was also when she found her first band, called Admiral Octopus, at a place called BluesBar. The band used to play Rock N’ Roll and Blues from the 60’s, 70’s, and also songs from Janis Joplin, which according to Noora herself is the reason why she got the rasp in her voice. After Admiral Octopus, Noora took part in a singing competition called “Wanna Be A Rock N’ Roll Star” at a place called Henry’s Pub, also in Tampere, and guess what? She won the competition singing Janis Joplin’s classic Piece of My Heart. That’s how her single Relax was born, and that’s pretty much her history before joining Battle Beast.

It was during autumn in 2012, right after Battle Beast finished touring some summer rock festivals in Finland, that singer Nitte Valo, who was with the band since its inception in 2008, announced to be leaving the band due to family issues. In September 2012, guitarist Anton Kabanen found Noora by accident on YouTube when he was searching for a new vocalist for Battle Beast, and after a couple of calls Noora accepted the challenge to be the new frontwoman of the band. In 2013 our blonde diva recorded her first full-length release with the band, the powerful self-titled album Battle Beast, and more recently the also amazing Unholy Saviour, in January 2015.

The Finnish lioness mentioned in one of her interviews that she does many different exercises with her voice, rest it when needed and then a lot more, and also that working out is a very important part of keeping her vocals in a good shape. Whatever she’s actually doing with her voice, it’s working more than perfectly, as we can notice in her excellent performance on a Finnish television program in 2014 singing the song Into the Heart of Danger, her contributions to the good song Satans of Swing by Finnish band Somehow Jo! and to the inspiring Eye to Eye by Swiss Melodic Power Metal band Crystal Ball, and also singing one of her favorite songs from Battle Beast, the electrifying tune Let It Roar. One interesting fact about her singing style is that, as much as she wants to sound like a female singer with “balls”, she wants to sound feminine and sexy at the same time.

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In regards to her main influences in life, our warrior princess doesn’t only sing Heavy Metal, but a huge variety of music genres such as Soul, Rock, Blues, among others, and those different styles are what keep her in balance and inspired as a singer. As aforementioned, she started listening to metal music when she was 16 years old, and that “fire” started actually with Guns N’ Roses. When she heard Welcome to the Jungle for the first time, she knew there was no coming back. Then there came Dio, Judas Priest, W.A.S.P. and of course Iron Maiden. Although her list of influences is endless, including names such as Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio, Whitney Houston, Blackie Lawless, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Michael Jackson, Axl Rose and many more, her biggest idols in music are first Janis Joplin and second Ann Wilson.

And last but not least, when asked if she’s addicted to any bad habit or guilty pleasure, her answer couldn’t be more feminine than that: chocolate. Well, our “blonde ninja” is an extremely talented and beautiful woman, and Finnish chocolate is by far one of the best in the world. I guess there couldn’t be a better combination than that to celebrate two years of The Headbanging Moose, right?

Noora Louhimo’s Official Facebook page
Battle Beast’s Official Facebook page

“My passion has always been music and different ways of expressing myself as an artist.” – Noora Louhimo

Album Review – Somehow Jo! / Satans of Swing (2015)

Get ready to dance to the interesting mix of Alternative Rock and Heavy Metal by this fresh and groovy Finnish band.

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SHJ_ISO_KANSI_2When I got the new Somehow Jo! album to write the review and I was told by my friend it was an alternative rock band, I must confess I was a little bit scared or concerned for this is not my kind of music. It turns out that I was surprised when I listened to it, as you “forget” about labeling the music and start paying attention to the quality of the songs, to the lyrics which go from funny to intense, to how they show different kinds of music in a short time and to how well-produced it is.

So, for those who are not familiar with the band yet, Somehow Jo! are a band formed in 2009, in the city of Tampere, Finland, and after releasing two EP’s they are finally ready to show the world their debut full-length album, Satans of Swing. There is an interesting fact about this album: according to their press-release, the “album was recorded live, because the band wanted to avoid triggering and interfering organic audio”. Recorded at Headline Recording Studio in Tampere, produced by Ari Pietilä and mastered by Teemu Kinnunen, you can feel how pure and raw every track sounds.

Still according to their press-release, “the band’s ideology is to tell people about loss, giving, open-mindedness, equality, anger, love, freedom, relaxing, questioning the future, encounter prejudices and facing difficulties”. And you find everything in this album, starting from the opening track, Next King. The first surprise is how well Christian Saurén, the vocalist, mixes moments of clean and screaming vocals – of course, this can be heard throughout the entire album. This song has a really nice rhythm, is groovy and has a heavy guitar solo. You know those songs that are nice to listen at a bar, while sipping a cold beer? This is the case in the next one, Lovesong, with highlights to the awesome work on drums and bass – they lead the song from the most alternative rock music to much heavier moments naturally. Godbye is a calmer song compared to the others, but still heavy at some moments, and it has a pretty cool harmony among the musicians responsible for the backing vocals, giving it a good old vibe.

Hatesong is different from everything else in the album: it is possible to find touches of Hard Rock, Alternative Rock, Heavy Metal and Metalcore in it. It gives you that impression of “I’ve heard something like this before” and yet it is totally new, making it one of the most interesting compositions of the album. Fool has a lot of rhythm and that chorus that will make you hate yourself singing it all day long (“This is what I do, my darling, this is what I do / Baby I still miss you but I won’t be coming back to you / This is what I do, my darling, this is what I do / I’m so sorry that I made you feel like fool”). It would be interesting to see a live video of this song showcasing the interaction between the band and the audience, but in the meantime you can check its official video clip below. Great Sex & Red Wine is one of the heaviest songs of the album, where its guitars are simply amazing and its drums play an important role in the construction of the melody.

SHJ_PROMO_MEDThe strongest attribute in Hellhole Bar are its guitar riffs, which somehow resemble old 60’s rock, but the rest of the elements are kind of confusing, which did not result in good unity as a whole. On the other hand, Beginning still brings old fashioned elements, especially its bass lines and backing vocals, mixing those with new elements like screaming vocals, and the result is pretty interesting.

To finish the album, the title-track, Satans of Swing, brings more Heavy Metal moments and a very special guest: Noora Luohimo, the mighty vocalist of Battle Beast. And they could not have chosen a better female vocalist to this task for she fits perfectly to the heaviness of this melody. Noora herself was very pleased to work with Somehow Jo!, as she declared to the band’s website: “I gotta say that the recording session with Somehow Jo! was one of the highlights of my life and I enjoyed working with them enormously. Above it all, the song ‘Satans of Swing’ kicks ass and so do the guys of the band. Love you Somehow Jo!, keep on rocking!”. Definitely, this is a pretty different song from what we have heard so far from Somehow Jo! and also completely distinct from the work of Noora with Battle Beast.

After nine tracks and a little more than half an hour, this band makes you ask for more and more of their music, as time flies in a very pleasant way while listening to this album. Interested in more information? Check for updates on their official Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram pages. And, of course, you can purchase Satans of Swing on iTunesRecord Shop XInverse Store, and at many other locations. Satans of Swing is a really interesting piece of work, and it does not matter what kind of music you like, this is pure Rock N’ Roll for those who want to have a good time.

Best moments of the album: Lovesong, Hatesong, Fool and Satans of Swing.

Worst moments of the album: Godbye and Hellhole Bar.

Released in 2015 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Next King 3:38
2. Lovesong 3:32
3. Godbye 4:45
4. Hatesong 3:51
5. Fool 4:50
6. Great Sex & Red Wine 3:20
7. Hellhole Bar 3:55
8. Beginning 2:40
9. Satans of Swing (feat. Noora Louhimo) 6:13

Band members
Christian Saurén – vocals, guitars
Sakari Karjalainen – guitars, backing vocals
Eero Aaltonen – bass, backing vocals
Lassi Peiponen – drums

Additional musicians
Noora Louhimo – female vocals on “Satans of Swing”
Cardinal Satan – additional guitars, banjo, tambour

Album Review – Battle Beast / Unholy Savior (2015)

Battle Beast want the world and everything in it, and they’re definitely on their way to conquer it all with their brilliant brand new album.

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battle beast_unholy saviorIf what Finnish Heavy Metal warriors Battle Beast wanted with their 2013 album, the self-titled masterpiece Battle Beast (which was left out of our 2013 top 10 list by a huge and inexcusable mistake), and their brand new album, the mighty Unholy Savior, was conquering the world of heavy music, I must say they are on the right path to reach their goal. Their third full-length album sounds even more professional and polished, always with that magic aura from the 80’s supporting their musicality.

Just like its predecessor, Unholy Savior is an endless feast of heavy riffs, catchy melodies and straightforward Heavy Metal boosted by the inspired performances from all band members, led by guitarist Anton Kabanen and especially the stunning bombshell Noora Louhimo, the “Janis Joplin of Heavy Metal”. Honestly, I cannot think of a band that’s been playing such captivating heavy music nowadays, and things get even more exciting as Battle Beast have the whole package, from their music to their looks. In other words, what else do you need in a Heavy Metal band that those “unholy saviors” from Finland are not offering us?

Unholy Savior has a very simple rule: hitting “play” and banging your fuckin’ head until the end, which becomes obvious from the very first notes in the opening track, Lionheart. This “fight song” focuses on a solid and traditional instrumental with a strong Stratovarius vibe, with Noora’s amazing voice and its inspiring lyrics (especially its chorus) making it one of the best of all songs without a shadow of a doubt. The title-track, Unholy Savior, has that 80’s intro similar to what was done in some songs from their previous album, with its drumming by Pyry Vikki and keyboards by Janne Björkroth dictating the rhythm. Moreover, pay good attention to its backing vocals as they add a lot of electricity to the chorus.

The following track, I Want The World… And Everything In It, is beyond spectacular and the best of the whole album, with its powerful riffs and solos working flawlessly. Besides, it’s quite impossible not to raise your fists and scream the chorus with Noora, whose potent voice perfectly flows through the song’s harsher lines. But before you listen to it again and again, take a listen to the rest of the album starting by the next song, the Power Metal tune Madness, certainly one of the best choices for their live performances with highlights to the nonstop Pyry on drums and, once again, to the gorgeous Noora. As she screams during the song, her name is madness!

battle beastIn order to slow things down a little and let us recover our energy, the band provides us a beautiful “medieval” ballad entitled Sea Of Dreams which focuses 100% on Noora’s voice, and let me tell you her performance and the song lyrics will surely warm up our hearts during the coldest nights of winter so pleasant this song is. After that short break, it’s time to break our necks again with Speed And Danger: with a name like that I don’t need to say it’s as fast and heavy as it can be, right? I would love to get into some circle pits while the band plays this song, with highlights to its great lyrics paying a tribute to several of the band’s Heavy Metal idols.

Touch In The Night, with its 80’s keyboard notes and its lyrics talking about love and passion (“I’m gonna feel the wrath of the king / ‘Cause touching you was a sin / I’m a victim of my own desire”), might not be a bad track, but it gets so pop sometimes (including Noora’s vocals) to the point it’s annoying. The next two tracks are a bit “weird”, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good at all: The Black Swordsman is a nice and short ballad that works as a bridge to Hero’s Quest, an instrumental track tailored for playing video game or drinking beer with your friends, with its guitars and keyboards in total sync.

The last part of this awesome album begins with Far Far Away, a very consistent song about the journey of each and every Heavy Metal fan in the world, with its riffs inspired by classics such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, especially by the unique riff from “Two Minutes to Midnight”; followed by the touching ballad Angel Cry, with kudos to Noora for another outstanding performance. To be fair, if anyone still thinks our Metal diva shouldn’t have become the frontwoman of Battle Beast, this song will easily prove why she was indeed the chosen one. And finally, as a more-than-welcome bonus track, we have Push It To The Limit, a Metal version for Paul Engemann’s classic from the 1983’s masterpiece Scarface that will put you to dance.

In short, while Battle Beast keep roaring and spreading their thrilling heavy music all around the world with albums like Battle Beast and now the incredible Unholy Savior, we can rest assured Heavy Metal will stand strong and relevant for many years to come. Those Finnish metallers are getting closer and closer to dominating the entire world of music, and when they finally do so I’m sure everyone will just love it. Who doesn’t want to be ruled by a screaming queen like Noora, right? All hail to Battle Beast!

Best moments of the album: Lionheart, I Want The World… And Everything In It, Sea Of Dreams, Far Far Away and Angel Cry.

Worst moments of the album: Touch In The Night.

Released in 2015 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Lionheart 4:53
2. Unholy Savior 5:37
3. I Want The World… And Everything In It 4:37
4. Madness 4:02
5. Sea Of Dreams 5:01
6. Speed And Danger 4:39
7. Touch In The Night 4:32
8. The Black Swordsman 1:15
9. Hero’s Quest 2:31
10. Far Far Away 3:47
11. Angel Cry 3:34

Bonus Track
12. Push It To The Limit (Paul Engemann cover) 3:20

Band members
Noora Louhimo – vocals
Anton Kabanen – guitar, vocals
Juuso Soinio – guitar
Eero Sipilä – bass, vocals
Janne Björkroth – keyboards
Pyry Vikki – drums